Just the other day I came across an article on CBS about a mom who left her sleeping infants in the car while she ran into a local CVS to drop off a prescription. The prescription was for her infant son, who had been up for about 24 hours in the emergency room, ill with an ear infection. This was the first time he had fallen asleep since being ill. Apparently, she forgot to put her car in park, leaving it in neutral, and while in the store her car began to roll across the parking lot. Subsequently, she has been arrested, her children removed, and she is facing jail time. To some, this mom’s actions may seem completely absurd, and on the one hand I can understand that view. To others. what she did was totally okay. Judging by the comments posted in response, most thought she was unjustly arrested and posed the point that it is not against the law to leave your kids unsupervised. While this is true, I have to say that part of me agrees with the action taken against her.
As a mother of small children, I can totally empathize with her and her state of mind. Ironically that same day, I was thinking to myself, “Gee I really have to run into the store to get some milk. I could probably do it when I pick my older children up from school so they can all stay in the car together while I run in.” And that is certainly not the first time I have done that. See I live in the suburbs, parking lots are common. Parking right in front of the door of smaller stores happens all the time. When I lived in NYC, I never dreamed of leaving my kids in the car as I would have had to park ridiculously far away, but in NJ its very different. With the time it takes me to get all my kids out of the car and into a store, I could easily run in and take care of whatever I have to. Now understand, I only do it when my older children are in the car and ALWAYS equip one of them with a cell phone just in case. But yes I am guilty of leaving my kids in the car whether to run into a store or to pick one of them up from school, and I’ve been doing it for some time now. And no I’m not ashamed to admit that. But, as I mentioned I always ensure that there are measures in place….just in case. Perhaps this is because I’m a bit paranoid about the authorities being notified that I’ve left my kids in the car.
Before going out on maternity leave, I worked as a child welfare professional. I investigated allegations of abuse and neglect of children and had a case somewhat similar to this. In that case, the mom left her four children all under the age of five, alone in her car which was parked in a Home Depot parking lot while she went into the store to use the bathroom. Coincidentally, her boyfriend also worked in the store and she happened to stop to have a 20 minute conversation with him. It also happened to be a February night in which the temperatures dipped significantly and she left her car and the heat off. As with the mom from NJ, the police were notified, her kids were removed, and she was arrested.
Here’s my point, and after reading the comments posted in response to this article, it’s important that people understand where this NJ mom went wrong. No it isn’t illegal or against the law to leave your kids unsupervised, BUT it is poor judgement and probably exposing them to the threat of serious harm if you don’t put in place measures to ensure that they are safe when doing so. For example, leaving your car in neutral while you ran into the store, although probably an honest mistake, still placed those children in danger. Leaving four children in a car in February with no heat for 20 minutes placed those children in danger. Just like leaving your children at home who have no idea as to how dial 911 if needed places them in danger. The job of any child welfare professional is to determine whether or not this children were placed in danger or whether the actions of the parent could have placed the child in danger. In this case I would have to agree with the authority’s actions, but that doesn’t mean she is a bad mom so to speak, just one who made a really bad mistake. And as a mom, we all do it.
Original article can be found at http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2012/05/22/nj-mom-charged-with-endangerment-says-leaving-twins-in-car-was-lapse-of-judgment/