Many adults remember their own childhoods with fondness when they were allowed to walk home from school with friends unsupervised, sent on errands to a nearby store, and encouraged to go to a park in close proximity to play. In more recent times, however, parents have been afraid to do these things for fear that the police would be called, and they would be subjected to a child abuse investigation. Utah has now become the first state in the nation to pass a bill allowing children to be children without constant supervision.
Starting in May, parents can stop worrying about those things in Utah because the state legislature passed State Bill 65. More commonly referred to as the free-range parenting law, parents will now have the opportunity to let kids wander outside without being afraid of facing civil and criminal investigations.
Codified Normal Childhood Behaviors
The new law was passed with the full support of the Utah Division of Child and Family Services. Director Diane Moore says that they get about 60,500 allegations of child abuse each year. She says that her department is trained to ask the person calling in the report for details about how the child is being harmed. Diane says that in only about 600 cases each year is poor parental supervision where children are observed playing outside alone the reason an investigation is started. She says that she is thrilled that the law has now codified what behaviors should be considered normal.
Provisions under Utah SB 65
Utah SB 65 now offers parents protection in specific circumstances including:
- Traveling to and from school by foot or bike independently
- Traveling to and from local businesses or recreational opportunities independently
- Playing outdoors
- Remaining in their homes independently
- Remaining in many vehicles except where doing so breaks other Utah laws
Loving Parents Empowering Independent Children
The new law was written by Senator Lincoln Fillmore who says “Loving parents who empower their children to practice and learn from a bit of independence should not be subject to criminal penalties.” While the new law covers only civil courts, but Moore says that most police departments will not file criminal cases unless her department also files a civil case.
If you find yourself subject to problems with the Utah Division of Child and Family Services or a local police jurisdiction, then you need a good lawyer on your side. Contact Utah attorney Rex B. Bushman so that your rights are protected as a parent who is only doing their job of raising independent children.