Maryland Parents with “Free Range” Philosophy Charged with Child Endangerment and Neglect
As more parents speak out against “helicopter” parenting – in which parents are overbearing and overschedule their children without teaching them independence – a movement called “free-range parenting” is beginning to gain followers. However, opponents accuse free-range parents of negligence, and now one Maryland couple faces criminal charges of child endangerment.
Danielle and Alexander Mietiv allowed their two children, ages 10 and 6, to walk home alone from a park, which was a mile away from their home in Maryland. The children were stopped halfway home by police who were concerned for their safety. The simple permissive act has led not only to a media firestorm, but a 2-month criminal investigation in which the Mietivs were accused of child endangerment and neglect.
Although no formal charges of child endangerment were filed after the investigation, Montgomery County Child Protective Services will keep a file on the parents for five years, which brings up complicated legal questions about what will happen if the free-range parents allow their children to continue to walk or play unaccompanied – which the Mietivs unabashedly say they will continue to do.
“We don’t feel it was appropriate for an investigation to start, much less conclude that we are responsible for some form of child neglect,” said Danielle Meitiv. She added that she and her husband Alexander will appeal their file in Child Protective Services, but they worry about what could happen to their family in the meantime. CPS could step in and remove the children from the home if the parents face another child endangerment or neglect investigation.
“What will happen next time?” she asked. “We don’t know if we will get caught in this Kafkaesque loop again.”
The free-range parenting movement has caused a national debate about children’s safety in urban and suburban areas. The concept dates back to a 2008 article written by New York journalist Lenore Skenazy, called “Why I Let My 9-Year-Old Ride the Subway Alone.”
“The go-to narrative in the last 20 or 30 years for parents was, ‘Take your eyes off your kid for even a second and he’ll be snatched.’ What the Meitiv case did was pivot the story to: ‘Give your kid one second of freedom and the government will arrest you’,” Skenazy said when asked about the Mietivs’ case.
Danielle Mietiv added that, although there are no criminal charges and her children remain with their parents, she does not feel that she and her husband have truly been cleared of the child endangerment accusations. “Oh my God, they really believe we did something wrong,” she said after reading the letter from CPS. “There’s no question this is some kind of finding against us.”
Alexander Mietiv said that, on the day the children walked home from the park, CPS asked him to sign a letter saying he would not allow the children to be unaccompanied until the child endangerment investigation was completed. When he resisted, CPS informed him that his children would be removed from their home if he did not agree.
Maryland law, according to CPS, says that a child 8 years or younger must be left with a reliable person 13 years or older. There is no similar law in South Carolina.
The Strom Law Firm Defends Against Charges of Child Endangerment
Child endangerment in South Carolina includes charges of DUI with a child in the car; exposing children to firearms or drug use; failing to use proper safety restraints; domestic violence; or pornography. If you have been charged with child endangerment, you face serious criminal charges that would remove your children from your home, and leave you with a criminal record. You need help fighting these charges. Contact the attorneys at the Strom Law Firm today for a free, confidential consultation regarding the facts of your case. 803.252.4800