Let Grow Legislative Toolkit
Get tools and resources to advance the childhood independence movement.
Let Grow leads the movement for childhood independence. We mobilize support for policies that allow kids to grow up resourceful and resilient, including “Reasonable Childhood Independence” laws. Utah passed the first one in 2018. Now several more states are considering it. If you want to ensure that giving kids some independence is legal in your state, these resources should help. Good luck!
1. Model Bills
Any of these three model bills can be modified. Click here.
2. Map of State Neglect Laws
There are actually two maps—one for criminal laws, one for child protective laws. Click here to see both.
3. Sample Testimony and Template
Testimony in favor of a “Reasonable Childhood Independence” law can come from parents, experts (doctors, teachers, psychologists), even kids. For samples of each, and an easy-to-use “Testimony Template,” click here.
Politicians, professors, and pundits have all endorsed the idea of guaranteeing parents the right to loosen the leash a little. Click here to read what they have to say.
6. Stories from Parents
Some good, caring parents have been arrested or investigated for giving their kids—by choice or by necessity—a bit of freedom. These three quick stories exemplify why the law should guarantee parents the right to give their kids some reasonable freedom.
Kari Anne Roy, Texas
Mom Kari Anne Roy’s 6-year-old was playing outside for about 10 minutes when a woman saw him and marched him home, 150 feet away. Shortly afterward, Roy’s doorbell rang again. It was the police. They interrogated her and asked for I.D. A week later, Child Protective Services came to the house and interviewed each of Roy’s three children separately, without their parents, asking the 12-year-old if he had ever done drugs, and the 8-year-old girl if she had seen movies with people’s private parts – something she’d never even heard of.
Debra Harrell, South Carolina
For three days over summer vacation in 2014, Debra Harrell let her 9-year-old play at the popular local sprinkler playground while she worked her shift at McDonald’s nearby. A woman at the park asked the girl where her mom was, and upon learning she was at work, called 911. The police threw the mom in jail overnight. She lost custody of her daughter for 17 days. Despite public outcry, it took over two years before the charges were dropped.
Natasha Felix, Illinois
Natasha Felix was cited for neglect after she let three children, aged 5, 9, and 11, play in the park next to her home, where she could see them from her window. She checked on them every 10 minutes, but a passerby thought the kids were unsupervised, and called the Department of Children and Family Services Hotline. “These were not kids being left in a crack house with no food,” said Felix’s attorney, Diane Redleaf, who is now Let Grow’s legal consultant. It took two years but a state appellate court finally overturned the finding of neglect against Natasha.
7. Supportive Articles in the Press
- Should letting your kid play outside be illegal? (Janet Buckner/Kim Ransom, The Colorado Sun)
- My Free-Range Parenting Manifesto (Lenore Skenazy, Politico Magazine)
- How dare you let that kid go out and play? (Chris Churchill, Albany Times-Union)
- When nebulous safety concerns trump childhood (Editorial, Las Vegas Review-Journal)
8. Supportive Articles in the Legal Press
- Narrowing Neglect Laws Means Ending State-Mandated Helicopter Parenting (Diane Redleaf, American Bar Association)
- Where Is It Safe and Legal to Give Children Reasonable Independence? (Diane Redleaf, American Bar Association)
- Criminal Child Neglect and the ‘Free Range Kid’: Is Overprotective Parenting the New Standard of Care? (Prof. David Pimentel, Utah Law Review)
- Protecting the Free-Range Kid: Recalibrating Parents’ Rights and the Best Interest of the Child (David Pimentel, University of Idaho College of Law)
9. Arguments for the Bill
Independence is a critical part of growing up. Kids who have some free time and space get the chance to think creatively, solve problems, and discover their interests. Here are five arguments for the bill that says childhood independence shouldn’t be criminalized:
Independence boosts children’s mental health.
As children lost the opportunity to play and explore on their own, childhood anxiety and depression have gone up. Correlation is not causation, but Julie Lythcott-Haims, former dean of freshmen at Stanford, says, “Recent studies suggest that kids with…rigidly structured childhoods suffer psychological blowback.” Meantime, there has been a doubling of hospital admissions for suicidal teenagers over the last 10 years.
Independence builds children’s resilience.
Young people can’t learn how to solve problems if adults are always right there, solving them first. Kids need the chance to explore, goof up, grow resilient. “Kids taking risks grow from those,” says NYU Prof. Jonathan Haidt.
Learn more: The Fragile Generation (Reason)
Reasonable Childhood Independence and Free-Range Parenting laws help working families.
When helicopter parenting becomes the only legal way to parent, we all lose—but especially those who, by necessity, must trust their kids with more independence. For instance, South Carolina mom Debra Harrell had her daughter, 9, taken away for two weeks, simply because she let her play in the park while she worked her daytime shift at nearby McDonald’s. No decent parent, rich or poor, should be second-guessed by the state.
Reasonable Childhood Independence and Free-Range Parenting laws help Child Protective Services.
Child Protective Services departments are stretched so thin that in California, for instance, half of all case workers quit their jobs within three years. The best way to keep social workers on the job is by making sure they spend their time investigating cases worth focusing on. This is also the best way to make sure that children who really need help are taken care of.
Children are safer today than they have been in years.
Some argue that kids need laws to protect them from a dangerous world. In fact, crime rates are the same now as they were in 1960. In recent years, crime rates peaked in 1993, and have declined 71% since then. Explore the Let Grow Crime Statistics page for more.
10. Contact Us / Get Involved
Want to help get a Reasonable Independence Law passed in your state? Or maybe you have a question? Contact us using the form below!