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Free-Range Parenting : Legal to Let Kids Walk Alone?

Remember those stories where grandpa said he walked three miles in a snow storm to get to school? His parents would probably get arrested for that today. As a society, America has seem to become more paranoid about child safety.

In Maryland, free-range parents Danielle and Alexander Meitiv have had several run-ins with the law and CPS because of their decision to let their two young kids, aged 10 and six, walk to the park and home alone. On the most recent occasion, police detained the kids for several hours without notifying the Meitivs after a 911 call reported that the kids were unaccompanied. According to reports, CPS is investigating the family for neglect.

Is it really against the law to let your kids walk alone?

Maryland Law

In Maryland, the law requires that children under 8 years old must be accompanied by another person at least 13 years old. This law only covers homes and cars, so it is unclear whether or not the same rule applies to kids walking alone.

If it does, the Meitivs likely are in violation of the law as their son is only 10 years old. Under the law, he is not old enough to accompany his 6-year-old sister.

Other State Laws

Most states do not have laws dictating when a child can be left alone without supervision. A few states do, but the minimum age does vary from state to state.

  • Kansas - Kansas does not have a law clearly defining when a child can be left alone. However, Kansas' Department of Children and Families recommend that children under 6 years should never be left alone. Children age 6-9 may be left alone for short period of times, and children 10 years old and older may be left alone overnight, depending on the child's maturity level.
  • Georgia - According to Georgia's Division of Family and Children Services, children under 8 years old should never be left alone. Children 13 and older may be able to supervise younger children.
  • Illinois - Illinois law considers any unsupervised child 14 years of age or younger to be neglected.

If you let your children walk home or stay home alone, check your state's laws to see if there is a minimum age requirement. While most states don't have laws on this matter, the state's department of children and family services may offer guidelines.

If you are being investigated by child protective services, an experienced family law attorney will be able to help guide you through the ordeal.

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