Free-range Maryland parents will appeal neglect charge

Parents in Maryland who were charged with an 'unsubstantiated child neglect' charge after letting their children walk home from a local park will appeal the ruling. Have state officials in Maryland overstepped their bounds?

Screenshot from Google Maps
An image of a street sign depicting children playing in Silver Spring, Maryland.

SILVER SPRING, Md. - A Maryland couple who were investigated by state officials after letting their children walk home from a park without an adult say they will appeal a finding of "unsubstantiated child neglect" and will continue to let the children walk by themselves.

Danielle and Alexander Meitiv told local news outlets they learned about the finding in a letter last week. It means Child Protective Services will keep a file on the family for five years. Danielle Meitiv said she and her husband worry about being investigated again.

"What will happen next time?" she asked. "We don't know if we will get caught in this Kafkaesque loop again."

Officials began investigating in December when police officers picked up their 10-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter walking back to their Silver Spring home.

The case gained national exposure as the Meitev's reached out to share their story with Lenore Skenazy, a prominent blogger and author of the book "Free-Range Kids." The couple reached out to Ms. Skenazy to explain an initial claim from CPS filed against them in November, and then a second investigation in December. In a note published on Ms. Skenazy's blog on the web site, the Meitev's explain the incidents in which they and their children were investigated by CPS.

The Meitivs said they are teaching self-reliance. They said they gradually let the children take walks on their own and they wouldn't have allowed the outing to the park a mile from home if they didn't believe they were capable.

CPS officials have said state law says children younger than 8 must be left with a reliable person who is at least 13. The law covers dwellings, enclosures and vehicles, but doesn't mention children outdoors on a walk.

County officials referred questions to state officials, who declined to comment on the specific case, citing confidentiality requirements.

Paula Tolson, spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Human Resources, said there are three possible findings after neglect investigations: ruled out, unsubstantiated or indicated. An unsubstantiated finding is made when there's some information supporting child neglect, seemingly credible reports disagree or there isn't enough information for a conclusion.

The first step in the appeals process is a conference involving a CPS supervisor, which can often resolve some issues, Tolson said.

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