28 August 2008

Forgetting a Child is a Crime

Mother's lives are hectic. Even if you are a stay-at-home mother of one, it is hard to keep on top of daily errands. Add on top of that another child, a full time job, a 20 minute commute, car maintenance, daycare arrangements, house payments, packing lunches, music lessons, homework, etc etc, and a mother quickly becomes overloaded.

I forget things all the time. Heck, I had to jump my car this morning because I left the lights on. Trust me, I know what it is to be forgetful. But, I know what my limits are, and I know for example that I cannot take-on freelance work these years when the kids are small. Each of our small decisions each day build upon each other to build our total life. We make decisions about whether we should eat fast food or a home-prepared meal, we decide how far to live from work, how many hours to work, how big of a house we can afford, watch TV or read a book, play with kids or do your taxes. And I don't want to forget to mention that these decisions are often made by both parents, and the fathers also share responsiblity here.

Both the Slaby and Edwards case were mothers apparently starting back to work after spending summer with their kids. Both worked full time. Both live in upper middle class neighborhoods far from their work. Both had SUVs with high seat backs that have more distance between the kids and the driver. Both had jobs in which they educate other people's children. To me, it is a cumulative effect of slightly bad decisions that put things or career ahead of their own children. Each is a small decision, but they added up to a scattered mind and a tragic accident. An accident that is a crime that should be prosecuted.

In the past 10 years, about 340 children have died of the heat after becoming trapped inside vehicles, according to an Associated Press analysis made in July. Prosecution and resulting penalties have varied widely.

Charges were filed in a little less than half the deaths. Of those that went to trial, 81 percent resulted in convictions or guilty pleas, and half of those brought jail sentences.
The NAACP believes that black mothers in similar situations have been charged. Nate Livingston said the same last year. I think I agree. Some mothers may have known the child was in the car, but thought they would be OK. To me, the distinction between neglect and forgetfulness is the same as that between one big bad decision and many smaller bad decisions. Both result in a dead baby, and both should be prosecuted. ...At least take it to court and make the case.


5chw4r7z said...

My wife and I were just talking about this the other night, if Edwards had been black, she'd be sitting in jail while all this was debated.
It should be manslaughter at least. If someone dies in your care, ultimately you are responsible.

Anonymous said...

Just have to post an agreement to this. It's the death of a child - and it's unfortunate that it may take the threat of jail time to get parents to start prioritizing the care of their children.

steve-o said...

Not wanting to discuss the thesis, but just some of the points.

Jodie Edwards did not have an SUV, rather a mini-van with a special "baby mirror" attached, I'm assuming a concave lens. A slight difference between the Slaby case, but a difference nonetheless.

Additionally, the highest level of paranoia I had when my daughter was younger was the reversed car seat. It bothered me that I had no idea whether she was awake or asleep or otherwise. I'm just wondering what the statistics look like in these cases since laws requiring infants to be in the back seat (as well as facing backwards) were enacted.

CityKin said...

I hated the rear-facing seat also. I had them switched around as early as they were able. I also sometimes had them in the front seat, because I had a truck with no rear seat, and no air bags. It was a much more enjoyable ride when you can glance at their face, and they can see out the window.

My guess is that the cases in which the child was completely forgotten when exiting the vehicle has increased substantially since these laws were enacted.

Quimbob said...

I am not a parent so I am kinda clueless on this. Maybe you parental types could explain.
Wouldn't it make sense for the day care place to call and ask where your kid is if you didn't drop him off or for you to call the day care place to tell them you would not be bringing the kid in that day ?
I would hate to see such a practice legislated but it seems like such a logical thing to my childless self.
FWIW, I have been known to leave work mid shift to check on my pets when I can't remember if I fed them before I left.

hellogerard said...

I am not a parent either, but have to disagree on this one. Edwards will suffer enough. Imprisoning her if she is found guilty will not help anyone, or get at the root cause, or reduce the likelihood of this happening again.

I do think that if it was a poor mother, she would have been (undeservedly) charged.

It seems like lives take on more and more and people have to work harder and harder to raise their families. I wonder if people didn't try or need to do this much 50 years ago.

bsherm said...

I have a lot of mixed emotions with this case. One point that makes zero sense to me is that passing a law would prevent either case. If both cases were the result of forgetful parents, how would a law help prevent the incident? Seems more a desire to feel good about punishing the responsible party afterwards.

I totally agree with Quim. My wife and I were discussing this the other night, and I wondered why the daycare wouldn't call to check when the child did not show up. I don't assign any responsibility for the tragedy to the daycare, but it would have most likely prevented these tragedies.

Mark Miller said...

The daycare center has no role in this tragedy.

Their job is to look after the children who are there with them. Parents frequently have last minute schedule changes, and many don't have the decency to call and let someone know.

The daycare's number one priority must be the kids who are present. Putting a caregiver on the phone for any length of time to chase down negligent parents diverts attention from the kids and compromises care.

I'm sorry, but 100% of the duty of getting kids to daycare rests on both parents. Once that happens, parents are allowed to forget about their kids for a while if they want to; until then it's a crime.

Unknown said...

Does anyone know if this is a new phenomenom of the last 10 years or so?? I don't remember hearing about these types of deaths before. What I'd really like to know is if either mom was on the cell phone while driving to work and if that was another distraction of the morning. I think we have multi-tasked ourselves into dangerous territory. And you're right, each individual has to set their own priority and boundary and not get herded along with the rest of the lemmings.

CityKin said...

I agree. I was thinking about distractions such as cell phones too. Younger people might not understand what we are saying, but not too long ago, drivers were much less distracted.

People just try to do to much.