Harsh judgements about reasonable parenting decisions hurt!

Far too many good parents get shamed, blamed, or even investigated for their reasonable parenting decisions. We are obviously against actual child abuse and neglect, and do not encourage dangerous behavior.

But we also know that of the almost 8 million children reported to the child protection authorities every year, over 7 million of these cases are unfounded!

Nearly two-thirds of these cases involve claims of neglect, not abuse. Nowadays, it is easy to accuse  parents of neglect, even when the parent made a reasonable and safe decision. That’s why too many parents are caught up in the “shame, blame and investigate” system and need support and information when their decisions about independence are challenged.

If you are dealing with an investigation, arrest, or even just someone harassing you for taking your eyes off your kids, you are likely to feel shaken and scared. That doesn’t mean you have done anything wrong.

It is normal even for great parents to feel angry, embarrassed, and worried when their parenting is questioned.

We believe that parents know their kids (and neighborhood) best and have the right to decide when to allow the children to be alone or engage in independent activities. That’s why we’re trying to make sure the laws reflect this. We are also here to reassure parents that giving your child some unsupervised time, by choice or necessity, does not make you a bad parent.

Have you been contacted or investigated?

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I find out the child neglect laws in my state?

Click here for a map and list of state laws.

What should I say to a police officer or child protective worker?

Click here for our recommendations and tips on how to handle this stressful situation.

Can I talk to others who have been through this?

We recommend joining our Facebook group, “Raising Independent Kids.” It’s an open group where parents discuss childhood independence and changing society’s parent-shaming norms.

Why do people judge parents so much?

According to a study at the Irvine University of California, we tend to irrationally overestimate the dangers of leaving a child unattended because we consider it socially unacceptable.

The more we disapprove of a parent, the more danger we believe they put their child is in. And since lately we disapprove of any parent not bending over backwards in any situation, no matter how safe, to make it .00000001% safer, we feel any non-overprotective parent is automatically underprotecting their kids. See item 6 in this New York Post article on “Why Parents are More Paranoid Than Ever.”

The problem is that anytime we feel parents SHOULD be watching their kids, we imagine their kids are in grave danger, even when there is no danger.

Are children really in danger during a short car wait?

No. Kids are actually more likely to die being run over by vehicles in parking lots and driveways than by waiting a short time in the car. Waiting in the car is safer than being taken out.

Of the 30 to 40 children who do tragically die in cars each year, KidsAndCars.org reports, the overwhelming majority were forgotten there or climbed into a car unbeknownst to the parents and couldn’t get out. They were not just waiting out a brief errand.

While many people think even a short car wait is dangerous, the kids who died in cars were there an average of 4.6 hours. Not 4.6 minutes. And whether cars become dangerously hot  depends on many factors. While we don’t recommend leaving kids in cars in direct sunlight when the temperature is over 75 degrees for more than 5-10  minutes, we don’t believe a blanket prohibition on kids being left in cars makes any sense based on science or statistical probabilities of harm. Yet far too many parents who run into a store to pick up milk or Pampers, even if their children remain in their line of sight, are stopped for letting their child remain asleep in the car. See this article, and this, and this. And see this map, for more information on some states that have particularly harsh or lenient laws regarding when kids can remain in cars alone.

How can I explain the benefits of giving my kids some independence?

Here is a helpful article.

Which states specifically support reasonable childhood independence?

In 2018, Utah passed a “Free Range Parenting” law stating it is legal to let your kid play outside, walk to school, wait briefly in a car under some circumstances, or come home with a latchkey. It was passed unanimously. And in 2021, Oklahoma and Texas passed laws that are even stronger!

Let Grow is working in a number of around the country to pass similar legislation. As new laws pass, we will be updating our maps.

Can I help change my state’s child neglect/endangerment laws?
Can you help me write a letter to my legislator?