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Like many parents, you’ve probably let your children walk through your neighborhood unsupervised. In fact, if you’re like many people, you were probably allowed to play in the neighborhood all day when you were younger.

But things change, and one mother is finding this out the hard way. Corey Widen, a mother of two, allows her 8-year old daughter to walk the family Maltese around the block all on her own. She says that she can see her daughter from the windows of her home for most of the walk.

There has never been an incident, so Widen was stunned when one morning the police showed up at her front door. Apparently, a neighbor had reported her for “free-range parenting”.

Police investigated and found no evidence of child neglect, and they didn’t pursue the complaint. But the neighbor didn’t stop there; she contacted the Department of Children and Family Services.

Case workers visited the family’s home and interviewed Widen, her 8-year old daughter and her 17-year old son. They also talked with other family members and the family’s pediatrician. After a two week investigation, DCFS reported to the Widen’s attorney that they had found nothing to suggest child neglect and closed the case.

Under Illinois law, child neglect is defined as leaving a minor younger than 14 unsupervised for an unreasonable amount of time without regard for the child’s well being.

Widen says the process has caused her family tremendous stress. “For something like this to happen to me, there’s something really wrong,” she says.

Families who practice free-range parenting encourage their children to be independent and to explore on their own. Widen says she is definitely not a free-range parent.

What do you think? Do you let your children explore the neighborhood unsupervised?

If you have legal questions, please consult our Online Legal Directory to find an attorney in your area.

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