Free-Range Kids

I guess I was a free-range kid. When I was in elementary school, we sometimes walked or rode our bikes to school without adult supervision. I can remember going on Boy Scout hikes/camping trips in a patrol in which the oldest boy was 12. And I can remember playing in the park when I was 10 and my brother was 7 while my mother was shopping at the A&P across the street.

A family who allows their 6- and 10-year old kids to play in the park by themselves is in the news again because of apparent harassment by Child Protective Services in Montgomery County. You see, in Maryland kids must always be under the supervision of someone who is at least 13. Free range kids are illegal here in the Democratic Peoples Republic.

I suppose that a lawsuit against the State is their best recourse in the situation, but I’m inclined to agree with the solution suggested by Glenn Reynolds. Tar. Feathers.

39 thoughts on “Free-Range Kids


  1. This is a subject that is near and dear to my heart. Does CPS not realize that THEY are the ones traumatizing these poor children? Because they are ACTIVELY stunting these children for life. I don’t know about anyone else, but I did not sign over my rights to my children when they were born. The state does not get to tell me how to raise them. The state can ensure that they are kept safe, but for crying out loud there is LESS crime against children now than when I grew up in the 70s. Paranoia does not make for a well rounded person. Teaching your child how to live in the world does.

    I’ll go on for pages and pages if you wind me up about this subject. Just makes me so mad.


    • I played through the corn fields on our farm, through the woods since the age of 7, I started a trap line when we moved to suburban/farmland mix outside Detroit in 1966 and provided rabbits for the table year-round. I carried a .22 on the trapline to give the coup-de-gras to any who survived. No one evr bothered the group of kids I hung around with all summer as we fished in the creek, built rafts for adventures and generally had fun. We didn’t fear strangers because we never saw them and our parents had been diligent in teaching us not to trust anyone we didn’t know.


  2. I can see questioning their decision to leave a six and ten year old at a park (only because of society’s decision to leave Aqualung like “homeless” camping near parks and other areas with children). But for the cops and CPS to take those kids and not tell the parents immediately is intolerable and inexcusable.


  3. Actually you would be surprised what you signed up for on raising children. Yes the state can tell you exactly how to raise your children and if you don’t do it they will take them. You will not be allowed legal representation. And if it turns out that the state did something wrong, you cannot hold them liable.

    That’s the law. CPS has absolute authority (they do not need court orders to deprive you of your children) and they have absolute immunity under the law. You cannot sue them for negligence or harassment, so I wonder what this couple’s plan is.

    They are raising money for a legal defense fund but I hope they have a plan for success. If they are going to state court against CPS it will get thrown out. The only way in on these people is civil rights violations in Federal court.


  4. I ran amok as a kid. bike rides 15 plus miles away from home at 12. Swimming in a river! climbing trees. Carried a 22 rifle. It was wonderful.


  5. I used to go camping in the brush breaks and river bottoms in Greene County, Iowa, for weeks at a time, in the summers, when I was aged nine to fifteen. Alone.

    Hunted snapping turtles, rabbits, and squirrels for food. Occasionally fished, too, though I never enjoyed that. Still not a huge fan of fish, though I did have some wahoo-Ono last week that was sublime.


  6. I grew up in semi-rural NE Oklahoma, If I wanted any type of entertainment, exiting the front door was the only way to find it. I started many a day by going out with my best friend to cut bicycle trails on a wooded, 40 acre plot. When my parents thought I was old enough, I got to bike down to Spunky creek without any adult supervision. After a few excursions of walking down some game trails I discovered some old pilings in the water where an old train crossing used to be. I was told by some locals that the tracks were pulled after a flood washed out the bridge during the 40s. It was a dream for me. It appears the train often stopped at this location to take on water for the engines boiler. Thinking myself the junior anthropologist, I would often spend hours searching the old build-ups for hints of the past. To this day I still have old medicine bottles, brass buttons and various pieces of rusty iron from my digs. These kind of things get into your blood, To this day, seeing a trail that enters a wooded area still has a very strong hold on me.

    Free-range indeed.


  7. In my early youth, in the suburbs, we used to ride our bikes to the park or candy store or wherever. There was a woodlot my friends and I avoided because rumor had it a kid had been attacked there, but that was probably just legend. My family moved to a truly rural area when I was ten, and I ranged over thousands of acres of forest for most of a decade with no worries at all.


  8. I am not sure where I fall on this one. When I was a kid, during the school year I walked to school (alone or with siblings). During the summer I used to get up in the morning, brush my teeth, put on some clothes, and run out the door. I would come back around lunch time and then again around dinner time. The rest of the time was spent playing outside with friends, roaming around our neighborhood, playing hide and seek, playing in the parks, damming small creeks, riding bikes, flying kites, making mischief, whatever struck our fancy on a particular day. When parents wanted to locate children they hollered out the door for them to come home. If there was no answer, you called a mother a few houses down or around the block to see where their kid was and to give a holler or keep an eye out. As a child who was allowed to play outside, ride bikes to convenience stores for candy, walk to a local park and play, walk to friends houses, etc, the idea of constant parental supervision being a requirement of the state seemed ridiculous. When I heard the story about this Maryland family being harassed, I was outraged. Then I pulled up google maps, put in my childhood home address and looked at the areas I used to go as a kid. About the farthest I think I would ever go as a child, even on my bike, was far less than a mile a way. Pretty much everywhere I ever went as a child was less than one mile away.

    I was a child of the 80s. It was not a “safer” time. Kids would get abducted. There would be reports, locally, of attempted abductions. Overall, though, the town I grew up in was relatively safe. Parents looked out for neighborhood kids. A bad report from a neighbor resulted in discipline.

    I don’t know the park where these Maryland kids were playing, or the neighborhoods they were walking through. I do know that a mile is on the far end of what I think is reasonable for a child to be away from a parent unaccompanied, even in a safe area. I can honestly say, though, that the police never detained kids in my neighborhood for playing outside without a parent. It might just be that I lived in a safer town. I do think that my unfamiliarity with the Maryland neighborhoods make me a poor judge of whether the family was being unreasonable in this case.


  9. A mile? I was often much further from home. A few blocks away was typical. Demographic changes and hysterical overreaction account for the very bad law.
    Two reasons for Maryland’s overreach…. Crack mom’s leaving kiddie winks to their own devices, while they wander around with boyfriends and other entertaining distractions, and and working mothers (usually single) avoiding the expense of professional day care, egg., dropping kids off in public places or to care completely for them selves with no parental backup, and no willing neighbor-grid to fill in as parent substitute. It seems to me with folks at home, kids should be able to run errands and wander about without hovering of nannies.

    The fact is kids are better off running off to play for hours and hours and 6 and 10 at a nearby park less than half a mile away is normal and healthy.


  10. I can remember going on Boy Scout hikes/camping trips in a patrol in which the oldest boy was 12

    Oh dear………..I foresee a bad podcast in our future.


  11. Some years back the rule in CT was you couldn’t leave a child alone at home during the day for any time at all (like running to the store for some milk for dinner) if they were under 10 or 12. I noticed recently they took away the specific age. Because I know some kids I’d trust home by themselves for an hour or so at 7 and others I wouldn’t at 14. This way the onus is on the parent to decide if the child is mature enough, rather than the state.

    Several other things we’ve noticed over the years about CPS (Or as the Rottie Empire refers to them CAS – Child Abductive Services) – they are far more likely to hastle middle class, melanin challenged families. I guess it’s easier to do their “job” if they aren’t worried about getting shot if they show up on the doorstep.


  12. You have to wonder about a neighbor who freaks out over two school-aged kids playing in a neighborhood play lot or walking to and fro in broad day. What kind of ninny or axe-grinder do you have to be to call CPS to “save” youngsters from a two block stroll?


  13. Wondering, actually, if it’s one of those crack-moms who is just furious about being singled out for supervision and wants to make sure nice people have to suffer for her mistakes. It hard to feel charitable about the possibilities; I can’t think if any better motive than spite or complete airheaded-ness to justify that kind of “rescue.”


  14. In both rural and urban environments like this in the late 70s and early 80s, such behavior was not unusual for my cousins and me.

    The national overreach is what makes threats or actual reports to these agencies dangerous. Given the outcomes of foster care and group homes, I would call these false reports physical and mental assault.


  15. When I was 7 I lived in San Francisco. I remember picking up my 5 year old sister and taking the bus downtown to Solomon’s delicatessen where my mom worked as a waitress. I road my bicycle to the ocean, much farther than a mile. I walked myself to school starting in kindergarten.

    When my ex-wife divorced me in 96, I was given primary custody of our children. One of the boys was what is called a non-performing student. While smart, he didn’t do his homework when he was at his mom’s house she took him to a quack doctor who said he had ADHD because he was overly friendly (like his dad an usher at church), cleared his throat a lot (allergies), and missed a sequencing test (++++-++++). He prescribed Ritalin. My son went from a responsive, engaging boy to leaning against the car door on the way to school in a drugged stupor. I took him to the school psychologist, school psychiatrist, a friend who was a psychologist, and 2 doctors. They all said he did not need to be on Ritalin. I took him off Ritalin and my wife called CPS.

    I remember the lady screaming at me on the phone at work, telling me that it didn’t matter what the other doctors said, that if I didn’t put my son back on Ritalin, that she would take my children away from me and that I’d never be able to see them again. Remember I’m the court ordered primary custodial parent. I asked to speak to her supervisor and she refused. Finally I told her to talk to my lawyer and never heard from her again, though the subject of Ritalin was brought up by my ex in one of the many times she took me to court. I explained to the female judge what the other doctors said and that was the end of that.

    As for the parents suing CPS in Maryland, as you know and Mark Steyn says, the process is the punishment.

    With all the real problems of CPS loosing kids, having them die because of homes where they put children, and other problems, that they’d leave families like this and the Pelties (sp) alone. Instead, they kidnap kids from healthy families and make it worse.

    I understand the need for CPS. I was beaten by my stepfather to unconsciousness and nobody interfered.


    • Interesting comment. Mark Steyn is absolutely correct, the process is the punishment.

      As for a lawsuit: I don’t for a second believe that state courts, and local judges, who rely on CPS and trust their reports, would be very accommodating to a person seeking to sue them. Only in a federal court would one stand a chance, such a chance being measured on the same scale as as the chance of finding a snowball in a lava pit.


      • No idea about MD, but many states have completely separate family/probate courts that would have that relationship with CPS, not so much the circuit and district courts.


  16. It’s one thing to ban private daycare or babysitters from leaving the house and her charges behind, or failing to look after them when hired for the purpose. It’s another to stop children on their own stomping grounds ( like the front yard or general neighborhood) from independent activity… public sidewalks and parks. Maybe there is a problem with kid- dumping? Parents tossing their school aged children off in stores or commercial venues for the “free” baby sitting, and the little darlings have nothing to do there but make trouble or panhandle complete strangers for treats.


    • Onlooker, I agree, generally. If a kid is on his own stomping grounds, where is there a problem with that? I disagree, though, depending on where that stomping ground is located. For instance, my last trip to DC I went to the Zoo with my family. We parked one mile away from the Zoo in order to get cheaper parking (saved about 15 bucks and it was a nice day, so I didn’t mind walking).

      The public parks in DC, the ones I saw, walked past, and drove past, are overwhelmed with mentally ill homeless people. Walking 1 mile to the Zoo I ran into multiple homeless individuals just walking around trying to shake people down for a buck or two.

      The neighborhood near the Zoo in DC is actually a pretty nice neighborhood, all things considered, but there is no way I would want my child, alone, to be wandering in that area. So where I grew up: a lower class neighborhood, in the heartland of america, comprised mostly of Irish, Italian, and polish kids whose families lived there for 3 generations, was extremely safe as compared to DC. I never saw a mentally ill homeless person in my neighborhood, ever.

      I don’t know what this particular park was like in Maryland. I don’t know what kind of neighborhoods were between this child’s home and the park. If it was similar to my old stomping grounds, then CPS overreacted. If it resembled some of the neighborhoods that I have been through, where you aren’t fully comfortable as an adult during the day, then I could understand the police and CPS being concerned. The problem is, we don’t have all of the facts. It’s easy, and reflexive, for us to all immediately think of all the things we did as a child, and how it seems ridiculous for the police and CPS to have overreacted in this way. But would we say this if the neighborhood being walked through was similar to Compton, Harlem, the south bronx, highland park, etc. etc? If the park was frequented by vagrants, drug dealers, prostitutes, etc, would that play a factor? I don’t know this neighborhood where these kids were. Is anyone from this particular area in Maryland who can chime in?


  17. I’m wndring nw if the caller weren’t some impatient driver who couldn’t take a right turn on red because of kids in the crosswalk, crossing with the light.


  18. Ok, here is audio of the doofus that made the call. http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/free-range-parents-plan-to-file-lawsuit-after-police-pick-up-children/2015/04/14/ed4f7658-e2b7-11e4-b510-962fcfabc310_story.html

    Just released. It was a young adult male dog walker.. He apparently doesn’t know what ten year olds look like, and I suspect was raised on safe rooms with big Lego, oversize crayons, and paddington bear videos himself.

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