Kids walking home alone raise controversy, cause debate, get parents in trouble

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

DENVER -- Child Protective Services has found two Maryland parents responsible for unsubstantiated child neglect for letting their two kids walk home alone.

The children are a girl, 6, and boy, 10.

The decision raises questions in Colorado about whether officials in Maryland got it right or wrong.

The children at the center of controversy walk home much like they did in December when police stopped the kids in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland, after someone reported that they were alone.

The children were walking to their home about a mile away after playing at a park.

Maryland's CPS says it is child neglect. The kids' mom calls it free-range parenting.

"We are parenting the same way our parents raised us—and I’m guessing most of the viewers’ parents raised them--letting children have some freedom and responsibility, just wander around outside the house, just explore their neighborhood,” said Danielle Meitiv, the two kids' mother.

She said she and her husband taught the kids how to cross the street and observed them before letting them go alone.

Meitiv also said unsupervised time is essential to raising independent children.

But experts say it comes at a risk.

"If a parent chooses to adopt this model of free-range parenting, they have to also take into consideration other parents will not be as understanding of this. Officials will not be as understanding of this," Aurora therapist Larry Curry said.

He said a parent should decide when it's time to teach and prepare their kids for more independence.

"They should not totally be left on their own. At the same time, they shouldn’t hover over kids so much they smother them and deprive them of the opportunity to learn and gain some independence," he said.

Parents we talked to in Denver said the government needs to get out of the business of parenting children.

"When we were kids, we played all day by ourselves and we never had any problem. Children at six and 10 are capable of walking home themselves," said Evergreen mom, Renee Wyatt, outside the Denver Aquarium.

"Kids need to be free to make mistakes. It’s how they grow up to be functional adults, and not be coddled their whole life and yanked back at the first sign of danger," said one Denver dad, who finds the Maryland decision appalling.

It's danger the Meitiv's say they now have found themselves in, trying to protect their family against the government. But they say they won't change how they raise their kids.

The state will keep a file on the family for at least five years.

It also leaves a question of what happens if someone calls the police to report their kids walking alone.

The family is appealing.

AlertMe