Can You Be a Free-Range Parent AND Care About Safety? In These 10 States You Can

Turns out being a free-range parent and not wanting your kid to die are not mutually exclusive.
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I laughed out loud the first time I heard the term “free-range parenting.”

But I soon learned that it was just our label-gripped generation’s way of saying, “Hey, my kids don’t need me every second of the day, and I’ve got to let them make a decision once or twice if I want them to become any sort of normal, self-sufficient adult someday.”

And then I got on board.

I am pretty sure I started walking or riding my bike home from school alone when I was seven years old. Now, in every state but Utah, parents could potentially be arrested for letting their kids do this. Or be at the park alone. Or the store. Or the creek. Or…anywhere.

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I know I’ve said it before, but I grew up in a time (NOT THAT LONG AGO, mind you) and place where I left sometime in the morning and came back when it got dark. Unless we were out “late” playing neighborhood-style Kick the Can, that is. Then we just knew to go home when the game was over. I literally wouldn’t have had a childhood (as defined by yours truly) if my parents weren’t the free-range type.

But now?

Free-rangers are the unique ones amidst the swarms of hovering, micro-managing, safety-obsessed moms and dads.

Oh wait. I think I’m safety obsessed, too. And shouldn’t we all be? It’s a scary world out there and news traveling at the speed of the Internet makes it even scarier.

But the facts are that violent crime actually decreased by a whopping 50% between 1993 and 2016, and there are still plenty of legitimately safeplaces to raise your kids, totally free-range.

SafeWise recently compiled a list of the top 50 safest cities in the US to raise your kids in 2018. Shockingly, my teeny tiny hamlet of a hometown didn’t crack the list. Probably because it’s so small SafeWise doesn’t even know it exists…but that’s another story.

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The cool thing is that plenty of the cities that did make the cut are in the Northeast, in states you may not have thought of as particularly kid-friendly (New Jersey much?).

Here's the rundown on the top ten safest states to raise your kids (in no particular order):

New Jersey



South Dakota

New Hampshire






Moral of the story? I may think twice about letting my kids walk home from school in the big city, or even smaller places not exactly known for their idyllic it-takes-a-village mentalities. But on the whole, I think it may be time to rethink the importance of empowering our children—even young ones—and give them the chance to put into practice the things we’re teaching them.