New state law means more freedom – and less supervision – for kids
Soon, younger kids in Connecticut will have more freedom to roam outside without adult supervision, thanks to a new state law that Gov. Ned Lamont signed last week.
Right now, in most circumstances, children under 12 years old must be supervised by an adult. But under the new law, kids “of sufficient age, maturity, physical ability and mental ability” can be alone for “independent activities” – like traveling to school or a playground – as long as they don't pose an “obvious danger.”
Liz Mair, a Stamford mother and political consultant, advocated for the law.
“If you had an 11-year-old who wanted to go three blocks down the street to play soccer at the local park with their also 11-year-old friend, if they were not under some sort of adult supervision, technically their parents could have been charged with a criminal offense,” Mair said.
A veteran child protection attorney told state lawmakers that some parents have been wrongly accused of neglect by police, or the Connecticut Department of Children and Families.
“I've represented parents whose children were removed, essentially because they gave a DCF investigator too much lip,” said Paul Chill, an associate dean at the University of Connecticut Law School.
The General Assembly passed the law unanimously last month, but does it put children at risk?
Initially, DCF commissioner Vannessa Doranates expressed concerns, writing: “This leaves the discretion to determine what is or is not unsafe up to the parents, and provided they believe such activities do not present an obvious danger to their child it appears that the court could not decide otherwise.”
A DCF spokesperson said Monday that the agency is satisfied with the final version of the law. But some parents aren’t sure it’s a good idea.
Melissa Duffy brought her 4-year-old daughter, Victoria, to West Beach in Stamford on Monday.
“I don't take my eyes off of her. Keep my eyes on her at all times,” Duffy said. “I know back in the day that we just – we rode our bikes, our parents said goodbye and that was it, you know? But now, it's a different time.”
The new law takes effect on Oct. 1.