The Atlantic

Letters: Legalizing 'Free-Range' Parenting Is a Step in the Right Direction

Readers push back on the notion that ‘free-range’ parenting laws benefit some more than others.
Source: Lucas Jackson / Reuters

‘Free-Range’ Parenting's Unfair Double Standard

In a recent article on, Jessica McCrory Calarco examined Utah’s new “free-range” parenting law, and argued that issues of interpretation may put poor and working-class families—particularly poor families of color—at a disadvantage.

Is the “free-range” parenting bill that passed in Utah “unfair” to the poor and people of color, as the title of a piece by sociologist Jessica McCrory Calarco suggests?

It is not. When helicopter parenting becomes the only legal way to parent, we all lose—those who choose to give our kids some independence and those who, because of necessity, must. No decent parent, rich or poor, should be second-guessed by the state.

Is it possible that some people in authority—cops, child-protection workers, judges and prosecutors—may interpret or apply the law unfairly? Unfortunately, yes. But that is true of any law. The “free-range kids” law exists to protect all families of all backgrounds from government intervention triggered by everyday parenting decisions.

I’m the gal who coined in 2008, “Why I Let My 9-Year-Old Ride the Subway Alone.” Joyce McMillan, the head of the Child Welfare Organizing Project, told me in a phone call that she’s glad about the law. “They call it ‘free-range parenting,’ I call it ‘the rights of parents.’ We all have differences we raise our children by.” She’s thrilled that the Utah law says those differences are no longer enough of an excuse to investigate a family. The less opportunity to open a case, the less opportunity to break up a family.

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