Is a “free range” parenting law coming to Texas?

“Free-range parenting” can also be considered “neglectful supervision,” depending on the case worker at the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (CPS). Parenting styles vastly differ throughout the state, but controversy is growing over how much supervision, or not enough, determines “neglectful supervision.”

When parents don’t adequately supervise their children, according to the state, their children are put into the foster care system. It’s becoming a huge problem in Texas.

In the North Texas, for example, CPS case workers investigated 96,741 allegations of child abuse and neglect. Among them 14,525 cases were confirmed as “neglectful supervision.” CPS defines neglectful supervision as a situation when a child is placed in or not removed from a situation “that a reasonable person would realize requires judgment or actions beyond the child’s level of maturity… that results in bodily injury or substantial risk of immediate harm to the child.”

Brandon Logan, director of the Texas Public Policy Foundation Center for Families and Children, told NBC News that “75 percent of all children in foster care are there not because of physical abuse, sexual abuse, physical neglect or medical neglect, but they’re there for neglectful supervision.”

He added: “We’re so concerned about child safety and the truth is there’s never been a time that’s safer to be a child in America. The problem is we have a law now that says essentially, it is neglect to allow a child to be outside of adult supervision.”

The question over who determines what neglect is and in what capacity is still undetermined. Is it neglect if parents do not allow a child to play outside unless the child is unsupervised? Is it neglect if parents allow their children to travel back and forth to school by themselves without supervision? Is it neglect if a child is left unattended at home for a short period of time?

If a free-range parenting law was implemented, it wouldn’t prevent neighbors or teachers, or even strangers, from calling CPS about situations they consider are “neglectful.”

The Texas Public Policy Foundation is in the process of drafting a bill to address concerns related to “free-range parenting” and reaching out to legislators to file it in the next legislative session.

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