(2/07/2018) Utah lawmakers unanimously passed a bill sponsored by Sen. Lincoln Fillmore and Rep. Brad M. Daw, in support of “Free Range Parenting” known as S.B. 65 Child Neglect Amendments.
S.B. 65 or the “Free Range Kids Law” offers protection, under the law, to parents to raise their children as they see fit, and allow them to “engage in independent activities” such as walking to school, playing outside and staying home alone without fear of being charged with child abuse or neglect.
S.B. 65 redefines “neglect” in state law to allow parents to let children participate in unsupervised activities, and learn independence, as long as the child is of an appropriate age, and mature enough to handle the activity without hurting themselves.
The bill reads:
309: (c) “Neglect” does not include:
316: (iv) permitting a child, whose basic needs are met and who is of sufficient age and
317 maturity to avoid harm or unreasonable risk of harm, to engage in independent activities,
319 (A) traveling to and from school, including by walking, running, or bicycling;
320 (B) traveling to and from nearby commercial or recreational facilities;
321 (C) engaging in outdoor play;
322 (D) remaining in a vehicle unattended, except under the conditions described in
323 Subsection 76-10-2202(2);
324 (E) remaining at home unattended; or
325 (F) engaging in a similar independent activity.
The concept of “free range parenting” began in 2008 when mother, and New York columnist, Lenore Skenanzy, wrote an article title “Why I Let My 9-Year-Old Ride the Subway Alone”. The article sparked widespread public debate over her decision. Lenore then launched the Free Range blog, encouraging parents to allow their children some independence for their own good.
Amy Morin, social worker and psychotherapist, says,“Free-range parenting isn’t about being permissive or uninvolved. Instead, it’s about allowing kids to have the freedom to experience natural consequences of their behavior – when it’s safe to do so. It’s also about ensuring kids have the skills they need to become responsible adults…” What is Free-Range Parenting?
Lenore’s Free Range blog brought parents together from around the country. Lenore argues that “free range parenting” is not criminal and was once the norm in America (she calls it an “old fashioned childhood”). Lenore says “free range parenting” is in the best interest of children because it teaches independence and self-resiliency.
Through her blog and advocacy, Lenore heard many stories of parents who had been arrested or investigated by CPS or police for letting kids go outside alone, or failing to supervise kids in incidents that involved things like allowing a child to walk to school or allowing a child to play at the park alone. In these cases, there was no prior history or evidence of abuse or maltreatment, and in fact, the children appeared well cared for.
Parenting choices have increasingly become subject to criminal charges while real child abuse and neglect often goes undetected or ignored by the system.
In one notable case, Danielle and Alexander Meitiv, from Maryland, had their children taken into custody by CPS after allowing their children to walk home alone from a nearby park. Two separate cases of neglect were filed against them but later both closed after an investigation cleared them of any wrongdoing: Maryland ‘free range’ parents cleared of neglect, still plan to sue CPS, police
In another case, from Tennessee, mother April Lawson was arrested and charged with felony child abuse after allowing her children to play at the park alone. Mom Speaks Out About Neglect Charges
SB 65 or the Free Range Kids Law is the first bill in the country of it’s kind. Rep. Brad M. Daw says about the bill,”This is to prevent in Utah a problem that has happened in too many other states … where parents have been prosecuted, gotten in trouble for doing nothing more than allowing a child to play outside or go to the park…It hasn’t happened in this state, and this bill seeks to ensure it never will.”
The bill, SB 65, now goes to Gov. Gary Herbert for signature.
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