Is a Baby “Abandoned” If Left Temporarily Behind By Accident?

Look, if it turns out this Texas tot was deliberately abandoned, which strikes me as the least likely scenario, then go ahead and deal with that through the legal system. But if it was a mistake, please recall that even the PRIME MINISTER OF BRITAIN forgot his kid in a pub. These things happen, they are unfortunate. They are not crimes. Here’s the story, from ABC 13 News:

A couple was arrested on Tuesday after their eight-week-old baby boy was left in his car seat on the ground of a busy parking lot in Katy, Texas.

Sarah Shibley, 33, and Gary Collins, 39, were charged with endangering a child, ABC News affiliate KTRK reported Tuesday.

A man found the infant and handed him over to Dee Griffin-Stevens, a mother of three who said she cared for the baby until authorities arrived, the report said.

That’s as it should be — people helping each other out. And when Griffin-Stevens picked up the baby, all was well. The video shows an extreme cute, extremely calm child:

The news story went on to explain that the baby was left alone for about 45 minutes. Another station said it was 90 minutes. Apparently the mom had taken the child from work, put him on the ground and assumed her husband placed him in the car, which, for some reason, he didn’t. Some people put their baby on top of the car and drive off, too. To err is…you know.

Criminal, in America.

Because of this particular error, the child is now in the hands of child protective services, which is hunting for some other relatives to take care of the tot while his very human parents are taught a lesson that they have already learned: Double check to make sure your kid is where you think he is. The mom returned to get him — she was crying — whereupon she was arrested.

Do a lot of parents abandoning their well-fed, unscathed babies return to the scene of the crime?

During the couple’s first court appearance on Wednesday, a prosecutor said the couple had left the child there by mistake.

The baby is currently in Child Protective Services’ custody until workers can find relatives to care for him. I guess if they don’t, they’ll hand him off to a stranger. Because that makes so much more sense than re-uniting him with his distraught parents.

A CPS spokeswoman described him as a “happy, healthy, chunky baby who looks as if he has been cared for.”

Except for one weird moment when things went awry. That deserves our sympathy, not a court date. – L.

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Even the most famous abandoned baby in history wasn’t really abandoned. (And probably wasn’t really blonde, either.) 

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46 Responses to Is a Baby “Abandoned” If Left Temporarily Behind By Accident?

  1. Dienne March 23, 2017 at 11:28 am #

    I’m curious where the father was in those 45-90 minutes. The mother apparently thought he had the child – he was apparently supposed to put him in the car, presumably to take him somewhere? Wondering what happened there.

  2. Sarah March 23, 2017 at 11:32 am #

    8 weeks old. That poor mama was probably so exhausted. This is one of those horrible things you have nightmares about as a new mom, and now it’s so much worse because she’s been arrested for a mistake.

  3. Dienne March 23, 2017 at 11:35 am #

    Incidentally, are those photos their mug shots or “gotcha” shots by the media, or did they release those photos to the media or what? They’re terrible pictures which make them look like stereotypical “those people”, which, looking at the comments in the linked article, leads to a whole lot of judgment. But if they’re mug shots or taken by the media involuntarily, then no one would look good and we should be very careful about making any assumptions from the pictures.

  4. Diane March 23, 2017 at 11:53 am #

    This is terrible. I know, some of you always say “there’s maybe more to the story” but until there is, it’s a terrible injustice.

    Just last night, I drove home from choir practice, forgetting that my toddler was in the church nursery. Got home about 15 minutes after I left, realized he was not home with his dad. Raced back to church, embarrassed as heck. First time I’d ever done anything like that. I know he was in good care, and I wouldn’t be faced with criminal charges or anything, but how was my mental lapse any different than these people’s?

    It’s that same, judging a situation by what could’ve happened and not what did happen. And sometimes we do have laws like that, for instance, running a red light. But mostly they result in a fine, not physically breaking up a family!

    Way to take an “all’s well that ends well” situation and inflict possibly lasting harm on an infant, government agency. Good job. /sarc

    P.S. love the baby Moses pic and caption. 😀

  5. Dienne March 23, 2017 at 12:15 pm #

    When I was on maternity leave with my oldest I was going stir crazy stuck in the house since it was winter (and a pretty cold one). Finally a day came along when the temperature went up to about 45 degrees. I bundled up the little one, loaded the SUV stroller (one of our dumbest baby purchases, BTW) in the trunk and set out to drive to the forest preserve for a walk. When I got there I found, of course, that she’d fallen asleep in the car. My actual thought was, “this is great, now I can go for my walk and she can stay here warm and safe in the car and I won’t even need to bother with that darn stroller.” And I set off on my walk. It took at least five minutes (maybe more) before it hit me – “what the HELL am I doing???” I sprinted back to the car (at least another couple minutes – I’m not a fast sprinter) expecting to find the police and fire department surrounding my car breaking my window open. They weren’t, fortunately. Everything was as I’d left it, my daughter still blissfully asleep, indeed safe and warm. But whenever I’m tempted to judge another parent, I try to remind myself of that story.

  6. bluebird of bitterness March 23, 2017 at 12:32 pm #

    I don’t know many parents who have NOT done something like this at one time or another. (I did it myself with my second baby, who was so calm and who cried so infrequently — like almost never — that he was very easy to forget.) It gets even worse when you have a lot of kids, and you keep having to count them to make sure you have the same number at the end of a trip to the grocery store as you had when you started out. And is there any parent who has NOT had the experience of thinking the other parent had the child when the other parent thought you had them?

    But yeah, take the baby away from its parents and give it to strangers to take care of — that’ll improve the situation. Gotta keep the Child Abuse Industry™ in business, after all. Without them to keep us in line, ALL of us would be dumping helpless babies in parking lots and leaving them there!

  7. J~ March 23, 2017 at 12:32 pm #

    I have a dear, sweet friend who had something like this happen to her about 20 years ago, when her daughter was an infant. She and her husband went to the mall to do some Christmas shopping. They decided to divide up the shopping so that they’d be done faster, they separated in the middle of the mall court. Thing is- each thought the other had the stroller with the baby in it- they’d both turned around and left their daughter in the middle of the mall courtyard!

    About an hour later, they happened to run into each other and obviously realized that neither had the child. Both ran as fast as they could to the courtyard, only to find a nice little old lady sitting quietly by the stroller and cooing at their daughter. She told them that as soon as she saw the baby by herself, she knew that out there somewhere were some parents who were about to have the scare of their lives, so she’d better wait with the baby until they arrived. (BTW- she’d also changed the baby’s diaper while they were gone.)

    My friend told me this story the day after I had my own panic attack after “losing” my son in a pet store. He was a toddler at the time, and while I was having a conversation with someone, he’d wandered off to look at fish. He wasn’t gone more than a minute or two, but- well, I don’t know of a mother alive who hasn’t had an experience like this. Once upon a time it was a scary, but NORMAL thing to happen.

    It should never be a criminal thing.

  8. WendyW March 23, 2017 at 12:45 pm #

    I once “lost” my 2.5yo in a truck stop. One of those huge complexes in the middle of nowhere that has a real restaurant, gift shop, truckers lounge and showers, and truck parts store. Lots of place for a toddler to disappear, and easy access to the interstate. As others have said it was an “I thought YOU had him” type of incident. After about 10min. of frantic searching he was found in the arcade, in one of those driving games that has the wrap-around wall behind the seat. He was happy as a lark and never knew he was “missing”.

    We’ve all either done it, or just haven’t done it YET. Our penchant to punish people for being human needs to stop.

  9. Donna March 23, 2017 at 12:46 pm #

    Dienne – As I understood it, both parents were together in the same car. Mom thought dad loaded the baby and dad likely though mom loaded the baby when in fact neither loaded the baby. Although I never experienced it personally, I have heard rumors that babies actually sleep in the car (as opposed to my child’s non-stop screaming as if being murdered), so it would be very easy to pick up a sleeping baby from daycare and think he was in the back sleeping away when you didn’t hear a peep.

  10. Dienne March 23, 2017 at 12:49 pm #

    Donna – ah, that makes sense. I guess I was thinking the parents went separate ways. But your scenario would explain it.

  11. SKL March 23, 2017 at 1:06 pm #

    It is odd that neither noticed the child was in the car they were driving in.

    But, I’ve heard so many stories of especially moms who’ve recently given birth forget their child briefly.

    Myself, shortly after I adopted I had a friend call me around midnight. She had some car trouble and asked me to drive there to render some help. I hopped in the car and drove. About halfway there I remembered I had two sleeping babies at home alone. The kids had the house to themselves for about 15 minutes, though they did not know this. 😛

    I have heard much stranger stories, told by truly caring parents. It’s pretty amazing that kids survive. They must be made of some tough stuff. 🙂

  12. Jessica March 23, 2017 at 1:08 pm #

    I got left at church one time. Each parent thought the other had picked me up from Sunday school until they got home. These things happen.

  13. Jess March 23, 2017 at 1:33 pm #

    With my first, I would get halfway to my destination and suddenly panic, thinking I had forgotten my son. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to turn around and not see him. And it’s no wonder her mug shot looks terrible – she’s been crying her eyes out.

  14. Ken Hagler March 23, 2017 at 1:34 pm #

    “Because that makes so much more sense than re-uniting him with his distraught parents.”

    It does for a government bureaucrat who gets federal funding based on how many children are in his “care.”

  15. Melanie C March 23, 2017 at 2:06 pm #

    The real kicker, since this is in Texas, is that the baby’s in a system declared abusive by the federal government and taken over by the marshals.

  16. pentamom March 23, 2017 at 2:20 pm #

    We almost abandoned our then-22 year old this way one time. We were on a road trip and stopped off at a Tim Horton’s. She said she didn’t want anything, so husband and I went in to get coffees. We came out, we drove off. She’d been moody and silent a lot at the time (due to some legit issues she was dealing with) and we didn’t know she’d gone in to the Tim’s to use the bathroom, because she didn’t say anything about doing so. Because she was prone to silence, we didn’t realize she wasn’t in the car until my cell phone rang. I shudder to think about what would have happened if this had been before the cell phone era — we could have gotten pretty far, just assuming she was sitting back there quietly.

    So, yeah, if you can not miss an adult that way, you can not miss a child who goes to sleep in a car seat, easily enough.

  17. pentamom March 23, 2017 at 2:22 pm #

    “I got left at church one time. Each parent thought the other had picked me up from Sunday school until they got home. ”

    We gave a girl in our church a ride to her grandparents’ house (where the family was heading after church) for just this reason one time — her extremely careful and responsible parents each thought the other had taken her with them when they came to church separately.

  18. elizabeth March 23, 2017 at 3:05 pm #

    Just recently my parents forgot what time i was off work and were late getting me (by an hour). Things happen.

  19. Jessica March 23, 2017 at 3:08 pm #

    When my daughter was around the same age as the baby in the story, my friend and I were going to go out. I was exhausted and had cabin fever and it was a treat. It was a VERY hot day so we left her in her little car seat inside the door where it was cool while we loaded things in the car. Then I went back, closed the front door, locked it, and got in the car. We were backing out when my friend slammed on her brakes and said “Jess, where’s the baby?!”
    I had locked her in my house and if she hadn’t noticed who knows how far we’d have gotten before I realized she wasn’t there?
    We are far too harsh on parents, IMO, for human failings. We are humans. We make mistakes.

  20. Anna March 23, 2017 at 3:34 pm #

    “I’m curious where the father was in those 45-90 minutes. The mother apparently thought he had the child – he was apparently supposed to put him in the car, presumably to take him somewhere? Wondering what happened there.’

    With infant seats being rear-facing and only allowed in backseats, it’s very easy for the parents to just assume the child is where they’re supposed to be after the point in time when the moment of forgetfulness happened. If you look at the stats, accidental hot-car-death was a rare freak accident until those changes were made to carseat laws in the late nineties, upon which they immmediately jumped to above 30 per year (in the U.S.).

  21. donald March 23, 2017 at 3:56 pm #

    Forgetting your child by mistake makes a boring headline. Let’s spice it up by calling it abandonment. It will make the story sell better. So what if the parents get ostracized for the media misleading the story. Selling stories takes priority. Who cares about them? Besides, the parents of an eight-week-old baby have it too easy.

    On another note

    I just received an email for a petition about cruelty to zoo animals. It’s important that we protect these animals. However, it’s ok the be cruel to human beings as long as it’s for infotainment!

  22. donald March 23, 2017 at 4:13 pm #

    Whether you approve or hate the actions of the media is relevant. Whenever you turn on the channel, you reward them for their behavior.

  23. donald March 23, 2017 at 4:39 pm #

    Sorry

    I thought the news reported it as abandonment. Ok, I can’t find fault with the media in this instance. I’m still disgusted at the entertaining sport of ‘condemn everybody else so that you can make yourself feel better’!

  24. James Pollock March 23, 2017 at 4:49 pm #

    “It does for a government bureaucrat who gets federal funding based on how many children are in his ‘care.'”

    (citation needed)

  25. donald March 23, 2017 at 5:59 pm #

    I found people to be very intolerant of me when I make a mistake. Why should I be tolerant of others when they make a mistake? It’s my right to condemn others because I’ve been condemned in the past. I’m getting even for that experience. It makes me feel better to put others down!

    The above snark is an exaggeration. However, it isn’t exaggerating by much.

  26. Beth March 23, 2017 at 6:59 pm #

    My husband and I were married several years before a baby came along, and when she did, she was a sleeper! I hardly knew I had a baby much of the time, and definitely forgot I had one when we decided at the spur of the moment to hit Pizza Hut for dinner (dine-in). Luckily, as we drove toward the end of our block, I said “STOP! We have a baby!” She was still blissfully sleeping in her cradle when we got home.

  27. Papilio March 23, 2017 at 7:18 pm #

    Aww, those poor parents. Mom especially looks tired and scared and like she’s been crying.
    They don’t need a prosecutor, they need a babysitter so they can get some sleep. (What was that I read about night babysitters again? They’d stay with a family overnight to care for the baby so the parents could catch up some sleep.)

    @Diane: “It’s that same, judging a situation by what could’ve happened and not what did happen. And sometimes we do have laws like that, for instance, running a red light. But mostly they result in a fine, not physically breaking up a family!”

    Good point. What if we treated every single breaking of the law near a school as a ‘You could have KILLED a CHILD! Think of the children!!!’ and arrest all those people for [Donna please make something up?]?

    @Donna: “that babies actually sleep in the car (as opposed to my child’s non-stop screaming as if being murdered)”

    Congratulations, your child understands statistics 😛

    @Lenore: “(And probably wasn’t really blonde, either.)”

    I always notice that too in those old paintings! IIRC the Rijksmuseum has a room full of Old Testament paintings, and most/all people are blond(ish). They’re supposed to be Jewish people in the Middle East several thousands of years ago – what are the odds that they were blond???

  28. Papilio March 23, 2017 at 7:22 pm #

    Not the same, but my mother totally left me home alone to quickly get some groceries for dinner when I was a baby and asleep in my crib. She’d be back in about 20 minutes though.

  29. LGB March 23, 2017 at 9:27 pm #

    If you read A Moveable Feast, you’ll learn that back in the 20s, Ernest Hemingway and his wife left their baby in the crib while they went out to paint Paris red. Their rationale was that the cat did an adequate job as a baby-sitter.

    If you look at the whole issue as a dispassionate anthropologist, it truly is fascinating how parenting practices change through time and culture.

  30. pentamom March 23, 2017 at 9:28 pm #

    ” IIRC the Rijksmuseum has a room full of Old Testament paintings, and most/all people are blond(ish). They’re supposed to be Jewish people in the Middle East several thousands of years ago – what are the odds that they were blond???”

    At a lot of points in history, realism simply wasn’t a value in art. They weren’t trying to depict things exactly as they looked, just the sense of what was going on. It’s not like they didn’t know better, they just didn’t care. What mattered was to make the people appear to be a certain way according to the conceptions of the viewer, not the way they “really” looked. For example, if people of the noble class in a certain time and place were blond, then the great people of the Bible were shown as blond. Because the point was that they were great people, not exactly what color their hair “really” was.

    It’s not too different from the way people were depicted in very ancient art. Babylonians actually knew that men’s waists aren’t 12 inches around and Egyptians knew people don’t walk sideways. But there was something other than realism that was the concern that drove the depictions.

  31. theresa March 23, 2017 at 10:18 pm #

    Look at Jesus’s parents. They lost him for a week.

  32. James Pollock March 23, 2017 at 10:46 pm #

    “Look at Jesus’s parents. They lost him for a week”

    One of Jesus’ parents was always with him. Even in the bathroom.

  33. Owen Allen March 23, 2017 at 11:43 pm #

    My family is full of ‘forgotten baby’ stories that are often regalia for family reunions. Like my mother leaving one of us in a store while going off shopping down the street. When she remembered, she came back to store assistants having the best time just looking after the baby, waiting for the mother’s return. Then there was the time my uncle, then a 20 year old, was babysitting while doing a welding job. He left the pram and baby under the lee of a shed, however when a summer storm came down had forgotten the baby and when he remembered, the storm water run off from the shed made the pram into a shallow pool. Baby didn’t drown. Next generation, everyone is learning from the mistakes of the previous, so long as the lessons can be told loudly and robustly, without any special shame. And it helps, that the younger generation get to give the older a good humoured ‘ribbing’ about their carelessness. Big forgiveness means never having to forget the lessons of life.

  34. Papilio March 24, 2017 at 9:34 am #

    @pentamom: I know, I know… But still.

  35. jimc5499 March 24, 2017 at 9:47 am #

    “What if we treated every single breaking of the law near a school as a ‘You could have KILLED a CHILD! ”

    We have a local television channel that tries very hard to work in the “threat to children” angle to anything that happens.
    A house exploded yesterday. No one was hurt. The reporter for the channel that I am talking about positioned herself so that a School Bus Stop sign could be seen in the background between her and the house. She spoke about the possible tragedy that could have happened if there were children waiting at the bus stop when the explosion happened. Looking at how far away the bus stop was from the house, I’m pretty sure that nobody would have been hurt if there was children at the bus stop.

    This is the same channel that ran the “Plane Crashes Near School, Students in Jeopardy” tagline last Fall. When they got around to the story, it showed an ultralight aircraft had crashed, nobody hurt and in the background you could barely see the school until they zoomed in on it.

    The media sensationalizes anything involving a child, these days trying to spark outrage so that the story lasts longer. People demand that something be done and in most areas the District Attorney is an elected position.

  36. BL March 24, 2017 at 10:13 am #

    @jimc5499
    “She spoke about the possible tragedy that could have happened if there were children waiting at the bus stop when the explosion happened. Looking at how far away the bus stop was from the house, I’m pretty sure that nobody would have been hurt if there was children at the bus stop.”

    A few years ago there was a domestic violence incident of some sort that involved shooting, and the local TV news stories all emphasized it was “within two miles of an elementary school.”

    I think most dwellings around here are within two miles of an elementary school.

  37. Backroads March 24, 2017 at 11:33 am #

    My sister was left at church for a good half-hour while the rest of the family went to my grandma’s to celebrate that very sister’s baptism. “Hey, where’s the girl of the hour? …. oh, for crying out loud!”

  38. SKL March 24, 2017 at 1:42 pm #

    I have a friend whose mom didn’t pick her up after her first day of 4yo school. The mom had thought it was full-day school, but the kids got out before lunch. The kid sat crying for about an hour until someone wondered if she was lost. This too was a funny family story.

    Today it would be on the news with the headline “every parent’s worst nightmare.” Or, “parents arrested ….”

  39. EB March 24, 2017 at 1:44 pm #

    Pretty much every big family I know of has a story like this (multiple kids make it even likelier). And gas stations out in the country all have stories about “the kid who was still in the bathroom when the station wagon left.”

  40. Jessica March 24, 2017 at 3:02 pm #

    SKL
    That is the saddest story I’ve ever heard!! Okay, not really, but there is something about it being the FIRST day of school that makes it heart-wrenching.

  41. hineata March 26, 2017 at 3:53 pm #

    Oh what a waste of court time! And that breathless ‘ mother of three’! I must say that personally if I found a child like that the last thing I would assume is that it was abandoned. And even if it had actually been abandoned, it was obviously well looked after, so should it be a ‘crime’ or should it be a chance to provide assistance to an overwrought family?

    I’m another who’s left a quiet baby lying around, having forgotten it temporarily (fortunately only on the floor of the van in the driveway ☺).

  42. SteveS March 27, 2017 at 7:48 pm #

    The answer to the question posed in the title is no. Abandoning is an intentional act.

  43. pentamom March 29, 2017 at 12:51 pm #

    “I think most dwellings around here are within two miles of an elementary school.”

    Yeah. In an urban area, most people live within two miles of a place where toxic chemicals are handled, a halfway house, a murder scene within the last five years, and/or a place where a dangerously violent person lives.

    And yet chances are, all those people are unaffected by all those things, because two miles away is not actually close enough to affect you, unless we’re talking about some major disaster of some kind.

    It reminds me an incidence some years ago when people were NIMBYing a proposed juvenile facility, point out that it was “only a mile away” from a residential area. Okay, it was kind of out in the country so the imagination does go to escaped kids going overland for a mile and in some fashion being a threat to the people living nearby. Not likely — when kids run from these places it is usually with some unrealistic idea that they’re going to find a bus back home, or at least to their native turf. But at least not outrageously beyond the realm of a normal imagination.

    But a in city, there are more businesses and facilities of various kinds than I can possibly name (and probably am even aware of) within a mile radius. It’s just another case of “How can I make this incident be about me by imagining in some way that it’s a threat to me,” and then the media catering to that attitude because it sells.

  44. Syfer March 30, 2017 at 2:23 pm #

    Moses be Moses, but think of the endings to “Home Alone”! After all, Kevin’s parents recklessly abandoned him multiple times!

  45. Andrew April 3, 2017 at 11:33 am #

    Is there a degree of “no harm, no foul” about this? Sure, everyone can make a mistake – leave their child in the car park; forget the child is sleeping in the car.

    Would we be so quick to excuse this as an honest mistake, if the baby accidentally left behind had been killed or injured?

    For example, what could possibly go wrong if you leave your 13 month old child in the bath for a few minutes, with their two year old sibling?

    That’s right, the toddler can drown. And the parents are convicted of manslaughter and neglect. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hereford-worcester-39482497

    A tragedy for all concerned.

  46. Beth April 3, 2017 at 1:26 pm #

    So, SteveS, then everyone in these comments who related their “baby abandoning” story (including me, and some had more than one story) are criminals, and should be punished?