You know the old saying: When life hands you a Child Protective Services investigation (or two), make lemonade. That's what Danielle Meitiv of Silver Spring, Maryland, is doing. The famously Free-Range mom is running for the position of member at large on the Montgomery County Council, she told us, "to make this county the best place it could possibly be for kids." The election is next year.
Meitiv rose to national prominence in 2014 when her kids, age 10 and 6 at the time, were picked up by cops for walking home from a park together without an accompanying adult. The cops came to the Meitivs' home, Child Protective Services proceeded to investigate, and eventually the parents were found guilty of "unsubstantiated neglect," a charge so absurd that the general public took note. When the kids were scooped up yet again by the cops for walking home alone a few months later, and this time taken to an emergency center as if they were runaways or abandoned children, the Meitiv name became synonymous with zealous government overreach into everyday parenting decisions.
Since then, Meitiv says, she has been fighting for the right of parents to raise their kids as they see fit. "Absent actual abuse, the parent has the right to decide what's best for their children," she insists.
What's more, she said, allowing kids some independence is good for everyone. After all, children "are the future workers, voters, business builders. [They] need to understand the world around them, and analyze it with courage, not fear."
When adults are around, kids remain simply kids. They know that someone bigger and more powerful is there to take over if they need it (or even if they don't). But when adults are absent, the kids become the adults, making decisions, working out disputes, coming up with new ideas. They rise to the occasion. Meitiv wants to make sure kids have this opportunity when their parents think they're ready for it, without anyone fearing arrest. And she has a record of accomplishment on this front. Her family's recent ordeal prompted a change in the Maryland laws as to what can prompt a child welfare investigation. Simply granting kids some freedom is no longer enough "reason" to suspect the parents of abuse or neglect.
A community where kids are free to have an old-fashioned childhood is a healthy community, where neighbors get to know each other. Rebuilding that trust, says Meitiv, "is better than locking our kids up."
In the end, she says, trust is what her campaign is all about: Trusting kids, trusting the community, and trusting parents. "I am not running on a 'How to Raise Your Kids' platform," Meitiv says, "but I think we can all agree it's not a role for police and it's not a role for child welfare."