Starting in August, children in Colorado will have more freedom to roam unsupervised without exposing parents to child neglect investigations.
A new law signed by Gov. Jared Polis (D) on Mar. 30 adds a passage to the state’s child maltreatment statute allowing kids to travel to school, play outdoors or remain home alone and without adult supervision, for example, “without a finding that the child is abused or neglected.”
Polis said the law was needed to ease pressure on often-overtaxed child maltreatment reporting hotlines and CPS offices.
“Just because a kid is playing alone outside, it doesn’t mean they’re in danger,” Polis reportedly said, according to the website Colorado Politics. “It will help decrease false reports so, with the limited resources we have, we can focus on the serious and the real instances of child abuse.”
The Colorado House and Senate both voted unanimously for the reform, making the Rocky Mountain State the fourth at least to adopt a so-called “free-range parenting” law. The New York City-based national organization Let Grow and the Illinois-based legal advocate for parents Diane Redleaf have vigorously advocated for such laws, including in testimony to the Colorado legislature.
During a 2020 hearing, Redleaf described her experience representing parents over a 40 year legal career.
“I have seen how neglect laws can sweep many innocent parents into child protection proceedings and force themselves to defend themselves from allegations that have little to do with true danger to their children,” said written testimony submitted by Redleaf, who is a co-chair of the national policy advocacy group called United Family Advocates. “Minority communities need protection the most. Discretionary judgments that are not constrained by clear legal principles are prone to abuse when applied to persons of color.”
The new leeway in Colorado law applies to any independent activities that a “reasonable and prudent parent” would consider safe “given the child’s maturity, condition, and abilities.”
According to a Redleaf op-ed published by the Imprint Tuesday this week, Nebraska and South Carolina are considering similar proposals.