“Free-Range” Parenting Becomes Legal in the State of Utah

“Free-Range” Parenting Becomes Legal in the State of Utah
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There’s good news for parents in Utah who believe that their children should be able to venture off on their own without constant, overbearing supervision. In March 2018, Gov. Gary Herbert inked a bill allowing parents to raise their kids “free range.” [1]

The passage of the bill essentially changes the legal definition of child neglect in the state.

Republican state Sen. Lincoln Fillmore sponsored the bill because he said he wanted to prevent police and state agencies from locking up parents for things like letting their child walk to school unaccompanied.

Specifically, the measure allows “a child, whose basic needs are met and who is of sufficient age and maturity to avoid harm or unreasonable risk of harm, to engage in independent activities…” [2]

Those activities include letting kids “walk, run or bike to and from school, travel to commercial or recreational facilities, play outside and remain at home unattended.”

Read: CPS Takes Child After Parents Question Doctors, Seek Second Opinion

Under the new law, child welfare authorities can’t take children away from their parents if they’re found doing activities on their own, as long as they are adequately fed, clothed, and cared for.

If the idea of taking children away from a parent just for playing alone outside sounds crazy, well, it has happened. There have been numerous CPS investigations and cases of kids being pried out of their parents’ arms. In 2016, for example, Children and Family Services investigated a woman in Manitoba, Canada, who had the audacity to let her 3 children play outside alone in their fully fenced back yard!

Yeah, I know. I don’t get it, either.

Cases like the one in Manitoba fueled Fillmore’s determination to get the law passed.

Fillmore said:

“It’s not neglect if you let your child experience childhood. The message is you need to protect your kids but we are not doing kids any favors if we shelter them to the point where they are not learning how to function.” [1]

You might remember a childhood in which walking to the corner store alone wasn’t considered risky business, and you knew when to come home at night when your parents flicked the porch light on. But “helicopter parenting” (for lack of a better word) has become popular in recent years.

Being a helicopter parent takes on a different meaning, depending on the age of the child. Helicopter-parenting in elementary-school-age children can involve making sure your child has a certain teacher, selecting your child’s friends and activities, and generally hanging around so much that your child barely has an opportunity to do anything alone. [3]

Helicopters hover, and helicopter parents hover. Children of helicopter parents are supervised. Always.

The bill does not specify what the appropriate age is for children to be on their own. Lawmakers are apparently relying on parents and caregivers to use their best judgment. What is acceptable for a 10-year-old isn’t always acceptable for a 5-year-old. [1]

Helicopter parenting is understandable, given the state of the world today; but it seems to be largely based on a fear of child abductions, which are excessively frightening but also exceedingly rare. Last year, a bill similar to the one passed in Utah was proposed in the Arkansas legislature, but it failed in a House committee for fear of abduction. [2]

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Source: OKHorizon.com

Read: CPS Takes Breastfed Baby Because Parents Were “Homeless”

Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, said:

“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.” [4]

The law is believed to be the first of its kind in the United States.

What do you think? Should other states try to pass similar laws? At what age do you think children can safely go unattended?

Sources:

[1] CNN

[2] The Washington Post

[3] Parents

[4] U.S. News and World Report

OKHorizon