Monday, May 23, 2011

That's Not Neglect

A two year old wanders away from a campsite. The parents notify police, and child is found 30 minutes later. They are charged with child neglect.

Unless they were passed-out drunk and didn't notice he was gone for hours, it is hard to see where a lost child equals neglect. Children can move pretty quickly, wander off, etc. and if there were other children being watched it seems like a pretty common enough thing. Hell, I used to get lost at Marshall Fields when shopping with my mother, deliberately (lost kids at Marshall Field's got candy (Frangos!) and sometimes ice cream if you were going to be waiting a while).

If there is more to the story than what is being printed, that they cannot print for some reason, then it calls into question this practise of having people pilloried in the newspaper long before they get anywhere near a courtroom. Even if the charges are dropped, or it is tossed out of court, the parents still have a record of having been charged with child neglect. A couple weeks ago it was an eight year old girl who lost track of her parents at church and went to wait for them in the car. The parents thought she was sitting with friends, the police were called alerted to an eight year old sitting alone in a car, (which we always did at that age) because that's obviously a neglected child.

I'm always amazed when they charge parents of toddlers that wander out of the house as everyone is asleep. If you locked them in the bedroom, that would be abuse, but if your child defeats the safety lock (which isn't hard to do) you're a criminal. All these absurd charges factor into the 'crime" statistics so that when agencies charged with investigating abuse feel threatened by budget cuts, all they need do is roll out the numbers of "neglected" children they need to save.

I wonder how long it will be before someone markets a baby-type sling for older children so you can wear them on your back, lest they wander off in the supermarket and you're thrown into the legal system for letting go of their hand for 30 seconds.

I can't wait to see how these kids turn out when they need help crossing the street at the age of forty because their parents feared a neglect charge for letting them look both ways and proceed in a timely fashion. Besides, you never know if everyone else walking down the street has been properly vetted-why, they could be criminals! They might have had a child get lost at some park.

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