A Maryland couple has been cleared of child neglect charges in one of two cases brought against them after they let their two children walk home from a local park unsupervised.
WTTG reported Tuesday that Danielle and Alexander Meitiv, of Silver Spring, had been informed last week that Montgomery County Child Protective Services had ruled that the pair did not neglect their two children, aged 10 and 6, when they allowed them to walk about a mile by themselves this past December.
“It's not completely over, but it does lift a huge weight off our shoulders,” Danielle Meitiv told WTTG.
The new finding followed an appeal of the agency's earlier decision holding the Meitivs responsible for "unsubstantiated" child neglect, a finding typically made when there is conflicting or insufficient information for a more definitive conclusion.
The suburban Washington, D.C., parents have been investigated three times since October by CPS, a division of Maryland's Department of Human Resources.
The agency has been monitoring the Meitivs for their advocacy of so-called "free-range" parenting, which encourages independence and exploration. They remain under investigation for neglect related to their children walking home from another park April 12. The children were held by police and CPS for more than five hours that day.
"They are the same kids, we're the same parents, it's the same exact neighborhood, it's almost the same time of day, give or take an hour," Metiev said. “So if they found no neglect in one, I don't see how they can rule differently in the other one.”
The letter clearing the Metievs of neglect in the December case didn't indicate whether the agency has changed its approach more broadly toward children walking or playing on their own outdoors, or simply made a narrow decision related to one case. Department of Human Resources spokeswoman Paula Tolson wouldn't discuss the Meitivs' cases specifically when contacted by the Associated Press, citing confidentiality rules.
"The process is that each case is looked at separately and the circumstances surrounding that case are investigated," she said.
The agency has until June 12 to issue a written decision in the April case. The Meitivs said they hope the recent decision means they will be cleared in that case, too. Danielle Meitiv told WTTG they are planning to take legal action against CPS regardless of the outcome.
"Frankly, we are still planning legal action because even them changing their mind doesn't change the fact that there were some serious violations of constitutional rights here," said Danielle. "The Constitution very clearly protects our rights as parents to raise our kids in the way we see fit."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.