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“Kids Have the Right to Some Independence” Missouri Legislator Josh Hurlbert Testifies

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Read Time: 4 minutes

This is the testimony of Missouri State Rep. Josh Hurlbert, sponsor of a Reasonable Childhood Independence Bill in his state. It passed the House 154-0, and the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. Now it goes to the Senate floor!

Gen Z sees risk everywhere. That’s bad.

One of the biggest issues broadly confronting the developing world is anxiety and mental health in our pre-teens, teens, and young adults — mostly Gen Z. University studies are warning us that, “Gen Z Perceive Risk ‘Everywhere They Turn,’ Early Research Shows.” The Surgeon General has even declared a “youth mental health crisis” in response to spiking rates of depression, anxiety and suicidal behavior.

Anxiety is the awful belief that life is full of challenges you can’t handle, and that if you try, you will fail and be hurt. The fact is, kids need proof that this is not the case. Independence gives them that.

Why we shouldn’t always supervise our kids.

Kids need some time when an adult isn’t there to help them. That’s when they improvise and realize: “Hey! That wasn’t so hard.” Or: “Hey! That was really hard – but I’m still standing!”

And for kids to know that the people who love them also believe in them — that their parents think they are resourceful and resilient — helps build the confidence they need to take on the world. And when parents trust kids with some independence, both generations can feel a weight lifting.

Too many parents shamed for rational decisions.

Kids have the right to some independence, and parents have the right to give it to them—without getting arrested or investigated for neglect. Far too many good parents get shamed, blamed, or even investigated for their reasonable parenting decisions. Kids need to be allowed to walk to the playground, school, a friend’s house, the store, or even just play outside, unstructured and unsupervised, without their parents feeling someone is going to report them to family services.

We’re seeing an increase in incidents across the country where kids are inappropriately having police called on them:

We must cut down on excess investigations for neglect.

Each incident created trauma for the families. The kids are now hesitant to play or exercise outdoors. In that last instance, the father was arrested and charged with child neglect and abuse, only to have the charges dropped two days later.

I want Missouri parents to be able to give their kids the kind of independence almost all of us over age 30 grew up with.

Presenting HB 1904…clarifies Missouri law and by creating a standard where lack of adult supervision cannot solely be abuse or neglect, as long as the activity is age appropriate and does not meet the gross negligence legal standard.

A bi-partisan bill that’s passed in 8 states.

Missouri would join eight other states that have recently passed “Reasonable Childhood Independence” laws (Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Montana Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Virginia). You’ll notice the list is not a list of red states or blue states. This is not a partisan or controversial piece of legislation. The language in this bill is very similar to Virginia’s, which passed their legislature unanimously last year.

It’s time to address the underlying causes of the mental health issues facing our children instead of just treating the symptoms. I hope we can quickly move this common-sense piece of legislation. — Josh Hurlbert ([email protected])

Cops came to “rescue” Jeff Smith’s capable kids.

Rep. Hurlbert is a Republican. After his testimony, Jeff Smith — an author, basketball star, former Missouri State Senator, and Democrat — testified in favor of the bill as well, representing the nonprofit Missouri Appleseed.

Smith told the legislators that his kids are into rock climbing — and serious about it. “When they go to a playground, they don’t want to play on the equipment, they want to climb the equipment — or the trees.”

“They’re very adept,” Smith continued, “but that hasn’t stopped other parents from screaming at them — and me — and engaging the police and a firetruck to come and ‘save’ them. I had the ability to navigate the situation, but it doesn’t always work that way for a low-income person. So I understand how these things could progress.”

He said he understood that passersby will still call the authorities when they see a child they think is in danger. “That’s where we are. But Appleseed likes this bill because it will outline a standard of fairness.”

Is your state next?

At Let Grow we like the law, too — it’s “ours” — and hope Missouri will pass this commonsense legislation. In fact, we hope ALL states will! Currenlty we are watching Michigan, where it was just introduced via bi-partisan sponsors, as well as New Hampshire and California where we are hoping it may go through this year. The law basically states that “neglect” is when you put your child in obvious, serious danger — not anytime you take your eyes off them. To get involved in your state, click here and then on — what else? “Get Involved”!

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