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Maryland decides free-range parenting is not neglect
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Maryland officials are beginning to make the lines on free-range parenting more clear and have decided that children who play outside are not neglected, unless they are harmed or face a substantial risk of harm. - photo by Mandy Morgan
Maryland child welfare officials have provided some clarity on where that state stands on free-range parenting, determining that children who play outside without parental supervision are not considered neglected, unless they face a substantial risk of harm.

The state's position came in the case of parents Danielle and Alexander Meitiv, who would allow their children, ages 10 and 6, to walk to and play alone in familiar places, reported the Washington Post. The Meitivs were cleared last month on one charge of neglect but are awaiting the court's decision on the other, which took place in April when they let their children walk home alone from a nearby park.

The involvement of Child Protective Services in such cases has had everything to do with safety, and nothing to do with getting involved in personal parenting decisions, state officials have said, according to the Post.

"We are not getting into the business of opining on parenting practices or child-rearing philosophies," said Katherine Morris, spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Human Resources. "We don't view that as our role. We see our role as responding when a child is harmed or at a significant risk of harm. It's all about child safety."

Numerous free-range parenting cases have received public attention lately, such as the parents of a child in Florida who were charged with felony neglect when their 11-year-old son played outside their home alone for about 90 minutes waiting for his parents to get home, according to Fox News. A neighbor called the police about the lone boy, resulting in the parents losing custody of their two children for a month, wrote Lenore Skenazy.

Skenazy is a prominent figure in the free-range parenting debate, weighing in with a blog post in 2008 about allowing her 9-year-old son to ride the New York City subway alone.

"Half the people I've told this episode to now want to turn me in for child abuse. As if keeping kids under lock and key and helmet and cell phone and nanny and surveillance is the right way to rear kids. It's not. It's debilitating for us and for them," wrote Skenazy. She now has a website for parents to learn more about free-range parenting.

The arguments on both sides are wide-ranging, with many seeing it as dangerous as all the people Skenazy spoke to did. However, many families are taking on different forms of the parenting style, according to a recent report.