Over the weekend, Utah became the first state to officially pass a ‘free-range parenting’ law. It allows kids to do things on their own to gain independence and self-reliance, like walk around their neighborhood or go to the park, without a parent being present. Better still, the Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) won’t show up at said parents’ door if somebody reports a kid out alone. The bill was passed unanimously by the Utah State Legislature and is awaiting a signature from Governor Gary Hibbert. It will officially take effect on May 8.
Utah lawmakers first took up the idea of legalizing ‘free-range parenting’ after several states began investigating parents for negligence when people reported their children outside without adult supervision. In some cases, parents in those states even temporarily lost custody of their kids. Republican State Senator Lincoln Fillmore of South Jordan said a law like this was necessary both to let kids become self-sufficient and to free parents from the worry of being charged with negligence if they give their kids a little more leash.
The law does not state a specific age for kids to be out alone as lawmakers opted instead to leave it open-ended, arguing that police and prosecutors should be able to examine the context and circumstances of each individual case should an issue arise.
This is the first time a state has passed a law of this nature, says Lenore Skenazy, who wrote the book Free Range Kids and coined the term ‘free-range parenting’ nearly a decade ago. Last year, Arkansas considered passing a similar bill but it was ultimately rejected. In 2015, Utah Senator Mike Lee added an amendment to a federal education bill that would have allowed kids walk home from school without their parents risking arrest for negligence. Skenazy offered her support for the new law, stating that it was a positive step in “the fight against over-protective parenting.”