Utah Becomes The First State to Pass A 'Free-Range Parenting' Law

"Kids need to wonder about the world, explore and play in it, and by doing so, learn the skills of self-reliance and problem-solving."

On March 23, Utah became the first state to legalize "free-range" parenting, a controversial style of child rearing in which "parents allow thier children to move about without constant adult supervision, aimed at instilling independence and self-reliance," according to Dictionary.com. 

Signed into law by Republican Gov. Gary Herbert following the state House and Senate's unanimous approval, the "free-range kids" bill is considered to be the first legislation of its kind in the United States and will take effect in May.

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The key measure in the bill was its redefinition of "neglect" in Utah law, which now allows children to participate in some unsupervised activities without their parents being charged, a state representative told ABC News. The bill's sponsors did not define an age limit, leaving it "purposely open-ended so police and prosecutors can work on a case-by-case basis" if they suspect legitimate abuse or neglect, according to The Associated Press

"Kids need to wonder about the world, explore and play in it, and by doing so, learn the skills of self-reliance and problem-solving they'll need as adults," Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, the bill's chief sponsor, said in a statement to ABC News. "As a society, we've become too hyper about 'protecting' kids and then end up sheltering them from the experiences that we took for granted as we were kids. I sponsored SB65 so that parents wouldn't be punished for letting their kids experience childhood."

"If there are clear signs of abuse, obviously that is grounds for action, and in no way is excluded [from the law]," Rep. Brad Daw (R), the bill's House sponsor, told the Salt Lake Tribune. He added that he was convinced to pursue this legislation after witnessing cases of parents being investigated or even arrested in other states for letting their kids do things, like walk home, alone. 

Further promoting the "case-by-case" philosophy of the law, Gov. Herbert explained in a statement to ABC News, "We believe that parents know and love their kids better than anybody. Absent evidence of clear danger, abuse or neglect, we believe that parents have the best sense of how to teach responsibility to their children."

(H/T: Huffpost

Cover image via Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

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