Interesting Topic

Cutie Pie is a local kids consignment store in Hood River. Since we’re on the mailing list, I just got this email from the owner…

Dear Parents in and around Hood River; Customers, Colleagues, Friends and Acquaintances,

I am asking for your feedback in response to a citation I received while parked outside my store (Cutie Pie Consignment) on Aug. 14. I was in a hurry and left Elaina with the AC running on a hot day while I ran in to get her life vest before driving to Lost Lake. The length of time I was away from the car did not exceed 2 minutes. My Colleague Delona Campos- Davis at Small Planet Trading had clear view of my car and acknowledged she was watching Elaina. My car caught the attention of our neighborhood parking enforcement officer and though I had returned before any action had been taken, the police were called and I received a charge of Child Neglect and Endangerment in the Second Degree (a misdemeanor that if guilty would remain on my record impacting my career as a Social Worker and Teacher). Regardless of numerous letters of support provided from child professionals in the community on my behalf, the District Attorney Carrie Rasmussen has not yet considered the specifics of my case and a trial is scheduled for January 25. The proceedings have already required me to be booked, (handcuffed, searched, photographed, released) investigated by Child Protective Services, to hire an attorney at $200 an hour, and appear in court several times without yet having any opportunity to respond to the charges, creating a substantial hardship.

As a Parent your response is very important and relevant to this case. It may help communicate to District Attorney that the incident does not rise to the level of Criminal Neglect, in hopes that she may reconsider having a trial, costly to both me and the tax payer. Below are details of the law demonstrating why I am asking for your reply.

The law is written to give police discretion, allowing them to take into consideration the environment and circumstances at the scene. The charge I received of Child Endangerment is defined as “leaving a child under 10, with Criminal Negligence, unattended, for a period of time that may endanger the health or welfare of the child”. It is important to note that “Criminal Negligence” is when “the person fails to be aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk, and the failure to be aware of it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in a situation”. Please note there is no law specifying leaving a child in a car. In this case the police officer was adamant my actions of leaving Elaina in her car seat, with the AC running on a hot day (95+), less than two minutes placed her at serious risk of child abduction by a car thief or sex offender in Hood River and is something a reasonable parent would never do. (His words). Further discussion lead him to clarify that no reasonable parent would leave their child unattended in a car seat, even momentarily in their own driveway.

I believe in this case an important law was misused and that as a community, where police work with citizens to uphold the law, we can do better than this. Parents need to be better understood when enforcing laws. I am not condoning leaving a child in a car, but as I tried to reason with the officer, I believe on rare occasion “it happens” and it is the rare parent who has not on at least on one occasion done so. I pass through this block on average 6 times per day, walking and by car. I know this community as well as any. I believe the risk were not as grave as described. If they are, then as a community we are failing to provide sufficient information and guidance to parents. I could have been offered an alternative to receiving a citation, leading to educating me as a parent and being supportive of other parents who may face a similar dilemma, without risking my financial well being in already unsteady times.

If you would please respond to this inquiry by emailing me at erikadoring@gorge.net and stating:

1. Whether or not you have ever left your child unattended in a parked car under any circumstance, for any length of time (provide details if you like).
2. Your name, the town you live in.
3. Other pertinent information or opinion you wish to share.
4. Please forward this email to other parents and ask them to respond to my inquiry.

The letters collected will be used only to represent to the Attorney a sample illustrating what is reasonable knowledge (what in general is a parent’s experience).

In addition I would advocate a police response that is in balance with the actions of a parent who makes a similar error be created. I have absolutely nothing but the well-being of children in our community as well as my own child’s best interest in mind. I am a solo parent and sometimes take the path of least resistance. I could have been offered a warning, education to the real yet largely unknown safety risk in our community. I could offer, or be offered parent training and public service information relevant to this type of action. I am hoping to follow up in a way that improves the communication between the officers involved and parents. Hopefully other good parents who make a similar decision will not have the grave misfortune of being put through the costly legal process unnecessarily.

Thank you for your time and consideration in this very personal and important matter. Please feel free to ask any questions, I am happy to share additional information.

Erika Doring,
Small Business Owner and Operator, Cutie Pie Consignment,
Full Time Parent, Licensed Teacher, Certified Social Worker

I’d love to hear what people think about this. I’m writing an email for her and will post it here soon.

Wow -loving the comments. I feel basically the same way. I’m terrified of leaving Gus alone in the car but feel like the police in this case are way out of line. Anyway, here’s what I wrote back to her:

Dear Erika.

I hope we can help.

We have a 2.5 year old and we live on an orchard in Mosier. Since he’s our first and only child, I am borderline obsessive about his protection. When the weather was agreeable, we used to regularly leave him sleeping in his car seat in the car parked in the driveway just outside the door. We would place a monitor in the car to hear when he woke up and would regularly look at him from the windows.

It’s true that technically someone could have taken him in this situation but the same is also true of him sleeping in his own room at night. In both cases, we have taken reasonable precautions against an extremely rare and unlikely occurrence.

Odds of a child being kidnapped and held or killed by a stranger are 1 in 347,000. They are 10x more likely to be killed in a motor vehicle crash. And 100x more likely to be injured in a car crash. Given those numbers, is it negligent to drive with your child in the car? Perhaps one day, it will be. But not today.

Another study conducted in 1999 by the National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Throwaway Children or NISMART, found that in over 70% of stranger kidnapping victims were taken from outdoor areas like parks and playgrounds, and 7% were taken from public buildings like shopping malls. Is it neglect if you take your child to a playground and turn your attention away for two minutes to, say, attend to a crying sibling?

It’s also interesting to consider that 40 years ago we had the same number of child predators that we do now and yet it was perfectly normal for my Mother in Law to leave her sleeping infant in the car in the parking lot of the grocery store. Or to breast feed while driving. These things are not black & white. They are subjective and change over time.

We could easily see ourselves doing what you did since you had a friend watching from the window of Small Planet Trading mere feet away. It is chilling to think of this action being defined as Criminal Neglect.

Sincerely,
Emily Reed
Charles Young

14 thoughts on “Interesting Topic

  1. I know that there are tragic instances where babies die in cars when left unattended, but in this case, her friend was probably closer to her child than I am sometimes in my own house.

  2. i agree. certainly wouldn’t encourage doing it for any longer than a minute or two, or when you can’t see them, but the laws are so impractical.

    Not being allowed to even go pay for petrol while leaving them in the car?

    So waking a sleeping baby/child and dragging them past various cars (as well as all sorts of confectionery type temptations) is so much safer?

    How about when you have 2 or more and they start running in front of the cars? Especially if you actually need to buy milk or more, and carry it too..

    Personally it drives me crazy and I often left Daniella in there for the minute it took to pay (not anymore – she demands to help with the petrol!)

  3. Perhaps it isn’t relevant, but how old is Elaina?

    On the face of it I am very sympathetic to Erika plight. I think she is right in her thinking and is not only fighting her current personal battle but sees a place where some improvement should happen between enforcement and caregivers of small children.

    Nicky and Karen make excellent points. I would certainly have lost custody of my kids if that particular enforcer had ever ventured into my realm while raising my kids.

    I’d like to hear how this plays out.

  4. I also would have a long criminal record. But I have to agree with one of the points that the police officer made. How many times are children abducted and the parent says…”I was just gone for a minute.” Scary. I think I will change some of my “neglectful” ways. I’m sorry she is experiencing this and hope the judge is a reasonable person.

  5. This is utterly ridiculous.

    I regularly leave my kids in the car (not on a hot day), to dash in and pay for petrol as long as I can see them. The heavy handling of this issue is out of control.

    And I’ll point out that children are very, very rarely abducted.

    I think Lenore Skenazy at
    http://freerangekids.wordpress.com/

    puts this very well.

  6. Within the paranoid America we live in and in many ways promote it is a well deserved ticket.

    You cannot both have precious snowflake syndrome and not accept the police for enforcing precious snowflake protecting laws.

  7. Of course we could make it legal to kidnap children if you can get them within that minute window of opportunity. I say this is a workable solution.

  8. I recall a similar case in Beaverton where the mother was putting change/money in the xmas donation “Salvation Army” bucket at Fred Meyer (I think). She got out of her car, which was parked in temp parking in front of the bucket, and she could see her child in her car but did step away to put money in the bucket, and she was arrested! I tried to find the press coverage because it seemed to be on the news a lot. I think it was 3 years ago. Anyway, when I saw that on the news, I became very aware of what could happen. I agree that an arrest is over kill. I think we can spend better time educating parents that this is even a risk to the child and the family. Get a warning the first time. That seems reasonable to me. Otherwise, I think many parents would think that that is a safe and reasonable thing to do, to leave their child for a minute. I would try to use that policeman’s own words to define what is reasonable. The response to what was an innocent action is UNREASONABLE. I think a warning and education/class is reasonable response. The law needs to be changed. Policemen also need to have some sort of common sense!

  9. Perhaps the cop has dealt with the tragic consequences of another parent stepping away from the child in the car “for less than two minutes”.

    Give that the law allows police discretion, I would think there is a reason why this particular policeman chose to go the extreme. (I take it the parking officer who called the police had similar concerns? Or was he calling for back-up to issue a parking citation?) As much as we might think it extreme, do I understand correctly that the policeman is within the law to do what he did? And your friend can make her defence in court, right? The judge can note the specifics of her case and make a decision about an appropriate penalty?

    For the record, I would wake the child and take him or her with me, no matter how quick the errand. The idea of walking away from a vehicle containing only my son, for any length of time, is enough to give me cold horrors. In my opinion, a friend watching from a nearby shop isn’t going to move fast enough to stop the worst from happening. And yes, I’m also a single parent who doesn’t usually have someone to wait with my son, while I pop out to do whatever for a minute.. I’m weird, I guess.

  10. Andie, I don’t think you’re weird. I feel the same way. But, I think an arrest is overkill. Education/warning/ticket/community service etc. is relevant. Not destroying a person’s and family’s life over it, especially if they did not realize they were really endangering their child. I’m objecting to the arrest, handcuffs, etc. Driving 100 miles per hour results in an expensive ticket but it can kill everyone.

  11. I know I am very late commenting on this, but I just have to say something.
    when I first had my twins, they were tiny and I could carry them both from the car up into my apartment. They are no longer tiny and this is absolutely impossible.
    I was very anxious about how I would manage as they got older as I could see the current strategy was not sustainable.
    Luckily, very early on I had gone to some meetings with other parents of multiples and had witnessed that they would leave one in the car while they brought the other in and then leave one in our care while they went to get the other whenever we were somewhere that could not be accessed with a pram (like my apartment).
    For any parent of multiples, or I am guessing 2 children very close in age, it is impossible to manage without occasionally leaving one in the car. Perhaps Erika could get some words of support from the multiple births associations in her area.
    I leave both twins in the car when I pay for petrol!!

  12. Существует такая услуга – добровольное медицинское обслуживание .
    Она предполагает, что пациент платит небольшую сумму за то, что посещает врачей целый год не платя за каждый прием.
    Однако опросы показывают, что лишь 4% жителей Санкт-Петербурга знают об этом.
    Почему?
    Да потому что клиникам выгоднее сдирать с людей деньги за каждое посещение.
    А если честный врач попытается посоветовать добровольное медицинское обслуживание клиенту – это сулит ему увольнением.
    Эта информация уже вызвала кучу возмущений, сразу после того как информацию об этом распространил один возмущенный врач.
    Его уволили “по собственному желанию”, после того, как он посоветовал ДМО постоянному клиенту.
    Самое страшное, что официальные положения по ДМО есть в открытом доступе, просто натыкались на эту информацию только случайные люди.
    Как отстоять свои права?
    О правилах предоставления услуги и обязанностях клиник можно узнать, просто вбив в Яндекс фразу: “добровольное медицинское обслуживание”.
    Обязательно обслуживание, а не страхование.

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  13. Недостаточно хлопотать о состоянии здоровья родного ребенка – необходимо делать решительные действия для его защиты. Причем доверить такой вопрос следует только лишь опытным проверенным педиатрам.
    На сегодняшний день консультации персонального педиатра по карману далеко не многим жителям Российской федерации. А отправляться по любому вопросу в поликлинику, выстаивать длинные очереди и подвергать малыша риску заразиться вирусами от других детей – тоже не вариант.
    К счастью, многие частные клиники дают оформить программу Детского Добровольного Медицинского Обслуживания (ДМО), которая позволяет за незначительную сумму денег приобрести полис на годовое обслуживание у докторов.
    К сожалению, не многие осведомлены о данной услуге и не перестают лечиться народными способами, выжидают часами в очередях и переплачивают за приемы частных врачей.
    А программа Добровольного Медицинского Обслуживания для детей даёт возможность:
    ” Бесплатно получить больничный лист по уходу за ребенком;
    ” Бесплатно проходить обследование у личных врачей педиатров;
    ” Бесплатно или со скидкой осуществлять лечебные процедуры и диагностику;
    ” Лечить ребенка сразу, качественно и без очередей.
    Чтобы ознакомиться со списком клиник и условиями оказания лечения достаточно написать в поиск Яндекса или Google фразу: “Добровольное Медицинское Обслуживание”. После этого следует выбрать приглянувшуюся клинику и оформить договор.

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