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Leaving Children in the Car

Hubster told me today about a tragic case. A mother in a nearby state, left her child in the car and he died from the extreme heat. My heart jumped to my throat, because the baby was the same age as our little Bri. I asked Hubs what will happen to the woman, and he told me that she’ll probably go to jail. The worst part, in my opinion, is that her four year old daughter will have scars on her childhood no matter what.

The discussion about the case opened up a world of questions for me. Should parents be prosecuted for mistakes that result in infant fatalities? Isn’t the horror of knowing that you killed your child enough punishment? And when should parents be prosecuted?

So I want to know what you think about this issue. Here are my two biggest questions. Discuss!

1. I found a few similar cases on Google. And I want to know what you think about them. Who would you prosecute? Who would you pardon?

Case #1: A baby was left in the car with the windows rolled down while the mother went inside for groceries. She had her two year old with her in the grocery store, and when they came back outside there were angry citizens and police officers holding her baby. (The baby was okay).

Case #2: A father worked for eight hours and only realized that he’d left the baby in the car after he got off of work. He was a high school teacher on summer break, and the absence of his other school-aged children that morning, made him think that he’d already dropped everyone else off. (The baby died).

Case #3: A mom drops by a friend’s house for a quick visit and they start chatting, forgetting about the baby in the car. She realizes that the baby is unresponsive and rushes to the hospital. (The baby died).

Case #4: After a fun family day at the water park, the mom takes the children home while the dad runs out to buy dinner. The mom unloads all of the kids from the van, and all of the stuff, but misses the baby. (The baby died).

2. During my drive to and from work, I have habits that I use to remind me of the baby’s presence at all times. If she’s in the car, I stay in the right lane on the way to work so that I know I have to turn right to take her to daycare. That way, if I get distracted, I don’t forget about her. If she’s not in the car with me, then I drive in the left lane. It’s a simple little memory tool that I’ve turned into a habit. I do the same thing in reverse on the way home so that I don’t forget to pick her up.

What tips do you have for remembering your children?

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12 Responses

  1. This is a tough one. I think the legal problem with a lot of these cases is hear-say. How do you know when they truly did make an oops forgetting the kid – versus – they left the kid in the car being lazy or worse? I have heard far too many of these cases as well. I have called the police several times when I have seen parents leave children in a car for over 15 minutes in parking lots, especially in hot weather with little or no ventilation.

    There is simply no excuse to leave your children in a vehicle no matter how young or old, laziness is more of an issue in those cases.

    Yes, I do feel that the nightmares of knowing that the parent killed their innocent child will be a lot to live with. Unfortunately, how do you know it was truly a mistake? So many other parents have claimed they were victims and then later we find out they had psychological problems and really planned to kill their children. To me the law is the law. Perhaps in cases where the person has done no other crime, is a model citizen, and had passed psychological exams then maybe a lenient sentence and no actual time in jail.

    Tips to remember your children, if you have kids always look throughout the car. Sure a sleeping baby is quiet, but glances back should always be done. We all know that lack of sleep can cloud our mind, so better to be safe than forever sorry and in mourning.

  2. All of these stories make me feel sick. I find it appalling that parents purposely leave their children in the car. I feel horrible for the dad who forgot his baby. I can see how that could happen though. My husband forgets things (he has never forgotten our kids) when he is really tired and it is out of his routine. If it involves our kids I call to remind him, send him texts and ask if he remembered dropping them off. I personally make it a practice to always check the back seat. When my son was a baby he was so quiet I was always worried I would forget he was there. I also ALWAYS unload my kids before bringing the groceries or anything else in. They are more important that my food or shopping treasures. I think it is unacceptable to leave your child alone in the car no matter what the age. There are too many wackos out there in this day in age it isn’t even safe to leave your teenager in the car alone.

  3. Well, having only one child, it’s pretty hard to forget her. And if I got out of the car and didn’t immediately unload her, she would scream to remind me.

    I would never leave her alone in the car for any tiny amount of time. When we go to a store, I won’t even take my hands off her stroller for a second to take an item off the shelf (I always have one hand on her). I’m probably overly paranoid, but I’m from NYC.

  4. There was actually a case like this not too long ago in a nearby town. The man forgot to drop his son off at daycare…it was a day he didn’t normally work, so things were not routine, and he just forgot. And I do believe that he just forgot. It made me sick to my stomach, terrible feeling, that he was sentenced to prison. Not only will his wife and daughter morn the loss of the little boy, but they will be losing their father/husband as well. And he will lie in his cell and want to die for what he inadvertently did to his child. I feel just awful for it.

    On the other hand, this woman who left her child in the car while she shopped, well I think her children ought to be placed somewhere. There is NO excuse for that. NONE.

    I have four children, and I am constantly counting them. 1,2,3,4. 1,2,3,4. And I often ask the kids, is every body in? Is every body buckled?

    In our daily life that gets SO busy, people make mistakes. People forget things. How can you forget your child? I don’t know, but it happens. I just hope it never happens to me.

  5. We had a case very similar to #2 here in Houston not long ago. These accidental cases are extremely sad and do happen way too often. I believe penalties vary a lot for these types of incidents. I read recently that mothers are more likely than fathers to do time and that childcare workers face harsher sentences. I’m not sure what the statistics show for accidental vs. intentional cases, I would imagine accidental cases do get treated differently.

    I haven’t ever forgotten my child in the car. Part of me feels that there certainly must be a high level of self-absorption or severe sleep deprivation for parents who accidentally forget their child for such lengths of time. However, I’m well aware of how difficult parenting can be and hesitate to judge. I can only pray I never know that kind of pain. People are in more and more of a fog with the use of cell phones, blackberries, and the overall pace of life and number of diversions. A rise in these types of deaths is related, I think.

    I always take my son out of his seat even for the shortest trips inside, mainly for fear that someone may take him or the car with him in it. If he’s sleeping, I don’t make the stop. I just can’t justify the risk to myself, however, I can see how having multiple kids or being a single parent could make the temptation greater. Some states have laws on the books about leaving your child in the car. I did not realize that Texas does until I went looking. Here’s what the dmv site says:
    “Leaving Children Unattended in a Vehicle

    Texas is one of a handful of states that criminalize the act of knowingly or intentionally leaving your child in a vehicle. However, the law is not going to kick in if you simply pull up to a curb and quickly step out of the car and drop an envelope in a mailbox all while Junior is fast asleep in the backseat.

    The Law of Five and Seven

    The key numbers to remember are five and seven. That is, if you leave a child age seven or under alone in a vehicle for five minutes or more, the law kicks in. Also, if you leave you child in the vehicle for more than five minutes with another person age 14 or under the law applies.

    You can face a Class C misdemeanor, which may translate into two years behind bars and/or a fine of up to $10,000.”

    And here is an article on one state seeking to pass a law:
    http://www.statenews.com/index.php/article/2008/07/bills_seek_ban_on_leaving_children_alone_in_vehicles_

    This is a good article with some examples of visual reminders (like a note on the dash, baby item on the mirror, etc) and mentions of safety devices available (or in the works) to help avoid these tragedies:
    http://childcare.about.com/od/caregonewrong/a/leftincar.htm

    Interesting and unfortunate topic. A good reminder to slow down and be fully in the moment, alert, and aware for the benefit of my child.

  6. I want to say thank you that you have made your
    web site very good to visit and also very helpful for many people.

  7. I guess some parents get so overwhelmed that they forget their kids in the car.
    ————————————————————————

    I have to say that I wouldn’t ever leave a child alone in a car. When I was 11 – 14, my parents always left me alone in the car thinking that I could be trusted.

    Well, I started the car and began driving it – slowly at first….just letting it roll forward.

    Then I would pull out and drive around the parking lot and repark.

    And I was the good kid who no one suspected would do something like that.

  8. Oh this subject tears at my heart…probably because I can totally see how someone might do this. I definitely don’t understand why you would purposely leave your child in the car to go grocery shopping…but I have to admit to leaving the kids in the car while I ran in to pay for gas once. It happens…but a grocery trip I don’t understand.

    I’ve dreamt of this happening to me…I think if they can prove it was an accident the parents shouldn’t be prosecuted. I can’t even imagine what that would be like and hopefully will never have to. So sad…

  9. I did this today!!! Luckily weather was not too hot and baby 4 months old was okay. I ask myself how this could happen. Honestly, I asked myself about should I pop the trunk for the stroller answered no and walked into the store without getting my baby. I don’t even know how long I was in there 15-40 min. before I was talking to an acquaintance about my kids, which jogged my memory—ran out to retrieve my baby. I don’t leave my kids in the car for naps, etc. I do take my kids out before groceries…I do however notice horrible memory loss since having this child. I really truly think with high blood pressure, lack of sleep, new routine with infant, and stress I have severe problems with my memory. I would tell friends I would come over and help them start to do something and immediatey forget. This was a major wake up call to me that I have to deal with this issue immediately!!!! I could never understand it before today…But wow these can be truly ACCIDENTS. I am truly lucky to have found my son alive some unfortunately can’t. Still distraught!!! But eternally grateful.

  10. I have almost forgot to drop both my kids off before. Luckily they have made noises before I made it far from daycare. But the thought still makes me shutter. We all forget things, but sometimes those forgetful moments have dreadful consequences. I understand the idea behind prosecuting, but my heart still aches for these parents.

  11. I leave my 2 young kids in the car, with it locked and usually running to keep air on, while I run my other child into preschool. I park the car right up by the school office; I would not leave them parked in the parking lot even though it is a little further away. I have a back problem which is what led me to doing this. I wouldn’t do this at any public place, this is a school/church. Apparently a parent, although I am convinced it is a rude person working at the school, told the director that if I did this again, they would call the cops – which happen to be right next door. Most preschools around here come out to the car to get the kids out of the car like they do in elementary school, but this one does not. I’m really mad about this but thankfuly my son only has a couple more weeks at this school. I would never leave my children in the car at a public place, like grocery store, mostly in fear of someone stealing her. I have never accidentally left my child in the car either; it’s such a habit to get them out when I get out, I guess. It does happen way to often where a child does b/c he/she is left in the car in the summer heat. It’s such a horrible, preventable accident.

  12. I am a kid myself, just about 12 and a half. I am doing an assignment on this topic, describing the temperature and consequences. Many times before, my mom trusted me to stay in the car, even in hot weather. Of course, the car would be turned on, with the air conditioning on and the windows rolled down. For that, I don’t think the parents should be prosecuted, but when there is no air conditioning, there is no excuse.

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