Idaho Introduces Reasonable Childhood Independence Bill

An Old-Fashioned Childhood Shouldn't Be a Crime

“The intent of this is to help parents feel comfortable that they can let their kids grow up and experience life in a relatively independent way without the threat of being accused of being neglectful parents.” With that, Idaho State Rep. Ronald Nate introduced House Bill 3, the Reasonable Childhood Independence Act — also called the Free-Range Parenting bill.

Idaho has not been the site of any famous anti-independence cases, of like the one in suburban Maryland. When Danielle and Alexander Meitiv let their kids, 10 and 6, walk home from the park, someone called 911 to report unattended children, and suddenly the authorities were at the door.

Equally infamous: South Carolina single mom Debra Harrell worked at McDonald’s and in the summer, her daughter, 9, would accompany her and play on a laptop during her shift. Then the laptop got stolen and the girl begged to go play at the nearby sprinkler park instead of just sitting at McDonald’s. Mom said okay and gave her a phone. But an onlooker seeing the unaccompanied girl called the cops. They threw Debra in jail. Her daughter was taken away for 17 days.

Like most folks, Idaho parents don’t want that kind of thing happening to them — and they don’t want to have to second-guess their everyday parenting decisions worrying that it might. They know their kids best. When their children are ready to walk to school, play outside, even wait briefly in the car when it’s not too hot or too cold, parents want to be able to let them.

That’s why Let Grow supports House Bill 3, which simply narrows the neglect laws. The authorities still do their important job – no one wants kids neglected or abused! But they won’t have to follow up every time they get a call: “There’s a kid outside.”

Utah passed a “Free-Range Parenting” bill in 2018. “The law is a huge relief,” one Utah mom told Psychology Today. “There are a lot of parks my kids can enjoy without fear of answering to police officers.”

The crime rate today feels high, but actually it peaked in 1993 and has been plummeting ever since…just not on Law & Order. Kids are safer today than kids growing up in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. (And that’s not due to helicopter parenting. Crime is down against adults and we don’t helicopter them). And Idaho remains one of the safest states in the country.

If we wait till the crime rate reaches absolute zero, our kids will grow up sitting on the couch, eating cheese puffs and staring at a screen. With crime going down and childhood anxiety, depression, and self-harm going up (not to mention obesity) parents must be allowed to give their kids some independence when they know they’re ready for it. House Bill 3 still allows the authorities to step in when necessary, keeping kids safe, while giving families some Idaho freedom. Good luck to Rep. Nate!

If you are interested in working on this issue or have been affected by it, please contact Let Grow via this form. Idaho, Nebraska, Nevada, South Carolina and Texas are all considering Reasonable Childhood Independence Bills this session.

Rep. Ronald Nate of Idaho