Records show that only 13% of American children walk to school, and the parents of some of these children could be guilty of child neglect. Maryland’s Child Protective Services (CPS) and other authorities are investigating a case of possible neglect after two children were found walking without adult supervision.
According to the laws of Maryland, children younger than eight years of age must be under the care of a responsible person who is at least 13 years old. For that reason, when the Montgomery County Police received a call to check the welfare of two children they responded. The officer who found the children walking home from the park contacted Maryland state CPS and was told CPS would contact the parents. The children, a 6-year old girl and her 10-year-old brother were taken into CPS custody. That night the parents were allowed to take the children home after they signed a “safety plan”. The following morning, the mother posted on Facebook that the “police coerced our children in the back of a patrol car, telling them they would drive them home. They kept the kids trapped there for three hours, without notifying us, before dropping them at the Crisis Center, and holding them there without dinner for another two and a half hours.” She said her son feels an urge to hide when he sees a police car and her daughter is afraid to walk to the bus because she fears CPS will take her into custody. The parents practice “free-range’” parenting, in which children are encouraged to explore their independence.
CPS officials said they would look to the state law for guidance during investigations, but many question whether that law applies because it does not mention children outdoors. It was originally written as part of a fire code and refers to unattended children under eight in a building, enclosure or vehicle.