It is not a crime for parents to let their children play unsupervised in a park or walk home from school alone under a law signed by Utah’s governor last week.
The law, which reflects a movement known as free-range parenting, goes into effect on May 8 and is the first of its kind in the nation. But its backers say lawmakers in several other states are considering introducing similar bills.
“The fact that we need legislation for what was once considered common sense parenting a generation ago and is considered normal in every other country in the world is what surprises me,” said Danielle Meitiv, the Silver Spring, Md., mother who made national headlines three years ago after she and her husband were charged with child neglect for letting their two children, ages 6 and 10, walk home from a park by themselves. “I’m glad Utah has put these protections in place after what I discovered when I tried to parent the way I was parented.”
State Senator Lincoln Fillmore, who introduced the Utah bill in January, said he was motivated by situations like Ms. Meitiv’s. The bill specifies what constitutes child neglect in the state, and what does not. Under the law, neglect does not include “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” such as going to and from school by walking, running or bicycling, going to nearby stores or recreational facilities and playing outside.