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Crime News

Parents Investigated For Neglect For Letting Kids Walk Home Alone 784

HughPickens.com writes The WaPo reports that Danielle and Alexander Meitiv in Montgomery County Maryland say they are being investigated for neglect after letting their 10-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter make a one-mile walk home from a Silver Spring park on Georgia Avenue on a Saturday afternoon. "We wouldn't have let them do it if we didn't think they were ready for it," says Danielle. The Meitivs say they believe in "free-range" parenting, a movement that has been a counterpoint to the hyper-vigilance of "helicopter" parenting, with the idea that children learn self-reliance by being allowed to progressively test limits, make choices and venture out in the world. "The world is actually even safer than when I was a child, and I just want to give them the same freedom and independence that I had — basically an old-fashioned childhood," says Danielle. "I think it's absolutely critical for their development — to learn responsibility, to experience the world, to gain confidence and competency."

On December 20, Alexander agreed to let the children walk from Woodside Park to their home, a mile south, in an area the family says the children know well. Police picked up the children near the Discovery building, the family said, after someone reported seeing them. Alexander said he had a tense time with police when officers returned his children, asked for his identification and told him about the dangers of the world. The more lasting issue has been with Montgomery County Child Protective Services which showed up a couple of hours later. Although Child Protective Services could not address this specific case they did point to Maryland law, which defines child neglect as failure to provide proper care and supervision of a child. "I think what CPS considered neglect, we felt was an essential part of growing up and maturing," says Alexander. "We feel we're being bullied into a point of view about child-rearing that we strongly disagree with."
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Parents Investigated For Neglect For Letting Kids Walk Home Alone

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  • by Tokolosh ( 1256448 ) on Friday January 16, 2015 @09:13AM (#48828467)

    Not who or what you think they are.

    All power to the Meitivs.

    • by Anonymous Brave Guy ( 457657 ) on Friday January 16, 2015 @09:29AM (#48828599)

      Indeed. Apparently these children will be learning very young about the risks of allowing anyone to have special powers over someone else under the law and the importance of restricting those powers to people competent to wield them.

      • by khasim ( 1285 ) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Friday January 16, 2015 @09:47AM (#48828735)

        From TFA:

        The Meitivs say that on Dec. 20, a CPS worker required Alexander to sign a safety plan pledging he would not leave his children unsupervised until the following Monday, when CPS would follow up. At first he refused, saying he needed to talk to a lawyer, his wife said, but changed his mind when he was told his children would be removed if he did not comply.

        I think the whole family just learned that.

        • by Anonymous Brave Guy ( 457657 ) on Friday January 16, 2015 @09:54AM (#48828791)

          In the interests of discussing facts rather than emotional reactions, does anyone know:

          (a) whether the CPS worker was actually authorised to act in that way (i.e., following official procedures and lawfully permitted)

          (b) what legal weight the parents signing such an agreement in that situation would have had, and

          (c) whether the CPS worker, or someone they immediately contacted, would have had the legal authority to immediately remove the children forcibly in that situation if the parents had refused to sign?

          • by bulled ( 956533 ) on Friday January 16, 2015 @10:42AM (#48829249)
            I do not know about Maryland in specific, but I have an Aunt that is a Guardian Ad Litem for children in another state. As soon as CPS is involved, you as a parent are essentially fucked. You will be forever on a watch list an if _anything_ bad happens to your kids they will immediately get involved.

            They have very broad powers to reomove children after a report like this and even if discussing it with a lawyer would have brought them back same day, the CPS still could have taken the kids.

            I suppose it does reinforce the lesson that authority should be mistrusted.
            • by MitchDev ( 2526834 ) on Friday January 16, 2015 @11:43AM (#48829987)

              CPS needs to be disbanded and re-built from the ground up. Nazis indeed.

            • by Jhon ( 241832 ) on Friday January 16, 2015 @12:43PM (#48830725) Homepage Journal

              Every town/city in the US is different as far as risk. That said, the risk that a child will be kidnapped is not zero.

              My daughter was kidnapped*. She was 10 years old at the time. I feel I have "some" input to offer...

              I feel the parents were stupid to allow their children at this age to walk that distance alone. My opinion of this can be argued to be colored by the events in my families life, yes. Yet I believe I'm right on this issue. I also believe that the decision to allow their children to do this was THEIR choice. The kids were together which is a plus. The eldest was 10 years old which fills me with concern. I do not believe they irresponsibility put their children in danger to the level of calling CPS on them. This was just over kill.

              Background: At 10 years old I was getting up at 4:30 in the morning to deliver newspapers (1980's Los Angeles County). I would never allow my children to do this today. I also walked and/or rode a bike to/from school from 3rd grade-9th grade. The distances were all less than 2 miles. I got a ride TO high school (10th-12th) and took a bus back -- it was a hike. I'd be hard pressed to allow my kids to go to/from school on their own before high-school.

              *My daughter was recovered some 12 hours later alive. The monster who took her is facing 3 life sentences + 300+ years on various counts and has yet to go to trial (probably will happen within the next 3-4 months)

              • by rjstanford ( 69735 ) on Friday January 16, 2015 @12:49PM (#48830827) Homepage Journal

                What happened to your family was terribly unfortunate.

                It bears repeating though that it is also terribly unusual - more so now than it was in the '80s. We live in a far, far safer (although not perfect) world today then we did when we were kids by almost every possible measurement.

                I'm sure that the independence you got from your paper route and your relative freedom helped to make you the strong person that you are today, even though it wasn't without some small risk.

                • To play devil's advocate:
                  A number of people have stated that the "world" is much safer today than it was in the 80's (and yes, urban North America is significantly safer today than it was then), that fails to account for the fact that children out by themselves are a much rarer sight now, and are seen as an oddity, not commonplace.

                  Where I'm going with this is that the "world" is in part "safer" because we don't have young children traveling distances unsupervised. We might discover that the kidnapping and abuse rates went up if everyone stopped accompanying their children everywhere they want to go.

                  Then again, we might not. But as you can see, the argument by itself has some serious flaws.

                  As for personal recountings:
                  My grandparents used to spend the entire day unsupervised during the summer, playing on railway tracks/bridges, biking out to the country to go fishing, walking around with friends in the seedier parts of town. My parents used to travel unsupervised between urban areas for extra-curricular lessons, bike/take transit by themselves to friends' places and parks, but have more structured days and more general supervision when not in transit. I had 30 acres of wilderness to spend my time in, so spent much of my youth unsupervised, but checking in with a parent (mine or someone else's) fairly regularly; supervision in a rural setting is pretty silly for the most part. Kids learn how to avoid animals that may attack them, and you know who/where all the people around are -- some stranger wouldn't last very long sitting waiting in the middle of nowhere for a victim to come along. They'd be reported by the kids in the area and an adult would soon find them and ask them what they're up to, and get them to move along.

                  My kids? They don't really have the time to be unsupervised; there's always an adult accompanying them to wherever they go. This will change as they get older of course -- when they're old enough to babysit, they're old enough to have some independence too.

                  One other point to bring up: for the most part, abuse and kidnapping is done by someone you know/trust. This usually means that trusting your kids' care to a responsible adult won't decrease the risk of something bad happening all that much.

                • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Friday January 16, 2015 @02:29PM (#48832107)
                  Contrary to all the hype on the news whenever it happens, the odds of your child being abducted by a non-family member are exceedingly slim [ncjrs.gov]. It happens about 58,000 times a year, which on a per child basis is 0.08% (72 million children in 1999 when the study took place). 99.9% of abductions end with the child being recovered or returned, 90% of them within 24 hours.

                  Only 115 of those cases were classified as a stereotypical kidnapping (child moved more than 50 miles, held at least one night, held for ransom or intent to permanently keep the child, or the child killed). 57% of kidnappings end with the child recovered, 40% end in the child's death, 3% with the child never found. So as a cause of death, your child is roughly 3x more likely to be killed in a firearms accident, 8x more likely to be killed in a fire, 18x more likely to be poisoned, 22x more likely to drown, and nearly 100x more likely to die in a car accident.

                  If you ever wanted an example of the stereotype of a government agency preying on people's fears about their safety to amass more power for itself, CPS is it.
              • by Totenglocke ( 1291680 ) on Friday January 16, 2015 @12:59PM (#48830961)

                Background: At 10 years old I was getting up at 4:30 in the morning to deliver newspapers (1980's Los Angeles County). I would never allow my children to do this today.

                Despite the fact that crime rates are less than half of what they were 20 years ago and that you were are far more risk than your kids would be? Once again, the 24/7 "news" channels win by convincing parents that there's a boogeyman around every corner and that crime is through the roof.

              • by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Friday January 16, 2015 @07:33PM (#48835401)

                Every town/city in the US is different as far as risk. That said, the risk that a child will be kidnapped is not zero.

                It is never zero. However, we do not charge parents with neglect for driving their children around, even though we know that sometimes cars get in accidents, and sometimes passengers die.

                Therefore, for it to be said to be irresponsible, the risk should be at least greater than that of other modes of transportation.

                In other words: there must be more than residual risk, for sure.

                We also let children 'play' and engage in sports, therefore.... to be neglecting required supervision... the risk for the child in question in that situation should be at least greater than that involved in normal 'play' and sports engagements, including some dangerous sports that children are allowed to participate in with parental consent, where they could be at risk of serious injury or death from effects such as snakebite or drowning, hockey puck to the temples, for example.

                I think the question about whether the child was adequately supervised will depend on time, and also.... the local area.

                I wouldn't be comfortable with a child left alone.... that said, their kids were not alone apparently they were accompanied by each other. Therefore, if the kids have the proper skills, they would not be in particular danger, and if something did happen: the other child should be able to find help.

              • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Sunday January 18, 2015 @05:31AM (#48843523)

                That said, the risk that a child will be kidnapped is not zero.

                It rounds to zero. There's something like one kidnapping a month in the US (the kidnapping that people "fear" the kidnapping by a stranger with a violent history). There are tens to hundreds of thousands of kidnappings a year in the US, almost all by family members (most by parents). So you see the huge numbers thrown up, and nearly all are warring exes fighting.

                If you do nothing to "secure" your children from kidnapping, they are more likely to be struck by lightning than kidnapped.

          • by iamgnat ( 1015755 ) on Friday January 16, 2015 @10:44AM (#48829269)

            In the interests of discussing facts rather than emotional reactions, does anyone know:

            (a) whether the CPS worker was actually authorised to act in that way (i.e., following official procedures and lawfully permitted)

            (b) what legal weight the parents signing such an agreement in that situation would have had, and

            (c) whether the CPS worker, or someone they immediately contacted, would have had the legal authority to immediately remove the children forcibly in that situation if the parents had refused to sign?

            I unfortunately had a run in with CPS when my son was born and while they don't have the power to take them on the spot, what they recommend to the judge is what happens. While going through that we hired a lawyer and luckily my parents were friends with an ex-CPS worker from one of the counties involved (I had two counties to deal with in this case) who moved in down the street from them. Basically whatever a Nurse/Doctor/Cop/Teacher/etc.. says is taken as gospel in these cases and the parents are treated as villains regardless of a lack of evidence (or even basic common sense regarding the accusation).

            The lawyer we hired was dealing with another case almost identical to ours. They unfortunately didn't control their gut reactions to these injustices (and it is very difficult when they are threatening your family like that) and the 2 month old child was removed from their home. 2 years later they were finally getting custody back again.

            Both the lawyer and ex-CPS guy also said that even after the issue is "settled" you don't want to try to go after them as they will find some reason to re-open the case or find an excuse to start a new one. People complain about the abuse of power and unaccountability from Cops, but they really don't hold a candle to CPS.

            • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 16, 2015 @10:56AM (#48829437)
              In some states, CPS cares about meeting metrics set by the state legislature. They will leave children in abusive homes in order to meet these metrics, unless the News Media gets involved, or a child dies. Here there a case where the investigator knew the perpetrator in a personal manner, and altered interviews from a licensed psychiatrist in the case. When it was reported to the head of CPS, they ignored it. Thankfully those kids are now all 18 and do not have to deal with an abusive parent anymore. They had to deal with it for four years though.
            • by tompaulco ( 629533 ) on Friday January 16, 2015 @11:40AM (#48829939) Homepage Journal
              I have had the equivalent agency in my state threaten to take my children. They have never been abused, neglected, or mistreated in any fashion. However, in my state, it is illegal for you to have more than one child. Well, effectively anyway. It is illegal for you to be on a different level of your house than your child, and we had twins and another girl a year older. In order to obey the law, you would have to carry all three of them with you when you put one of them to bed.
            • by mythosaz ( 572040 ) on Friday January 16, 2015 @01:19PM (#48831185)

              The idea that parents are unanimously treated like villains is overplayed. Anyone fucks with your parenting, and you're probably not going to report it as a good experience.

              Having rased one child with sever emotional difficulties to adulthood, we've had a couple run-ins with CPS.

              The 6'4 200# 15-year-old kid got in a pushing match with his 6'4 300# biological father outside the school. A teacher saw it and was obligated to report it. CPS talked to my wife in person and made a round of phone calls to everyone else involved including myself (stepdad). The person who called me asked some fairly simple questions about what our home-life was like, and satisfied we weren't alcoholic abusers, they closed their investigation with a finding of what I can only describe as "shit happens, but this isn't a problem."

              Once I separated the emotion and nanny-state second-guessing of my parenting (in a situation I was barely involved with) from the reality of the situation, all we ended up having was a quick phone call with a woman who wanted to make sure our kid wasn't in any sort of direct harm.

              So, no, I don't believe that parents are assumed to be villains until proven good.

        • by Java Pimp ( 98454 ) <java_pimp.yahoo@com> on Friday January 16, 2015 @10:19AM (#48828977) Homepage

          I a situation like that I would also write on the document that "I am signing this document under duress."

        • by lpevey ( 115393 ) on Friday January 16, 2015 @11:23AM (#48829733)

          This is just ridiculous. I used to walk or ride my bike to and from school every day from when I was in third grade onward, so about the same age. The distance was about a mile. I remember the library being within the limits set of where I could bike by myself, and that was probably about a mile, if not a little more. This was in a suburban area.

          This relates to a previous story I posted in an unrelated thread about the police: I live in an urban area, and I've been stopped more than once by police who warned me that it was dangerous to walk alone, in the middle of the day, IN MY OWN NEIGHBORHOOD (I guess because I'm white). I'm clearly a grown woman, in my thirties. Let individuals make their own choices. Sheesh. We don't need all these danger mongers. Yes, bad things DO happen, but in reality it's just not that often.

      • Sounds like some busy body in Montgomery County Maryland decided to "facilitate" this issue.

        As a parent, my first thought was, "who the fucked called up about the children?" Also, maybe it's time for the Montgomery County Maryland finest to turn in their badges, radios, and guns, then go have their PTSD flash backs somewhere else.

        By the way, I hear there's a grape missing from the back of a truck in Montgomery County Maryland, what's being done about it?
        • by Anonymous Brave Guy ( 457657 ) on Friday January 16, 2015 @10:06AM (#48828875)

          Also, maybe it's time for the Montgomery County Maryland finest to turn in their badges, radios, and guns, then go have their PTSD flash backs somewhere else.

          If the local police feel that the world is such a dangerous place, perhaps they would be better employed fixing that, rather than interfering with young kids going out to play.

          Entirely plausible six-year-old perspective: "Mummy, why did the police take us away after we went to play in the park today? I thought only bad people got arrested by the police. Did I do something wrong?"

          • by idontgno ( 624372 ) on Friday January 16, 2015 @10:39AM (#48829205) Journal

            If the local police feel that the world is such a dangerous place, perhaps they would be better employed fixing that, rather than interfering with young kids going out to play.

            It's easier to corral the sheep than face the wolves. Even if some of the sheep don't want to cooperate. That's why you castrate them.

            Maybe it's not so baaaad.

        • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Friday January 16, 2015 @12:47PM (#48830799)

          As a parent, my first thought was, "who the fucked called up about the children?"

          My kids bike to school (about a mile) and I have had several busybody neighbors comment to me that it was unsafe, because they "might get kidnapped." I explained that they are a THOUSAND TIMES more likely to be hit by a car, and THAT is what I worry about. But the only dangerous intersection has a crossing guard, so even that is not much of a concern. People are very poor estimators of risk.

    • by trout007 ( 975317 ) on Friday January 16, 2015 @09:50AM (#48828761)

      It is a dangerous world. These kids were kidnapped on the way home. Luckily for them the kidnapper returned them to the parents.

    • by NotDrWho ( 3543773 ) on Friday January 16, 2015 @10:08AM (#48828887)

      The more I read stories like this, the more I'm kind of glad that my dad passed away a long time ago. No way could he live in this world. Hell, I would be embarrassed to even let him *see* it.

      Dad: "I faked my age to enlist at fifteen and fight at D-Day."
      Me: "In this world, leaving a twelve-year-old home alone can be considered child abuse."
      Dad: "And you're properly ashamed of this, right?"
      Me: "Every day I want to jump off a building."

      • by ThatsDrDangerToYou ( 3480047 ) on Friday January 16, 2015 @12:00PM (#48830201)

        The more I read stories like this, the more I'm kind of glad that my dad passed away a long time ago. No way could he live in this world. Hell, I would be embarrassed to even let him *see* it.

        Dad: "I faked my age to enlist at fifteen and fight at D-Day." Me: "In this world, leaving a twelve-year-old home alone can be considered child abuse." Dad: "And you're properly ashamed of this, right?" Me: "Every day I want to jump off a building."

        Best to channel your energies into something positive. Throw someone else off a building instead.

    • by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Friday January 16, 2015 @11:07AM (#48829553) Homepage

      The trauma caused by the police and child protective services far outweigh any damage that could have rationally and reasonably been expected otherwise.

  • by Jesrad ( 716567 ) on Friday January 16, 2015 @09:14AM (#48828475) Journal

    "I think what CPS considered neglect, we felt was an essential part of growing up and maturing," says Alexander. "We feel we're being bullied into a point of view about child-rearing that we strongly disagree with."

    The "child protection" services have all the apparent responsibilities of caring, without having to pay the price for the efforts they demand. That's why they are intrinsically biased in favor of perpertually inflating the needs of childs and the duties of caretakers... to the point of ridiculous extremes.

    • Coddling = Fail (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Friday January 16, 2015 @09:49AM (#48828757) Journal
      The sad state of affairs is such that it is even necessary at all to have a Child Protective Services. That's on a relatively small minority of people not ready for the responsibility of parenting, but the governmental overreach is to be expected.

      In the absence of obvious abuse, the simple test should be: is the child fed, clothed, sheltered, and schooled?

      The sadder state of affairs is that a child justifiably separated from his/her parents by the State is unlikely to do much better in the foster parent system.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        A better, and even simpler test would be: Would this child be better off under the supervision of the state in the foster system as opposed to remaining with his or her parents?

        The answer almost 90% of the time is: no fucking way.

      • the simple test should be: is the child fed, clothed, sheltered, and schooled?

        Nothing in law is as simple as that. You must first define each of those four factors. Let me give you an example related to "schooled": Some countries are known to haul homeschooling parents off to prison unless one parent has an accredited education degree and a valid teaching license. In fact, most political debates can be rephrased as debates over defining words [c2.com].

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 16, 2015 @09:52AM (#48828777)

      I'd love to second this.

      My sister-in-law just had a baby and she's addicted to heroine. She went to a methadone clinic while pregnant, but the baby was technically addicted when he was born so they said they were required to call children services (probably not a bad idea, I was upset that *NOTHING* was done when his older brother was born addicted to heroine).

      So CPS setup a "safety plan" which simply says that my wife and her other sister will supervise all contact between my druggie sister-in-law and her baby. That's all fine, until you try to get clarification on what they mean by that. My wife works nights, so she's home during the day and supervises the contact. That means she must be in the same room as her sister-in-law AT ALL TIMES (can't even go to the bathroom alone according to CPS). It also means she's not allowed to sleep; not even if the baby is asleep and not even if my sister-in-law leaves. At night, my sister-in-law was given certain hours she's allowed to sleep, she can't sleep outside those hours, and if the baby wakes up, she must wake up before the addict sister-in-law (how can you guarantee that?)

      After Christmas, they canceled the night shift during inventory and made it mandatory for my wife to work during the day and gave her less then 24 hours notice. It sucks, but she was laid off in November and this was the best option she could find. That meant both of the approved supervisors had to be at work at the same time, so my addict sister-in-law called to ask what to do and made several reasonable suggestions like could she drop off the baby with my wife, leave, let me watch the baby all day, then after my wife came home, then return so there was no unsupervised contact between the two. CPS said either one of the supervisor would have to miss work even if that meant losing their job or the addict could break the safety plan and CPS would assume custody of the child. I was listening to the conversation on speaker phone so after they elaborating on how all day care or baby sitting is unacceptable that the baby must be in the prescience of one of the two approved supervisors at all time. After awhile of them providing no options, she got a supervisor and eventually (like 45 minutes later) they agreed to add me to the safety plan so I could watch him.

      If Job and Family services mission is to strengthen families, how are they doing that? They've added a lot of stress, they haven't outlined what's acceptable (if its says supervise contact, then if she's not there, there is no contact). They've said his own grandparents, aunts (other then the two), uncles, father, etc aren't allowed to watch him. My wife and supervisor sister-in-law are both mothers (sister-in-law a single mother) so how would them losing their job by not showing up (which they would do to prevent my nephew from entering foster care) strengthening families. Why would you setup a safety plan without even talking to my wife? Why would you think its practical to require one of two people to watch my nephew at all times (imagine if this were a typical family and you said only mom or dad could EVER watch the child)?

      I wish I could say this surprised me, but three times I've had to deal with CPS before this (the law says they have to do an investigation on any report; all three times the determination was there was no evidence of neglect) and one time the "investigation" which by law must be completed with 30 days although they can apply for an extension to 45 days took over 3 months. Keep in mind the case worker's supervisor supervisor told me the law, sent me a letter saying they were in violation of the law, but a year later their records indicated they took 22 days to close the investigation. Thus they falsified documents and I can prove it as I have the paper work from when they first showed up at my house and the letter stating that there was no evidence supporting neglect.

      They also will not let parents drink unless they take the beverage and pour it into a red cup. Their justif

    • by butalearner ( 1235200 ) on Friday January 16, 2015 @10:06AM (#48828871)

      In their defense, I want them to do their due diligence whenever they get a report. A lot of people would be pissed at the police and at CPS if they got called in and missed neglect or abuse. But it's quite obvious in this case that they went way overboard, and they still are.

      I haven't seen it discussed in this thread, but in brief, Maryland state law says that any child under 8 must be supervised by a child 13 or older while in a dwelling or a vehicle. It says nothing about being outside, but they are considering stretching the interpretation and charging the parents.

      • In their defense, I want them to do their due diligence whenever they get a report. A lot of people would be pissed at the police and at CPS if they got called in and missed neglect or abuse. But it's quite obvious in this case that they went way overboard, and they still are.

        The problem is in many cases they don't do any due diligence. They blindly accept whatever a Mandatory Reporter (Teacher/Doctor/Nurse/etc..) tells them regardless of how patently false or idiotic the report is. By all means they should follow up, but after my own experience I've talked to others that have crossed CPS' path and the stories are all similar to this one. Something that should not have been an issue got CPS involved and CPS immediately took an adversarial path and threatened to take the kid(s) e

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) * <mojo@worl d 3 . net> on Friday January 16, 2015 @10:19AM (#48828979) Homepage

      In Japan they have something called "first errand". Young school children, say 5 or 6, are given a simple task to do such as go to the local shop and buy a specific item, then bring it home. The school organizes this and gets the parents to come in and help by watching the children from a distance. Adults are not allowed to help the children unless they get into serious difficulty.

      By that age, many Japanese children are already walking home on their own. Granted, Japan is much safer than most parts of the US, but even so it demonstrates how in the west we treat children as far less capable than they actually are. It's not just respnsibilities and safety either, they consider children's emotions to be genuine and to be respected, rather than trivialized and ignored or even punished like the west does.

      • by johnlcallaway ( 165670 ) on Friday January 16, 2015 @10:34AM (#48829143)

        In Japan they have something called "first errand". Young school children, say 5 or 6, are given a simple task to do such as go to the local shop and buy a specific item, then bring it home. The school organizes this and gets the parents to come in and help by watching the children from a distance. Adults are not allowed to help the children unless they get into serious difficulty.

        By that age, many Japanese children are already walking home on their own. Granted, Japan is much safer than a few parts of the US, but even so it demonstrates how in the west we treat children as far less capable than they actually are. It's not just respnsibilities and safety either, they consider children's emotions to be genuine and to be respected, rather than trivialized and ignored or even punished like the west does.

        There .. fixed that for you. Don't believe what the media tells you, it's really not that bad over here. Children are more at risk from their family and family friends than strangers.

        Other than that, I agree with the concept 100%.

      • by jandrese ( 485 )
        Two children were kidnapped off of the street 3 years ago "by strangers" and suddenly I'm living in a warzone. IIRC it turned out to be a divorce dispute once the facts came out. Now parents have to be at the bus stop with their kids or they call CPS on you. You can't have just one parent watching all of the kids either, each kid has to have their own parent there.
      • by Corbets ( 169101 ) on Friday January 16, 2015 @11:44AM (#48830005) Homepage

        but even so it demonstrates how in the west we treat children as far less capable than they actually are. It's not just respnsibilities and safety either, they consider children's emotions to be genuine and to be respected, rather than trivialized and ignored or even punished like the west does.

        Don't mistake the US for the entire West. Here in Switzerland, very young schoolchildren get on the train by themselves, ride to the appropriate stop, and walk in small groups between destinations on both ends of the route. No adult supervision.

        On a side note, kids here are usually bilingual and often trilingual, too.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 16, 2015 @09:14AM (#48828477)

    Think of the children! There could have been terrorists and socialists on that road, or even the big bad wolf. Any sensible parent would chip their kids and give them a phone with tracking apps hidden within...it's the only way to be safe.

  • Add another one... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 16, 2015 @09:15AM (#48828483)

    ... to the long list of reasons i don't consider the US a good place to live in.
    With rules like this, no wonder you have 40 year old virgins living in their parents' basements.

  • by CrimsonAvenger ( 580665 ) on Friday January 16, 2015 @09:19AM (#48828515)

    I remember back in the day playing miles from home in the hills up past the artillery range.

    I also remember breaking my arm on such a trip, and having to push my bike home one-handed.

    Not something I think Maryland CPS would have approved of, I suspect.

    • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Friday January 16, 2015 @09:37AM (#48828653)

      To make a point. You had seriously injured yourself and still you were able to take care of yourself long enough to get back.
      We have gotten overly cautious with our children, and to make it worse, the legal system has bought into the hype as well.

      • by jandrese ( 485 )
        Even if you don't want to be a helicopter parent, you're kind of screwed in that regard because helicopter parents make the rules. Oh no, a kid fell off the swing and broke his arm. I guess no swings for anybody now, our precious special snowflakes might get injured.

        Or you get this exchange.
        "I saw your kid climbing a tree! Don't you know how dangerous that is?!?"
        Of course because Mrs. Busybody go so freaked out about it and yelled at him, now my kid is scared of trees. Kids pick up on adult anxietie
    • by Stele ( 9443 ) on Friday January 16, 2015 @09:39AM (#48828671) Homepage

      We lived on a mountain in Virginia. When I was in second grade the neighbor kid and I would go hiking up the mountain, following streams and looking for waterfalls. I remember one waterfall we found, probably 70 feet high. We found a way to climb up the sides, got to the top, and found these big boulders. We'd roll the boulders off the top of the fall and listen to them crack on the rocks far below. We'd be out doing that all day long.
      Later we moved to a lake and I would just disappear for the day exploring the surrounding are. This was life in the country.

  • Parents (Score:4, Insightful)

    by countach ( 534280 ) on Friday January 16, 2015 @09:20AM (#48828519)

    I don't know if letting kids this age walk home is the right thing, but I respect the right of the parents to make that decision. The world over child services staff are self-righteous twerps, who give all the signs of knowing very little about the range of problems parents face, and know even less about helping, rather than punishing parents trying to do the right thing.

  • For one mile? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jaywalk ( 94910 ) on Friday January 16, 2015 @09:20AM (#48828525) Homepage
    A mile? That's still 1760 yards right? Geez, my walk to grade school was longer than that. The local grade school here in Massachusetts doesn't require the school to provide bus service if the kid lives within two miles of the school. Maybe Maryland should come up here and arrest the school board.
    • Re:For one mile? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by AntEater ( 16627 ) on Friday January 16, 2015 @10:03AM (#48828851) Homepage

      I spent a few years of my childhood in Mass. and regularly walked to school since 1st grade - that was just under two miles each way. (Yeah, in the cold, waist-deep in snow, uphill both ways....) This is pathetic. After school many of us kids ranged all over the town playing in streams, walking the residential streets, etc. Times have changed, but I don't think this is for the better.

  • this chart might have some value:

    http://www.latchkey-kids.com/l... [latchkey-kids.com]

    it's about being left home alone, but the idea is the same: the age at which a child can be left to fend for themselves for a few hours, legally

    the age of 8 for maryland listed here doesn't take into account the concept of a babysitter, which the 10 year old could qualify as

    this suggests the parents should be fine, by legal precedent, rather than philosophical inspection, which of course immediately suggests the asshole busybody that called the police needs to get a fucking life, and the cops should have just given the kids a ride or asked how they were and then told to have a nice day and drove off

  • Cops are right! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 16, 2015 @09:23AM (#48828539)

    Alexander said he had a tense time with police when officers returned his children, asked for his identification and told him about the dangers of the world.

    Yeah, there are cops out there who shoot children. They might think the kid's backpack is a thermal nuclear device or assault rifle and shoot him on site.

  • So... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by darkitecture ( 627408 ) on Friday January 16, 2015 @09:24AM (#48828555)
    So... we've managed to replace helicopter parenting with helicopter government.
    • by jandrese ( 485 )
      We didn't replace it, we augmented it. Basically Helicopter parents were annoyed that other parents weren't like them, so they started calling the cops.
  • Time for Layoffs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jbmartin6 ( 1232050 ) on Friday January 16, 2015 @09:24AM (#48828557)
    This is the kind of story I think of when I hear that these agencies need more money. It seems to me they are overstaffed and overfunded if they have time for activities like this.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 16, 2015 @09:25AM (#48828559)

    Fear is the mind killer. The fear of some vague threat is motivating CPS and the cops to do real harm to this family.

    I grew up in a small town near a woods on the Illinois river. I was roaming through those woods and walking 1.5 mi to school when I was 7. At 14, I often toted a gun with me or went fishing by myself with dangerous knives and sharp hooks. I cleaned the fish I caught and ate them, too. If only CPS had been there to put me in a risk-free bubble, what a great childhood I would have had.

  • by mjm1231 ( 751545 ) on Friday January 16, 2015 @09:27AM (#48828577)

    When I was a child, you had to live at least a mile and a quarter from the school to qualify for the bus. Everyone else walked. This was considered absolutely normal. When I was in first grade, I went with some of the neighbor kids. I was six, and this was elementary school, so the oldest kid in the group was probably 10? Crime rates in the US are much lower today than they were then. Just dumb.

  • by zenyu ( 248067 ) on Friday January 16, 2015 @09:33AM (#48828623)

    Per the NYC Department of Education children 5 and above are expected to walk up to 0.5 miles to school. Children between 5 and 11 are expected to walk up to 1 mile, and children 12 and above up are expected to walk or bike up to 1.5 miles to school.

    Being run over by a car is by far the most likely tragety to occur to a child walking home from school so I looked up ped/bike fatalities in Maryland, and it is 1.88 per 100,000. This is actually lower than NYC, which had 2.00 such deaths per 100,000.

  • Child Autonomy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Psychotria ( 953670 ) on Friday January 16, 2015 @09:40AM (#48828697)

    From Jared Diamond's book The World Until Yesterday

    How much freedom or encouragement do children have to explore their environment? Are children permitted to do dangerous things, with the expectation that they must learn from their mistakes? Or are parents protective of their children’s safety, and do parents curtail exploration and pull kids away if they start to do something that could be dangerous?

    The answer to this question varies among societies. However, a tentative generalization is that individual autonomy, even of children, is a more cherished ideal in hunter-gatherer bands than in state societies, where the state considers that it has an interest in its children, does not want children to get hurt by doing as they please, and forbids parents to let a child harm itself.

    That theme of autonomy has been emphasized by observers of many hunter-gatherer societies. For example, Aka Pygmy children have access to the same resources as do adults, whereas in the U.S. there are many adults-only resources that are off-limits to kids, such as weapons, alcohol, and breakable objects. Among the Martu people of the Western Australian desert, the worst offense is to impose on a child’s will, even if the child is only 3 years old. The Piraha Indians consider children just as human beings, not in need of coddling or special protection. In Everett’s words, “They [Piraha children] are treated fairly and allowance is made for their size and relative physical weakness, but by and large they are not considered qualitatively different from adults ... This style of parenting has the result of producing very tough and resilient adults who do not believe that anyone owes them anything. Citizens of the Piraha nation know that each day’s survival depends on their individual skills and hardiness ... Eventually they learn that it is in their best interests to listen to their parents a bit.”

    Some hunter-gatherer and small-scale farming societies don’t intervene when children or even infants are doing dangerous things that may in fact harm them, and that could expose a Western parent to criminal prosecution. I mentioned earlier my surprise, in the New Guinea Highlands, to learn that the fire scars borne by so many adults of Enu’s adoptive tribe were often acquired in infancy, when an infant was playing next to a fire, and its parents considered that child autonomy extended to a baby’s having the right to touch or get close to the fire and to suffer the consequences. Hadza infants are permitted to grasp and suck on sharp knives. Nevertheless, not all small-scale societies permit children to explore freely and do dangerous things.

    On the American frontier, where population was sparse, the one-room schoolhouse was a common phenomenon. With so few children living within daily travel distance, schools could afford only a single room and a single teacher, and all children of different ages had to be educated together in that one room. But the one-room schoolhouse in the U.S. today is a romantic memory of the past, except in rural areas of low population density. Instead, in all cities, and in rural areas of moderate population density, children learn and play in age cohorts.

    School classrooms are age-graded, such that most classmates are within a year of each other in age. While neighborhood playgroups are not so strictly age-segregated, in densely populated areas of large societies there are enough children living within walking distance of each other that 12-year-olds don’t routinely play with 3-year-olds.

    But demographic realities produce a different result in small-scale societies, which resemble one-room schoolhouses. A typical hunter-gatherer band numbering around 30 people will on the average contain only about a dozen preadolescent kids, of both sexes and various ages. Hence it is impossible to assemble separate age-cohort playgroups, each with many children, as is characte

  • by Nyder ( 754090 ) on Friday January 16, 2015 @09:43AM (#48828715) Journal

    By the time I was 10, not only did I have a paper route that took me a few miles from home, I had a bike that gave me greater range. This was the late 70's to early 80's. Was normal. Today we have cellphones, gps and people are tripping because a 6 & 10 year old was walking home together?

    I don't believe the USA is more violent then it was before, I believe that people are just more aware of bad shit that happens because you have a non stop stream of information, pictures and videos coming from various sources. Bad shit happens, yes, but it doesn't mean you need to lock your kids in your house and never let them out of your sight.

    • by swillden ( 191260 ) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Friday January 16, 2015 @10:36AM (#48829153) Homepage Journal

      I don't believe the USA is more violent then it was before

      It's actually as safe as it's ever been, safer even than the "Leave It to Beaver" 50s, and the decline in violence and crime is continuing. It's possible that some of the improvement in child safety is due to hypervigilant parents, but I suspect not much. Most of it is just that the nation is more... "civilized" is the best word I can come up with. It's still more dangerous and violent than many other developed nations, but in a better place than it has been, and heading the right direction.

      I believe that people are just more aware of bad shit that happens because you have a non stop stream of information, pictures and videos coming from various sources.

      Yup. Our perceptions are badly skewed by media. Our inbuilt mechanism for judging risk is heavily biased towards shocking narratives, and it's also observation-frequency biased. In evolutionary terms, those make sense. Without the range-extending capabilities of technology, our observations were limited to the personal, so observation frequency made sense. For rarer but more severe risks, the information communicated by others also provided a pretty good measure of frequency, since the aggregate perceptive range of our acquaintances and their acquaintances, etc., was pretty small.

      That's clearly not the world we live in today.

      Of course, we do have excellent tools for judging risk, vastly better than anything our ancestors had. Statistical methods provide a more accurate, more precise and more nuanced view of relative risk than anything our "gut" could ever do. If we use them.

      In this case, these children's parents clearly do make use of the statistical tools available to us today, correctly judging the relative risk of their children walking as being lower than driving in an automobile. The CPS agency, not so much.

  • Happened to me (Score:5, Interesting)

    by T.E.D. ( 34228 ) on Friday January 16, 2015 @10:27AM (#48829079)

    I had my daughter brought home in a police cruiser no less than 3 times when she was between the ages of 6 and 8, simply for playing outside unsupervised in broad daylight. (Admittedly, she was small for her age). After the third time we got a visit from child protective services, which basically ended with us being instructed to buy a key operated deadbolt to lock her in the house so she couldn't escape.

    ...advice that was promptly ignored. That's a serious safety issue in a fire, which is frankly far more likely of a disaster. When I was a kid we were told we should have household fire escape drills, and now I'm being told to lock em in so they can't "escape" to play outside? What a f'ed up time we live in.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 16, 2015 @10:29AM (#48829093)

    To contact Chief Manger:

    By e-mail: MCPDChief@montgomerycountymd.gov

    By mail: Chief Manger
    Montgomery County Police Department
    100 Edison Park Drive, 3rd floor
    Gaithersburg, MD 20878

  • by mepperpint ( 790350 ) on Friday January 16, 2015 @10:37AM (#48829177)
    The police in the DC area appear to have very strong beliefs that children should be accompanied very closely by parents at all times. About a year ago, my wife and I were walking to the air and space museum with our 8 year old daughter and her 8 year old cousin in DC. We walked by a park and the children thought it would be fun to walk through the park and meet us on the other side. They were stopped in the middle of the park by a police officer who demanded to know where their parents were. They pointed at us, about 50 feet away. The police officer first demanded that we come meet him in the middle of the park to pick up the children and, after we refused, settled for escorting them the 50 feet to meet us.

    We felt like the officer was acting ludicrously and a royal jerk. It's discomforting to see that this problem is more wide spread, so I hope these parents are able to get the police and CPS to back down. I completely agree that children do not magically become grownups on their 18th birthday, they need to slowly expand their boundaries and comfort zone over time as they grow into adults.
  • by VitrosChemistryAnaly ( 616952 ) on Friday January 16, 2015 @11:18AM (#48829651) Journal
    My wife and I and our kids were just talking about TFA this morning. The reaction that I got from my kids (8 and 10) was something like "huh?". We live just a few doors from a park where all the neighborhood kids play together, unsupervised, when the weather is nice. I love being able to give them unsupervised play time! That's time when then can just be themselves and interact with their peers without adults there interfering. They get to explore and do all kinds of stuff.

    My wife and I are even considering allowing our older child to take the Metro (public transit) to ballet by herself next year when she's in middle school.

    It frustrates me that our parenting style is probably considered illegal and/or immoral by the county's standards. I'd say that obesity from spending too much time indoors in front of a screen instead of getting out there and mixing it up are greater dangers to our children.
  • by Jodka ( 520060 ) on Friday January 16, 2015 @11:19AM (#48829667)

    The term for this is soft despotism [wikipedia.org].

    It was coined by Alexis de Tocqueville and first described by him in the second volume of De la démocratie en Amérique, first published in 1840.

  • by xeno ( 2667 ) on Friday January 16, 2015 @06:44PM (#48835019)

    According to the Montgomery County school website, having the kids walk a mile with a sibling is within normal community standards, and in line with guidelines set forth by the county itself.
    (See www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/parents/basics/transportation/ )

    In Montgomery County where this occurred, school bus transportation is only provided for elementary school children who live further than 1mi from school, and for middle schoolers (11yo+) further than 1.5mi. The county's guidance for elementary school kids walking 1 mile or less is "Younger walkers are encouraged to walk to and from school with siblings, older children from their neighborhood, or parents. At many schools, Montgomery County crossing guards help walkers cross at busy intersections near the school. In most elementary schools, student safety patrols guide younger children in crossing smaller neighborhood streets."

    I don't see how CPS has a leg to stand on here; the children were simply practicing what they are expected to do by the county school system itself.

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