This state is the first to pass 'free range parenting' law: Why and what is it?

Utah lawmakers OK bill protecting parents who practice free-range parenting.

This state is the first to pass 'free range parenting' law: Why and what is it?

Health and Safety

This state is the first to pass 'free range parenting' law: Why and what is it?

“Free-range parents” say they are trying to raise self-sufficient, independent kids.

But sometimes that has meant police knocking on the door and visits from child protective services when other adults raise issues of neglect.

Utah lawmakers OK bill protecting parents who practice free-range parenting.

Credit: Getty Images

A new law, signed by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, hopes to prevent legal intervention when children are playing in the park, riding a bike in the neighborhood or walking to school without an adult.

The “free-range kids” law — the first of its kind — goes into effect May 8.

Good. 

But first things first….

What is free-range parenting?

The site LetGrow.org essentially defines it as a “commonsense approach to parenting in these overprotective times.” These parents believe children deserve unsupervised play time to explore and grow.

In practice, that could mean allowing youngsters to walk to school alone, play at an area park without parental supervision or even ride the subway in a major city by themselves.

The law isn’t giving parents permission to neglect their children. The law only says that parents who deem their children ready to, for example, bike to school unsupervised, shouldn’t face criminal charges.

What does the free parenting law do?

Kids lined up, waiting to board the school bus.

Credit: Purestock/Getty Images

The law revises Utah state law to say it isn’t neglect to allow mature children with good judgment to travel to school alone, explore a playground or stay in their parents’ car if they are otherwise well cared for.

An age limit was purposely not defined, but the law says children left alone should display maturity and good judgment.

Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, the House sponsor of the bill, said the law will help needless prosecution of parents. He told The Salt Lake Tribune:

“This is to prevent in Utah a problem that has happened in too many other states … where parents have been prosecuted, gotten in trouble for doing nothing more than allowing a child to play outside or go to the park.”

Arkansas rejected a similar bill last year.

Lenore Skenazy, a free-range parenting advocate and the Arkansas’ bill sponsor, said that, among other things, opponents said kids “can be kidnapped in 37 seconds from a car.”

In 2015, a Maryland couple was investigated by Child Protective Services for child neglect after letting their children ages 6 and 10, roam the neighborhood unsupervised.

Other free-range parents investigated for neglect in recent years live in Florida, South Carolina and Texas.

But here’s the thing: Parents aren’t dumb

Credit: Getty Images

Most parents already fret about whether they’ve taught their children all the basic safety principles, and they go over them again and again with their children.

They worry at night about the outside world and the things they can’t control, like mad men with guns coming into their school.

Parents prepare their children the best way they can

They shouldn’t have to worry about government overreach because their responsible, mature, hyper-vigilant children are going to walk two blocks to play in the park for 45 minutes.

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