Maryland parents accused of child neglect for letting their kids roam around their neighborhood had to retrieve them from the county’s Children’s Protective Services after police removed the youngsters from a park.
At about 4:55 p.m. ET Sunday, Montgomery County police received a call to check on the welfare of Danielle and Sasha Meitiv’s children — Rafi, 10, and Dvora, 6 — at a park here. Officers found the children unattended and brought them to the agency as part of protocol, they said.
Montgomery County police and county Children’s Protective Services are jointly investigating the Meitivs of Silver Spring for allowing their children to walk repeatedly around the neighborhood alone. The parents say they know where their children are but are allowing them independence.
Officers picked up the children about two blocks from home, Rafi said, telling them they would drop them off at home. Instead, the two sat in a patrol car for 2½ hours then were taken about 10 miles away to Children’s Protective Services offices in Rockville, Md.
The Meitivs said they had taken the children to the park at around 4 p.m. and told them to be home by 6 p.m. When the children hadn’t returned by 6:30, the Meitivs started looking frantically for them.
Social workers did not contact them until after 8 p.m., the couple said. Their children were released to them at 10:30 p.m.
“I can’t believe we’re going through this again,” Danielle Meitiv said. “They’ve been missing since 6 o’clock. Somebody called 911, the police called CPS, they decided to bring the kids here and they didn’t call us.”
To take the children home, the Meitivs had to sign a safety plan that prohibits them from leaving their children unattended, they said.
“We asked them why did they not bring them home,” Sasha Meitiv said. “They just said, ‘We decided the safety of the children was more important.’ ”
Maryland law prohibits children younger than age 8 from being unattended in a dwelling or car but makes no reference to outdoors. A person must be at least 13 years old to supervise a child younger than 8.
In December, the couple was accused of neglect for allowing the children to walk around their suburban Washington neighborhood together unaccompanied by an adult. In one instance, Rafi and Dvora were walking from a playground two blocks from home; in another, the park was about a mile away.
Those actions have sparked a debate about what now has been dubbed free-range parenting and what 50 years ago was considered letting children play.
In February, Children’s Protective Services found the Meitivs responsible for “unsubstantiated” child neglect, and the couple has appealed. The decision means the agency will keep a file on the family for at least five years.
It also left open the question on what would happen if someone again called police to report that the children were walking without adult supervision.
“I’m not going to risk my kids being snatched again by CPS,” Danielle Meitiv said. “If they had let our kids go home, they would have been in bed two hours ago.”