Kids walk home from park, parents probed for ‘neglect’

If you had any kind of childhood at all , and you’re over the age of 50, you will — within the next three paragraphs — be thinking about the time your parents left you to your own devices to find your way back home.

You just didn’t know at the time that you were a “free range kid.”

Rafi and Dvora Meitiv, ages 10 and 6, are free-range kids and because of that, their parents were on the receiving end of a lecture from police on the dangers that are out there in the world.

The Washington Post reports today that Danielle and Alexander Meitiv allowed their kids to walk one mile home from a park in Silver Spring, Md., last month. They never made it. On the way, a police officer scooped them up and took them home, according to the newspaper.

Alexander said he had a tense time with police on Dec. 20 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, he said, which showed up a couple of hours after the police left.

Mary Anderson, a spokeswoman for CPS, said she could not comment on cases but that neglect investigations typically focus on questions of whether there has been a failure to provide proper care and supervision.

In such investigations, she said, CPS may look for guidance to a state law about leaving children unattended, which says children younger than 8 must be left with a reliable person who is at least 13 years old. The law covers dwellings, enclosures and vehicles.

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.

Following the holidays, the family said, CPS called again, saying the agency needed to inquire further and visit the family’s home. Danielle said she resisted.

“It seemed such a huge violation of privacy to examine my house because my kids were walking home,” she said.

This week, a CPS social worker showed up at her door, she said. She did not let him in. She said she was stunned to later learn from the principal that her children were interviewed at school

The parents say was child services views as “neglect” they view as an essential part of growing up.

“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,” Mrs. Alexander told the Post. “I think it’s absolutely critical for their development — to learn responsibility, to experience the world, to gain confidence and competency.”