Montgomery County seizes “free-range” kids again

On Sunday afternoon Montgomery County, Maryland police and Child Protective Services seized the free-range Meitiv children, ages 10 and 6, after their parents had again let them play by themselves at a park. The kids were supposed to return home by 6; the police did not call the by-then-frantic parents until 8 p.m. [WUSA; Lenore Skenazy] Although initial accounts placed the seizure at the park, per tweets Sunday evening by Fox5 journalist Marina Marraco, the kids were walking back from the park and had gotten to within 1/3 mile of home when police intercepted and picked them up pursuant to a 911 call from “a neighbor” who had spotted them walking alone. The Meitiv family had become the center of a national cause célèbre in January when the county charged the parents with child neglect for letting the two kids walk home from a park. In March, CPS found the neglect charge “unsubstantiated” but puzzlingly deemed the parents “responsible” for it anyway.

More from WTTG/Fox5 Washington: parents reunited with kids after agreeing to “sign a temporary safety plan to take them home, which means they are not allowed to leave the children unattended at all. …Police say after a thorough investigation, a decision about whether or not the Meitivs will face charges will be made.” And from Ellen Rowland (“Thoughts on the criminalization of childhood,” earlier this month) and from Petula Dvorak, Washington Post (“Our rapid march toward police-state parenting has got to end,” and don’t miss checklist at the end from a 1979 book on six-year-olds, on first-grade readiness: “Can he travel alone in the neighborhood (four to eight blocks) to store, school, playground, or to a friend’s home?”) (cross-posted at Cato at Liberty in revised and expanded form)


  • Are the sidewalks of Montgomery County, MD, so dangerous that merely walking on them is probable cause?

  • Such inconvenient people.

  • Wow. Is this America? Is the same rule in Cumberland or any other place in Maryland? If not, there are serious lack of notice problems in enforcing these laws in the manner that Montgomery County is.

    This is another example of not being able to be the ride, whether or not you can bet the rap. The problem, of course, is that the kids are being subjected to the ride too. Hopefully, some of these bureaucrats will have their lives turned upside down with capricious government.

  • There should be organized over the perfectly safe route this 10-year old escorted his six-year old brother, a national “Children’s March for Growth and Freedom.” Our First Lady should be invited to participate as part of her campaign against childhood obesity.

    After showing up at the march, families could take a short side trip to lobby Congress for a civil-rights law against “kidnaping under color of authority” and “child abuse under color of authority,” crafted to make these Montgomery County officials (and their imitators) liable for heavy criminal and civil penalties.

  • Emblematic of an even deeper problem. The single lone male who saw the kids might reasonably have been concerned for their wellbeing. However, under no circumstance would a thinking adult male approach children lest he be labeled a potential danger himself. Indeed, he had to make the call in order to stay ahead of the informant game; what if the kid whipped out a phone and told the police that they were feeling uncomfortable about a lone male on the street with them.

    In a better world, he would have felt free to ask the kids if they are lost or need anything, and all would have gone on their way.

    But adult males can no longer be free range themselves. I have to constantly be aware of my surroundings, and avoid any possibility of confusion that could arise about my interaction with children, and women.

  • […] now expanded Monday’s post into a longer Cato post. Among the new material, it links Petula Dvorak’s excellent WaPo […]