Letting your children play in the park and walk home together on the street is now a crime in Montgomery County, Maryland, according to one family.
Danielle Meitiv claims her husband was threatened by police in front of their children and visited by social workers because he dropped them off at the park and then let his kids walk home. They are ages 6 and 10.
An employee of Montgomery County’s Child Welfare Service (CWS) threatened to take the children if her husband didn’t sign a “temporary plan” document saying he would not leave them unsupervised, Meitiv claims in an email posted at Reason.com. The employee came to the couple’s home after police found the children walking on the street.
“This is outrageous” she wrote. “We refuse to deprive our children of critical opportunities to develop responsibility and independence, and have no intention of fundamentally changing our parenting to accommodate this kind of paranoia and bullying, but it’s not going to be easy.”
‘Shots Will Be Fired’
The incident as described by Meitiv started innocently enough.
“This past Saturday, while I was out of town, my husband dropped my kids off at a park about 1 mile from our house and said they could walk home together,” Meitiv wrote to Reason. “They got halfway when someone called the police.”
A police officer picked the children up and brought them home in a patrol car. Once at the house, the officer reportedly threatened Meitiv in front of the children. The officer had asked to see his ID, and when the husband refused, the officer threatened to call backup. The husband then said he’d go upstairs to get his ID, and the officer responded that if he came down with anything else, “shots will be fired.”
When the father asked for a rationale behind the actions, the officer responded: “Don’t you watch TV?” During the confrontation, the 10 year old, crying, called mom and said “daddy” was going to get arrested. He wasn’t, but that didn’t end the ordeal.
Social Workers Threaten To Take Children
Two hours later, a Child Welfare Service employee came to Meitiv’s home with the “temporary plan.” The plan stated Meitiv’s husband would not leave the children unsupervised until Monday. When the husband refused to sign the plan, the employee threatened to call police and to take the children away. The husband then signed the plan.
It wasn’t the family’s first encounter with a social worker, Reason.com reported. A month earlier, a social worker had visited the home when the mother had allowed the children to play at a park two blocks from the home.
“These reps told me that Maryland law prohibits me from allowing my six-year old to go to the park, which is two blocks away in a residential neighborhood, with her 10-year old brother but no adult,” the mom wrote.
The mom then found the statute in question. It read: “A person who is charged with the care of a child under the age of 8 years may not allow the child to be locked or confined in a dwelling, building, enclosure, or motor vehicle while the person charged is absent and the dwelling, building, enclosure, or motor vehicle is out of the sight of the person charged unless the person charged provides a reliable person at least 13 years old to remain with the child to protect the child.”
She wrote, “The way I see it, ‘locked or confined in a dwelling, building, enclosure, or motor vehicle’ does NOT include a neighborhood park and this statute does not preclude me from sending my six-year old there with her brother.”
The Child Welfare Service representative told the mom that judges have interpreted the statute to include parks – so she theoretically could be put in jail for letting her children play unsupervised at a park so close to the house.
What do you think? What should the boundaries be for letting children play unsupervised? Leave your reply in the section below: