What Is Free-Range Parenting?

Free-range parenting is a parenting philosophy in which a child is allowed to explore the world at their own pace, with minimal supervision and control by the parents. This often means that the children engage in everyday life activities with minimal or no adult supervision, such as walking to and from school alone. People who support and apply this type of parenting style believe it is an important parenting tool to allow children to grow and experience independence organically.

Critics of free-range parenting believe that these types of parenting techniques are borderline neglect. Critics believe that free-range parenting can result in in a failure to provide proper care and supervision. The issue of free-range parenting and free-range kids has recently made the news and opened a debate into the appropriateness of this type of parenting style.

Maryland Free-Range Parents Investigated for Child Neglect

Earlier this year, Montgomery County Child Protective Services officials in Maryland investigated two parents for neglectafter they let their 10-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter walk home alone along the one-mile route from a local park to their home. The parents said they would not have allowed their children to walk home if they did not believe the children were ready. The mother thinks "it's absolutely critical for their development - to learn responsibility, to experience the world, to gain confidence and competency." While the parents viewed the children's independence as an important part of their free-range parenting techniques, local officials did not agree.

The children made it only about half way home before someone reported the children and the police picked up the children. After the police picked up the children, Montgomery County Child Protective Services arrived and launched a neglect investigation to determine whether there was a failure to provide proper care and supervision. Under Maryland law, children under the age of 8 must be left with a reliable person who is at least 13 years of age. This includes dwellings, enclosures, and vehicles.

Recently, the CPS issued a finding of unsubstantiated child neglect against the parents for letting their children walk home alone. Despite this finding, the parents stated they will continue to let their children walk home alone. In April, police picked up the children again after they were found walking home alone. To take the children home, the parents had to sign a temporary safety plan, saying they can't leave the children unattended.

Children Welfare Laws Throughout the United States

Every state has different child welfare laws governing when a child may be left unattended and unsupervised. More than half of the states have no specific laws governing the age when a child may be left unattended in a dwelling, enclosure, and vehicles. Ohio is one of these states without a specific law.

Other states, such as Maryland, have particular child welfare laws on their books. The minimum age for when a child may be left unsupervised at home ranges from 8 in Maryland and North Carolina to 14 in Illinois. Other states do not have a specific minimum age in their law, but offer a minimum age as guidance. For example, Kansas has a minimum age of six.

Questions About Parental Rights? Contact Our Cleveland Parental Rights Attorney

If you have questions regarding your rights to parent your children, the Cleveland family law attorneys at Laubacher & Co. can help answer your questions. Our Ohio family law attorneys have experience in a variety of different family law matters, including, divorce, parental rights, and child custody disputes. Contact Laubacher & Co. today for a free consultation.

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