A bipartisan bill that would foster independence among young people in Colorado unanimously passed the state House of Representatives last week.
The bill would foster independence by tightening the definition of child neglect, giving children reasonable independence to walk to school, ride their bikes and play in their neighborhood without the supervision of an adult, according to a Colorado House Democrats statement last week.
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The bill was sponsored by state Reps. Kim Ransom (R-Lone Tree) and Mary Young (D-Greeley) and state Sens. Janet Buckner (D-Aurora) and Jim Smallwood (R-Parker).
“We’re working diligently to foster everyday independence for Colorado’s youth and this bill is a wonderful step in the right direction,” Young said in the statement. “This bill makes it clear that there is no need to get the authorities involved when kids are out and about in their neighborhood, walking to school or playing on the playground. When youth are given independence they grow, learn and thrive and we’re pleased to pass legislation that empowers their right to independence.”
When youth are given independence they grow, learn and thrive and we’re pleased to pass legislation that empowers their right to independence.
– State Rep. Mary Young
Under current law, a child is neglected if the child’s environment is “injurious to the child’s health or welfare,” according to the bill summary. The Reasonable Independence For Children bill would clarify that a child is not neglected when allowed to participate in certain independent activities that a “reasonable and prudent” parent or guardian would consider safe, given the maturity, condition and abilities of the child.
Ransom told Newsline on Tuesday that like many of her colleagues she remembers playing at the park as a kid without it necessarily being part of an organized sports program, and she believes that children need non-directed play. Non-directed play helps children use their imagination, and develop their creativity and sense of independence and self-knowledge, Ransom said.
“I also know that parents know their kids better than anyone else does,” Ransom said. Ransom said she’s heard from people of all political alliances who are in support of the bill.
HB22-1090 specifically clarifies that a child is not neglected when allowed to participate in independent activities, such as traveling to and from school, playing outdoors and traveling to and from nearby commercial or recreational facilities.
The bill would also cut back on the amount of unnecessary involvement from child protective services and law enforcement, according to the statement.
“I remember the testimony from the wife of a police officer, who left their child alone at home and a neighbor called the police,” Buckner wrote in an email to Newsline. “Their lives were forever changed because of this situation.” Buckner wrote that she is proud to sponsor this important legislation because parents know their children and how mature they are and how they will handle various situations.
“We want Colorado parents to be able to give their kids the kind of independence almost all of us over age 30 grew up with — the freedom to walk to school, play outside, come home with a latchkey and so on,” Buckner and Ransom wrote in an op-ed in The Colorado Sun in February 2020.
Buckner and Ransom wrote that they believe in the importance of child protective services and want to make sure CPS doesn’t waste time investigating parents who make a “rational, everyday decision to let their kids do something on their own.”
The bill needs to pass the Colorado Senate and be signed by Gov. Jared Polis to become law.
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 8:50 a.m., Feb. 23, 2022, to include remarks from state Sen. Janet Buckner.
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