Utah State Capitol Building in Salt Lake City, UT Photo Credit: Andrew Smith (CC-By-SA 2.0)
Utah State Capitol Building in Salt Lake City, UT
Photo Credit: Andrew Smith (CC-By-SA 2.0)

Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed a bill into law this month that the Associated Press says legalizes “free range parenting.” The new law will take effect May 8th of this year.

What is “free range parenting?” I have to admit, I was not familiar with the term. “Free range” makes me think of cows and chickens.

“Free range parenting,” essentially, is parents who believe their children are self-sufficient enough to walk to school, go to the park, etc unattended.

Things my parents let me do when I was growing up.

The bill, sponsored by Utah State Senator Lincoln Fillmore (R-South Jordan), states neglect is not considered:

permitting a child, whose basic needs are met and who is of sufficient age and maturity to avoid harm or unreasonable risk of harm, to engage in independent activities, including:
(A) traveling to and from school, including by walking, running, or bicycling;
(B) traveling to and from nearby commercial or recreational facilities;
(C) engaging in outdoor play;
(D) remaining in a vehicle unattended, except under the conditions described in subsection 76-10-2202(2);
(E) remaining at home unattended; or
(F) engaging in a similar independent activity.

This is the first state law of its kind and it is unfortunate that a law like this is even considered necessary. Unfortunately, we have seen the rise of nanny-statism that has undermined parental rights.

In 2015, a Maryland couple was accused of neglect for allowing their 10-year-old and 6-year-old child walk home unattended from a nearby park.

Montgomery County police and Child Protective Services are in a joint investigation of Danielle and Alexander (Sasha) Meitiv for possible child neglect for allowing their children to walk freely.

At approximately 4:55 p.m., Montgomery County police received a call to check on the welfare of the Meitiv children, 10-year-old Rafi and six-year-old Dvora, at a Silver Spring park. Their house is just down the street and around the corner, a distance of less than a mile. Police say officers found the children unattended.

As part of protocol, police called Child Protective Services and were told to bring the children to the agency. The agency did not contact the Meitiv’s for three hours, leaving the parents frantically searching for their missing children.

That was their second run-in with Child Protective Services.

In 2014, a Florida mom was arrested for allowing her 7-year-old walk from their home to a nearby park.

This is simply insane.

The Utah law legalized nothing. State law did not forbid parents from doing this, as I suspect is the case in most states. What Utah lawmakers did was make it abundantly clear to overzealous child caseworkers is that this activity is not neglect.

The term “neglect” is incredibly subjective. Now it seems to mean to a number of people “things I would not let my children do.”  In their minds, if it is perceived to be unsafe then it must be unsafe.

Helicopter parenting has become the norm. Look, neglect would be sending your children to walk to the park in the middle of subzero weather without a jacket or letting your 2-year-old wander the streets unattended. Not feeding your children is neglect. We need to have a modicum of common sense.

Common sense used to be common, now it has to be codified.

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