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I Was (Apparently) A Neglected Child:

My home county of Arlington's Department of Human services has published what it calls "the minimal acceptable standards for the supervision of children developed by professionals in collaboration with the community." According to these guidelines, eight-year old children "Should not be left alone for any period of time. This includes leaving children unattended in cars, playgrounds, and yards." I not only played in my back yard unattended at age eight, but, if I remember correctly, was free to wander around my neighborhood unaccompanied by an adult so long as I came home before dark, and in New York City (Queens) no less. Somehow, I survived unscathed, as did each and every one of my peers.

[By the way, I'm not arguing over whether it's good practice to keep your eight-year-old supervised, I am instead arguing that its absurd to claim that allowing an eight-year-old to play in the yard unsupervised does not meet even a "minimal acceptable standard" for supervising children.]

UPDATE: I learned of this from a mother who was charged with criminal misconduct for leaving her child asleep in a car for five minutes while she ran an errand:

I left my daughter in the car to go into a store for a few minutes. Passerby's called the police. She had fallen asleep and I knew I'd be back in minutes and was unaware this is unlawful [because, as we shall see, it's not]. I was away approximately 5 minutes but the officer wrote a summons for me to appear in court.

Summons: I was charged with a Class 1 Misdemeanor, Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor. The officer had the discretion not to cite me but he did.

Case Outcome: My case will be dismissed if I complete a parenting class and 50 hours of community service.

VA Law: The VA General Assembly several times considered bills that would prohibit children being left in cars. This bill has not been passed in VA however, it has passed in other states. My lawyer told me in the Commonwealth of Virginia, they lump infractions into basically Misdemeanor or Felony. The trial proceeding determines the outcome. In my case, the section of law I was cited with 18.2.371 is a broad interpretation of rendering a child in need of services, in need of supervision, or abused or neglected. If it involved the temperature of the car too hot/cold then it could have been a more serious charge.

I think it was an abuse of the police officer's authority to have charged the mother with a crime when the Virginia legislature had specifically decided NOT to make the behavior in question a crime. Moreover, states that do have laws banning leaving children in cars usually specify that the child must be left alone for at least ten minutes. So the legislature failed to pass a law banning the action in question, and in jurisdictions that do ban it, the mother would still have been in compliance. Yet the "justice" system still charged her with a crime. Unbelievable.

Edmund Unneland (mail):
Same here, in Brooklyn (Bay Ridge, to be precise).
5.1.2009 2:50pm
jviss (mail):
Ditto, the Bronx.
5.1.2009 2:53pm
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):
Don't know about "unattended" ... my mom probably glanced out the window from time to time. She was unreasonable, according to the neighbors, b/c she wanted to be able to see us when we were outside - if we went into someone's house we had to let her know.

When I was very small, I rode my tricycle unttended, around and around in circles on the carport. It squeaked loudly, so my mom only had to check on me if the squeaking stopped.
5.1.2009 2:53pm
Uh_Clem (mail):
Standards have changed since we were kids. When I was eight, the solitary 20 mile walk barefoot through the snow to school was unremarkable.
5.1.2009 2:55pm
Johnny Canuck (mail):
raised in Toronto, from age 5 allowed to play up or down the block, unattended.
Except for the first day, walked to and from my elementary school, unaccompanied by any adult- there were 2 or 3 boys my age who usually walked together.

But that was before paranoia took over.
5.1.2009 2:58pm
Mac (mail):
Uh_Clem,

That was up hill to and from school, wasn't it?

Wait until Obama signs the UN treaty on children (can't think of the name off hand). All parents will become criminals at some point, at least if they try to exercise any control over their children.
5.1.2009 2:59pm
ChrisIowa (mail):
At eight I was taking the bus (unaccompanied) to swimming lessons. Riding my bicycle to the grocery store. Riding my bicycle to one park or another. Most of the time my mother had an idea of where I was, to within about a quarter mile.

It wasn't until I was 11 that I started catching cicada killers for sport.
5.1.2009 3:01pm
Wallace:

Somehow, I survived unscathed, as did each and every one of my peers.


Yeah, but did Queens survive the horde of 8 year olds?
5.1.2009 3:02pm
Kimball (mail):
Thank God we have the State to help us raise our children. It knows best.
5.1.2009 3:03pm
Constitutional Crisis (mail):
Your legal analysis is garbage. The legislature might not have passed the bill for any number of reasons, including that the acy was already a crime. and since when is legislative intent in not passing unrelated legislation relevant to interpreting the meaning of the statute at issue. similalry, your uncited resort to what may or may not be illegal un other jurisdictions is nothing more than creative writing. what about federalism? Strict construction? Law and order? Or do those only apply when you agree with the result?

To be clear, I am not saying you are incorrect in the ultimate conclusion that it was an abuse of discretion to cite her, only that you haven't supported your conclusion with anything resembling legal reasoning.
5.1.2009 3:06pm
Reasoner:
I had a hunting license by the time I was eight. Although of course my dad didn't let me hunt alone. And yes I was perfectly capable of conducting myself safely at the time, even if I had been alone. But then I was unusual. For example I was the only kid at my junior high that wore a bicycle helmet to school, and my parents didn't even make me.
5.1.2009 3:07pm
Constitutional Crisis (mail):
Pardon my typos. It's a blackberry.
5.1.2009 3:08pm
dmv (mail):
OT:

Obama discussing Souter, just got off phone with him.

Obama just rolled up in on press secretary's briefing unannounced.
5.1.2009 3:08pm
Tucker (mail):
This is incredibly unhealthy behavior for our society, to put it politely. We're so far down the slippery slope towards serfdom I wonder if we will be able to recover.
5.1.2009 3:09pm
Dan M.:
I wandered off in department stores all the time, was allowed to play in the woods, and travel to and from the neighbors as I pleased. I got a few nasty gashes requiring stitches playing outside before I was even 5, though, and got hit by a car when I was 7, and again at 16, so perhaps I'm not the best example.
5.1.2009 3:09pm
Uh_Clem (mail):
Of course it was uphill in both directions.

But in all seriousness, I walked to and from school unaccompanied (about a mile with snow a rarity) and wasn't expected to appear back home until 6pm for dinner. So did most other kids. That was the norm back in the 60s.

Today it's different, and the "norm" is over-reactive over-protective constant supervision. I don't think this is a good thing, and neither do the folks at Free Range Kids. I'm guessing that the pendulum may swing back...

And, BTW, Mac spare us the Obama/UN scare meme, unless you meant it as a joke.
5.1.2009 3:10pm
Reasoner:
Oh yea, just in case you were wondering, I took the helmet off when I arrived at school and got off my bike. :) In fact I usually took it off about 100 yards before getting to school because I was a little embarrassed about wearing it.
5.1.2009 3:11pm
Steve:
Well, I mean, I agree with the basic conclusion here, but I think it's pretty ridiculous to say a police officer abused his authority because he didn't take the legislative history into account.
5.1.2009 3:13pm
My Middle Name Is Ralph:
I never leave my 8-year-old twins unattended. They're always with the other wandering around the neighborhood.
5.1.2009 3:14pm
ShelbyC:
Hell, most of us over 35 or so have never been in a car seat. I guess were lucky to be alive.
5.1.2009 3:15pm
PersonFromPorlock:

Yet the "justice" system still charged her with a crime. Unbelievable.

Well, it is if you take 'justice system' seriously. Otherwise, not so much.
5.1.2009 3:16pm
bellisaurius (mail):
Well, there goes creating the next generation. I mean, if I can't get 20 minutes alone with the missus, since the kids "Should not be left alone for any period of time" makes it difficult. I sure as heck am not doing it with them in the room.

I guess that means sleep goes away too. Unless we take shifts. Pity the poor single parent on that one.

Let's assume the parents have common sense (even if we disagree about what an appropriate level of independence is), and if they don't, at least it cleans out the gene pool for the rest of the species.

God, nothing scares me more than when legislation is aimed "to help kids". It's like people have to run over other folks in their desire to appear the most "pro-family".
5.1.2009 3:17pm
Rhett (mail) (www):
The authorities should have to make inquiries into the maturity of the child too. Some eight-year-old children probably shouldn't be left alone for more than 15 minutes, but others could probably babysit.
5.1.2009 3:19pm
Michael Kessler:
I was just accosted the other day for leaving my apartment with my dogs (on a 60 degree day), putting them in the back of my car, and running back into my apartment to grab something. When I came back out, about 42 seconds later, a woman was irate. She threatened to call the police. I suggested that her diligence was misplaced and there was a clear difference between leaving pups in a car that was heated up, and loading the car on a cool day. That seemed to allay her fear (I almost told her to mind her own f*$#ing business, and the outcome might have been less cordial). There has to be some latitude given for reasonable people to secure the car and passengers (canine or child) for brief moments, vs. the appropriate reactions to negligent caretakers.
5.1.2009 3:21pm
stoshy (mail):
The "Nanny State" incarnate.
5.1.2009 3:23pm
Johnny Ryall:
I don't feel I know enough about this specific case or the legislative history to have an informed opinion. However, I will say that if you've ever lived in an urban area where there are hordes of unsupervised children running around from 3-7 every night you might realize that these laws aren't all bad. Needless to say, I live in such a place and wish more would be done about such neglect. I think the social costs are high enough to warrant the government involvement.
5.1.2009 3:24pm
ShelbyC:
And based on the post, the lady was charged with Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor? Is there anyone that can explain that to me?
5.1.2009 3:26pm
Careless:

But in all seriousness, I walked to and from school unaccompanied (about a mile with snow a rarity) and wasn't expected to appear back home until 6pm for dinner. So did most other kids. That was the norm back in the 60s.

Heck, it was the norm in the 80s in most of the country. I look at the elementary and junior high schools I went to and see empty bike racks, fat kids, and hundreds of people waiting in their cars to pick their kids up. Ridiculous amount of waste there.
5.1.2009 3:27pm
virginiaattorney (mail):
There has been a lot more reports to police about chlidren left in cars after recent cases in Fairfax and Prince William County where infants have been left in cars for very long periods of time and died. The police officers are now writing contributing summons and pass the issue over the Commonwealth's Office to take care of. I don't know a police officer who wants to be accused of not taking any child abandonment case seriously (even one like the update that is not serious). If something happens to the kid after the officer investigates, everyone would ask why he didn't do anything. Depending on your Judge and/or Commonwealth Attorney, you're looking at the charge being dropped, or a continued to be dismissed with parenting classes. There are plenty of judges in both juvenile courts and in the circuit courts in Northern Virginia who would convict a parent for leaving a juvenile in a car for almost any amount of time, so I can't call the summons an abuse of the officer's discretion. It's just stupid.
5.1.2009 3:28pm
Hannibal Lector:
Fifty years ago most normal kids had freedom to roam pretty much at will. But that was at least partly because almost every house in every neighborhood had 24-7 mothers/housewives who watched out for one anothers' kids (If one weren't watching her own, another was temporarily doing it for her.) The loss of this captive workforce was one unintended consequence of "women's lib" Another, as John Silber was roundly denounced for pointing out, was the loss of a highly skilled captive workforce which generated a large pool of truly extraordinary public school teachers.
5.1.2009 3:28pm
pete (mail) (www):

Hell, most of us over 35 or so have never been in a car seat. I guess were lucky to be alive.


Actually yeah. Most kids who die in car crashes now are not in car seats and car seats have probably saved thousands of children from death and even more from severe injury.

But to the greater point I agree. I leave my 2 year old unattended in our back yard evey once in a while. I am within earshot and check on him every couple of minutes, but he and sometimes his friends play alone in our back yard or at a friend's back yard. I would not leave my kid alone in a car like the woman did, but it is silly to charge here with a crime.
5.1.2009 3:29pm
B.A. Baracus (mail):
Parents of young children today seem far more protective than my parents or my peers' parents were when I was growing up. My friends with elementary-aged children would never let them walk to school unaccompanied the way my parents let me. And yet, despite what I perceive as a present trend of overprotectiveness of children, VA and other states still think they need to step in with "supplemental" legislation. I fear the road down which we are heading, where perfectly acceptable parenting that allows some independence in children gets lumped in with true and despicable forms of child abuse.
5.1.2009 3:31pm
FantasiaWHT:
I'm not that old, but I was running around in our neighborhood with other kids when I was 5, with no parents in sight. Not a tiny town either, although not a big city.
5.1.2009 3:31pm
Houston Lawyer:
Car seats, hell, the only reason we had seatbelts was because my dad drilled holes in the floor of the car to install them. All of the kids in my neighborhood growing up walked to school or rode their bikes. My siblings and I weren't allowed to ride our bikes until the 2nd grade.

One of the reasons drive-thru restaurants are so popular is that mom doesn't have to get out of the car and take the kids with her. I have left my sleeping infant in the car alone when I stepped into the convenience store at the gas station to get beer. I figure its actually safer for him to be in a locked car than for me to carry him across the traffic in the driveway.

Try spanking a kid in a public place if you want CPS at your door.
5.1.2009 3:36pm
ChrisIowa (mail):

However, I will say that if you've ever lived in an urban area where there are hordes of unsupervised children running around from 3-7 every night you might realize that these laws aren't all bad. Needless to say, I live in such a place and wish more would be done about such neglect. I think the social costs are high enough to warrant the government involvement.

Old fart can't get your peace and quiet? At least the hordes of unsupervised children aren't watching TV. How are children supposed to learn how to interact socially if they're supervised every minute of every day? They need some supervised study which you won't see because they're hidden in school or at home, but they need independent study to put the lessons into practice.
5.1.2009 3:37pm
Constitutional Crisis (mail):

And based on the post, the lady was charged with Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor? Is there anyone that can explain that to me?
Sure. Read the statute:

§ 18.2-371. Causing or encouraging acts rendering children delinquent, abused, etc.; penalty; abandoned infant.

Any person 18 years of age or older, including the parent of any child, who (i) willfully contributes to, encourages, or causes any act, omission, or condition which renders a child delinquent, in need of services, in need of supervision, or abused or neglected as defined in § 16.1-228...


There may be a legal defense based upon how "in need of services, in need of supervision, or abused or neglected as defined in 16.1-228" has been construed. But the poster has not deigned to examine the law.
5.1.2009 3:37pm
arthur:
Hell, most of us over 35 or so have never been in a car seat. I guess were lucky to be alive.

Yes we are lucky to be alive, and I am in particular. My brother isn't, but probably would have been if carseats existed in 1955.
5.1.2009 3:37pm
NickM (mail) (www):
Bureaucrats and politicians "[s]hould not be left alone for any period of time".

There. Fixed the statute.

Nick
5.1.2009 3:40pm
Dan M.:
The laws are bad because they infringe on our freedom. The state should not be passing arbitrary unenforceable laws "for the children."

They just pass these laws as a pretense at caring, and then abuse them to steal children away from poor people to get more funding for their departments.

One day police departments will be able to raise funds by using malls as 'bad parenting traps.'
5.1.2009 3:41pm
J.T. Wenting (mail):
"Hell, most of us over 35 or so have never been in a car seat. I guess were lucky to be alive."

I may be alive because there were no childseats in the 1970s.

My dad got into a serious crash with me in the backseat. I (or so I was told years later by my mother) slid in between the front and rear seats, which prevented me from being crushed to death.
So a lack of childseats and safety belts probably saved my life back in 1974.

Which might be a statistical blip, but requiring child seats for 12 year olds because it might save a single child's life once in a decade is also a statistical blip.

As to being unsupervised. With 2 acres of garden and living in the country with a hundred acres of farmland and a similar amount of forest surrounding the house, there was no chance my parents could ever keep eyes on me 24/7 unless they shackled me to a wall which would have been a crime back then (and maybe still is).
5.1.2009 3:51pm
Splunge:
Depending on the circumstances, it might have been quite reasonable for the policeman to do something. One of the reasons our parents trusted us out alone by ourselves 25 years ago is that they trusted that any random nearby adult would exercise a certain degree of parental authority if necessary. If a cop or neighbor saw us doing something naughty, he'd interfere and maybe bring us home for a lecture.

So there's nothing a priori wrong about a little community involvement. If mom here was leaving her 1 year old strapped in the car seat, asleep, while she dashed into the store, that would indeed be a bit unwise. What if she's delayed? Slips on a wet floor on the way out, sprains her ankle? At the least, that 5 minutes will stretch out to 20 or 30 before she can get back to the car, or send someone there. Even if nothing evil happens (sun, hot car) it could be a terrifying experience for a 1-year-old to wake and find himself strapped in and apparently abandoned for half an hour. On the other hand, if we're talking about a 7 year old, who already knows where her mom's going and can be sensible enough if mom doesn't get back for a little longer than she expects, it would be silly.

The problem is the heavy-handedness here. If the cop knew her, knew the neighborhood, and just said Hey Mrs. Foo, I see you've left little Jenny in the car seat while you ran into the drugstore. Can I just speak to you about that? You know, we have to go through this training in the academy, and they showed us some films...I realize this is a rare possibility, but have you thought about what might happen if you were a little delayed getting back? It's happened to others. Let me just suggest you think this out a little more, okay?

If Mrs. Foo is at all reasonable, a little light reminder or caution, delivered with all due respect for her responsibility, and for the burdens of motherhood, would probably go a long way. Certainly has the best chance of actually changing her behaviour while not embittering and angering her so that the damage done to the civic contract far exceeds the potential harm to the child.

I dunno why things work that way nowadays, in most aspects of parenting. We are involved, as a community, in the parenting of other children it seems in only the most cloddish and ineffectual ways, whatever our intentions. Regrettable in the extreme. You can see why other cultures think we're idiots.
5.1.2009 3:56pm
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):
Well, I personally don't care what other cultures think. I think some other cultures are idiotic but I doubt they care.

But I fully agree about the age of the child. My mom left us in the car ALL THE TIME to go into the store, or wherever. I usually had my head in a book. I think it's fine if the kid knows where the mom is and can get herself out of the car if needed. It's not fine for a child small enough to be in danger if she gets out of the car, or too small to get herself out.
5.1.2009 4:00pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
I let my older son (almost 5) play in the backyard unattended. I have let him do that since he was about 4.

No summons yet..... Heck once and a while we have even had to make quick errands with the 9-month-old asleep in his crib.

Also, my wife worries when my son goes outside on a cold day without a coat. My response? "He'll be back, don't worry."
5.1.2009 4:06pm
Yep (mail):
My wife was recently informed by a --noted legal scholar and-- parking enforcement employee that she could "go to jail" for allowing our 4 year old to cross the street. Residential street, no oncoming traffic-- just allowing a 4 year old to walk from the vehicle to the sidewalk.

She committed the terrible crime of carrying a 1 year old and bags of groceries at the same time.
5.1.2009 4:10pm
Corkie the Dog (www):
There's a movement dealing with issues such as these — "free range kids." Check out the website:

http://freerangekids.wordpress.com/

Sincerely,
Corkie the Dog
5.1.2009 4:10pm
wfjag:
Pretty soon we'll be in sync with the land of George Orwell -- you can't let your kids out of your site, but you also can't stop while driving to keep them alive:


Mother given parking ticket "for reviving her severely disabled son"
A mother who says she stopped her car on a pavement to revive her profoundly disabled son, was given a £100 parking ticket.

By Andrew Alderson, Chief Reporter
Last Updated: 5:50PM GMT 21 Mar 2009

Penny Batkin, 40, says that Richmond Council has refused to back down over the fine despite receiving a letter of explanation from her, supported by her GP.

She says she was taking her son, Freddie, 4, to the Shooting Star children's hospice in Hampton when he began gasping for breath and turning blue.

Mrs Batkin, who has three children, was unaware that she had been captured by traffic wardens who were patrolling the area in a CCTV camera car.

Mrs Batkin, from Hampton Wick, near Richmond, south-west London, said her son is unable to walk or talk and has frequent seizures. "I was so furious when I got the letter. I could hear him gasping in the back seat. My immediate reaction was to pull over and deal with him. I had to release him from the rear passenger seat and resuscitate him. I was away from the busy traffic on a wide pavement and would not have restricted anyone walking past."

The council's appeals' officer quoted a section of the Highway Code in a written response to her letter. It related to parking on the pavement and the official insisted it had been unnecessary to park there.

Mrs Batkin said it had been "rude and insulting" to quote the Highway Code in the letter. "I hadn't parked. I had stopped to deal with an emergency situation," she insisted.

Richmond Aid, a disability advice charity, has taken up the case. A spokeswoman said: "It is absolutely shocking to discover that Richmond Council's parking office cannot find it in their hearts to rescind a parking fine incurred by a desperate mother who had no choice if she was to save the life of her child. We are so appalled we struggle to find the words."

available at www.telegraph.co.uk
5.1.2009 4:11pm
Hans Bader (mail):
This is horrifying example of political correctness run amok. Especially to me, as an Arlington resident. Truly, the inmates are running the asylum in Arlington these days.

I spent hours outside unattended as a 4-8 year old, when growing up, going up and down the street and playing in the woods, and all it did was make me more physically fit.

But now my parents could have been hauled up on child neglect charges.

I live in Arlington, and my neighbors let their kids play in their backyards unattended all the time. Can CPS now abduct the kids under a child-neglect theory?

Disgusting.
5.1.2009 4:21pm
Virginian:
This woman was arrested for leaving her sleeping child in a locked car while she walked 30 feet away (but still within sight of the car) to put money in a Salvation Army kettle.
5.1.2009 4:28pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Actually, there is some evidence that keeping kids in rear-facing carseats in the back seat increases the chance that they will be accidently forgotten there and die of heat stroke. I am not sure at this point if we know whether all the child carseat laws have a net benefit or not regarding loss of life of children in cars.

Maybe the negligent folks are the ones pushing for these laws?
5.1.2009 4:28pm
Spartacus (www):
I now live in a rural area. My son has played unattended in both the back and front yeards since he knew to avoid the street (which, on a 1/3 acre lot, most of which is in front, is not too hard), which was at about 2 1/2. I walked to and from school, 1/2 mile, in Brooklyn (Bay Ridge), since I was 7. Started taking the subway to Manhattan alone when I was 10. And this was in the 70s. Anyone who thinks NYC was safer in the 70s than it is today is wrong. It is pure paranoia. I havew had people tell me they would call CPS if they saw me with my child not in a car seat, or without a seat belt. People need to mind their business. Not only didn;t we have car seats, I was actually actively discouraged from wearing a seat belt when I was a child. Irresponsible? Sure. Abuse, or even neglect? Not even close.
5.1.2009 4:31pm
David Larsomn (mail):
"arthur:
Hell, most of us over 35 or so have never been in a car seat. I guess were lucky to be alive.

Yes we are lucky to be alive, and I am in particular. My brother isn't, but probably would have been if carseats existed in 1955."

Well Arthur, I'm sorry about your brother and glad you made it. But why stop at mandating car seats? Why don't we just go ahead and outlaw cars while we're at it? Think of all the lives we could save....
5.1.2009 4:34pm
Kazinski:
I never let my children wander around our suburban neighborhood unattended until they were at least 10. But it had more to do with bears, cougars, coyotes, and abandoned mine shafts than typical suburban and city hazards.
5.1.2009 4:38pm
Yep (mail):
Growing up in rural America in the 80's, I didn't know a single kid that didn't ride in the back-end of a 'pickup' truck on at least a few occassions.

I'm not a libertarian, I love the site but think most of the prevailing philosophy here is kind of silly. But whatever breeds this philosophy that children cannot be exposed to anything without-- not just supervision but-- direct control, must be stopped.

Btw, this is not a new-- look at post yesterday about how the FCC needs to 'protect children' from the horrors of the word "shit".

Certainly this has evolved to where people think parents should be thrown in jail for going inside to pay for gas, or allowing pre-school aged children walk across the street, etc etc.
5.1.2009 4:38pm
pintler:

If mom here was leaving her 1 year old strapped in the car seat, asleep, while she dashed into the store, that would indeed be a bit unwise. What if she's delayed? Slips on a wet floor on the way out, sprains her ankle?


What if, what if, what if ... what if, instead of leaving him safely in the car, she gets him out, and slips on the ice while carrying him, and the fall kills him?

While not all parents are good parents, there is pretty intense evolutionary pressure towards making sure your kids survive. On the balance, parents will make better parenting decisions that legislatures.
5.1.2009 5:19pm
Dan M.:
Our whole Little League team rode in the back of a pickup to go get ice cream. I'm only 26 and I never rode in any sort of booster seat or kids' car seat.

I was technically under supervision of my teenage brother when I ran in front of a car and would have likely done the same thing if I'd been walking with either of my parents.

I think we need to accept that tragedies sometimes happen and not radically alter the liberties of families everywhere.
5.1.2009 5:20pm
DennisN (mail):
@ Yep


the FCC needs to 'protect children' from the horrors of the word "shit".


Reminds me of the last time my grandson pompously (as only a kid can be pompous) reminded me that I had used a "bad word."

He got sent out with a shovel and a bucket to clean the "bad word" out of the dog yard. It's fun to be a curmudgeon, sometimes.
5.1.2009 5:31pm
Laura(southernxyl) (mail) (www):
Things can happen to kids no matter what the parents do. One takes reasonable precautions and hopes for the best.

I called the child abuse hotline once in Memphis because my neighbor's 2-yr-old was in the street. The first time I saw him I took him home, rang the doorbell, and told his mom that she really needed to keep him out of the street. The second time I got him out of the street and then dropped a dime. Perhaps this will offend hard-core libertarians, but I think you do have to draw the line somewhere.
5.1.2009 5:33pm
rosetta's stones:

So there's nothing a priori wrong about a little community involvement.


No, there isn't, but it's best if people don't leave kids alone in cars, too. My friend's 2 year old nephew was killed when left unattended in a car equipped with automatic windows. Yes, the unthinkable happened with that window, and they found him like that. A fluke, and today cars are likely failsafed against that, but the only failsafe is attention, and even that sometimes doesn't work, I guess. I ran loose when younger like many of you, and probably coulda bought it any number of times, in any dozen of ways.

The quote says passersby called the cops, who arrived and then dealt with her. So, it was a few minutes at least that she was gone, enough to draw attention. I might agree that a few words from the cop would go a long way, and I wouldn't favor a citation unless the cop finds she's clearly not getting it.

I left my dog in my truck once, on a hot summer day, and ran into the hardware. I knew it'd be only "2 minutes", and it was, but sure enough there was an elderly lady waiting for me next to my truck, very cross with me. I agreed with her, tucked tail and left. She was right.
5.1.2009 5:36pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):

Well Arthur, I'm sorry about your brother and glad you made it. But why stop at mandating car seats? Why don't we just go ahead and outlaw cars while we're at it? Think of all the lives we could save....


To keep things in perspective, cars killed more people than terrorists in September of 2001.

Furthermore, I wonder whether fewer people would die in flu season if automobiles were outlawed.......

So really, we could save the lives of children, the elderly, and pretty much everyone else by outlawing this particular device which poses a pernicious danger to human life!
5.1.2009 5:39pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Rosetta Stones:

My friend's 2 year old nephew was killed when left unattended in a car equipped with automatic windows. Yes, the unthinkable happened with that window, and they found him like that.


Actually being in the car isn't as much protection as one would think. If kids get choked by the automatic windows, often times they can't talk, scream, etc. I don't have fatality statistics but I have heard of a number of surprising close calls even when the parent was in the car.

Regarding power windows, what is needed is to be close enough to hear the sound of the window, have no districtions (like the radio), and be paying attention. In those cases, really the only thing you might hear might be the sound of the window motor.
5.1.2009 5:44pm
BT:
I don't have kids and I am in my early 50s so there is a good chance that I am out of touch with what constitutes normal behavior these days, but the guy accross the street was tossing a football around with his 9 year old son and the kid had his bike helmet on. It just seemed strange to me. At that age, we played tackle football all the time with no helmets. It also looked as if the kid had never handled a football before. It is a different world.
5.1.2009 5:55pm
ShelbyC:

Regarding power windows, what is needed is to be close enough to hear the sound of the window, have no districtions (like the radio), and be paying attention. In those cases, really the only thing you might hear might be the sound of the window motor.



Don't most automatic windows have a lock mechanism controlled by the driver?
5.1.2009 6:01pm
JeffE (mail):
I remember one summer evening when I was about 11, standing in the middle of the road in the quasi-rural suburban neighborhood where I grew up, with a paper bag full of fireworks and a bunch of like-minded 11- and 12-year-olds. I had a lit candle, which we were all using to light bottle rockets and firecrackers and roman candles and fire them into the air/street/nearby yards. Every so often a car would drive up, one of us would yell "CAR!" and we'd get out of the way. Then a policeman drove up, stopped by the candle, and asked what we were doing. "Shooting fireworks," I told him. The cop asked "Your folks know you're out here?" I said "Yes, sir." He nodded, said "Okay, you be careful now," and drove off. The end.

If my kid did that now, 30 years later, I'm sure I'd be hauled off to Gitmo.
5.1.2009 6:04pm
levisbaby:
I suspect that "I just left the child there for 5 minutes" ranks right up there with "It ain't my dope" as all-time most popular excuses given to police officers.
5.1.2009 6:13pm
Dan7:
It's not the "justice system" that failed her. It's her attorney. Cops and prosecutors will always over-charge everyone, and it's the defense bar's duty to bring those charges back down. Unfortunately, that system only works if we have well-funded public defenders and/or competent and reasonably-priced (but not overworked) private defense attorneys.
In this case, she was convicted of a crime that, as a matter of law, she didn't commit. It should have been an easy win, but her attorney didn't make it happen. I've heard too many stories like this and I am not sure what the solution is.
5.1.2009 6:13pm
CheckEnclosed (mail):
So, the idea is that if the child were left standing next to the car then that would have been better? (Or maybe if chained securely to the nearest lamp-post).
5.1.2009 6:27pm
Splunge:
What if, what if, what if ... what if, instead of leaving him safely in the car, she gets him out, and slips on the ice while carrying him, and the fall kills him?

Or what if a freak meteor strike kills them both, plus everyone else within 40 meters of the car? The point you may be missing is that not all risks are equally risky, and some are avoidable and some are not. In some cases leaving your kid in the car is a perfectly reasonable very small risk. In others, it's not. It takes judgment to sort them out, and usually experience.

While not all parents are good parents, there is pretty intense evolutionary pressure towards making sure your kids survive. On the balance, parents will make better parenting decisions that legislatures.

Without doubt. But who's talking about legislatures, eh? I'm talking about the personal experienced judgment of other adults, normally other parents. We all start off being parents with good instincts, thanks to evolution, except for those of us who are pathological, but that doesn't fully carry the day. Experience matters.

And so the point of my post was that the community has much more experience than any one individual, and it's a good and useful thing if that experience is used to help new parents out, not just in advice for doing what's good, but in warnings about doing what's not good. I think it makes sense for a 50-year-old parent of four who sees a 22-year-old with her first baby doing something a little dumb to speak up, so long as it's done with due respect and sufficient informality.

It is precisely this kind of personal contact that can actually be a useful form of community involvement, that famous fatuous goal of the squishy left. It can save children and families from a certain number of tragedies that would ensue if we lived in either in the egoist's paradise, where no one interacts with anyone except by invitation, or the collectivist's paradise, where all interactions are moderated by the giant all-powerful State.

The difficulty in this case, as I said, as I see it, is not the community involvement, but the incompetent and futile form in which it took. If this woman needed a warning about unnecessarily risky behaviour -- and she may or may not, you'd have to know much more about the situation and the woman and the child to know for sure -- then it would be fine to have given it to her. But not, I think, in the way it was given. That clearly did not accomplish anything useful.
5.1.2009 6:32pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
I'm a little older than David, and my Queens upbringing tracks his. From age 5 I usually walked home from school alone. By 13 I was finding my way home from Saturday morning classes I took in upper Manhattan. What's remarkable about this is only that it was so normal. Every kid in the neighborhood was out playing (in my neighborhood mostly football) adult-free, until dark. My parents were, if anything, more protective than most.

I think these laws are big democratic government at its worst, but they're the natural result of social norms that are big, electronic-age society at its worst. In short, we perceive our world too much through the distorted lens of reported news, and then we act on those perceptions. And as they say in the news business, "If it bleeds, it leads."

School shooting? Ban guns. Sensational child rape-murder? Enact Megan's laws and never let your kids out of the house. Terrorists blow up the World Trade Center? Sacrifice more lives than were lost that day, plus a couple of trillion dollars, trying to prevent it from recurring.

In those cases, the government is largely responding to what it perceives as popular demand. And that demand is perfectly rational if we don't contextualize reported news with our experiences in the local worlds we actually inhabit.
5.1.2009 6:39pm
Public_Defender (mail):
I hate arguing like a prosecutor, but. . .

It might be wrong to blame the beat cop here. He may only be enforcing what he was told to enforce, especially given the policy of local child protective services. Cops don't have unlimited discretion. They generally must follow departmental policies. That means your gripe is probably with the cop's supervisors and/or with Child Protective Services. If you want change, you have to complain to the right people.

Also, the statute (available here) is broad enough that this is probably (and unfortunately) a jury question. The statute makes it a crime to leave a child "in need of services [or] in need of supervision. . . ." If the prosecutor can get testimony that an eight year old left alone in a car is "in need of services [or] in need of supervision," the case goes to the jury. And, unfortunately, it looks like the prosecutor could get that kind of testimony in Arlington.

Also, there is no rule of statutory construction that says that a general law is inapplicable to a specific situation if the legislature is considering a bill specifically outlawing that situation. As to laws in other jurisdictions, that's an OK argument, but I wouldn't want to hang my hat on an interstate version of expressio unius est exclusio alterius (the express mention of one thing excludes all others).

All that said, Bernstein is right as a matter of common sense. Unfortunately, "that's just stupid" is not a legal defense to a charge that the prosecutor won't dismiss.

If his correspondent wants to challenge the application of the law to what she did, she has the right to take it to trial, maybe even a jury trial. That's the key check against prosecutorial stupidity. "That's just stupid" sometimes does work with a jury, especially a jury of parents who think, "there but for the grace of God go I." I can see why she would give in and take the classes. I might advise a client to do the same thing because of the risk of a conviction. But it's her choice.

On a somewhat related note, fellow defense attorneys have advised me not to take my kid to the local children's hospital. They say the doctors there lack the judgment to distinguish between a normal accident of childhood or unorthodox parenting on one side, and true neglect or abuse on the other. Worse, once the doctors get their mind set that it's abuse, nothing will change it. So you take your kid there at least some risk.
5.1.2009 6:45pm

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