The Meitivs got a surprise in the mail last week from Child Protective Services, and a more pleasant one than those they’ve received in the past from Maryland authorities. CPS informed them that their previous finding of “unsubstantiated” child neglect in January of this year had been overturned, closing the case that put the Meitivs on the national radar as “free range parents.” The Meitivs’ legal woes are not over yet, as the Washington Post’s Donna St. George notes:
A Maryland couple investigated for neglect after they let their two young children walk home alone from local parks have been cleared in one of two such cases, according to the family’s attorneys and documents.
The new Child Protective Services finding, which follows an appeal, comes as the experiences of “free range” parents Danielle and Alexander Meitiv have drawn national attention, sparking debate about parenting choices and how far local officials should go to enforce laws designed to protect children.
It overturns a previous CPS decision that held the Meitivs responsible for “unsubstantiated” child neglect, a finding typically made when there is conflicting or insufficient information for a more definitive conclusion.
This ruling only concerns the first case involving the Meitivs. While they had pursued the appeal on the January ruling, police took their children into custody again last month for walking to the park on their own, holding them for more than five hours. The action raised eyebrows even among those who disapprove of the Meitiv’s parenting style, with many demanding to know how the police and CPS could argue that their actions were less harmful than allowing two children to walk alone to a nearby park.
They still have not issued a conclusion on that incident, but it’s practically identical to the circumstances of the first case. The only difference is that the Meitivs’ children are a little older and more experienced now. It’s possible that this second incident backfired, and CPS wants to get out from under the entire issue now. The April case prompted an intervention at the highest levels of Maryland’s government:
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) asked the state Department of Human Resources in April to conduct a “thorough investigation of the incident and of the policies involved to determine what changes might be needed,” according to a statement from a spokeswoman.
It was not clear whether Hogan’s request influenced the new finding in the Meitiv case.
It may not be provable, but no bureaucracy works this fast without some kind of pressure being exerted by people who matter. Besides, Maryland has enough problems with its image these days, especially in policing, to sustain a narrative of holding kids for hours as a form of punishment to the parents.
So much the better. The Meitivs are not neglecting their children, and CPS’ intervention has been a farce from the moment it occurred. Expect to see the second case dropped soon, and Maryland officials attempt to distance themselves at light speed from the Meitivs. The Meitivs, though, may have other ideas about that.