Civil Liberties

CPS Decision in Maryland Parents Case: They Are 'Responsible' For 'Unsubstantiated Neglect.' Huh?

Welcome to the intersection of common sense and bureaucratic craziness


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The long-awaited decision from Montgomery County Child Protective Services has arrived at the home of Danielle and Alex Meitiv, and it finds them "responsible" for "unsubstantiated child neglect" for letting their kids walk outside, unsupervised. If that decision makes no sense to you, either—how can parents be responsible for something that is unsubstantiated?—welcome to the place where common sense crashes into bureaucratic craziness.

It's a mess.

Although the investigation is "closed," Donna St. George at the Washington Post reports that:

CPS will keep a file on the family for at least five years and leaves open the question of what happens if the Meitiv children — ages 10 and 6 — get reported again for walking without adult supervision.

Why keep a file on a family that was not found negligent? That just doesn't sound closed enough for my liking. Especially since the walk was only a crime in the Law & Order-addled minds of the authorities.

"Shots will be fired!"

You'll recall that on a December day in Silver Spring, MD, the Meitivs allowed their children, ages 6 and 10, to walk a mile home from the park. A busybody spied the unaccompanied kids and called 911. The cops scooped up the kids, drove them home, and threatened the dad that "shots will be fired!" if he didn't comply with their demand to see his ID.

Later, when a Child Protective Services rep came to the home, the dad was threatened again: Sign this safety plan for your kids or they will be taken away. (He signed.)

Guess where the kids are NOW!

The mom was out of town while this transpired but she and her husband are on the same page—even though this was the second time the Meitiv kids were stopped for walking outside. (Here's my story about the first time—reported only here at Reason!) But as Danielle just wrote to me in an email:

"Allowing kids to be Free-Range is critical for their development. In spite of this ruling we will continue to let our kids roam (they're at the park right now!) Thankfully, CPS harassment like this is NOT common. The best way to make sure it doesn't happen is to make Free-Ranging as common as it was when we were kids."