The 911 call that reignited the controversy over free-range parenting came in Sunday at 4:55 p.m.
A man in Silver Spring reported that he was walking his dog and spotted “two kids that are unaccompanied, and they’ve been walking around for probably about 20 minutes by themselves.”
The operator asks how old they look. “The little boy, maybe about 7, 8. The little girl, maybe about 6.”
“Okay, and you don’t see any parents around them?”
“Have you talked to them to see, you know, why are they just walking around by themselves?”
“No, no, they came up and asked to pet my dog, I let them, and that was it.”
He says he is not with the children, just walking behind them. “I don’t want to scare them,” he says.
Thus begins the odyssey of two children whose parents allowed them to play unattended at a Silver Spring park Sunday and then walk to their Silver Spring home, about eight-tenths of a mile away, according to a seven-minute recording released by Montgomery County police.
By day’s end, the Meitiv siblings – Rafi, 10, and Dvora, 6 – would spend more than five hours in the custody of police and Child Protective Services.
Their parents, Danielle and Alexander Meitiv, expected their children home by 6 p.m. When they did not show, the parents frantically looked for them, they said.
The parents say they were notified by CPS of their children’s whereabouts at 8 p.m., raced over to CPS offices in Rockville and were allowed to see the children at 10:30 p.m. The parents had to sign papers saying they would not leave the children unsupervised.
The incident followed an earlier tangle between CPS and the Meitivs, scientists who believe in so-called “free range” parenting, which encourages children’s independence. That run-in attracted national attention and sparked a conversation about child safety, parenting approaches and the role of the government.
In the 911 recording, the caller at one point mentions the children near a parking lot, but they do not appear to be in a parking garage, as a police description Monday seemed to suggest.
Police on Tuesday stood by that report, saying that the 911 caller did not observe where police made contact with them. “Whatever is in the report is what we’re going with,” said officer Nicole Gamard.
The caller, whose name was redacted from the recording, also said the children’s clothes look dirty, and he first noticed them at Ellsworth Park.
On Tuesday, a D.C.-based law firm representing the Meitivs said the family would file suit in the case.