Infant Left in Car for 4 MINUTES and the PARAMEDICS Must Examine Her?

Here we go again:

Yardley Mother Facing Charges After Leaving Infant In Car


A Yardley Mother is facing charges, after police say she left her 10 week old daughter unattended in her car while shopping at a Lower Makefield drugstore.

Police say 47-year-old Cynthia Kelly left the baby in the car with the motor running shortly after 2pm on May 31st.

The store’s surveillance cameras showed that the child was left in the car for about four minutes before the baby was spotted in its car seat by a man in the parking lot.

The man walked into the store searching for the child’s parent, and told police Kelly came forward saying the child was hers, and then continued to wait in line to pay for her items, prompting the man the contact police.

Police headed to Kelly’s home to check on the welfare of the child, where Kelly admitted to leaving the child in the car, after Googling to see if it was in fact legal for her to do so.

After being examined by paramedics, it was determined the baby did not require emergency treatment.

Kelly is now facing charges of endangering the welfare of children, and leaving a child unattended in a vehicle.

So, readers, this is my new contention: We have lost the ability to distinguish between a nearly non-existent threat (a baby in the car for four minutes) and a huge threat (a baby left in the car for four hours). We act as if there is literally no difference, with cops called and paramedics summoned.

This is the same myopia that recently got a boy suspended for bringing a toy gun to school and even after turning it IN!  (His mom had accidentally given him a backpack with the toy in it. When he saw it, he immediately gave it to his teacher.) That’s as responsible as a 7-year-old — or anyone — could be, but the school reacted as if he’d brandished a loaded Uzi.

And this is the same myopia that has us putting 18-year-olds on the sex offender list for consensual relations with their 15-year-old girlfriends.  We punish them as if they’re no different from a grown man who rapes children.

Just remember that when you look at what seems to be a society gone bonkers that what’s really happened is this: We refuse to believe there’s any gray area between black and white. Everything that is one half-millimeter away from perfect — or even IS perfect, but reminds us of something that isn’t — is treated as DEMONIC. Hence, our state of perpetual overreaction.

We are either stupid or simply starved for drama. – L

 Paramedics to the non-rescue!!

Paramedics to the non-rescue!

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101 Responses to Infant Left in Car for 4 MINUTES and the PARAMEDICS Must Examine Her?

  1. BL June 12, 2014 at 7:51 am #

    “This is the same myopia that recently got a boy suspended for bringing a toy gun to school”

    If toy guns are so dangerous, I suggest police and other government agents turn in their real guns and be forced to carry only toy guns (water pistols, preferably).

  2. Warrem June 12, 2014 at 8:31 am #

    Again, this is a prime example of what happens when you do not invoke your rights. This mother did not have to allow the police to come in, she did not have to allow EMS to come into her home. Never talk to law enforcement without your lawyer.

  3. SteveS June 12, 2014 at 8:36 am #

    I am voting for stupid.

    Seriously, the potential for some serious consequences is very high. This just reinforces what I tell people. If you are the subject of a police investigation, it is in your best interest to say nothing or as little as possible and contact an attorney. Look at what happened to this woman. She thought she was acting within the law and still ended up being charged. She may have been better off refusing to open the door. The police would then have to get a warrant or force the entry.

    I hope this person has the means and energy to fight this and doesn’t accept a plea deal. On a bigger level, I’d like to either see the law changed to reflect reality, so that the only people being charged are people that are actually doing something dangerous. I’d also like to see prosecutors that pursue the kinds of cases in this story be voted out of office.

  4. SKL June 12, 2014 at 9:19 am #

    I really wish someone would make a big stink about this on network TV, complete with information about the REAL risks (of both reporting and not reporting) and education about rational responses to a child left in a car. And someone needs to get the balls to publicly admit that sometimes it is BETTER to leave a child in a car than to take him out.

  5. lollipoplover June 12, 2014 at 9:31 am #

    “The man walked into the store searching for the child’s parent, and told police Kelly came forward saying the child was hers, and then continued to wait in line to pay for her items, prompting the man the contact police.”

    Another example of a Bad Samaritan seeking to punish a parent for his own anxiety issues. So you found mom in the store but were angry that she didn’t drop everything and get out of line for you? THAT’S why you called the police when the child was never even in danger?
    Why is he allowed to harrass this mother in the first place?

    Has anyone ever been to Yardley? It’s a beautiful town on the Delaware River- think Mayberry USA. My daughter played in a soccer tournament there a few months ago. There’s so much preserved history (it’s right by Washington’s Crossing- where George Washington crossed the river) and a truly adorable town. The weather was in the 60’s and 70’s that day. What was the danger this man saw?
    Why are we prosecuting imagined crimes???

  6. Will June 12, 2014 at 9:44 am #

    I can’t even begin to think of what minor infraction some Bad Samaritan is going to call the cops on me for. As a single father with three pre-teen kids, I already get enough side-eye when I take my kids to the park, and then sit on a bench and let them play while I read. I guess because I’m not following them around constantly, clearly showing which children I’m there with, that means I’m probably trolling for unsupervised kids to kidnap? Apparently.

    So, what I get out of this the most is, start looking for a great lawyer now, because the Bad Samaritans are just looking for a reason to call the cops.

    Thank you, anonymous Bad Samaritan in this story. Also, why can’t we know the names of the Bad Samaritans, but the names of the parents are splashed across the headlines?

  7. E June 12, 2014 at 10:05 am #

    I know it’s not in line with most of the thinking here, but if I have to keep a car running to keep an infant cool or warm enough, I don’t know — it’s not something I’d ever do. Maybe it’s because I drive cars that I keep for a LONG time and I don’t necessarily have 100% confidence of it idling why my infant is the only occupant.

    Yes, that doesn’t mean it’s criminal. Yes, each parent should be able to evaluate risk and situation and make decisions.

  8. Jen (P.) June 12, 2014 at 10:18 am #

    @E – That’s actually a key part of the point here. The fact that you might make a different decision in the same circumstances doesn’t mean this woman’s choice wasn’t reasonable, and it certainly doesn’t make her actions criminal. We’re living in a police state if there is no room for people to exercise some individual judgment within the bounds of the law.

    And Warren makes a good point. More people need to stand up to this kind of abuse.

  9. TigerLily June 12, 2014 at 10:24 am #

    I have left my 9 year old in the car while I run into the supermarket to pick up one or two items. After seeing all the people commenting on the recent article on Slate about leaving a 9 and 12 year old in a car I will no longer be doing that. The majority of commenters said they would immediately call 911. Blows my mind that that would be their reaction. We so want our son to be “free range” but who wants to expose a child to all that follows when some “good samaritan” calls 911.

  10. anonymous mom June 12, 2014 at 10:27 am #

    “I hope this person has the means and energy to fight this and doesn’t accept a plea deal.”

    But this is part of the problem. We routinely overcharge people–sometimes ridiculously–for criminal offenses and then use reducing the charges as a way to force people into a plea. It’s a terrible terrible system that seems totally counter to the idea of justice, but the burden for changing it can’t fall on the individuals caught up in it.

    If, for a parent, it comes down to fighting the charges in court, spending tens of thousands of dollars (perhaps at least) and risking a prison sentence, or taking a plea that will allow them to remain with their child, I would not fault the parent for taking the plea, at all. They have the well-being of their family to consider.

    Instead, it’s up to the rest of us, who are not in that position at the moment, to demand change.

  11. Nadine June 12, 2014 at 11:06 am #

    Yup the world has gone crazy. I just came on to turn in a piece I read about bullet proof mats kids can take to school selling like they are calory free donuts.

  12. SteveS June 12, 2014 at 11:16 am #

    AM, you are correct. This isn’t even an example of overcharging. This is an example of something that should have never resulted in any kind of charges. This person will likely be offered probation and a fine. This would be less hassle than going to trial.

    As for standing up to the authorities, I get the impression that most people are raised to cooperate with police and that if you “haven’t done anything wrong,” you have nothing to worry about. This may be true some of the time, but it isn’t worth the risk. People need to know what the can and cannot do in dealing with police.

  13. Beverly June 12, 2014 at 11:43 am #

    This insanity has even extended to children who are with a parent in a parked car. A friend of mine and her husband, both MD’s, moved to a new city for their jobs. They have 6 kids, and enrolled those of school age in a private school that’s too far from their home to walk, so the mother had do join the daily pickup line. Shortly after they started, she had been sitting in line about 20 min when a security officer knocked on her window. He told her someone had reported a toddler unsecured in the front seat of the vehicle, and he was just checking to verify she had proper child restraints. Apparently someone had been “concerned” enough to call security about a 2-year old having quality mom-time in the front of a parked SUV!

  14. Puzzled June 12, 2014 at 11:54 am #

    I agree with BL. That said, I think there are a few factors.
    1. We have minimized many real risks. Most of us no longer are routinely mauled while hunting, starve to death, and so on. So we create dangers instead.
    2. The relative safety we have has led to an expectation of perfect childhood and that all children must live to adulthood. This is a historical abnormality and not something our brains evolved to deal with.
    3. We are exposed to every accident that ever takes place – in particular, we hear every time some very unlikely event takes place. The news does not run a story every time a child is left in a car and nothing happens, but does run a story on the very rare occasion that a child overheats.
    4. Our mathematics education is horrible – it teaches students (maybe) to use known formulas, but not how to think mathematically. Children do not have any sense of how probabilities and statistics work, and neither do adults. If I tell someone that something has only a 1 in 10,000,000 chance of happening, they just say “but what if you’re that one?” and look as if they’ve won. I gave up playing Blackjack because I was routinely pestered by other players who, in addition to not understanding probability, also didn’t know basic strategy, and so thought I was playing incorrectly, and also wrongly thought that my playing incorrectly could hurt them.

    Want to know how bad we are at this? Here’s a few things to ask people (stick to people who are generally well informed and educated):
    a) The Monty Hall problem
    b) Bill and Monica have two children. One of them is a girl. What’s the probability that the other is a boy?
    c) Bill and Monica have two children. The younger one is a girl. What’s the probability that the older is a boy?
    d) Jennifer attended a 7 Sisters College, is upper middle class, and drives a hybrid. What is more likely – that Jennifer is a bank teller, or that Jennifer is a bank teller and pro-choice?
    e) After 1,000 flips, there are more heads than tails. What is the probability that there were more heads after 100 flips?
    f) How many people do you need to have a 50% chance that two share the same birthday?

    All of these are relatively easy if you have an intuitive sense of how probability works. Most people get at least a few wrong.

    5. It is in the interest of politicians and the media for us to have a fear-based culture.
    6. We have been taught that authority is good, we have a government of and by the people, and the police officer is your friend.
    7. Our cultural morality comes primarily from two sources (as does our criminal justice system): New England Puritanism, and Southern plantation mentality. Both reward watching and ratting on others, and both regard “see and report” as a moral good.

  15. anonymous mom June 12, 2014 at 12:03 pm #

    @Puzzled, my oldest was once trying to convince my husband and I to play the lottery. We were trying to explain to him why we personally don’t and said, at one point, that there was a much better chance of getting struck by lightening than winning a big jackpot.

    His reply? “I still think you should play the lottery, but now I’m a lot more worried about getting struck by lightening.” 😉

  16. Reziac June 12, 2014 at 12:16 pm #

    “We refuse to believe there’s any gray area between black and white.”

    Which is in fact a juvenile reaction. But since we’re raising a nation of perpetual children, look for this to get worse, not better, as fewer and fewer nominal-adults are capable of making even the simplest judgment call.

  17. Michelle June 12, 2014 at 12:23 pm #

    Beverly, a few years back, my kids were visiting a relative in another state during the school year. Apparently, when said relative would drop her younger kid off at school, someone from the school would check to make sure all kids were in appropriate car seats. How insulting! Car seats are important, yes, but the message that parents can’t be trusted and someone needs to check up on them is just terrible!

  18. JJ June 12, 2014 at 12:30 pm #

    lollipoplover: ” a truly adorable town. What was the danger this man saw? Why are we prosecuting imagined crimes???”

    I wonder if this is part of the problem. Yardley is very upscale, its residents very privileged, and First World Problems and competitive parenting prevail. Drive 20 miles down I95 to certain neighborhoods in Philadelphia 911 calls are “someone just robbed me” the police are dealing with aggravated assault, narcotics crimes, etc. Even in my relatively nice and safe neighborhood in Philly I can’t imagine getting police or EMTs to respond to such a thing as a baby who is now safe but wasn’t checked on for four minutes in mild weather. (I hope I am not wrong).

  19. cm June 12, 2014 at 12:36 pm #

    OMG. I just can’t get over this one.

    I can “understand” the Good Samaritan worrying. After all he didn’t know if the infant had been in the car 4 minutes or 4 hours.

    I also don’t know what the weather is like in that part of the country right now. Where I live, it’s beautiful – perfectly temperate. Sometimes it’s cooler in our car than it is in the house.

    BUT – once he saw the situation, if he was THAT concerned, why not offer to stand in line for her so SHE can go get her child or check on her and come back to pay?

    Where is sense and sensibility here? What’s wrong with allowing parents to make common sense judgments? EVEN IF the cops/medics were called (and I’m not saying they should have been called) THEY COULD have AT LEAST used their common sense and professional judgment to say “hey – this isn’t abuse; this is ridiculous. Let the poor sleep deprived mom with an 11 week old take her baby home and enjoy her.”

  20. Lynda June 12, 2014 at 12:37 pm #

    A Facebook friend without kids posted the essay you shared by the woman who was arrested for leaving her child in the car, asking for thoughts.

    After many people went on a tirade about how stupid and entitled the woman is, I commented that I was ready to be crucified but that I think that it’s safe under certain circumstances, and went into a little detail. The self righteous vitriol and name calling kept coming, things like people who are STUPID enough to leave a child in a car for EVEN ONE MINUTE have no business being responsible for another human life. So I made one more statement about reason and then removed myself. So aggravating.

  21. Diana June 12, 2014 at 12:46 pm #

    This story made me sad. There’s a new mother in line at a drug store. She has a 10-week old infant. From my own experience, a) hubby has by now gone back to work, b) grandma has gone home, c) all the wonderful prepared meals that people dropped off have been consumed, d) reality is now setting in and she’s trying to figure out how to function on 45 minutes of sleep. Everything is new, takes 10 times longer than you think it should, and you have to time it between either you or the baby leaking something from somewhere.
    She was at the drugstore! I can’t even imagine what she might have desperately needed, the list is too long. She checked to see if it was ok to leave the baby in the car. She’s trying to figure out how this whole “Life with a Baby” thing works.
    How about someone letting her go to the front of the line? Or walk her out, give her a hug and tell her, “You’ll figure it out”?
    I want to give her a hug and a frappucino.

  22. anonymous mom June 12, 2014 at 12:47 pm #

    @JJ, everybody in my neighborhood knows you don’t even bother to call the city police, because they are not going to respond, at least in a halfway timely way. We live near a campus, and the campus police will respond to calls from our neighborhood, so everybody calls them. Even then, if it’s not a dire emergency, it will be a good 30 minutes before anybody arrives. That police would show up WITHIN MINUTES because there is an infant napping in a car on a mild day would indicate to me that perhaps the community has more police officers on duty than are actually needed. And, I also can’t imagine the police in my area taking a call like that seriously. Maybe I’m wrong, but given that it once took the police and EMTs nearly 35 minutes to show up when there was a woman unconscious on the sidewalk outside my house, I would certainly hope they *wouldn’t* be rushing around for non-emergencies.

  23. JJ June 12, 2014 at 12:50 pm #

    @Lynda “The self righteous vitriol and name calling kept coming, things like people who are STUPID enough to leave a child in a car for EVEN ONE MINUTE have no business being responsible for another human life.”

    Ugh, that is awful. It’s the competitive parenting again. “I am a better parent than you! I deserve kids more than you do! Unlike SOME people I know there is no sacrifice that I will not make for my children, even if there is no benefit to said sacrifice!”

  24. Sarah June 12, 2014 at 12:53 pm #

    Okay, now this has me paranoid. If she said yes after checking that it was legal, why is she being persecuted (prosecuted)?

  25. JJ June 12, 2014 at 12:54 pm #

    @anonymous mom, I hear you! The only reason you bother calling is if you eventually need a police report for insurance.

  26. Lynda June 12, 2014 at 12:57 pm #

    In one of the comments in my post to the Facebook conversation I mentioned above, I asked “At what age to do you think it’s okay to leave a kid in a cool car for five minutes reading a book? 15? 18? 13?”

    I got various answers (8-13), but my main goal was to them thinking along the lines of “It depends…”, which may lead to an epiphany that there is gray area. If it worked, I couldn’t tell.

  27. anonymous mom June 12, 2014 at 1:03 pm #

    @Sarah, the problem is that PA law, like a lot of these laws, is extremely open to interpretation.

    The law says “A person driving or in charge of a motor vehicle may not permit a child under six years of age to remain unattended in the vehicle when the motor vehicle is out of the person’s sight and under circumstances which endanger the health, safety or welfare of the child.”

    To this mother, and to most of us here, these were not “circumstances which endanger the health/safety/welfare of the child.” But, there are enough people who believe that even a minute alone in a car will endanger a child that they will call, and enough police/prosecutors/social workers who agree with that mindset that they’d pursue a case.

    I don’t even understand what the point of writing the law that way is, if they are going to prosecute under circumstances like this. If we are going to consider 4 minutes in a car on a temperate day to be enough to endanger the child, just make it clear in the law that parents can NEVER leave a child under 6 alone in the car. Because apparently there are no circumstances in which a parent can feel secure they won’t be risking arrest, so just make that legally clear and don’t put parents in the position of doing something that to them seems perfectly legal that will result in arrest.

  28. Lynda June 12, 2014 at 1:06 pm #

    “I don’t even understand what the point of writing the law that way is, if they are going to prosecute under circumstances like this. If we are going to consider 4 minutes in a car on a temperate day to be enough to endanger the child, just make it clear in the law that parents can NEVER leave a child under 6 alone in the car. Because apparently there are no circumstances in which a parent can feel secure they won’t be risking arrest, so just make that legally clear and don’t put parents in the position of doing something that to them seems perfectly legal that will result in arrest.”

    I agree completely! Our California law is written similarly.

  29. anonymous mom June 12, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

    MI law is the same. Here, the term is “unreasonable risk.” It’s okay to leave an under 6 in the car, apparently, provided they aren’t put at “unreasonable risk” for harm or injury.

    The problem is that there are people who think that ANY risk is unreasonable (selectively, of course, or else they’d also call 911 on people who were driving kids in a car). And, there are police officers, judges, and social workers who feel the same way. So while leaving my little ones in the car for five minutes on a 50 degree day might seem well within the bounds of “reasonable risk” to me, all you need is one person to think it’s unreasonable to set events in motion. They need to either clearly define what endangerment or risk is (how long can the parent be away, what temperature ranges are acceptable, etc.) so that there’s basis for deciding if the parent was truly endangering the child or not, or just outright ban it. But these vague laws do more harm than good.

  30. Matthew June 12, 2014 at 2:09 pm #

    Personally, I think most of these laws qualify.

  31. EricS June 12, 2014 at 2:21 pm #

    I’m a little on the fence on this one. I do believe that it is ok to leave kids in cars, while you dart in and pay or buy something. But there are limits to when I would do this. 3 years old and up, and a few minutes. Sure. But not a 10 week old, while the car is still running. There have been incidences of car jackers making off with cars, and there is a child in the backseat. Not saying this would have likely happened, but why make it easier for thieves. Can still leave a child in the car without the car running. And at least 3 years old and up, is more cognitive than a new born. Newborns require more attention in the first year of their life.

    However, I don’t agree with how everyone else involved dealt with the situation. Personally, I would have stayed by the car and waited for the parent. I would have only escalated it to the next level, if the parent didn’t return in a reasonable amount of time (imo, that would be no more than 10-15 min, longer for older kids). And “escalating it” doesn’t mean call the cops. I would have gone into the store and tried to locate the mother. Not to chastise – unless it was warranted. ie. I saw her just chatting away with a friend. – but to let her know that I was keeping an eye out for her daughter and her car. And that I was going to wait there for her. Unless I saw evident signs of neglect or endangerment, I wouldn’t have contacted authorities.

    Too many people are too quick to point fingers. Never taking into consideration the bigger picture. Trying to get parents into trouble only hurts the children in the long run. Most especially, when the issue is a non-issue in the common sense of things.

  32. Gina June 12, 2014 at 2:26 pm #

    If she googled and found that it wasn’t illegal, then what’s the crime being prosecuted?

  33. K June 12, 2014 at 2:39 pm #

    The legislation about leaving children and/or pets in cars won’t help the child who is forgotten for hours and later found dead. Harassing this woman and giving her a record doesn’t do anything positive for anyone, including the child left in the car for 4 minutes. The intervention of the authorities does more harm than good. It should be a goal of government to do no harm, but I have read statistics that as many as 87% of children removed from the home by CPS shouldn’t have been removed and were not abused in any way. That figure was from a short video by Pam Roach titled, “Stealing of American Children (Documentary Promo)”. We are trying to legislate that everyone is perfect at all times and children will never experience risk or get hurt. CPS is all over risk of any kind, even seemingly trivial risk or risk that is supported by the local schools. Should all children grow up sitting and just playing video games that are bad for their intellectual growth because the government has imposed blanket values with vague laws that give CPS a lot of power though they are not appropriate for all situations and in many cases are actually harmful to the development of the children they are supposedly protecting. An article on this website by Pimental can explain some of the reasons it is harmful. I think kids and families were better off taking their chances on their own. Some took more risks than others and some had bad outcomes, but at least they had some freedom. CPS can and does get involved in every aspect of people’s lives and we have lost much of our freedom. Much of Africa does not have “adequate shelter, food, and clothing, but those families can stay together throughout their adversities and still have some of the freedom our once great nation has now lost.

  34. anonymous mom June 12, 2014 at 2:45 pm #

    @Gina, the law in PA indicates that a child under 6 can’t be left in a car if the parent can’t see the car AND the circumstances endanger the child.

    This mother obviously felt that leaving her baby in the car for 5 minutes or so was not a circumstance that endangered her child. I’d be very inclined to agree.

    But, a bystander, the police, and the prosecutor apparently disagreed.

    Again, this is the problem with vague laws, especially in a culture where we are primed to see children as ALWAYS in danger.

  35. SOA June 12, 2014 at 2:46 pm #

    I personally do not like the idea of leaving a car running anytime unattended with or without kids just because it is an easy mark to be stolen and car theft is a more common thing than like kidnapping.

    That being said as long as the AC was running and it was a few minutes there is like zero chance the child would be over heated or hurt. So the ambulance thing seems really overkill. Hell I hang out in my car all the time with the ac and motor running when I get somewhere too early or whatever. I recline the seat back and take a nap or listen to the radio or read a book or the kids watch the dvd player in the back seat. Oh no we better go get checked out at the hospital. eye roll

    I personally would not have left the baby out there in the car while I went in. I dragged my twins in everywhere no matter how much of a PITA it might have been.

  36. Michelle June 12, 2014 at 2:59 pm #

    I don’t get it.

    Criminal prosecution, assuming that this woman hasn’t done anything else wrong, is overkill.

    But are we really saying it’s a good idea to leave a ten week old baby alone in a running car to go shopping? Seriously? By that same logic, she might as well leave the baby home alone in a crib because, hey, it’s okay for an infant to sleep alone at night and the odds are that the house isn’t going to burn down or get broken into…

    Just because you can probably do something without tragic consequences doesn’t make it a good idea.

  37. no rest for the weary June 12, 2014 at 3:16 pm #

    I’ll say it again: the car running is possibly the thing they will skewer this woman with.

    Answer? Don’t leave the car running. In my jurisdiction, it is illegal to leave a car idling for any reason, child welfare aside. It’s an environmental thing, I guess.

    I was left in the car SO many times. I left my babies, toddlers, young children in the car SO many times. The car was never running. Either the windows were all rolled up on a cold day, or all rolled down on a warm day, but the CAR WAS NOT RUNNING.

    If the windows are all rolled down on a warm day, and a baby is sleeping inside the car, and a bystander gets all fussed about it because they say “someone could steal that baby,” well, I think you’ve got a great case in court to defend yourself and say, “This is such a statistical improbability that it’s not worth discussing.”

    If, on the other hand, you leave a child unattended in a car that is RUNNING with ALL THE WINDOWS ROLLED UP and the KEYS IN IT, regardless of the age of the child, there are far more variables in play than simply abduction.

    I have yet to hear of a case where a child has become hyperthermic or asphyxiated in a car with all the windows rolled DOWN. And I have yet to hear of a case where a child froze to death in a car with the windows UP on a cold day (unless the child was forgotten for many hours).


  38. anonymous mom June 12, 2014 at 3:16 pm #

    I would honestly not see leaving a 10-week-old child sleeping in their crib alone for 5-10 minutes while mom ran to the corner store for something she needed to be endangering the child in any way (assuming there weren’t any specific dangers the mother was aware of, like a pet who might climb into the crib or a candle left burning, etc.). Would I do it? No, but that’s because I’m paranoid, not because I think it’s actually risky.

  39. Steve June 12, 2014 at 3:17 pm #

    I can always tell when someone comments who has not read Lenore’s book, Free Range Kids.

    Do yourself a favor — read the book.

  40. no rest for the weary June 12, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

    I think it’s becoming safer, from a child welfare standpoint, to leave your kids at home unattended while you run errands, rather than taking them with you in the car.

    I mean, for starters, kids are in actual danger riding in a car. Far more danger than they are in at home, even if they are unsupervised (as long as they can’t turn on the stove).

    Then, there’s the issue of dragging them across a parking lot to go inside the store with you. Very risky. I always felt a bit nervous herding kids across a parking lot.

    Additionally, there’s the issue of leaving them in the car, and figuring out how to do that in a way that is “legal” and “safe.” Oh wait, there’s NOT a way to do that within the letter of the law, is there? So you’re hooped.

    Which leaves us with this: Your kids are safer at home without you than they are going along on an errand, no matter what you do once you pull out of your driveway.

    And yet, we take them along. There are reasons we do this, reasons that go beyond safety and supervision. We take them along because sometimes they want our company, they want to see what’s in the store, they want to get to a place that you’ll go AFTER you run the errands, etc.

    But having children pried away from their parents in a protracted legal battle with the state seems far more harmful than an hour or two home alone… even for an infant. Far better to marinate in a wet diaper and cry a bit if you wake up than have no contact with your mother for days, week, or months at a time.

    It is so, so, SO tragic, the strategies people choose: to call the cops on a parent who leaves a kid in the car. Children suffer great harm when their parents are being ground through the grinder of the legal system… much more harm than they suffer when they wait a few minutes in the car.

  41. Andrea June 12, 2014 at 3:37 pm #

    Um, if the mother wasn’t worried about the baby, why should Bad Samaritan be?

    I think this goes to the fact that we as a society don’t trust parents (especially mothers) and that we care more about their children than they do. That, obviously, is not true. If something had happened to the baby, Bad Samaritan would have slept just fine that night, but the mother would have been devastated and would have suffered a profound loss that even time would not alleviate. Yet society assumes he cares more about the child than she does. Why is that???

    Until we fix that problem, these types of stories are only going to become more prevalent.

  42. no rest for the weary June 12, 2014 at 3:46 pm #

    It’s not about caring more. It’s about “right” and “wrong.”

    Rumi, a Sufi poet, wrote this:

    “Beyond our ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing,
    there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
    When the soul lies down in that grass,
    the world is too full to talk about.
    Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’
    doesn’t make sense any more.”

    We dehumanize everyone when we talk about “right” and “wrong,” “acceptable” and “unacceptable,” “good” and “evil.” We guarantee animosity and separateness, and we gleefully point fingers and accuse “the other” of “wrong-doing.”

    Making the leap to a place where we set aside this kind of categorization, and focus instead on what motivates people to act and speak as they do, to truly care about what they value, and see it as the same as what we ourselves value, well… it’s a big leap. Our systems have all been set up to encourage judgement and separateness. And this is what we get, folks.

  43. required name June 12, 2014 at 4:07 pm #

    Last year, one of my 6th graders brought a knife to school. He was sitting at his desk, whittling during science class. I took the knife and called the vice principal because I was afraid I would get in trouble if I didn’t report it. When she came to get the knife, I pulled her aside and told her that the boy had a learning disability, that he was the sweetest boy and he probably didn’t realize he had done anything wrong. She took the knife and the boy to her office. He came back a little while later, apologized for bringing the knife, and rejoined the class. That was the last I ever heard about it. He found out he had broken a rule, the knife was taken away, and nobody got hurt. Proof that a positive outcome can happen without contacting the police.

  44. JKP June 12, 2014 at 4:17 pm #

    I’m also concerned that the society standard for parenting is moving in the direction of 1 child. The degree of supervision required by law (but not by common sense) becomes increasingly difficult to satisfy the more kids you have until it reaches a point where it’s impossible to satisfy once you have enough kids. Add in the fact that kids are required to have safety seats far beyond the age where it even improves safety outcomes at all. If you have 3 or 4 kids, all in safety seats, the time in taking them all out of the car, and the actual real risk in shepherding them across the parking lot where one could dart off and get hit by a car, sometimes makes leaving them in the car for a short errand the actual safer choice. And yet, the nosy busybody’s reply is that you shouldn’t have had that many kids then if you couldn’t keep your eyes on all of them every second of every day.

  45. E June 12, 2014 at 4:40 pm #

    I’ve said this before. It’s not so much that people can’t entertain the idea that in most cases a child/infant will be safe. It’s the idea and imagery that if something DOES go wrong…the outcome could be very very bad.

    If you miscommunicate to your kid about after school plans and you are not home and the kid is locked out for an hour or so…it’s not the end of the world. If you are late picking a kid up, it’s not the end of the world. But when people think of a hot car and a child….or a child and a carjacker…well everyone would agree that you want to avoid that at all costs.

    I think people are freaked out by the idea of kids suffering in a car. It’s an awful thing to imagine. It’s rare, yes, but every single time it happens, it hits the news.

    Many people take the standpoint that it’s not that hard to take your kids with you so they don’t understand why an adult would introduce the risk at all. It doesn’t matter (evidently) how minute the risk is….you can make it 0.

    I’m not advocating the 911 reaction. But I also recognize that if I see a small kid (or animal) in a care when I worry about the the temps….I’m going to wait around. So I’m kind of already thinking that it’s worth it to see what’s up. If I really thought there was 0 danger, why wouldn’t I walk on. Can’t really answer that. So while I’m not going to call 911 after 4 minutes, I’m not going to walk away either. It’s kind odd to think about it that way.

    Sites like this educate people on the real risks vs the imagined, but I really think that the police/legal system is on the hook here. If they didn’t charge people, they wouldn’t validate the behavior of the callers. And equally important, they wouldn’t alter the finances and life of the family.

  46. Lauren June 12, 2014 at 4:55 pm #

    I don’t have children yet. Every time I read something like this, I wonder if I even want to have children. Because I grew up free range and intend to raise any children free range, I’m worried that I’m going to end up in trouble with the law.

  47. E June 12, 2014 at 5:00 pm #

    @Lauren, I realize you are talking about wider issues, but leaving a child in a car is about the convenience of the parent (which I’m not saying is a bad reason) rather than Free Range. There are literally thousands of other ways to give your kids freedom and responsibility that don’t involve them sitting in a car alone.

  48. SOA June 12, 2014 at 5:01 pm #

    Andrea: not all parents care about their kids more than others do. My ex friend from high school that was making meth in her basement that gave her 3 kids chemical burns I am sure did not care about her kids more than the concerned neighbors and family that called the cops on the mom. So in some cases of abusive parents, yes the random passerby might actually care more for their kids than the parents do.

  49. kate June 12, 2014 at 5:01 pm #

    I am trying to imagine how the call to 911 went:

    “What is your emergency?”
    “A 10 week old was left in a car alone for 4 minutes”
    “Is the baby conscious?” yes
    “Is she breathing?” yes
    “Is she overheated?” no
    “Is she responsive” yes
    “We’ll be right over to check her out, we don’t have any other more important calls to attend to…”

  50. anonymous mom June 12, 2014 at 5:20 pm #

    @SOA: No doubt there are some parents out there, whether because they are just horrible or because they have serious problem who don’t or are simply unable to care much for their children.

    But, they are the extreme minority. The fact is that MOST parents care very deeply about their children, far more than any passerby.

    And, in many of these cases, it’s clear from the circumstances the parents care about their kids. Why, in the story from Salon, was the mother in the store buying her kid headphones for the flight? Because she just didn’t care about him at all? She was doing it because she cared about her kid. In this case, as much of a misjudgment as leaving the car running might have been, why do we think she did it? Because she was hoping somebody would come along and carjack her and steal the baby, or because she was concerned for her baby’s comfort?

    If we were talking about somebody putting a carseat on the hood of a car in 20 degree weather in a busy parking lot and then going to have lunch, I’d say that, yes, that might indicate the parent did not care about their child. But we’re not talking about egregious situations. We’re talking about situations where it takes no effort at all to imagine why a caring parent would make that choice.

    Even in the case of abuse, it’s highly unlikely a random passerby would be in any position to determine if what they saw indicated a pattern of abuse or an off day, and should still err far on the side of caution, by assuming it’s an off day (unless, of course, the child is in true, immediate danger). If we see a child walking home alone or in a car alone or in/outside a store alone, our first thought should not be “What kind of a monster would do this and how fast can the police get here to punish them?” but that there is a loving, concerned, responsible parent somewhere who is either 1) very worried about their child and wants them safely found and returned far more than the passerby (in the case of children who actually are lost/wandering) or 2) aware of the situation and has determined, knowing the situation better than the passerby, that the child is safe.

    Of course there are exceptions. In all of these car cases, we’ve been talking about cars parked in front of stores, the types of stores where people really do run in and out in a few minutes. If I saw a child in a car alone outside of a pharmacy or grocery store or convenience store, I’d either do nothing or, if I was concerned, keep an eye on the situation.

    Now, if I was parking in the deck where I park when I teach, and I saw a child in a carseat in the back, I’d respond very different. It costs $7/day to park in the decks/lots rather than using street parking. It’s very unlikely for somebody to pay for lot/deck parking unless they’ll be on campus for at least a few hours. It would seem likely enough that it was one of those situations where a parent was off their routine and forgot to drop the child off at daycare than that I’d call campus security. The sad thing is that I’d feel really guilty about doing so, because my intention would NOT be to get the parent in trouble, but I’d know that could be the outcome. It would be nice to think we could call 911 when there was something we felt was genuinely dangerous without it resulting in the arrest of somebody who either just made a mistake (like having left a child in the car by accident because they were off schedule) or who made a judgment call we wouldn’t have made (like leaving a child in the car for five minutes to pick up milk at the store).

  51. C.J. June 12, 2014 at 5:50 pm #

    I don’t think it is a big deal to leave a child in the car for a couple minutes but I do think that it isn’t very smart to leave the car running with an unattended child inside. It’s not likely anyone wants to steal the child but cars get stolen all the time.

  52. Amanda Matthews June 12, 2014 at 5:52 pm #

    “But are we really saying it’s a good idea to leave a ten week old baby alone in a running car to go shopping? Seriously? By that same logic, she might as well leave the baby home alone in a crib”

    Well if she can run to the store within 4 minutes, sure.

  53. Michelle June 12, 2014 at 6:49 pm #

    Sorry this is off topic, but I just heard this one from the Cult of Inconvenience, regarding breastfeeding in public:
    “You know, I’m all for breast feeding. Cover up, don’t cover up that’s your business. But once at my store there was a mother walking around with her baby in one of those kangaroo holders, breast feeding. She was holding her boob and walking with the child attached.

    She wasn’t in a rush or anything so she had time to sit and feed. To me, it lacked all the nurturing that comes from feeding. That’s the only time I’ve ever felt it was inappropriate.”

    Apparently you can be holding your baby and providing her nourishment from your very body, but it’s not “nurturing” if you’re also walking around looking at things in a shop.

  54. Bob Davis June 12, 2014 at 7:22 pm #

    When I leave my car for servicing, the mechanic or service coordinator will ask, “Are the keys in the car?” and I’ll say, “No, got ’em right here” (sometimes in a tone implying “Of course not. Do I look like a fool?”) and hand over the keys. We did have one case here in Southern Calif. in which a parent left the keys in the car and a child snoozing in the back seat. Some local ne’er-do-wells saw the keys, hopped in and drove off. Then one of them noticed the kid and said “Uh oh!” (or words to that effect) so they drove the car to a safe place and called the police before making themselves scarce. Grand Theft Auto is one thing, and Kidnapping is a whole new level.

  55. SKL June 12, 2014 at 8:56 pm #

    Too bad there isn’t a safe harbor in these laws for very short time periods.

    If the security cameras say it was 4 minutes total, that includes the time the man spent going into the store, complaining to this woman, and getting outraged over her daring to pay for her purchases before walking back out to the car. Sounds to me like the guy must have seen the whole thing and knew it was only a few minutes. What a scum. I think he should be forced to take some classes so he can do a better job of risk analysis in the future.

    I’d need more facts to judge whether or not leaving the car running was OK. I leave my car running with my kids in it if I’ve forgotten something and need to run back into my house to get it (assuming I don’t need the key). What’s the difference?

  56. Donna June 12, 2014 at 9:17 pm #

    For most of my child’s life, I have left her home alone asleep in bed for more than 4 minutes while I took the dog for the last walk of the night. I walk around the block (longer now many nights) so my house was generally out of view for most of the time.

    And I actually did leave my child home in bed asleep while I ran to the drug store. I forget how old she was; 3-4 maybe. I was sick and desperately needed drugs. The last thing that I wanted was to wake up a preschooler at 2am, cart her to the store and then stay up the rest of the night with a bouncing off the walls, extremely fussy, overtired kid. That is not fun on a good night and really isn’t fun when you are as sick as a dog.

  57. no rest for the weary June 12, 2014 at 9:50 pm #

    My ex used to go out for a run and leave our baby home alone in the crib (8 months old or so? Maybe 12?) napping.

    I was busy working on a reno of a house we were gong to live in.

    All I said was, “Make sure you carry ID and a note that says, ‘I left my baby at home alone at (address).'”

    I figured the risks were pretty minimal that anything would happen in the 30 minute jog time.

    Ironically, when we divorced, this person accused me of being ‘negligent’ because I asked some lady to watch this same baby (then about 2 yrs old) while I went to grab our food from a concession stand at a Little League game.

    I was going to be taken to court and the attempt was going to be made to deny me custody over this heinous act of neglect of my parental duties.

    Plot twist: my divorce lawyer had been sitting next to the lady I asked to watch our kid. Her take on it was that this was an act of community, not of negligence, and wondered what the complexities would be should she be called to court as a witness.

    My ex dropped the schtick of accusing me of “terrible parenting” and the mediator basically said that even with happily married couples, there are times when they disagree most vigourously about parenting decisions.

    Could we not apply this same wisdom to the general public? That sometimes we disagree mightily about parenting decisions, but that doesn’t mean anyone is “negligent”?

  58. Youthier June 12, 2014 at 10:45 pm #

    Of course they called the paramedics. Children should be closely monitored for 72 hours after being left in a car for four minutes.

    #secondary left-in-the-car-ing

  59. SKL June 12, 2014 at 11:42 pm #

    Once when my kids were babies, shortly after they came home via adoption, I got a midnight call from a friend whose car had died several blocks away. She asked if I could come and I said sure, hopped in the car, and started driving. Suddenly I realized I had left my sleeping babies home alone. LOL. I caught up with my friend and she asked if I’d wait with her for AAA. I was a bit conflicted but I said no, I really couldn’t justify leaving the babies alone at home that long. We figured out what to do and I got home about 15 minutes after I’d left. Of course the kids were still happily sleeping and there were no fires, busybodies, or cops to contend with. :)

  60. Joan June 12, 2014 at 11:45 pm #

    What gets me about this case is the fact that the infant was 10 weeks old. Short of intentional beatings or starvation, why on earth should the law punish a woman who’s had only 10 weeks to get a handle on parenting? Of course she’s going to make some less-than-optimal choices (whether or not this was one). Everyone does. How is it even a little bit helpful for anyone in the family, including or especially the baby, to get legal organizations involved?

  61. J.T. Wenting June 12, 2014 at 11:58 pm #

    “But this is part of the problem. We routinely overcharge people–sometimes ridiculously–for criminal offenses and then use reducing the charges as a way to force people into a plea. It’s a terrible terrible system that seems totally counter to the idea of justice, but the burden for changing it can’t fall on the individuals caught up in it. ”

    That’s what you get in an (in)justice system where prosecutors are graded on the number of people they send to jail (or other punishment), the more the better…
    And that combined with a court system where getting a conviction is always a gamble, what with “amateurs” having to make the decision, amateurs who’re far more likely swayed to acquit based on emotional arguments than is a judge, amateurs who’re far less likely to accept the evidence you place in front of them at face value because they’ve been conditioned by generations of television shows to believe you’re a cheating, lying, asshole…
    And so you prosecute people who’re innocent of anything, charge them with massive serious sounding felonies that would get them years in prison if they get convicted, bully them into not lawyering up, and then tell them “well, if you plea guilty to this lesser charge we’ll call it a deal” (a lesser charge they also can’t get a conviction for from a jury and they know it, but they can get a judge to sentence for it because they too get their performance bonus based on the number of convictions.

  62. J.T. Wenting June 13, 2014 at 12:03 am #

    “What gets me about this case is the fact that the infant was 10 weeks old. Short of intentional beatings or starvation, why on earth should the law punish a woman who’s had only 10 weeks to get a handle on parenting?”

    Expect more pushes for mandatory (government regulated of course) “parenting classes” for women to be completed before giving birth or adopting, maybe even “pregnancy licenses” depending on whether you have completed those classes to the satisfaction of some government run licensing board.

    There was a push towards such mandatory classes I think it was in the UK last year (and it comes up every time a young child dies).
    It’s only a matter of time before some congresscritter (or MP in other countries) picks it up as an election theme “it’s FOR THE CHILDREN”, “if EVEN ONE CHILD IS SAVED we must do it”…

  63. Tricia June 13, 2014 at 12:08 am #

    I’m confused: Why would anyone leave a 10 week old baby alone in a car with the motor running?

  64. no rest for the weary June 13, 2014 at 12:41 am #

    Because I’m sure she thought that if she left a 10-week-old baby in a car with the windows rolled down, she’d get in trouble.

    Or maybe she was actually delusional and thought the baby might get “stolen,” so she locked it into the car with the windows up and the motor running.

    What I’ve said is there’s no pleasing busybodies, but when it comes to defending yourself, better to leave the motor OFF and windows DOWN on a warm day.

  65. anonymous mom June 13, 2014 at 1:29 am #

    She was in and out of the store in a few minutes. I’m not sure it matters whether the car was running or not. I’m pretty sure I’ve left my kids in front of my house in a running car for longer than that when I’ve had to run back inside to find my phone or keys or wallet.

    Yes, it’s possible that somebody might steal a running, locked car. However, if you are out during the day on an errand that takes less than 5 minutes, in a parking lot where people are coming in and out, it’s extremely unlikely. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard of more cases where a mom was carjacked while her children were in the car with her than of cases where a car was stolen out of a parking lot in broad daylight during a five-minute errand.

    For the busybody in this story, maybe next time, instead of calling the police on a new mom because she didn’t respond to them exactly as they wanted (I suppose if she had burst into tears, expressed contrition at being such a horrible mother and inadequate person, promised the bystander that she’d never again make such a horrible choice, and hailed them as a hero for saving her child from certain doom, the police might not have been called), they can call up or visit a mom with a newborn in their neighborhood and see if she could use something from the store, so she doesn’t have to take the baby on an errand.

  66. SKL June 13, 2014 at 7:49 am #

    Yeah, it’s pretty cold to do that when there are so many reasons why a mom might need to run in for something and not take the baby. What if she was in serious pain and carrying the baby in and out in a carrier was excruciating? What if she was in an extreme hurry but needed something urgently? What if the baby only sleeps when in a running car and is in severe need of sleep?

    Being a single mom, I’ve had a few mini nightmares because taking my two babies through a blizzard or whatever was weighed against possibly running out of milk/diapers etc. Now, my babies were the type who would scream in fear if I left them alone in the car, so that wasn’t even an option, but that didn’t exactly make life better for any of us. Anyhoo, those experiences made me a little more compassionate for moms who make benign but unpopular choices.

  67. Emily June 13, 2014 at 7:59 am #

    >>Okay, now this has me paranoid. If she said yes after checking that it was legal, why is she being persecuted (prosecuted)?<<

    @Sarah–"Prosecuted" is the correct term here (for laying criminal charges on someone), but I'd say that the mother was persecuted as well, by the "Good Samaritan," and also by all of those online message-board mothers who say that it's "dangerous" to leave a child unattended for "even one minute." She was persecuted as being a "bad parent" for making a less-than-perfect decision to leave her sleeping child in the car for four minutes, for not being a perfect parent yet, when she's only had ten weeks of experience so far (good point, whoever said that), and now a lot of people think she's some kind of monster, all over a non-incident. Also, I don't think that what this woman did counted as "going shopping." If she was in and out of the store in four minutes, she was probably running in quickly for a necessary item she'd run out of, possibly even something for the baby, like, say, diapers. In fact, that's a good reason to leave the child in the car for long enough to run in and out, especially if Kiddo had diarrhea or something–better to leave Kiddo where she is, than to bring her in and risk an explosion in the middle of the baby aisle. Not to be gross or anything, but that seems like the most likely explanation.

  68. MichaelF June 13, 2014 at 8:27 am #

    I think it depends on where you are. I was at a baseball game last weekend with my 9 & 4 year old boys, we sat in the berm area of the outfield. A big open area with some grass, with LOTS of other families. Half the time I had no idea where in the area my kids were, I saw a head or shirt I recognized (I try to keep them in clothes I will be able to pick out in a crowd – a la Waldo) but for half the game they were in various gangs of kids wandering around. A couple of times I had to walk up to one of them to ask him to behave a little better, and a few times parents would bring one of them over to me for potty breaks or because one son lost his baseball glove over the fence. No issues with helicoptering and no one calling the police on children not being hovered over. If I was able to sneak in a beer it would have been a great afternoon.

  69. Lex June 13, 2014 at 8:43 am #

    TigerLily, maybe you’d like to do what I do: stay in the car yourself and send your nine year old into the market after a couple of things. That’s one step farther in the direction of free ranging.

    My son turned ten last week, and he is enjoying learning to be more independent. When he was nine, we sent him home from his BJJ class in an Uber car (we had to be somewhere else at the time). He was happy not to miss his favorite class, and saw it as a great adventure. Eventually he’ll be able to get back from this class by himself on public transport.

    Yesterday, I went with him to a bar about three blocks away from his academy to have a snack and watch the beginning of Brazil vs Croatia, and he walked to his class and back to the bar afterwards to see the end of the game with me. He thought it was the cat’s pajamas.

    Sometimes I will send him to the corner store to get something we’re out of. The day will come soon when he can go to the supermarket by himself with a list, but I know for now he’d be unhappy to carry a whole bag back by himself.

    Of course, none of this really compares to my freedom in the seventies. But I try to give him freedom where I can.

  70. lollipoplover June 13, 2014 at 9:03 am #

    Awesome story about your son. Teaching self sufficiency and independence in this increasingly police state of parenting is so hard. It’s nice to hear your positive parenting stories of ways to give young kids chances to contribute and help out in society (buying diapers and formula in the store!) vs. being driven around like mindless blobs that will magically become mature and independent at age 16 with no life experiences.

  71. LRothman June 13, 2014 at 9:17 am #

    When my 3 kids were little, I would travel to relatives about 6 hours away on a regular basis – including in the dead of winter and heat of summer. When I stopped at 10pm to buy gas, coffee & use the restroom, I would leave the car running, lock the doors and leave them.

    The 5 minute stop would have become a 25 minute one with waking them up enough that they could walk in, dealing with the “I want a drink, too,” and putting them back into car seats. What good would it have done?

  72. Nate June 13, 2014 at 9:18 am #

    I understand this is a tough one. I agree that the police didn’t need to be called if the mother was found but I think this guy was just trying to help. At least I want to believe he was. Can you imagine if the car stopped or if something else happened and the baby had died? I know it’s a long shot but it’s a 10-month old baby, not a 9-year-old kid. It doesn’t take four hours like the blog states – that’s an irresponsible statement. It can take much less time and I don’t want any parent to have to go through losing a child. I can’t imagine anything worse. I’m probably one of the worst dads in the world in terms of safety. I let my kids take all kinds of chances and luckily, so far nothing has happened. But if they’re in danger or someone even thinks they might be, I’d much rather have that person let me know than just ignore it. This might not be the best example, but when I’m driving, my wife often says, look out for that guy on the bike or do you see that kid coming from between the cars? She sometimes asks, does that bother you? I always say no, because even though I usually see the person or kid too (and it is a little annoying), I would much rather have her remind me, than be so stubborn and then hurt or kill someone. Looking out for a 10 month old baby in a car, is not the same as an 18-year-old and a 15-year-old having sex. That comparison is just as questionable, if not more, than the person calling the police (which again, I don’t think he should have done — but I wasn’t there). I want to believe everyone was just doing their best here. I don’t see why we all can’t look out for each other, help each other, support each other and give each other the benefit of the doubt.

  73. Donna June 13, 2014 at 9:28 am #

    While I personally would not leave a toddler/preschooler in the car with it running, I don’t have a problem with a 10 week old baby. My issues with leaving a car running with an older child have to do with the child getting out of the car seat and messing with things in the car, something a 10 week old baby obviously can’t do. If the child is too young to get out of the car seat and too old to be mischievous while alone, I don’t see the difference between car running or not.

  74. Warren June 13, 2014 at 9:34 am #

    These so called good samaritans with what you assume are good intentions will one day get theirs.
    They will try and pull a stunt like this, and someone like myself will stand up for the mother. And if need be shove his cellphone down his throat.
    The majority of 911 callers in these situations all just want to be the hero, and has little to do with the child. Well they can tell their dentist how much it hurts to try and be a hero.

  75. lihtox June 13, 2014 at 9:37 am #

    No doubt the Bab Samaritans have children’s welfare at heart. So they really need to be aware of the negative effect it can have on a child to 1) have their families be fined by the authorities (less money for necessities or toys), 2) see their parents in jail or investigated by the police, or even 3) be taken away from their parents, even for a little while. Maybe they’re trying to punish the parents but they’re punishing the kids they purport to worry about. They also have to be aware that the police might be forced to escalate according to certain regulations.

  76. SKL June 13, 2014 at 9:41 am #

    Nate, how could the man believe he was just being helpful when the mother was just trying to pay her bill and get back out to the car? I’m sure she told him that she had just been a couple of minutes and was on her way back to the car ASAP. He could see that. Obviously she was going to get to the baby before the police, so there is no argument that the police were needed to save a baby from dying. The man knew this and called the police anyway. His intention was purely punitive.

    Karma will catch up to that man.

  77. Donna June 13, 2014 at 9:55 am #

    I agree with Warren here. I don’t think these people are really motivated by good intentions at all. I think that they want to play hero. They get to then tell all their friends how they saved the day and all their friends will pat them on the back and say how wonderful they are, yada yada yada. The well being of the child doesn’t really enter into their minds much at all.

  78. Ann June 13, 2014 at 10:00 am #

    I’m glad to hear the man walked into the drug store to look for the mother before calling the police. Certainly a tiny baby in a car is something to be concerned about since babies do occasionally (and tragically) get forgotten. Once he found the mother though, why did he feel the need to call the police?? That poor mother… at 10 weeks, you are sleep-deprived, still possibly dealing with post-partum hormonal issues, and you’re just trying to survive. She just wanted four minutes to run into grab some meds without dragging the ten ton car seat with her. Perhaps she should have brought the baby with her, but that’s HER judgement call as a parent. Once he found the parent, his job should have been done.

  79. SOA June 13, 2014 at 10:42 am #

    Around here pharmacies luckily have drive up windows. They are only supposed to be for picking up prescriptions but I bet if a mother drove up desperate they would help her out.

    There is one solution for the last minute diaper purchases or formula purchase. Buy in bulk. We went to Sams once a month and bought enough diapers and formula and wipes for our twins for the entire month. So we never had an oh shit I need diapers moment.

  80. SKL June 13, 2014 at 10:54 am #

    Well SOA, I too became wise after I had a little experience. I also gave my sister some really great advice that I had not gotten. If I had it to do over, I would have ordered diapers online and had them delivered at my house.

    You say “we” did xyz. Bought a huge box of diapers etc. If you’re single, you have to take both of your kids everywhere, alone, and sometimes you are unable to haul a big load of everything in addition to your two properly restrained kids, especially if you drive a sedan.

    Besides, when you have just brought your kids home via adoption, you are still figuring out what type and size of diaper works best, what foods they will and won’t eat, etc. You aren’t going to buy a case of diapers or formula that might end up being the wrong kind. (And your 1yo needs milk, which I was happy to find in non-perishable little drink boxes, yippee!) Eventually I became very efficient, but there is a learning curve.

    Likewise, if your baby is very young, some things are completely new to you and so you can’t always solve everything with good planning. Being human and all. I don’t know if the mother in the OP is single or not, but I’m assuming there is a reason the dad was not available to take care of the kid so the mom could do her shopping in peace. I assume that she was between a rock and a hard place and made the best decision she could at the time.

  81. Laurambp June 13, 2014 at 12:05 pm #

    Why is it bad that she left the car running? I grew up in a small town and people would leave their cars running in parking lots when they had to run a quick errand (post office, gas station, convenience store, etc). To this day people leave their doors unlocked (houses and cars) because theft is uncommon. And yes, there was a string of thefts in a bunch of neighborhood houses when I was a teen…from another neighbor who stole very specific items! (Meaning that he was previously well trusted and a frequent guest to these places.)

    If anything, wouldn’t it be safer to leave the car running because then she could use climate control? I always thought this would be a benefit to cars where you can start and stop them without being in them – you could keep the doors locked and the motor (with heat or AC) running without the fear of a completely random carjacker.

  82. E June 13, 2014 at 12:38 pm #

    Last night I went to the Library to return a book and grab one that was on hold for me. As I approached the front (it’s a small library in the ‘burbs), a mom was berating her kids very loudly for leaving her (she had 3 small boys, at least 1 preschool). Apparently 2 had left the library all together (there is an adjacent playground). I didn’t abide by the scene she was creating, but I support her rules for while they were inside (and obviously I have no idea what kind of kids she has).

    As I exited (I was probably in there 90 seconds), she was talking to another Mom and the smallest of kids wandered oh, about 15 feet away. I thought it was interesting that she didn’t say “please get away from the driveway” (to the book drop) which was a reasonable request, but rather “you are too far away from me”. It made me sad.

    I recently observed a guy I used to work with at the grocery store. He was there was 3 daughters…one probably 10 or older, the other 2 younger (but all school age). As he left the store to get to the parking lot, every single one of them had to have their hands on the cart until they got to the car. It was such a strange sight.

    I sometimes have to remind myself that people DO know their kids better than me (maybe it was punishment for being unruly — who knows)…but I think deep down you know it’s not that — it’s fear.

  83. Papilio June 13, 2014 at 12:57 pm #

    “We are either stupid or simply starved for drama. – L”

    What – only one of the two?

  84. anonymous mom June 13, 2014 at 1:22 pm #

    @SOA, there is no way to guarantee you will NEVER need to make an unexpected trip for diapers. You mention going to Sam’s Club once a month and buying a big box. Great, especially if somebody can afford to pay the yearly fee for a wholesale club and have the space to store a big box. But what if your kids had a bad case of diarrhea one month and you found yourself, for a bit, going through diapers at 2-3 times the normal rate and suddenly you found yourself out of diapers four days before your scheduled shopping trip? Stuff happens.

    Plus, not everybody can afford to buy in bulk. We’re fortunate that we can almost always afford to buy a big box of diapers when we’re running low. I actually have a shipment of 180 Luvs coming tomorrow, with about a dozen diapers left in the old box. We were able to spend $30 on diapers. But, we’ve had times–and there’s plenty of Americans who, due to low wages, live this way–where we run out of diapers and only have $10 or so of money for “extras” until the next paycheck, and so have to buy a small pack of diapers. Then, of course, you run out much sooner and have to go back to the store again.

    I don’t know why this mom had to go to the drugstore, but I’m not going to assume it was due to poor planning on her part. I hope that every time I need to run an errand, the assumption is that I just didn’t plan well enough.

  85. E June 13, 2014 at 1:26 pm #

    @anon mom, and there is always making a mistake. *Thinking* you’ve got something on hand that you don’t.

  86. Sarah June 13, 2014 at 1:40 pm #

    When I was a young single mom, I could barly afford diapers. It is cheeper to do it in bulk, but hard to do when you are barely making it by. I used to have yard sales almost everyweekend (my family would donate unused items to me) and I would take whatever I made, somethimes only $20 and use it to by a small pack of diapers. I would occasionally be able to get a large box but there were allot of “oh crap” moments. I am on to my third child now, and a world away financialy, so yeah, sams once a month. I also potty trained my first one really early due to the fact that I just could not afford diapers. Anyways, the point is give the lady a break. If the police had to show up I cannot believe that they would be so incompassionate (actually I can believe it). At the most, give her a ticket for running her engine.

  87. anonymous mom June 13, 2014 at 1:43 pm #

    @E, I had this weird like brain block with my first where I was constantly worried about having enough wipes, but never worried about having enough diapers. So like every time we went out, I’d suddenly feel sure I was running out of baby wipes, and buy more. More than once I found myself with like two dozen full baby wipe containers on hand, and two diapers left. You are not always the best at clear, organized thinking right after a baby is born.

  88. SOA June 13, 2014 at 2:34 pm #

    E: you do not know those families. If I get raked over the coals on this site for assuming things about people, so should you. Maybe some of those kids are special needs. You can’t tel just by looking at them you know.

    My 7 year old still has to hold onto my hand and the cart or the car in parking lots and you know why? He has autism and has almost been hit by a car many many times.

    They know their kids and I assume they are doing what they can to keep them safe.

  89. anonymous mom June 13, 2014 at 3:06 pm #

    My oldest no longer has to hold onto the cart in the store parking lot, but my younger two definitely do, and probably will until they are 6-8 (depending on their maturity and self-control). It *is* fear–what I think is a reasonable fear of a child being hit by a car in a crowded, busy parking lot where a lot of people drive badly and without paying as much attention as they should. When you’ve got more than one kid, it makes more sense to have everybody hold on to the cart crossing the parking lot than to hold hands (although, if I don’t have a cart, and I’ve got all the kids, the drill is usually that the youngest holds my hand and the 4yo holds her older brother’s hand).

    People also get into habits. My oldest still sometimes holds my hand when we’re walking through a parking lot, if it’s just me and him, even though he’s more than old enough to safely walk alone and we both know it. It’s mostly habit, from years of having to hold my hand (he is very impulsive and it took quite a while for us to trust him to exercise self-control in parking lots). If the family has always had the habit of having kids hold the cart from the store to the car, they might just still do it out of that habit.

    I also make my younger kids keep a hand on the car while they wait to be let in. My oldest had to do the same for many years, and still sometimes stands with his hand on the car door while he waits. When you’ve got even a slightly larger family, it can really make life easier to have routines like everybody holding on to the cart or everybody keeping a hand on the car, because you can’t keep a hand on each individual child.

  90. E June 13, 2014 at 9:10 pm #

    @SOA, I actually DID know the dad with the 3 daughters as I worked with him for years, (I said I’d worked with him) knew all 3 kids, have been to their home, and they live in our neighborhood. I also happen to know that the mom is SUPER paranoid (admittedly) and had difficulty allowing people hold/touch their kids as babies (not infants) due to germs. I haven’t seen them all in a few years , so unless all 3 have developed issues they did not have previously, they should have been able to walk to the car.

    As far as the lady at the library, it was the manner in which she spoke/berated the kids, I admit that I don’t know anything about them, but noted she didn’t correct the child from being in the car lane, but rather he was “too far away”.

    My point was that you see MORE of this everyday. Of course in some cases there is more than what meets the eye.

  91. baby-paramedic June 14, 2014 at 4:00 am #

    As for why the paramedics had to be called? Covering of backside.
    We sometimes get called to do things like this, and it is because of “What might happen!” and “We are not medically trained!!”. No, but I am sure you don’t need medical training in order to have an ounce of common sense. Schools are the worst for it in my district. The next district over (that we also cover) have only ever called us when needed. This district though has called us for numerous ridiculous things, sometimes multiple times in a day.

  92. Jen (P.) June 14, 2014 at 11:20 am #

    @Dolly – “They know their kids and I assume they are doing what they can to keep them safe.”

    Yet you assumed the mom you talked about in the other thread whose toddler wandered into the parking lot was in the store doing drugs or engaged in some other nefarious activity when there were loads of logical and completely innocent reasons why that child might have gotten away from her. Why are you so much more forgiving and less likely to question the motives of the parent who comes off as overprotective?

  93. Papilio June 14, 2014 at 12:35 pm #

    And again I wonder if sticking a thermometer to the inside of the car window, readable for any nosy Bad Samaritan, would have made a difference. At least then you could say, ‘Look m***n, it’s only [nice comfy temp] in there!’…

    “Much of Africa does not have “adequate shelter, food, and clothing, but those families can stay together throughout their adversities and still have some of the freedom our once great nation has now lost.”

    That’s not freedom, that’s poverty.

  94. Peter June 18, 2014 at 4:55 pm #

    Leaving an immobile person in a running car is incredibly stupid. Even a new car parked outdoors can have an undetected exhaust leak that will silently kill in minutes.

  95. Dirk June 19, 2014 at 10:08 am #

    You do not leave 10 week old babies unattended. You don’t. Maybe this parents actions are indicative of her overall parenting skills, I do not know. And yes the 10 week old baby was fine. Great. And yes jail or what have you is wasteful here.

    HOWEVER, police etc act is if there is no difference because they do not know the exact nature of the situation. You can say security cameras show X but the police at the time do not know this. All they know is a 10 week old baby was found in a car alone. It is not bonkers of them to act “as if…” because leaving a 10 week old baby in car in a parking lot is an indication of not caring about that child or just stupidity. It is. The child wasn’t in a crib. It wasn’t in a bouncy seat in the kitchen. It wasn’t in stroller in the backyard. It was in a car in a parking lot. AND, when the man who found the baby walked into the store and asked who’s 10 week old was left in a car in the parking lot…the mother didn’t seem to care. She got in line to pay for her convenience store items.

    The point is that she had no contingency plan at all. I would say the 10 week was probably alone in the car for 10 to 15 minutes. 4 for the man to see the child as the security camera showed (after the fact). Another minute at least for the man to decide what to do. Another minute at least for him to walk into the store. Another minute at least for him to find the mother, Another…what? 3 minutes at least for her to get in line and pay for her items? And another minute or two to get back in her car. So lets tally that…11 or 12 minutes minimum that a TEN WEEK OLD BABY was left in a car in a parking lot. Not that long. But too long. Come on. That is too long. And you know it.

  96. kelly June 22, 2014 at 9:54 pm #

    Dirk, you are absolutely right that at the time the man called 911 the polce did not know how long the baby had been in the car. Where you’re wrong though is the mother was in fact only in the store a total of 3 minutes as verified by the police officers after the fact on video cameras in the store. That is what makes this story so ridiculous This new mother ran into the store to buy something and the man immediately pounced on her and she was only picking up something for her child. I think the fact that the majority of the people on this website can see how crazy it has become when people call the police rather than use their heads is comforting amidst all the craziness.

  97. Dirk June 23, 2014 at 12:16 pm #

    @ Kelly

    The store’s surveillance cameras showed that the child was left in the car for about four minutes before the baby was spotted in its car seat by a man in the parking lot.

    The man walked into the store searching for the child’s parent, and told police Kelly came forward saying the child was hers, and then continued to wait in line to pay for her items, prompting the man the contact police.

  98. Dirk June 23, 2014 at 12:18 pm #

    @ Kelly

    The man called the police because the mother broke the law.


    § 3701.1.  Leaving an unattended child in a motor vehicle. 
    (a)  General rule.‐‐A person driving or in charge of a motor vehicle may not permit a child under six years 
    of age to remain unattended in the vehicle when the motor vehicle is out of the person’s sight and under 
    circumstances which endanger the health, safety or welfare of the child. 
    (a.1)  Applicability.‐‐This section shall apply to the highways and trafficways of this Commonwealth and, 
    for the purposes of this section only, the term “trafficways” shall include, but not be limited to, parking lots. 
    (b) Penalty.‐‐A person who violates this section commits a summary offense. It is a separate 
    offense for each child left unattended. 
    (July 19, 1991, P.L.88, No.20, eff. 90 days; July 2, 1993, P.L.408, No.58, eff. 60 days; July 10, 2006, P.L.1086, No.113, eff. 60 
    2006 Amendment.  Act 113 amended subsec. (b). 
    1991 Amendment.  Act 20 added section 3701.1. 

  99. Dirk June 23, 2014 at 12:20 pm #

    @ Kelly

    The man called the police because the mother broke the law.


    § 3701.1. Leaving an unattended child in a motor vehicle.

    (a) General rule.–A person driving or in charge of a motor vehicle may not permit a child under six years of age to remain unattended in the vehicle when the motor vehicle is out of the person’s sight and under circumstances which endanger the health, safety or welfare of the child.
    (a.1) Applicability.–This section shall apply to the highways and trafficways of this Commonwealth and, for the purposes of this section only, the term “trafficways” shall include, but not be limited to, parking lots.
    (b) Penalty.–A person who violates this section commits a summary offense. It is a separate offense for each child left unattended.
    (July 19, 1991, P.L.88, No.20, eff. 90 days; July 2, 1993, P.L.408, No.58, eff. 60 days; July 10, 2006, P.L.1086, No.113, eff. 60 days)

    2006 Amendment. Act 113 amended subsec. (b).
    1993 Amendment. Act 58 added subsec. (a.1).
    1991 Amendment. Act 20 added section 3701.1.

  100. Dirk June 23, 2014 at 12:25 pm #

    Also, in general, yes of course the risk is low. However, you shouldn’t leave your child in a car. And there are two undeniable reasons for this.

    1) You have to know that this is the social convention by now. Even if you disagree with it. Under no circumstance does our society allow this now. If a person sees this it is more likely than not that an incident will occur. If you do not know that not leaving a child in a car is the standard now it does make you look to be…out of touch might be the nicest way to phrase it. The cultural rule about not leaving a child in a car is common knowledge and so is the reaction that will occur if you do. To break that rule is to invite the reaction.

    2) The reaction is ultimately the result of not knowing the entirety of the situation. If an adult, be it a police officer or regular joe, finds a child in a car they do not know how long that child has been there and what the state of the child is. As a result they will act “as if.” Because, no matter how slight the chance of danger, and it is slight, prevention of the worst outcome is their goal. Even if you do not agree that the worst possible outcome is likely, prevention of the worst possible outcome is their goal. Because you have broken the social convention this reaction is inevitable on a long enough timeline. It is inevitable because on a long enough timeline the worst possible outcome is also inevitable.

  101. Dirk June 23, 2014 at 12:31 pm #

    Also…how long is it ok to leave a 10 week old baby with absolutely no care?

    Forget about the car part. How long is it ok to leave a 10 year old baby with ZERO care?

    For example if you put a 10 week old baby in a crib and walk out of the house and down the street how far and how long can you go without having to return to provide care to the 10 week old baby?

    This is a serious question.