Assemblymember Steck’s Legislation Recognizes That Parents Know What’s Best for Their Kids

Assemblymember Phil Steck (D-Colonie) announced that he introduced legislation to permit parents and guardians of children who are at least 10 years old to allow their children to participate in certain unsupervised activities (A.10541). The measure allows parents to decide how much freedom and independence to give their kids without fearing unwarranted accusations of neglect.

“This legislation offers parents clarity in the law and latitude within parental decision making,” Steck said. “Parents shouldn’t be labeled neglectful nor investigated for simply allowing their child to walk home from school or go to the neighborhood park. Due to the fear of repercussions, we are creating a generation of children who have never been alone since infancy.”

The measure prevents parents and guardians of children who are at least 10 years of age from being charged with child endangerment for letting their children participate in some independent activities, including walking home from school, traveling on public transportation with written directions and traveling to parks and recreational facilities close to their home. The measure sets a clear standard for permissible behavior and ensures responsible parents are not penalized.

“When I grew up, children left the house in the morning and didn’t return until dinner time. This is how I learned to be independent, initiate my own activities to entertain myself, and create friendships without being on an arranged playdate,” noted Steck “This legislation offers parents the choice to give their children this same kind of childhood by recognizing there are differing parenting styles.”

A similar “free-range parenting” law was recently passed in Utah and the issue has gained national attention.1 The term was coined and trademarked by author Lenore Skenazy.2

Steck pointed out that as a lawyer he has seen cases where child protective services were invoked for ulterior motives. When that happens, the consequences just of defending against the accusations are incredibly burdensome, both emotionally and in term of time. This bill is a beginning effort to put a stop to such abuses of the system.