I can't imagine being a kid today. It must be awful. When I was in third grade, my parents permitted me to ride my bike around town, to local stores, to the park, to meet up with neighborhood friends. Of course, this was after we went on family bike rides together and it was obvious I was able to control my bike and ride carefully along roads without sidewalks. At nine-years-old, my parents knew they could trust me enough to go to the park or to the store and back.
I was not alone. Many of my classmates skateboarded (or at that time, rollerbladed) around town, unsupervised.
This was before cell phones, and somehow, I managed with a wristwatch to make it back home on time. Or I called from a payphone if I was running late.
The park was about two miles from home, as was my favorite CD store (which was on the way to the park), and I don't remember riding my bike much further than that. There wasn't really anywhere else I was interested in going.
I suppose if I were a kid today, I would be in protective custody because CPS would have taken me away from my family. That's exactly what happened to Danielle and Alexander Meitiv's children, 10 and 6 years old, who walked to and from their local park unaccompanied. The park was a mile from home.
According to the Washington Post, CPS took the children as they were walking home from the park. CPS didn't call to notify the parents, who were frantically searching for their kids when they didn't come home on time, until two hours after police had taken them. CPS took the children due to "parent neglect."
The children went with the police officers because they told the kids they would give them a ride back home. (Talk about a traumatizing experience that will instill distrust for the police at an early age!)
And on top of that, Reason reports that the children weren't allowed to "contact their parents in the six hours they were held by the authorities."
Mr. and Mrs. Meitiv were finally able to pick up their children, but CPS will keep a file open on them for five years. The parents plan on suing, and I hope they win.
The New York Times reported on this case, and examined the only thing I could think of that would qualify as parenting neglect - the risk of being kidnapping by a stranger when walking a mile home from the park:
"The most recent in-depth study found that, in 1999, only 115 children nationwide were victims of a “stereotypical kidnapping” by a stranger; the overwhelming majority were abducted by a family member. That same year, 2,931 children under 15 died as passengers in car accidents. Driving children around is statistically more dangerous than letting them roam freely."
True, even one child being kidnapped is one child too many, but seriously, you have a greater likelihood of killing your child by driving him to and from the park, according to statistics.
I say government should not dictate how you parent your children. Unless of course you actually neglect them - which would be depriving them of food, water, clothing, shelter - or you physically or mentally abuse them.
Mr. and Mrs. Meitiv didn't abuse or neglect their children. I believe they were actually helping their children learn responsibility. If they lived in a more urban area, I'm sure no one would look twice. Kids ride subways and city buses to and from school, unsupervised, and they figure out how to get home just fine.
There is always a risk of kidnapping. You could give a family member permission to pick your kid up from school and that will be the last you'll see of him.
The point is to teach kids about this risk so they'll be prepared and know what to do. The point is not to be ruled by fear.
The government does a great job of keeping people in line because of fear.
- Jen H., The Off The Grid Team
For more information about the Meitiv's case, watch this Newsbreaker clip:
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