Rafi Meitiv, age 10, and his sister Dvora, age 6, were walking along Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring when a passerby spotted them and called the police. A police officer asked the children what they were doing, to which Rafi replied, walking home from the park. The officer then went to the Meitivs’ house to talk with the parents, Alexander and Danielle Meitiv, who were amazed that their efforts to give their children independence has landed them in legal trouble.
In February, 2015, Child Protective Services said the parents committed “unsubstantiated neglect” of their two children, This means that this agency will keep a file on the family for at least five years, which could leave the Meitivs vulnerable to prosecution if they let their children, walk home unattended again
The couple intend to appeal the finding, and say they will continue to allow their children to play or walk together without adult supervision. “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,” Danielle Meitiv said. The couple practice what is known as “free-range parenting”, which is a belief that kids should be given the tools and confidence to safely navigate their neighborhood without their parents.
Maryland law prohibits children under the age of eight from being left unattended in a dwelling or car, but makes no reference to the outdoors. Maryland law also allows children from the age of 13 to supervise other children. This may be the case that forces Maryland Courts to clarify the law in this area. It raises the question of what age should children be considered old enough to be on their own in public. Also when should authorities step in to trump the rights of parents to decide this question for their children and otherwise decide how to raise their children.