Rhode Island moves to criminalize free range parenting

The idea that it takes a village to raise a child actually has some merit in terms of a supportive community which promotes sound values, but I’m not sure the progenitors of the idea had this in mind. In Rhode Island, concern over unattended children has manifested in the state house in the form of a proposed law which would criminalize decisions by parents to allow children below a certain age to be left unattended in various circumstances. In other words, the state will decide the proper amount of supervision for your offspring and if you disagree you may just wind up in court. (Yahoo News)

Parents who fear the judgment of neighbors if they leave their kids alone at home or in a car may soon have more than a “tsk, tsk” to worry about in Rhode Island.

State lawmakers are debating a bill that would punish parents for leaving a child younger than 7 alone in a car. They’ve also proposed legislation to ban kids under 10 from being home alone and older kids from being home alone at night. Legislation could even extend to private preschools, where a bill would ban outdoor recess when the temperature drops below freezing.

Rhode Island’s efforts come years after many other states implemented such measures, but have been met by counterattacks from a growing movement of parents who say enough is enough.

More than a year ago I wrote about the case of Danielle and Alexander Meitiv. You may recall them as the Maryland couple who allowed their ten and six year old children to walk one mile to and from a park near their home and found themselves in legal trouble over it. At the time I noted the sticky questions which cases such as this raise. There are clearly cases of children who are in peril from poor parenting out there and law enforcement has a duty to step and in prevent tragedy when it’s significantly likely. But by the same token, these are always situations which have to be handled on a case by case basis. Parents in a low crime, well lit, populated suburb may rightly want to let their kids explore the world a bit more on their own, while children in high crime neighborhoods may barely be safe in their own beds.

The same thing applies here. Some seven year olds are far more well behaved and disciplined than others, so which ones could reasonably be left in a car while the parent does some brief errand? And for how long? Surely there’s a vast difference between the mom who leaves junior in the back seat while she runs into the dry cleaners where she can clearly see the car parked outside the door and the guy who leaves his kid locked in the car for hours while he’s inside a strip club. Are we to tie the family court judge’s hands behind their back when hearing those two cases side by side?

As with most family court cases, these things are far too variable to be set in stone. And yet Rhode Island seems ready to go whole hog on the idea that the nanny state knows what’s best for your kids in all circumstances. Of course, we live in an era when you’re not supposed to even spank your children’s back sides when they misbehave lest you be accused of “abuse,” and some government entities appear to take such beliefs to heart. But the voters appear to desire a nanny state and now they’ve got one. Let us know how that works out for you.