That's the official verdict from Child Protective Services: teaching your children to be independent is now a crime.
In December, Danielle and Alexander Meitiv let their 10-year-old son, Rafi, and his 6-year-old sister, Dvorah, walk 1 mile home through Silver Spring, Maryland, alone. The kids got picked up by the police, who then turned the case over to child protective services. The Meitivs, as it happens, are “free-range parents” who have a very coherent philosophy about giving children more independence. They had let their children walk home alone that day only after practicing and felt the kids were ready.
So, what's "unsubstantiated child neglect? So glad you asked! In CPS lingo, it's one of three possible outcomes of an investigation: the agency may decide that there is no evidence of a problem, at which time the parents are notified that the case is closed. The other two outcomes are classed as "indicated" child neglect - which means you're losing the kids because evidence of mistreatment or endangerment exists - or, as in this case, "unsubstantiated" child neglect.
This latter means that the case is not closed, but for the time being you can still keep the kids. And you have a record of potential neglect, which at some point, a bureaucrat may feel a sudden need to explore further. If you want to keep the kids, you probably had better not let them walk to or from any destination unaccompanied, regardless of its proximity to home.
What's that? Yeah well, I got your "life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness" right here, pal.