Why Were These Children Detained For Walking Home Alone?

Imagine being ten years old, walking home from playing in the park with your kid sister, age six, when a cop stops you, asks you where you’re going and then forces you to into the back of his patrol car.

If you think this sounds like a nightmare scenario that could never take place, think again.

This series of events is exactly what happened to Rafi Meitiv and his sister Dvora on the afternoon of Sunday, April 12, as they were just two-and-a-half blocks from their home in Silver Springs, Maryland. A “concerned citizen” called the Montgomery County Police, to report two children unaccompanied by an adult, wandering down Georgia Avenue.

The story gets worse.

“The police coerced our children into the back of a patrol car and kept them trapped there for three hours, without notifying us, before bringing them to the Crisis Center, and holding them there without dinner for another two and a half hours,” their mom, Danielle Meitiv, said to her Facebook friends. “We finally got home at 11 pm and the kids slept in our room because we were all exhausted and terrified.”

This is not the first time the Meitivs have been accused of child endangerment.

On December 20, 2014, Alexander Meitiv agreed to let his children walk from Woodside Park to their home, a mile south; the children know the area well, so there was no question of them getting lost. They made it about halfway before being picked up the police after someone reported seeing them walking alone.

As a result, a worker from Child Protective Services (CPS) required Meitiv to sign a “safety plan” pledging he would not leave his children unsupervised until the following Monday. He initially refused, but was forced to change his mind when he was informed that his children would be removed if he did not sign.

Police As Fearmongers?

Shouldn’t the police be protecting our children, not terrifying them?  As a parent, indeed as a citizen of the United States, I find this outrageous. Since when does the law tell me that I may not let my young child walk down the street alone?

As Care2’s Robin Marty points out, an investigation by CPS is no small matter: if things escalate, it could lead to a situation where parents lose their children forever. Even if things don’t get to that point, those parents will be marked as potentially unsafe and kept under watch.

All this because of a phone call from an overly concerned neighbor to the local police. And instead of investigating the situation, to determine that these children were perfectly safe, the cops involved assumed the worst and called in CPS. The police should not be in the business of mandating how to parent.

Besides, children need to be given the freedom to take small, manageable risks. Protecting and smothering children will not help them grow and develop the inner confidence they need to succeed and feel good about themselves.

This doesn’t mean to just let them go on their own at an early age, without any kind of planning. It does mean giving them progressively more freedom and responsibility, at age-appropriate levels. When my six-year-old started first grade, I walked him to his school two blocks away at the beginning of the school year, but after the first few weeks I let him make his own way. That makes me a free-range parent.

Free-Range Kids

When Lenore Skenazy wrote a column for the New York Sun about letting her 9-year-old ride the subway alone, at his request, she was deluged with responses both from parents who applauded her for giving her child some independence, and from those who were outraged, parents who never let their children out of their sight for fear of what could happen.

In response to the outpouring from the column, Skenazy launched Free-Range Kids, an idea she explains this way: “At Free Range, we believe in safe kids. We believe in helmets, car seats and safety belts. We do NOT believe that every time school age children go outside, they need a security detail. Most of us grew up Free Range and lived to tell the tale. Our kids deserve no less.”

One reason parents often give for their need to hover is that their children are in constant danger from threats like kidnapping, bullying, and sexual assaults. This is a myth perpetuated by out 24/7 media, rushing to bring us the latest disaster as it happens, in order to increase their viewing numbers. Living in fear is not a good way to go.

Children In The U.S. Have Never Been Safer

The truth, as the Washington Post reports, is that the overall child mortality rate in the United States has never been lower. In 1935, for instance, there were nearly 450 deaths for every 100,000 children aged 1 to 4. Today, there are fewer than 30 deaths for every 100,000 kids in that age group — more than a tenfold decrease.

“The crime rate is way down, and the crime rate against children is way down compared to, say, the 1970s,” says Peter Gray, Professor of Psychology at Boston College. “Abduction, murder or the molestation of your child by a stranger when your child is outdoors — these are very, very rare.”

So what does this say about Rafi and Dvora Meitiv?

From The Washington Post:

“The Meitivs’ parenting practices are also much safer than numerous typical childhood activities, such as participating in contact sports like basketball and hockey, or going downhill skiing. If the CPS can force parents to stop letting their children walk home from the park, it can similarly target every other comparably risky activity, including numerous sports, and even driving the children in a car.”

I’d also add that the dangers of keeping your children inside, addicted to their electronic devices, sitting on the couch eating junk food or playing video games are far worse than the dangers of letting them get out, have fun, and learn to navigate their own way in the outside world.

What do you think?

Photo Credit: Wasington Post online video

182 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Crystal G.
Crystal G2 years ago

This sort of reminds me of when i got questioned by the police for walking to McDonald's, when I was in High School.

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Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill2 years ago

I think the Police over reacted. They could have just taken them home if they might have had a concern, but a short walk at that age gives the kids a sense of responsibility and freedom.

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Marc P.
Marc P3 years ago

NOT TO MENTION.....
Given the fact that these parents have been allowing their kids to attend the park alone for some tome now it is HIGHLY unlikely that the caller had NOT seen these kids alone before. Most likely the caller "Disapproved" of seeing these kids having independence and called the police not out of concern but to "Teach the parents a lesson."

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Marc P.
Marc P3 years ago

Jane R.: Screw "Concern" Concern today is more like busybodying. When you see 2 children walking down the road the only "Concern" you should have is that no one is bothering them. It is NOT your "Concern" to presume 2 children who show NO sign of danger or distress somehow need your "Help" It is NOT your "Concern" what the parents are thinking or doing regarding their children who are not in any immediately apparent danger. To presume that a 9 year old is completely incapable of asking for help if for some reason they need it is completely asinine. Especially in light of the fact that we now allow police to arrest, handcuff, and taser, and charge 8 year olds with FELONIES and have no problem with that. Mind your fkking business.

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Marc P.
Marc P3 years ago

It has come to light that the kids in Silver Springs, Maryland are required to walk to and from school every day because it is a little under a mile away. So for all you sniveling about how dangerous it is for kids out there, the district doesn't REALLY seem to think that way itself. Your child is allowed to walk a mile to school alone but can't go to the park down the street?!?!?!? The most dangerous thing about leaving ones home to day is the threat of Law Enforcement or out of control Government.

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Christine Stewart

the kids were more terrorized by the cops than the short walk home!

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Vikram S.
Vikram S3 years ago

this is just sad.

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Jane R.
Jane R3 years ago

Whoever called the police did so with concern for these kids. The police are the ones who handled the situation wrong.
Some kids are mature enough to walk home alone, some aren't. It's up to the parents to know if the child is mature enough.

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Roberta Morrison
Roberta Morrison3 years ago

It is sad that some people have to allow their paranoia to dictate to others, how to raise their children. Yes, you might be concerned to see children walking without an adult, but does that mean you HAVE to call the police, and get Child Protective Services involved? Couldn't you simply watch, to make sure the children passed your location safely? Isn't that what parents did, when you were a child?

My mom trusted me to walk home from kindergarten, when I was 5. And all the parents kept eyes on the kids--if you did something wrong, your parents KNEW ABOUT IT. Now kids are kept prisoner in their own homes, and many maybe unable to handle living on their own.

Another problem with calling in the authorities, is that if these children do wind up being taken from their parents, they are not going to be placed into a safe environment. Kids in foster care, are the most drugged, abused, molested, etc. of any population in this country. They are more likely do well if left with abusive parents, than if placed in foster care. These children have caring parents, and will do far better with their own parents, no matter how bad you may think those parents are, for allowing the children more freedom than you would allow yours.

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