DC Parents Who Left Toddlers in Car for an Hour Face Possible 10-Year Sentence: Good?

A DC couple who left their toddlers wait in the car while they went to a wine tasting for an hour (and I’m not sure the wine tasting detail is relevant) have had their kids taken away from them, according zfzadyebht
to The Washington Post

While I don’t think any of us believe it’s a good idea to have two very young kids stuck alone in a car for that long, on a 35 degree day, strapped into their seats,  parents Christopher (Christophe) Daniel Lucas and Jennie Teresa Chang did keep a cell phone line open, in a rather misguided attempt to supervise from afar.

As wacky as that sounds, the punishment strikes me as excessive: The parents were thrown in jail for two nights and their kids have been taken away. The judge even ordered the parents to stay away from their children until the hearing, scheduled for Feb. 18. They were charged with two counts of attempted second degree cruelty to children, meaning they could face up to 10 years in prison.

How does that make anyone safer or healthier?

Some parents are dumb, some parents are clueless, some parents come from other culture where they do things we would never do (the dad in this couple is from France). And then there are parents who are truly negligent and abusive.

It is only the ones deliberately hurting their kids or truly negligent that deserve punishment, rather than instruction and perhaps a warning. In this case, the children were found to be healthy.

Leaving your kids for an hour in the car in the cold is not Free-Range. But, absent any other indications of real cruelty, it doesn’t strike me as prison-worthy, either. And who thinks the kids are going to be better off yanked from their home and placed someplace new? – L

Is this where clueless parents belong?

Is this where clueless parents belong?

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130 Responses to DC Parents Who Left Toddlers in Car for an Hour Face Possible 10-Year Sentence: Good?

  1. Barbara February 3, 2015 at 11:24 am #

    What is too excessive in considering the welfare of two very young children? That’s what we need to ask ourselves.

    I have one novel idea: BABYSITTER.

  2. pentamom February 3, 2015 at 11:37 am #

    Okay, even though the kids survived, I’m pretty sure leaving your pre-verbal kids alone in a car in near-freezing temperatures with a cell phone as a lifeline is still “negligent.” Nobody has to actually get hurt in order to judge an action negligent.

    You might convince me that the possible punishment is excessive, and you *might* convince me that having the kids removed temporarily is going too far, but even that is doubtful.

    These people *were* neglecting their kids PURELY for the pursuit of personal pleasure and there’s no way around that. I’m usually with Lenore on these things, but this one doesn’t seem problematic except *possibly* in the degree of consequence the parents are facing. The line between “poor but tolerable parenting decision” and “criminal neglect” isn’t always clear, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be drawn.

  3. pentamom February 3, 2015 at 11:43 am #

    “How does that make anyone safer or healthier?”

    By setting a minimum acceptable standard for care of children, the violation of which will have consequences. There actually ARE parents out there who are prevented from seriously neglecting their children only because there are social sanctions in place to prevent it.

    At some point, even though the children most directly affected are not directly benefited by the consequences the parents suffer, a society does have to impose some consequences on those who go far outside the norm of responsible parenting. Again, I realize that can be abused, but so can society’s ability to make laws about ANYTHING. We can argue the propriety of cases like this on the margin, but NOT simply because “punishing the parents doesn’t help the children,” if the failure of the parents to fulfill their responsibilities is at least arguably severe enough to merit legal consequence.

  4. E February 3, 2015 at 11:43 am #

    Hard to say. Sure, that *sounds* excessive, but I’m not at all familiar with the legal penalties in regard to this.

    As you said, it’s not a Free Range issue.

    As far as where they were going? Of course it’s pertinent. It doesn’t sound like leaving kids in a cold car was safe no matter how they were spending their time, but it does speak to the mindset of these parents.

  5. Ceridwen February 3, 2015 at 11:44 am #

    Tough one. I would rather that DSS leave children with their parents unless it’s shown (in court) that the parents are habitually abusive, or if the child shows clear signs of abuse when the DSS comes to call. I think it does more harm to the child(ren) to be torn from the family they know and love; for that reason, I think the judge’s order to keep the parents and children separated for about two weeks is wrong.

    They naively tried to ‘keep an ear’ on the kids – what they could have done if there were some emergency, I don’t know, since it would have taken some time to get from the wine-tasting (party?) to the car – but they did try. IMO, they clearly need some instruction on common sense, but I don’t think they deserve to have their kids taken away. I don’t think the kids deserve to be deprived of their parents.

    Babysitter – yes.

    This reminds me of the Madeleine McCann case, where the parents were out of the hotel room, but close. They get a lot of flack, on the internet, for what is about the same thing as this case, though without the phone. Is leaving the kids outside of the same building, but within reasonable response time, that much different than being in the same house and having the child kidnapped from his or her room, as in the Smart case? Seems to me that it would be different, but, am I right in that?

  6. E February 3, 2015 at 11:48 am #

    Also — as noted, this is “maximum 10-year prison sentence” for a charge like this. Considering that they can’t write laws to account for every selfish/stupid thing a parent does, it seems like a max sentence is just that…the max.

  7. E February 3, 2015 at 11:53 am #

    @Ceridwen , I think the difference is that being left in a car in very cold weather, there is a KNOWN risk. I’m sure people would find it odd to leave a kid a block around the corner while you partake in a completely optional social event in a large city (meaning, they’d probably been charged with something even w/o the cold).

    But let’s stick to what DID happen.

    When you are sitting in a car in 35 degree weather, you are going to get cold. The article says one had no hat or socks. There is a predictable outcome (the kids getting very cold), before you even get to the “what if” scenarios.

  8. Erica February 3, 2015 at 11:53 am #

    I’m afraid I disagree with you on this one. Leaving two toddlers alone in a car for an hour in the cold is neglect. It may be that there is a better way to punish that will result in a better outcome, because removing the kids permanently from the family is almost certainly a bad outcome and so it would be better to shore up these parents’ skills (if that’s possible – this is pretty darned stupid behavior/, but mandatory parenting training is something that should only be imposed when there is a basis for the exercise of governmental authority (i.e., neglect, whether criminal or not.

    And yes, the fact that it is a wine tasting is relevant. A parent who makes a desperate decision in the face of an impossible situation is one thing. A parent that leaves children untended in the cold so they can go amuse themselves is another thing entirely.

  9. Neil M. February 3, 2015 at 11:57 am #

    This feels less like a free-range issue and more like an issue of excessive punishment, which is pretty common in the United States. We routinely toss people in prison for decades over non-violent offenses like possession of small amounts of drugs, so it’s not surprising these parents (whom, I agree, were neglectful) are facing ten years. I think this nation is re-thinking sentencing in general, but it probably won’t happen quickly enough for those parents.

  10. Jill February 3, 2015 at 12:01 pm #

    What they did was certainly stupid, but do they deserve to go to prison for it? No.
    What’s wrong with a fine and a stern lecture in this case? How have we gotten to where CPS automatically swoops in and takes the children away and mom and dad are facing significant time behind bars? Can’t there be some middle ground between, “Meh, the kids are fine. No harm done” and BOOM! automatic foster care.

  11. Eva February 3, 2015 at 12:07 pm #

    This is a great article, and you make a good point.
    However, you may want to delete or rephrase this part
    ‘some parents come from other culture where they do things we would never do (the dad in this couple is from France)’
    In France, out of all places, it is not culturally acceptable to leave the kids in the car and, because, you probably don’t want to imply this, I think you should change these words.

  12. Andrea February 3, 2015 at 12:08 pm #

    What Neil said.

    We love to throw people in jail. It’s how we roll here in the USA. It solves everything, right?

  13. pentamom February 3, 2015 at 12:09 pm #

    “Can’t there be some middle ground between, “Meh, the kids are fine. No harm done” and BOOM! automatic foster care.”

    I agree with this EXCEPT — I think the kids SHOULD be taken away temporarily while there is some assessment done to figure out whether this is part of a pattern of Really Neglectful Parenting or just a really, really bad one-off decision. It does not do Free Range parents or anyone else a service to simply blithely assume that all parents are decent parents and this is “probably” just a relatively innocent case of bad judgment. If you actually get a situation where parents are indicating that they might be dangerousy neglectful, it should be followed up and the kids’ safety ensured in the meantime.

    At least in theory, that is. I know that’s not how it really works. Once the kids are gone, it takes a lot to get the back and the burden of proof is all on the parents. But as long as we’re talking “shoulds,” I have no problem with putting the kids in a safe situation (preferably with another relative) for a day or two while the extent of the problem is determined. Problem is, that’s not how it actually works.

  14. gina February 3, 2015 at 12:17 pm #

    What worries me most here is that nobody said anything about the adults spending two hours tasting wine and then getting back in the car and presumably driving….Tolerance for buzzed driving is tolerance for attempted murder.

    Other than that, I’m on the fence with this one….I think what the parents did was stupid, selfish and wrong. Taking the kids away does seem excessive…Education seems a better alternative.

  15. RJ February 3, 2015 at 12:18 pm #

    In Europe it was once common to leave babies in carriages outside of the house on the sidewalk so they could sleep in the cold fresh air though I doubt it is still the custom so different cultures approach things differently. I have seen French men change on the beach in Santa Monica that could be arrested for indecent exposure and Japanese families take baths together so one should consider the persons heritage.
    However I would never have done something like that with my children or granddaughter.

  16. J- February 3, 2015 at 12:24 pm #

    Did the baby come to any harm? That is the big question.

    If not an 10 years is egregious. Hefty fine, sure. Probation and checks on the kids, alright.

    But I have come to learn that the foster system (from a mother-in-law who works with a lot of those types of kids) is a meat grinder where slight abused kids go in and junkies and suicidal drug addicts come out the other end. Taking the kids away should be the very last option unless the kids have already been harmed.


    On a side note. It is blizzard weather in the Mid West, and so the issue of running an errand with and leaving the kid in the car is a big deal. Of course an hour is excessive, but… which is better, un-packing the 9 month old from the car seat and carrying him in the driving snow into CVS for the 3 min it takes to buy diapers, or leaving him covered in the warm, locked car, for the 3 min it takes to buy diapers?

  17. Steve Horwitz February 3, 2015 at 12:25 pm #

    The question should always be a comparative one: are those two kids better off wherever they are now, in an imperfect CPS process, or with two imperfect parents? Rather than taking kids away and jailing parents, and condemn kids to foster care or worse, why not work to find community resources to help those parents make better decisions? Isn’t that ultimately better for the kids, and for the parents?

  18. Elisabeth February 3, 2015 at 12:34 pm #

    This is a tough one.

    I agree that no one in this family is better off if the parents go to jail for 10 years. And if they do go to jail for 10 years, then it becomes pretty much justifiable to jail the single parent who leaves the 5 year-old with the sleeping toddler in the car for 3 minutes while running into the pharmacy to pick up a prescription. Reasonably we know that 1 hour in 35 degree weather is much more risky to the children’s well-being than 5 minutes, but when the typical response to any parenting choice that gets labeled “child endangerment” or “negligence” is jail, all of us are at risk of imprisonment and loss of our children if we make a choice that the nosy neighbor and then responding police don’t agree with.

    So that implies of course (working through my own argument here) that the answer is some kind of education of parents and monitoring of the family by a social worker for some period of time. Which i think is a better choice, but what I struggle with is what that education includes. It’s not hard to imagine that the parenting classes put on by a local police and social services department in most every community in this country would be nothing but reiteration of the scary stories that the news channels and insurance companies love to regale us with these days. I think the last thing we all need is more parents being brainwashed into thinking that their kids are in peril 24-7.

    So my ideal response would be education and monitoring of the parents, but Lenore would teach the classes.:)

  19. Melanie February 3, 2015 at 12:43 pm #

    See, I don’t actually believe that there is a danger in leaving kids in a car in 35 degree weather. At least, a danger from cold. I used to sit in the back of my dad’s pick up while he went hunting in the fall, quite happily, playing under the camper top with my Barbie’s on an air mattress for certainly more than an hour. I never remember being cold, certainly not hypothermic. My dad made that decision because he grew up on a ranch, and spent most of his childhood outdoors rain, snow, cold and all as did my mother. People used to spend a lot of time outside, believe it or not, and they enjoyed it! So based on their experiences, they had a pretty good notion of what might be harmful or not. When I was a child, the doctor advised that my mom should put me outside in the playpen every day for my health! Now, for social norms today as someone mentioned, you can’t leave your kids in a car because people will call the police on you so it is almost like part of the social contract today – you are just begging to have your children removed by displaying such disregard for norms in public. Could they have made a better choice? I’m sure. Is this the whole story? Surely not. I agree that it is fine to take the children to assure that they are fine (and have them stay with family preferably), but I’m still irritated at how this system works and how it does nothing to really benefit families. However, maybe if more middle class ‘acceptable’ people get drug into this system there will be more of a push to change things.

  20. Cherub Mamma February 3, 2015 at 12:43 pm #

    I’m one of the most free-range people out there AND I’m a foster parent. I’ve got to side with the courts on this one. They have just been charged…NOT sentenced. But what the parents did was dangerous. It cannot be compared to leaving a child in the car while you run into the store or letting your kids walk to the park alone. This isn’t a free range article and it doesn’t make sense to get your britches in a bunch about what MIGHT happen to the parent just yet.

  21. E February 3, 2015 at 12:45 pm #

    @Elisabeth — are the “scary stories” a reality for every parent that is investigated by CPS though? Or, like many things, the outliers tell the most sordid story?

    These parents should be subject to review.

    Are they parents that frequently leave their toddlers unattended? Where they intoxicated when they arrived? What was the state of the children when found?

    Or was this a really bad/unlucky circumstance where 1 parent wasn’t expected to be longer than a few minutes?

    You can’t make that decision on the sidewalk, and so they find themselves here.

  22. Reziac February 3, 2015 at 12:46 pm #

    Someone says, “By setting a minimum acceptable standard for care of children, the violation of which will have consequences.”

    Trouble is, such standards tend to develop ‘feature creep’.

    Here’s a real-life example:

    California state law says that you must provide reasonable food, shelter, and medical care for your pets. So far so good.

    San Francisco city law (passed a few years ago) takes this further — you must provide APPROVED food and bedding for your pet. (But since there is no legal definition of “approved”, functionally it means “whatever the nutjobs currently in charge think is best, even if it’s not what’s right for YOUR pet.” Under this extremely vague law, they =could= dictate that your pets eat caviar and sleep on feather pillows.)

  23. E February 3, 2015 at 12:48 pm #

    @Melanie — were you a toddler when you did this?

    There’s a difference between properly clothed children playing outside and being able to move around (which helps you stay warm) and toddlers stuck in a car w/o proper clothing for 35 degree weather.

  24. Donna February 3, 2015 at 12:51 pm #

    This is another situation of trying to draw conclusions before we have any clue what will happen.

    Yes, the maximum penalty is 10 years (it may very well be 20 if the maximum for each count is 10), but almost nobody ever gets the maximum penalty for any crime, unless it is particularly heinous. Freaking out about excessive punishment when they were just arrested two days ago is simply ridiculous. At this point, we don’t even know whether they will end up charged with this crime or something else (with a lesser or greater penalty) or nothing. Unlike Law & Order, real life criminal cases take months and years to resolve, not 40 minutes.

    Lets dampen down the outrage until we know what we are being outraged about.

  25. Melanie February 3, 2015 at 12:54 pm #

    As has been stated in previous comments, I doubt the 10 yr max will be handed down…especially if this is found to be the 1st and only offense. And I agree, it is useful to know the motivation behind why they left…it seems likely that they could not make the difficult choice of having one parent stay at home with the children, a sacrifice that sometimes has to be made when you have very young children. And finallly, I have to agree with PentaMom, taking the children away temporarily will allow authorities to investigate whether or not this is habitual behavior. (Seeing as the father isn’t above telling a few “white lies” …”Just stepped away for a few minutes”. Sometimes, emphasis on it not being ALWAYS, it is in the best interest of a child to be separated from his parents. Appreciate the opinions here, as well as the opportunity to discuss.

  26. Reziac February 3, 2015 at 12:54 pm #

    There are big differences between clueless, careless, not what coddled moderns expect, and unteachable idiots. Unfortunately CPS doesn’t distinguish (nor, far as I can tell, does it wish to) — it just assumes criminal neglect.

    Did these parents do something dumb? Maybe. Can they learn better? Probably. Should we prevent them from ever doing so by taking their kids and throwing them in jail? I doubt it. Will the kids actually be better off thrown into the foster system for the next ten years, only to discover their parents have become strangers? Very unlikely.

    But I’m with Melanie on this — once kids are old enough to crawl, they are just not all that fragile. We’ve been led to believe that they’ll die if they so much as breathe natural air, but that’s patently not the case. Kids are actually pretty tough — otherwise none of our farm-raised ancestors would have survived long enough to produce us.

  27. lollipoplover February 3, 2015 at 12:57 pm #

    While I personally wouldn’t leave my toddlers for an hour in a car, I do feel these parents made a pretty big parenting fail (but disagree about the temperature being dangerous).
    It should NOT have resulted in a jail stint or with a 10-year prison sentence that will destroy 4 lives.
    Parenting education courses? Yes.
    Substance abuse counseling? Yes.

    There also seems to be a lot of shaming on them for not paying a babysitter when they lived in a million dollar home.
    Guess what?
    Rich parents make stupid mistakes too.

    And why did this judge order the parents not to see the toddlers? I would think after the police involvement, these little ones would want the comfort of their parents. They’re making this out to be such a traumatizing event in their young lives. For what good?

    I just read this article and feel like we, as a society, want to punish parents more than help them anymore with these *crime* stories…kids in cars.


    Can’t someone try to help this family instead of tear it apart? I can guarantee I was left in a cold car as a toddler many times growing up but my parents weren’t arrested.
    But back then, people didn’t use cell phones to call 911 for children in cars.

  28. En Passant February 3, 2015 at 12:58 pm #

    RJ wrote Tue Feb 3rd 2015 at 12:18 pm:

    In Europe it was once common to leave babies in carriages outside of the house on the sidewalk so they could sleep in the cold fresh air though I doubt it is still the custom so different cultures approach things differently.

    Here is a link to 1997 news one such arrest:


    From which the following money quotes. I have emphasized one particularly important statement:

    Mr. Wardlaw’s lawyer, David Kirsch, said the police had overreacted by arresting the couple. ”I personally don’t think there was any kind of criminal problem,” he said. ”The police could have easily said, ‘Why don’t you take the child inside?’ ”

    He said the couple did not bring the child into the restaurant in the first place because Ms. Sorensen believed that the common Danish practice of leaving children unattended outside restaurants and shops was equally acceptable in New York. ”It was an innocent mistake, if you even call it a mistake,” he said.

    Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani defended the arrests as the proper response to the complaints of concerned citizens. ”I think we did the right thing,” the Mayor said. ”If they acted out of an excess of caution, so be it.”

    Most parents interviewed in Manhattan yesterday said they believed the couple was negligent in leaving the child outside, although some agreed with Mr. Kirsch that Ms. Sorensen had no malicious intent.

    ”I was just in Denmark and that’s exactly what they do,” said Mariom Adler, out walking with her 2 1/2-year-old son, Ned Wentworth. ”We would see babies all over unattended. We were stunned, frankly. But Denmark also struck us as exceptionally civilized.

    It would be wonderful if American governments became at least as civilized as Denmark’s.

  29. Nadine February 3, 2015 at 1:00 pm #

    I think that the reason they left their kid alone to go to a wine tasting is certainly relevant. Last year there was a woman who had a jobinterview and couldn’t find a babysitter she could afford. That is a situation of only bad choices. A wine tasting is optional and both parents made the choice to put their own needs before their kids. 10 years is excessive and prosecuting a case of bad parenting for one single situation doesnt make sense to me. There should be counseling and supervision first.

  30. Beth February 3, 2015 at 1:03 pm #

    Here’s the issue: No one (yes I’m exaggerating, but I know plenty of parents like this) will hire a babysitter any more. Teens are too young/too old/too inexperienced/too busy/all pedophiles. Friends/neighbors who might help out are also all pedophiles, or their cleanliness standards aren’t quite up to par, or they hunt, so there just might be a gun laying around. (How about asking?) Grandma? Grandpa lives there too and all men are … well, you know.

    I do have to say though, the people I know who refuse to hire a sitter just stay home, refusing all social invitations that might be inappropriate for children. They haven’t, to my knowledge, left them in the car.

  31. Donna February 3, 2015 at 1:09 pm #


    If the sole consideration was death, I agree that is probably not going to happen inside a car in 35 degree weather. That doesn’t mean that it is remotely comfortable to be strapped in a car seat inappropriately dressed in that weather for an hour. Nor do we have any idea how long the parents would have left them there had the police not intervened.

    Children are actually people. I think there is way too much insistence that children should be expected to withstand stuff that we would never do to ourselves. Unless you would welcome the chance to sit sockless, hatless and gloveless in an unheated car in DC in February unable to move or do anything to change your circumstance until someone decided to come get you, you probably shouldn’t assume that it is something that any kid would enjoy either. And even if you would enjoy such a thing, it is clearly obvious that THIS child didn’t enjoy it since she was screaming hysterically.

  32. E February 3, 2015 at 1:11 pm #

    For those that keep saying that the temp is not a concern, I’m confused. Would you choose to sit in a cold car (the arrest took place at 4:30pm) after an hour w/o socks or shoes?

    No one is suggesting that this was (at the time of the arrest) a life/death situation, but that’s not the standard of care/neglect is it?

  33. BL February 3, 2015 at 1:18 pm #

    “But back then, people didn’t use cell phones to call 911 for children in cars.”

    I’m not sure that’s the difference. Before cell phones, there were public phones everywhere. At least everywhere there was likely to be a sizeable parking lot (like outside of a store.) Those were handy enough. And there was no charge for 911 calls.

  34. Kate February 3, 2015 at 1:20 pm #

    Is 10 years excessive? Probably. On the other hand these people are pretty clearly terrible human beings. They’re not poor or uneducated, they just couldn’t be bothered to prioritize their children’s well being and emotional health over their own desires which is pretty much the definition of parenting. That being said what they need are parenting classes, not extensive jail time and the permanent loss of their kids.

  35. Lala February 3, 2015 at 1:23 pm #

    As someone who grew up without a lot of common sense, (hey, I scored big on the poetical side), even I can see through this one. A ten year prison sentence chsrge is enough to get the attention of other numbskulls who might justify to themselves that this is appropriate. Having your kids taken away and spending time in jail puts immediate consequences and a seriousness to the situation regardless of having moved from a different country. I don’t think France has stayed in the dark ages. I think this is highly appropriate. Hopefully these parents will get it together enough to get their kids back and make parenting a top priority. (Plus, I think the free wine tasting had everything to do with it.)

  36. Donna February 3, 2015 at 1:23 pm #

    “And why did this judge order the parents not to see the toddlers? ”

    It is pretty standard for a judge setting bond at a first appearance to order as a condition of bond that the person charged have no contact with the alleged victim of the alleged crime until a further hearing can be had. This is whether the alleged victim is an adult or child.

    It is a precautionary measure as first appearances are generally conducted within hours of the person being arrested and are not evidentiary hearings – they are simply where the judge tells the accused the charges against him and sets a bond according to an established bond schedule. The point is to get the arrestee out of jail as quickly as possible while still preserving the safety of victim until an evidentiary hearing where the victim, CPS, cops, parents and everyone can be heard and everyone’s positions considered.

  37. Katie S. February 3, 2015 at 1:28 pm #

    This was a bad call on the parents’ part. I don’t think it’s a good idea to leave your young children in a car on a cold day for over an hour.

    BUT, I also have a friend who finally was able to adopt his daughter after YEARS of the system giving custody back to her drug-addicted biological mother. WHY does the system give chance after chance to druggies who are unable to provide safe housing (drug houses are NOT safe for children), yet will gladly take children away from parents who left them safely strapped in a chilly car or who let their capable children walk home from a park?

    I’m sorry, but there needs to be some sort of standard. The idea that drug addicted biological parents can drag their poor children from home to home, around meth heads, drug dealers, criminals, etc and STILL get multiple opportunities to get their child back and yet these parents may face up to 10 years in jail is absolutely ludicrous and very sad to me.

  38. Tiny Tim February 3, 2015 at 1:31 pm #

    While I admit this bumps up against the limit and probably tiptoes over it, I still think it’s fair to observe that these kids weren’t actually in any danger, except from the likely drunk driving.

  39. Nicole February 3, 2015 at 1:33 pm #

    Personally, I think prison is the least desirable punishment for most crimes. There are some people who are dangerous to the public and they should be in prison. For pretty much everyone else, I think we need better punishments that actually address and try to correct the bad behavior and, where appropriate, make amends to victims- all while working and supporting themselves instead of us tax payers doing it. Having said that, these parents are morons and should not be trusted with a pet hamster. If you had told me that the parents had to rush to the hospital because one of them was having a heart attack and they left the kids in the car for an hour because the hospital ER had just confirmed several cases of Ebola or something, I might see how that decision made sense. Heck, I like my wine and I know how it is to be a parent, so if they had left the kids for 5 minutes to run into a liquor store for a bottle of wine on the way home, I might have given them the benefit of the doubt. But there is just no such thing as an hour long wine tasting emergency. Ten years in prison and losing their kids is a very serious punishment, but as neglect goes, this is right up there with lots of other types of neglect that probably get a similar sentence. It might be better for many such cases to be treated with education and supervision instead of prison, but I wouldn’t suggest singling these parents out for better treatment just because they were sipping wine in a chi-chi restaurant instead of smoking crack in a flop house.

  40. Liz February 3, 2015 at 1:37 pm #

    Another point from the news article: Neither child had gloves or a hat, police said, and the younger one did not have shoes or socks. The girl was “hysterically crying”.

    If they’d been happy (read: asleep) and warm, it would be one thing. I couldn’t stay at any event knowing my child was hysterically crying. A 2yo is just too long to leave on his/her own when awake.

    Do I think it’s worth a 10-year jail sentence? No, but I would support parenting classes and 1-2 year probation.

  41. SKL February 3, 2015 at 1:38 pm #

    I do think some jail or prison time may be justified in this case. Of course I would need more facts to make that determination.

    Criminal negligence is a thing for a reason. Everyone has a “duty of care” when they are the people ultimately responsible for something or someone. The standard is whether, under all the facts and circumstances, a reasonable person would have done xyz.

    I have a problem with treating this the same as a parent who just leaves a kid in the car for a few minutes.

  42. Dee February 3, 2015 at 1:42 pm #

    I have to say, this story actually makes me MAD because it makes it harder to free-range parent your kid. It’s do-dos like this that make authorities and the nosy neighbor down the street want to “do the right thing” “for the children.” At first I thought, oh, it must be a couple of really young parents who don’t know better. But no, they are in 40s and own a million dollar home. They could afford a babysitter or, if one was not available, stay home for the night. Maybe the punishment is severe for the crime, but I really don’t care. Sometimes stupid is as stupid does.

  43. Jason February 3, 2015 at 2:09 pm #

    I don’t know about France, and I’m not sure that it’s analogous, but I have read that in a lot of Nordic countries it’s not uncommon at all to leave your kids out in the cold for naps.


  44. Renee Anne February 3, 2015 at 2:15 pm #

    I don’t know if I agree with you on this one.

    They left their two children, both under 3 years old, in the car in near-freezing temperatures for an hour, for the purpose of self-indulgence. Yes, they had a cell phone connecting them. Yes, it was above freezing. Yes, the children were strapped in. No, nothing happened to them other than being left in the car for an hour in near-freezing temperatures. Do I think they need to go to jail for a decade over the incident? Probably not. But they need something a bit more substantial than a slap on the wrist because that’s just idiocy. Taking the children away is going to do more damage in the long-term (unless it is shown that there is a pattern of habitual selfishness and neglect on the part of the parents) but saying, “oh, don’t do it again because it’s a bad idea,” isn’t enough.

    Of course, they could have acted like adults and gotten a babysitter.

  45. E February 3, 2015 at 2:19 pm #

    Interesting article.

    The do have a comment about how they make sure the child is warm including wool next to the body and a warm sleeping bag.

    I went backpacking during what was our area’s first cold snap in the fall. With a 35 degree sleeping bag and temps in the low 30s on the night it dipped…I was cold. Sure, I was at no real risk, but I slept horribly and was very uncomfortable. I considered getting up before dawn to go for a walk just to warm up.

  46. Maria Smilios February 3, 2015 at 2:28 pm #

    Umm…I don’t know…but leaving your non-verbal toddlers strapped into a freezing car while you taste wine with your hubby is the definition of negligent and they should be removed. The sentence might or might not fix them, but too bad, they should have thought about that while sipping on different style Chardonnays and their kid was freezing (no hat or socks).

    That said,too bad for them.

  47. Melissa February 3, 2015 at 2:34 pm #

    And this is where you lose me, Range Free Mom… I am unsubscribing.

  48. Donna February 3, 2015 at 2:36 pm #

    Look at the babies in the article Jason posted about Nordic babies sleeping outside. They are wearing hats and wrapped up like burritos in huge blankets with only their faces exposed and more blankets wrapped around the pram. That is a far cry from sitting in a carseat in normal clothes without socks, hats and gloves.

  49. SteveS February 3, 2015 at 3:08 pm #

    Courts typically go light on first time offenders. If this is a case where there was no actual harm or evidence that this is a pattern, then I don’t see why they should have their children taken away or spend time in jail. It seems more reasonable to have a fine and/or probation.

  50. Lin February 3, 2015 at 3:35 pm #

    There’s only two reasons for any sentence, deterrence and protection. I don’t think anyone, including their children, need protecting from these parents. So will it deter other parents from making such stupid decisions?

    Clearly the vast majority of parents already know that this is not a wise thing to do. So the deterrence strategy is aimed at a very small minority of clueless parents. Will the message get through to them? Will they understand the nuances, like the length of time they were left, their ages, the temperature? Maybe they would, if at the same time sensible parents who leave their kids in the car in acceptable circumstances wouldn’t get paraded in the media in a very similar way.

    Here in Australia at least one baby a year seems to die in a car because of the heat. And a few others survive despite it. The ones that die seem to usually be cases of parents forgetting that the baby is still in the car. But there’s been cases of parents who apparently hadn’t heard the message that hot cars are killers.

  51. Lin February 3, 2015 at 3:41 pm #

    I wasn’t quite finished… (My Android keyboard hates this site)

    It is already illegal in most states here to leave kids in cars. And the stories of babies dying or getting rescued are all over the news. Still it happens. Is sentencing parents to jail going to change that? I doubt it… There must be better ways to educate those clueless parents.

  52. Alexander February 3, 2015 at 4:14 pm #

    LSA-R.S. 14:93.2.3

    A.(1) Second degree cruelty to juveniles is the intentional or criminally negligent mistreatment or neglect by anyone over the age of seventeen to any child under the age of seventeen which causes serious bodily injury or neurological impairment to that child.

    (2) For purposes of this Section, “serious bodily injury” means bodily injury involving protracted and obvious disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member, organ, or mental faculty, or substantial risk of death.

    I don’t know if the requirements for “serious bodily injury” were met under the law. They will probably be fine with a good lawyer.

    Although I think this is a tad over the line of “clueless parent” and I am personally not comfortable with their actions, this remains a free range issue.

    The choice of what to do with their own kids, provided nobody dies/gets abused or tortured, still lies with the parents rather than the state.

  53. Peter February 3, 2015 at 4:48 pm #

    A couple of interesting things from the article:

    First, the article states that the boy was 22 months and the girl was “slightly older.” Well, rashly assuming she is mother of both children, we’ll assume the girl was about 2-and-a-half (ie, 9 months plus 22 months).

    So the boy was just shy of 2 years old.

    The other interesting thing was that the girl was “hysterically crying.” Yet the police state there was an open phone line. So did the mother not hear her “hysterically crying” daughter? Or was the daughter hysterically crying once the police showed up and tried to break into the car. I don’t know about you but if I were 2.5 and someone tried to break into the car I was in, I’d be crying hysterically, too.

  54. Donna February 3, 2015 at 4:57 pm #


    I’m not sure what you are quoting as that isn’t the law in DC where this happened. DC Code 22-1101 states:

    (b) A person commits the crime of cruelty to children in the second degree if that person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly:
    (1) Maltreats a child or engages in conduct which causes a grave risk of bodily injury to a child; or
    (2) Exposes a child, or aids and abets in exposing a child in any highway, street, field house, outhouse or other place, with intent to abandon the child.

    As you can see, actual injury need not occur. In fact, if actual injury does occur, it becomes 1st degree child cruelty.

  55. Donna February 3, 2015 at 5:12 pm #

    “There’s only two reasons for any sentence, deterrence and protection.”

    No there are 3 reasons for any sentence – deterrence, protection of society and PUNISHMENT. The criminal justice system addresses atonement for current behavior as well has modification of future behavior.

  56. Emily Morris February 3, 2015 at 5:21 pm #

    I’m not very sure on this one. What they did was wrong and stupid and definitely not Free-Range. I do think they should be held accountable and I do think a consequence is needed. I don’t know if the arrest and the child removal is wrong… but I do have trouble giving the child-removal a whole-hearted yes. I HATE kids being taken away from their parents. Hate it, hate it, hate it. Yes, there are circumstances where it’s best. Perhaps it’s best in this situation. But the consequences of child removal are so great that the good had better outweigh the bad. So… I don’t know. I do think it should be discussed.

  57. Warren February 3, 2015 at 5:26 pm #

    While this is in my opinion, beyond a good parental decision, I would like to set something straight for a few people.

    It was a wine tasting, not a wine drinking event. There is a big difference. So knock off the drunk driving assumptions. I have been to several wine tasting events, and guess what folks, YOU DON’T DRINK THE WINE.

  58. Beth February 3, 2015 at 5:27 pm #

    “It is already illegal in most states here to leave kids in cars. And the stories of babies dying or getting rescued are all over the news.”

    Wrong. For the eleventy-seventh time, nearly every single death from being left in a hot car is due to a change in routine or a very young child getting into a parked vehicle without anyone knowing. There are no stories anywhere on the news about “babies” dying during a quick errand.

    I also question whether or not it is truly illegal in most states to leave a kid in the car. At what age does he/she stop being a kid? 12? 14? 16 when he gets his driver’s license?

  59. Papilio February 3, 2015 at 5:28 pm #

    Yeah, I agree that long prison sentences likely do not help the kids, but agree with other posters that this sounds more serious than stupidity. And you can say about the French whatever you like, and yes, they are… French, but leaving a 1 and 2-year-old in a cold car for an hour without proper clothing doesn’t strike me as something they could consider normal. (And I’ve never seen babies napping outside on my vacations there.)

    One thing: Guys, it’s a wine TASTING, not a wine slemping party. The idea is that you spit it out after tasting it, so it seems a bit early to discuss charges for DUI or substance abuse, okay?

  60. Amy February 3, 2015 at 5:30 pm #

    They should not have the responsibility of taking care of kids. Absolutely stupid thing to do, and who knows what else they’re capable of if they lack judgement as in this situation? And the wine is relevant because 1) it’s strictly entertainment and 2) they drive impaired with little kids in the car. (Risking others too obviously. )

  61. Tamara February 3, 2015 at 5:32 pm #

    I feel like there is some information missing here. It just doesn’t seem to make sense – the parents were wealthy from reports and could afford a sitter but chose not to get one. Why? If this is a common occurrence for this family i would classify it as neglect, but a one time occurrence may indicate some stressor we are unaware of. Regardless, I wouldn’t leave children that young alone. I also would not feel a ten year prison term is fair. Perhaps parenting classes and a period of monitoring?

  62. Chuck99 February 3, 2015 at 5:51 pm #

    I wasn’t going to respond to this, because I knew it was going to be a hot bed, but after only a few comments, I feel forced to.

    You can not legislate against stupid.

    Throwing these people in jail isn’t going to solve anything and it’s not going to deter anything, because what they did was thoughtless and dumb. If they had thought about it, they wouldn’t have done it, so giving other people something else to think about isn’t a reason to do it (how many parents have we already heard about being arrested or going to jail for leaving their kid in a car just on this blog?).

    There are two important facts to consider – stupid people do stupid things, and laws won’t change that, but maybe education will. Two, kids in foster homes almost always fair worse than kids raised by their natural parents.

    So, what are the possibilities here – ruin everyone’s life and while the taxpayers pay for these people to live in prison for 10 years, or maybe try to help them be better parents, then keep an eye on them for a while to see if it sticks?

  63. Laura February 3, 2015 at 6:30 pm #

    I do think that 10 years is excessive, and I am not sure that having the kids taken away is beneficial for the kids at the end of the day, but some details in the story just makes it hard to picture this couple as “clueless”. Their background seems to indicate that they are both educated people, who should be expected to know that leaving your children in a car without hats and socks in a 35 degree weather is potentially dangerous to the kids’ health. Also from their background, it seems that with their career and based on their home location, they could afford a babysitter for a couple hours. I mean this all seems so pointless… All of this to go taste wine?
    And to make it even more cliche, the guy is French. (I am French too, I grew up in France). I am sorry, most people in France would be horrified to read this, as a matter of fact, I heard about this from a French media outlet (iTele) that linked the Washington Post article. The article in French was just as outraged, and I don’t know anyone in France who would say that this was an acceptable parenting behavior.
    I guess what I am trying to say is I really don’t get what possessed this couple to do this, but I am not sure that locking them up and depriving the kids of parents is a good idea. The issue for the court now is to determine if it is their typical behavior or if this is just a stupid crazy but nonetheless isolated incident.

  64. BL February 3, 2015 at 6:46 pm #

    “I feel like there is some information missing here. It just doesn’t seem to make sense – the parents were wealthy from reports”

    It says they live in a million-dollar house.

    And that monsieur is a software developer and the Ms. is an FDA employee.

    Hmmm. Really?

  65. Messy mama February 3, 2015 at 7:01 pm #

    This story illustrates a basic point I keep in my head. At heart (to me!) the free range movement isn’t about being better parents but being able to be the parent we want/need to be. Parenting will at some point involve making mistakes. I want the freedom to make mistakes! My kid needs to make mistakes. I don’t mind folks clucking or shaking their heads in disapproval but the law needs to butt out. If I’m burning my kids with cigarettes or pushing then down stairs come and get me. Otherwise, as I often tell me children, mind your own business!!

  66. lena February 3, 2015 at 7:04 pm #

    I’m sorry but the punishment fits.

    Maybe this is age-ism, but when I read that they are both in their 40’s with well paying jobs (so I assume they are both well educated)– their crime is inexcusable.

    My 16 year old niece had a baby last year and she even she knows to drop it off and someone’s house (family, friends, etc). no one to drop the baby off to – then you can’t go party!

  67. chris February 3, 2015 at 8:16 pm #

    I have an idea; bring them wherever youre going…

  68. ARM February 3, 2015 at 8:40 pm #

    Like most others here, I think these parents sound like jerks. But I think those who say “They deserve it” are missing the point. Do you seriously believe their children will be better off in the foster care system? Do they deserve to lose their parents?

    I had a friend who worked for CPS, and I used to sometimes see her right after work. I will always remember what she told me once: “What I do for my job, I take kids away from parents who are neglectful or abusive but love them and I put them in homes where, hopefully at best, they’re not abused and are fed and clothed, but nobody loves them. And you know, even when we’re lucky and the foster parents aren’t abusive, I don’t think I’m making the kids’ lives better.”

    I’m also reminded of my maternal grandparents, who used to leave my mom and her brother alone to go dancing and drinking. Yes, they were bad parents in many ways, but no, my mom would not have been better off without them.

  69. Jaye February 3, 2015 at 8:52 pm #

    Playing devil’s advocate here:

    The article states that they live about 10 minutes’ walk from the restaurant. That makes it about a 2 minute drive? Why not leave the children in their cribs/beds with an open phone line, and drive 2 minutes down the road if you’re that desperate to attend a wine tasting function? At least they’d be warm (which seems to be the major concern of most of the respondents here!).

    Not saying I’d do that either, just throwing it out there 😉

    And, for the record, the law in NSW, Australia states:

    “A person who leaves any child or young person in the person’s care in a motor vehicle without proper supervision for such period or in such circumstances that:

    (a) the child or young person becomes or is likely to become emotionally distressed, or
    (b) the child’s or young person’s health becomes or is likely to become permanently or temporarily impaired,

    is guilty of an offence.”

    A lot of grey in that one, isn’t there? Isn’t the likelihood of a child becoming emotionally distressed highly dependent on the individual child? Heck, I’ve seen emotionally distressed children being abandoned by their parents on a regular basis recently (it’s the start of the school year here in Australia, so the new Kindergarten students are out and about at drop-off time, often clinging to parents who, funnily enough, have to leave their child at school!!!).

  70. Paul February 3, 2015 at 9:00 pm #

    To all those that say that the punishment fits… I ask you, what did the the children ever do to you?

    You are advocating that the children be placed in a position in which they face a significantly increased chance of sexual, physical and mental abuse. Think about that for a moment. The statistics back up my own personal experience in that area.

    I remember my first night in a shelter home. The lady that ran the home was retired and there were six other kids staying in her house. The night I arrived she told me that kids my age often wet the bed and that if I did she would whip the shit out of me. I stayed up all night. I didn’t like the beatings I had already received. The morning after she sat my younger brother (age 3) in a room on our own with some broken toys while she did some yard work. I checked out the window on occasion and saw her pop a squat and start pissing by a tree in her backyard. I did not need to see that on an old lady. That was my first day in the system. I had much worse experiences of actual abuse while in the system in the following years.

    I’m just wondering what these kids first day was like.

    There are many options that could have been taken to work with the parents to not place the kids in the system.I think any of those would have been a better option.

  71. Becca February 3, 2015 at 10:00 pm #

    I don’t think these parents actions are in line with free range kids but I do think 10 years would be severe it is also unlikely to actually be the sentence.

    Some of the posters below have said the parents would be drunk after and others have said they would spit. You are all assuming I work in the wine industry a tasting is typically 1-2 oz pours some people spit some do not some do a mix. So they could be drunk or not or somewhere in between.

    Also just because the kids have been taken into care by cps doesn’t automatically mean the kids are with strangers in many states a suitable other is sought before and foster care home. I suitable other is a responsible adult who has a pre-exsisting relationship with the children. So their is a reasonable chance these kids are having a nice time visiting Auntie Jane

  72. Amy February 3, 2015 at 10:12 pm #

    I’m seriously wondering, Warren, what a person does at a wine-tasting event. How does one taste without drinking any?

  73. Yocheved February 3, 2015 at 11:30 pm #

    Mandatory parenting classes, and probation with regular CPS visits for a while.

    Jail? No. That won’t solve anything.

  74. eileen February 3, 2015 at 11:52 pm #

    If the parents were attending a wine tasting then presumably they would be drinking alcohol. Then driving with their children?? That in itself is dangerous and irresponsible.

  75. Smart Person February 4, 2015 at 2:11 am #

    I find it fascinating how many of you are experts on CPS policy and procedures. (sarcasm font).

    For all any of you know, a judge ordered these children into custody or the children had to come into custody due to the parents’ arrest.

    I agree this is poor judgement and I think the parents, the criminal justice system and CPS/DCFS should work together to help make a broad based assessment into the parent’s protective capacities to determine what help the parents need.

  76. Smart Person February 4, 2015 at 2:14 am #

    Jail (above what has already been served) is probably unnecessary as long as this is a first time offense, the parents are penitent, and everyone can work together to help educate the parents.

  77. KH February 4, 2015 at 3:17 am #

    FWIW, at a wine tasting you are supposed to spit the wine out. Really.

    Plucking a tiny morsel of hope from this story– the person who called in apparently watched the car for 20 minutes before calling the cops. So it wasn’t just a busybody freaking out.

  78. Red February 4, 2015 at 3:31 am #

    I do think the wine tasting detail is significant, because in many states it does make a legal difference.

    It’s legal here for me to leave my 8-year-old in a car, unless I am in a place which is a tavern or otherwise serves spirits, which I understand includes the many wineries in our state.

    Which really pisses my kid off–I can leave him in the car to read when I go grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s, but I can’t leave him in the car to read if I run into one of the wineries where we are members in order to taste and pick up our delivery. Tasting and picking up the delivery is a lot faster than doing weekly grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s.

  79. MichaelF February 4, 2015 at 5:39 am #

    I’m sorry, this one just screams stupid. A wine tasting is no different than going into a bar for a drink of two, and I don’t care if you use a cell phone like a baby monitor outside the house is not quite the same. Cultural or not, I would think in France they’d just bring the kids in; but it seems to be used as an excuse. Overall, poor decision making on the parents part, this just screams excessive to me and I don’t just mean the 10 years part. Should they be sentenced, possibly – not sure about jail time, that does seem much, but there definitely should be charges in this case. That’s just my opinion.

  80. Sara Heard February 4, 2015 at 8:00 am #

    It’s too bad there’s not a reverse foster care option for families that might need supervision during an investigation into whether its an ongoing pattern of neglect. I think it’s probably very traumatic to kids of that age to be taken away to a foster home, so why not have an observer who could go live with the family during that time instead? It would be like a foster parent for the whole family.

    I agree that this was neglect though. Wonder why the parents didn’t tag-team, each one staying in the car with kids half the time.

  81. Omer Golan-Joel February 4, 2015 at 8:17 am #

    Did any measurable harm come to the children from being left in the car? If not, where is the crime? In a free country, no measurable harm = no crime. It might be bad parenting, but in a free country, bad parenting is not a crime. Putting the children in an orphanage (or putting them out for adoption with strangers) for the rest of their childhood, on the other hand, is scarring.

    I think that there should be an amendment to the US Constitution to the effect of no harm = no crime (and the abolition of victim-less crimes). And there should be a law clarifying that bad parenting by itself is completely legal as long as no measurable harm comes to the kids.

  82. Jen (P.) February 4, 2015 at 8:48 am #

    I keep asking myself what SHOULD have happened here? I agree this was neglectful and, although the kids were not in imminent danger, the parents made an unreasonable choice. But a trumped up charge that results in the children being ripped out of their home and away from their parents doesn’t make them safer or healthier (as Lenore pointed out). It doesn’t sound like there were other signs of neglect or any signs of abuse. . . . If the kids were being cared for by unicorns at Disneyland while this gets sorted out, I might feel differently (although maybe not because that doesn’t determine whether the state intrusion is appropriate), but that is certainly not the case. I can’t help but think they’ve been thrown from the frying pan into the fire. Why can’t they remain in the home while this is investigated? The process is just not set up to handle these types of situations well.

  83. E February 4, 2015 at 8:48 am #

    Did any measurable harm come to the children from being left in the car? If not, where is the crime? In a free country, no measurable harm = no crime.

    That is not the standard of a crime. People don’t get let go from driving under the influence as long as there is no harm. People don’t get away with no charges when they speed at 100mph and there is no harm.

    I could go on and on.

    The fact that the kids were not harmed should be taken into consideration, but that doesn’t absolve them of everything either.

  84. Amanda Matthews February 4, 2015 at 9:35 am #

    I see this as little different than leaving toddlers at the other end of a big house for an hour with a baby monitor going.

    As for the cold; My car is warmer than my house. My car is a smaller space with better insulation and better working heat ducts. During long times in the car (say sitting in a Chicago traffic jam for an hour+) I will take off hats, sweaters etc. that I wear constantly in the house. My kids will sometimes take off their shoes and socks as well. Turning off the heat in the house for an hour would mean the house would be freezing – but no one took my kids away the other day when the power was knocked out by a blizzard (meaning the space heaters couldn’t work and the gas furnace’s electric ignition couldn’t work). My car, however, is still warm after being turned off for an hour.

  85. Mike February 4, 2015 at 9:43 am #

    I hearby sentence you to 12 months’ probation, including community service, parenting classes, and weekly visits with the kid from the Nationwide Super Bowl ad.

  86. E February 4, 2015 at 10:06 am #

    @Amanda I’m amazed that any car would remain warm after 1 hour in 30 degree temps, likely sitting in the shade (at 4:30pm in a city), and with it being a very windy day (as it was in DC on Saturday). I understand it wouldn’t necessarily be 35 degrees inside a car after 1 hour, but that’s different than “warm”. I’ve retreated to my car during cold/windy soccer games and had to give the car a start and blow some heat in order for it to be comfortable.

    But the comparison to your heat going out is that you were able to react to the temps as they went lower and lower. You didn’t leave your toddlers w/o proper clothing, strapped into seats, and alone?

  87. Amanda Matthews February 4, 2015 at 10:37 am #

    “You didn’t leave your toddlers w/o proper clothing, strapped into seats, and alone?”

    No, but these parents didn’t leave their toddlers ALONE either, since there were two of them.

    These toddlers were 22 months and “slightly older” which has to mean at LEAST 31 months (I’m guessing older but they left out her age to make it more dramatic). They were both old enough to say “I’m cold” into the cellphone if they had gotten cold.

    And we can’t know what proper clothing would be without knowing the temperature INSIDE the car. No shoes and socks in 35 degrees sounds bad, but this kid was not going to be walking around in 35 degree weather. Right now it is -5 here and my kids have no shoes and socks on.

  88. E February 4, 2015 at 10:47 am #

    @Amanda — semantics. These 2 children under 3 were left alone, together. Is that better?

    You are correct we don’t know the details. So pointing out that someone is in a home w/o socks at this moment is not at all relevant right?

    But you might be onto something. Supervision via iphone open line. Next best thing to being there, lol. As long as you are older than 2, you should be able to shout when you’ve had enough of being strapped in a cold car alone!

  89. Amanda Matthews February 4, 2015 at 10:49 am #

    Well, we only know for sure that one of them was under 3. But as I said, I see it as no different than leaving your toddler across a large house with a baby monitor.

  90. E February 4, 2015 at 10:55 am #

    The charges have already been reduced.

    “Charges against Chang and Lucas were reduced to two counts of attempted child neglect.”


  91. Donna February 4, 2015 at 11:42 am #

    “Well, we only know for sure that one of them was under 3.”

    Another article put the age of the older child at 2.5. While I assume that the actual age is above the exact 2.5 both children were under 3.

    “No, but these parents didn’t leave their toddlers ALONE either, since there were two of them.”

    Hey, maybe we should just do away with daycare providers and babysitters altogether as long as more than one child is involved. Think of all the money parents can save. They still may have to pay someone to throw the kids some food every once in awhile, but otherwise they have each other and that is good enough.

    “And we can’t know what proper clothing would be without knowing the temperature INSIDE the car.”

    Hmmm, the car was parked outside without heat for an hour. Any person with any deductive reasoning abilities who has ever sat in a car in the winter for any period of time can tell you that it was cold by the end of the hour no matter how hot is was when they started. And that was if the car was ever hot. The family only lived a few blocks away and it is possible that that is all they traveled.

    “Right now it is -5 here and my kids have no shoes and socks on.”

    Yes, a heated house is exactly the same as an unheated car.

    “I see it as no different than leaving your toddler across a large house with a baby monitor.”

    What house? The Biltmore? Because that is the only house I’ve ever been in in which being at opposite ends of the house felt the same as being in a completely separate structures.

  92. Michele February 4, 2015 at 11:43 am #

    You’re not helping your free range case by suggesting these parents should be let off more easily. The fact is, we have no idea how long they were going to stay in that restaurant. It just happened that they came out after the cops arrived. One of the kids didn’t even have socks on. One didn’t have a hat. And this is in near freezing temps. I’m an adult and I’m chilled to the bone when walking my dogs at those temps, and that’s with shoes and a hat on, and moving. These kids were unable to move and signal to anyone that they were freezing, and the temps were dropping at that time of day. At a MINIMUM it’s a parent’s duty to make sure their children are physically safe, including safe from frostbite and/or hypothermia. I don’t think the parents ensured that in this case. And as for jailing them and taking them away from their kids — until we know that this is not a habitual thing, I think it’s the right decision. Just b/c they’re older, and live in a million dollar condo, and have supposedly respectable jobs, does not mean that they make good decision. Obviously.

  93. Amanda Matthews February 4, 2015 at 12:11 pm #

    “Because that is the only house I’ve ever been in in which being at opposite ends of the house felt the same as being in a completely separate structures.”

    I’m saying that I don’t see how being in separate structures is much different from being in different rooms of a big house.

    There’s doors and space in between. Do you hire a babysitter when you take out your trash or shovel the snow?

    If it makes you feel better, I’ll say that I don’t see this as any different than going to your garage or shed while your toddler is inside the house with a baby monitor. You’re in a separate structure then. You may go there for an hour or more.


  94. Warren February 4, 2015 at 12:45 pm #

    I laugh at so many people here. They think because something affects them one way that everyone is affected that way.
    Michelle, you claim you are chilled to the bone at near freezing temps while fully clothed. Where I come from that doesn’t make you normal, that makes you a wimp. So please do not judge others, by your inability to handle cold weather, because others do it just fine.

    Again for those worried about drunk driving. You sip the wine, swirl it, and spit it out. You do not have to swallow something to taste it. Simple isn’t it.

    Amanda your logic of the large home is interesting and really does change things for me.

  95. Donna February 4, 2015 at 1:02 pm #

    “I’m saying that I don’t see how being in separate structures is much different from being in different rooms of a big house.”

    Really? Human beings have a sense of alone, even young ones. There is an inherent difference in feeling in knowing that someone is in the same structure as you and knowing that you are alone in that structure. You don’t feel the same sense of companionship when your husband is visiting the neighbors as you do with him in the house, even if he is in another room without interaction. It may be the case that this is different in extremely large houses, e.g. the Biltmore, but not the typical houses of the 99%.

    “Do you hire a babysitter when you take out your trash or shovel the snow?”

    It takes you an hour to take out your trash? I would run quick errands outside while my toddler was in, but no I never left my toddler awake in the house while I did something outside of it for an hour when she was a toddler. I occasionally did yard work or walked the dog while my child was sleeping, but went in when she woke. I also never left my toddler in one room while I was in another for an hour without checking on her with my own eyes periodically. Unless you have video capability, a baby monitor only gets you so far. Toddlers are more than capable of wreaking silent havoc in an hour.


    So you really believe that these people left their car running on a public street in DC for an hour? And it was still there? And that was never mentioned in any article about this?

  96. Donna February 4, 2015 at 1:09 pm #

    “Again for those worried about drunk driving. You sip the wine, swirl it, and spit it out. You do not have to swallow something to taste it. Simple isn’t it.”

    I’m not concerned that these people were drunk when they got to the car as it certainly would have been mentioned in the article. However, it is FAR from universal that people spit at wine tastings. I’ve been to many and toured vineyards in several states and countries and I’ve never been to a single one where EVERYONE, or even the majority, consistently spit out the wine. A few will, but definitely not all.

  97. Amanda Matthews February 4, 2015 at 1:32 pm #

    “Human beings have a sense of alone, even young ones.”

    Okay, so you’re against this based on the possible feelings of the children, not on physical possibilities – danger risks, risk of getting cold etc.? Then we’ll have to agree to disagree that toddlers feeling alone for an hour is distressing enough to warrant the punishment. I’d say that being buckled in for an hour would be distressing, but being taken away from their parents was surely even more distressing than that.

    It doesn’t take me an hour to take out the trash, but it does take me an hour to shovel the snow. We sometimes have temperatures that are actually dangerous – last winter there were several days of NEGATIVE 35. I’m not going to bring a toddler outside while I shovel. And NOT shoveling isn’t an option, because it means we can’t get out to get groceries, my husband can’t get to work to pay the bills, can’t get back in when he gets home, etc (and shoveling when my husband is home is often not an option).

    The trouble a toddler could get into is irrelevant in this situation because the toddlers were strapped to car seats. But I will say that somehow my 4 kids managed to survive past toddlerhood, and without any apparent permanent mental scars; despite the fact that I did things like shovel snow, rake leaves, take some “me” time in another room etc. and left them alone for an hour many times.

    Yes, I do believe that a locked car with TWO CHILDREN IN THE BACK would still be there. Car thieves don’t want to be kidnappers. I’ve left my car running in Chicago many times, though admittedly I don’t know the difference in the rate of vehicle theft in DC vs Chicago.

    I also think that if the car were actually cold it would have been mentioned; I think the fact that the heat was on was purposely left out to let people assume the children were cold, making things more dramatic.

  98. Amanda Matthews February 4, 2015 at 1:38 pm #

    (Oh, and sometimes, shoveling the snow is a prerequisite to taking out the trash, so in a way, yes taking out the trash may take an hour. We have two feet of snow on the ground right now and growing, so I have to shovel a path through the yard before I can get the trash can to the appropriate place.)

  99. Warren February 4, 2015 at 1:39 pm #

    Then you haven’t been to real wine tastings. At a true wine tasting noone swallows. For the simple reason that they do not want the consumption of alcohol to affect them. They also bring thru an assortment of cheese and some fruits to cleanse the pallet between wines. It is all about the senses, not impairing the senses.

  100. Simon Elliott February 4, 2015 at 2:15 pm #

    I think parents were stupid, and should be talked to. Investigate, see if there are other signs of problems. But 10 years jail and taking the kids away from them is clearly excessive and clearly not in the best interests of the kids.

  101. pentamom February 4, 2015 at 2:19 pm #

    Warren, guess what? Compared to you, every 1 year old IS a wimp and that’s how it’s SUPPOSED to be. Just because big tough Warren can sit outside (not moving) for and hour in warm clothing (but no socks) and not feel cold does not mean that it is not an entirely reasonable conclusion that a 1 and 2 year old were unpleasantly cold.

  102. pentamom February 4, 2015 at 2:20 pm #

    Well, Warren, how do you know it was a “true wine tasting” since in many people’s experience, there are occasions called “wine tastings” in which people swallow?

    Just because you’re familiar with occasions where no one swallows, does not mean that you can conclude that this was one of them.

  103. E February 4, 2015 at 3:46 pm #

    @Amanda, I’m not going to go dig it up (you can do that if you like) but the story I read said in no uncertain terms that the cars was off (no heat) and locked. I presume it got that from the police report.

    If you think that every story written or every video report is deciding to change a fact in the case, go right ahead. The police report is available with the specifics.

    Warren, there is just “wine tasting”…not “real wine tasting” and “fake wine tasting”. Sometimes people swallow (my guess is most, especially those held at bars or restaurants), some don’t. Today there are even beer tastings and you get a small glass of various beers.

    If I give them the benefit of the doubt on that part, they still did an extremely self centered and unkind/improper thing to some toddlers. In my opinion.

  104. J.T. Wenting February 4, 2015 at 3:49 pm #

    Typical government overreach. Parents get 10 years in prison for leaving their children unattended (were they even intending for it to be an hour, or did a 5 minute thing get delayed and stretched out beyond their control?) but for premeditated murder someone gets 6 months probation and maybe a few weeks of community service…

    Upside down world.

  105. Jen (P.) February 4, 2015 at 3:50 pm #

    “Charges against Chang and Lucas were reduced to two counts of attempted child neglect.” . . . Doesn’t attempted neglect sound like an oxymoron?

  106. E February 4, 2015 at 3:57 pm #

    Since the police clearly spoke to the Restaurant Mgr (who confirmed how long they’d been there), they’d know if the parents were drinking or not. That would be part of the report and followup investigation.

    I guess I just see a difference between what children can endure, versus what is reasonable expectation of care. I never thought FR thinking was simply about what a kid can put up with. I realize that in cases were ‘crap happens’, kids are more resilient than we think, but I don’t think it’s the role of the parent to put that to the test just for fun (and wine tasting!).

  107. E February 4, 2015 at 4:00 pm #

    @JT — no one ever said the parents were going to “get 10 years”..and in fact the charges have already been reduced. The “10 years” is click bait (imo) because it’s at the end of the spectrum for the original charges (which cover more than just this specific scenario). That’s why we have an actual legal process right? I’m not sure what else you have/have not read, but they didn’t leave for 5 minutes, they were attending a wine tasting (as confirmed by the restaurant).

  108. Donna February 4, 2015 at 4:08 pm #

    “Then we’ll have to agree to disagree that toddlers feeling alone for an hour is distressing enough to warrant the punishment. ”

    What punishment? W

  109. Donna February 4, 2015 at 4:28 pm #

    “Okay, so you’re against this based on the possible feelings of the children, not on physical possibilities – danger risks, risk of getting cold etc.?”

    Nope, I’m opposed to it for both reasons. There was a risk of cold due to the temperatures. There was also definite distress on the part of the children. According to the article posted by E in which the charges were lowered: “A pedestrian called 911 around 4:30 p.m. after she heard a little girl crying hysterically as she walked by the vehicle in Foggy Bottom, according to police.” The child was screaming BEFORE the police were even called and mama and daddy didn’t arrive until AFTER the police so they weren’t exactly dropping everything to get to their distressed children.

    And, if one needs to tie their child to a chair for an hour in the house to shovel snow to get somewhere, that would certainly seem legitimate, even if the child is distressed. That is a HUGE jump to “we need to tie our children to a chair for an hour so that we can go enjoy ourselves without them.”

    “I also think that if the car were actually cold it would have been mentioned”

    It IS mentioned. They make it very clear in every article I’ve read that the car was cold. You are the only person who has read this article on this entire blog who is insisting that it was a warm, toasty car. Even people who don’t think this is a problem seem to still understand that the car was cold. I don’t think 50 of us are wrong and you are right.

    And, since it is less safe to leave the car running, I imagine that it would have been mentioned if it was running. Just like I assume it would be mentioned if the parents came back to the car tipsy. Both would be highly sensational situations that would not have been left out of this story.

    And I call BS on you ever leaving your car running while parked on the streets of Chicago for an hour. If for no reason other than nobody wastes that much gas.

    But, frankly, yes, I think children should be treated as the human beings that they are, not less than because they are too young to fight back. I would not find it acceptable to tie an adult to a car seat and leave them there against their will for an hour while I went and had fun so I don’t find it acceptable to do to a child either.

  110. Jen (P.) February 4, 2015 at 4:36 pm #

    “The ’10 years’ is click bait (imo) because it’s at the end of the spectrum for the original charges (which cover more than just this specific scenario). That’s why we have an actual legal process right?”

    The problem in cases like these is that the process is the punishment. The parents have already been ordered to have no contact with their children for at least a couple of weeks and will likely end up with further restrictions pending resolution of the charges. Under the circumstances, where as far as we know there is no other evidence of abuse or neglect, I don’t see how traumatizing those kids in that way is justified.

  111. Jen (P.) February 4, 2015 at 4:43 pm #

    “According to the article posted by E in which the charges were lowered: ‘A pedestrian called 911 around 4:30 p.m. after she heard a little girl crying hysterically as she walked by the vehicle in Foggy Bottom, according to police.’ The child was screaming BEFORE the police were even called and mama and daddy didn’t arrive until AFTER the police so they weren’t exactly dropping everything to get to their distressed children.”

    That is not consistent with the original Washington Post story, which says, “The initial call about the children came to police about 4:30 p.m. that day by a State Department lawyer who lives in a condominium above where the car was parked. He told police he watched the car for 20 minutes and called when no one showed up.”

    I don’t think you can fairly conclude (at least based on those two articles) that the child was screaming before the police were called. Also, do we know why the dad showed up? The news reports imply it was just him, not the wife too – it sounds to me like maybe he did come out because he heard his daughter crying, and that could have been because the police were breaking the car window.

  112. Warren February 4, 2015 at 5:04 pm #


    Take a breath. I said nothing about the kids being cold. So get off your high damn horse. I was commenting on how Michelle made how she feels cold, as the standard to which anyone is held.
    Take your meds and calm down.
    You guys sometimes get worse than the self righteous mommies on facebook comments. Wow.

  113. Donna February 4, 2015 at 5:04 pm #

    Warren, I have in fact been to real wine tastings. Real high-end gala wine tastings hosted by the owners of the vineyards who made the wines (our office represented a few back in my corporate law days). And there are ALWAYS people who swallow.

    But that aside, why are you so sure that THIS is a “real” wine tasting? Were you there? Are these your friends so know that they only attend “real” wine tastings?

    I agree that they most likely weren’t tipsy when they got to the car because there is no way that isn’t mentioned in this article if it is true. But that could easily be because, even when swallowing, it is really hard to get drunk at a wine tasting. It is not like you get a whole glass. You get a single sip of 6-8 wines. If 6-8 sips of wine makes you tipsy, you may want to pick a different hobby.

  114. Donna February 4, 2015 at 5:14 pm #

    There we go – “The car, a grey Volvo station wagon, was locked, and the engine wasn’t running, according to court documents and [the arresting officer]. The temperature at the time was around 33 degrees, though an hour before it was below freezing.”

  115. E February 4, 2015 at 5:45 pm #

    @Jen P — one of the articles I read said that on the Ritz Carlton security camera, there is no footage that shows a parent approaching the car after they originally left. It does not indicate how far from the car the camera shows, but one would think more than a few feet (since it is a security camera, you’d presume it is not trained on parking spot on the street).

    So the Dad showed up, perhaps they heard commotion on the iPhone or maybe the noticed a police are or EMS drive by. I would think either of those things my pique your interest when your kids are around the corner locked in a car.

    Yes, we are all going on bits of info (as always). You can decide to give them a benefit of the doubt or not. Some of their actions *appear* to be quite questionable.

  116. Jen (P.) February 4, 2015 at 7:15 pm #

    @E – I certainly agree their actions are questionable, to put it charitably. But I also think the details are significant, particularly in a case like this that is kind of on the margin. In my opinion, leaving their kids in the car under these circumstances showed very bad judgment, primarily because they were just too far away from the car. And that’s true regardless of how quickly they reacted when they heard their daughter crying. But their reaction may be a hint as to whether this was a one-off poor judgment call or something more problematic. Bad decision either way, but if they weren’t listening to the phone or didn’t come running as soon as she started crying, then they’re insensitive jerks, and I’d be a lot less inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt.

  117. a shim February 4, 2015 at 7:59 pm #

    Unfortunately some people, parents or not, lack sense.
    In this case- it sounds like these people were drunk before heading to the wine tasting.
    Leaving kids in cars for any period of time, especially toddlers- is just plain stupid.
    I’m all for unconventional parenting and doing what it takes- but to neglect your kids blatantly for the sake of a wine tasting requires serious psychological assistance. Not jail.

  118. Suzanne February 4, 2015 at 9:39 pm #

    If we assume this is the first time the parents have been caught doing something stupid then I think they have been duly punished for their negligence in this situation. Yes, there are established standards for negligence but these parents are not meeting those standards. There are thousands (not an exaggeration) of parents across this country that are truly negligent but they are meeting very bare minimums and even though there are repeated reports to DFS they remain in the home. There are children every day that are being treated in PICUs from obvious cases of abuse but there are no foster homes available to send them to so they go back home with their abusers. Is what these parents did worth removing their kids AND putting them in jail? No. How about some parenting classes and give them their kids back so that children who are truly at risk can have the foster home they are taking up. Maybe require their parents hire a nanny.

  119. hineata February 4, 2015 at 11:35 pm #

    Good grief. Coming late to the party, rather like these crazy parents, but wow! As if it is ever alright to leave very young children locked up in a car for that length of time without being able to sight them. This is not a free range issue.

    It is, however, also ridiculous to possibly incur ten years in jail for what is pure stupidity (though Donna points out that’s an unlikely outcome). Still, in a country with a medieval attitude to crime and punishment, maybe that’s just par for the course.

  120. E February 5, 2015 at 12:17 pm #

    The charges have already been reduced.

  121. Bloix February 6, 2015 at 11:21 am #

    What these parents need is a public shaming (they’ve got that), a stiff fine, and a mandatory course in parenting.

    What these children need is their parents.

    Prison for the parents will destroy the family and cause the children unnecessary misery for the rest of their lives.

  122. pentamom February 6, 2015 at 11:56 am #

    I always find it amusing when the invincible, raises his kids perfectly, knows everything about every situation, can cope with anything at all without turning a hair Warren tells other people to get off their high horses.

  123. ECB February 6, 2015 at 3:15 pm #

    “Doesn’t attempted neglect sound like an oxymoron?”


    I was thinking the exact same thing. I guess these parents were trying to be neglectful, but couldn’t quite make it.

  124. Puzzled February 6, 2015 at 6:36 pm #

    I think 10 years would be excessive, but I see no reason, at the moment, to think they’ll get 10 years. I do think it is important for free-rangers to point out that this is precisely NOT free-range, and that this isn’t what we mean.

    Compare this to the woman who went into a grocery store and left her 10 year old with her 3 year old. All of us, or most of us anyway, rightly pointed out that a big part of the reason it was ridiculous to call the police about her was that the 10 year old was more than capable of dealing with circumstances that can arise, and of leaving the car and getting help.

    Here, we have two children, neither of them capable of leaving the car or even their seats, let alone seeking help in the event of a problem.

    Yes, in other cultures people leave a carriage outside the store or restaurant. First, they’re in a culture where people are accustomed to that and likely to react if they see something going wrong. Second, they can usually see them out the window. Third, they’re not in DC. While it’s absurd to hear people say things like “but nowadays” it really isn’t fair to compare a walking neighborhood in Europe with Washington DC. The city is crawling with thieves and pimps and kidnappers…and that’s not even counting the non-politicians!

    They claim they kept an open phone line – but didn’t come to check on the child crying hysterically? Either they weren’t paying attention, or they figured “crying means breathing, so all’s good.”

    Regarding wine tastings, maybe it says something about me, but I spit out the wine and still get tipsy…

  125. Cassie February 6, 2015 at 9:21 pm #

    When you say “face a 10-year sentence”, what you mean is that the parents did something which was negligent and cruel (strapped in a car seat for an hour without parents around).

    The judge has the job of deciding what level of punishment/education the parents need. I think it is good and right. If not the judge, then who.

    At some level, even in a healthy free-range society, we need to be willing to question some parenting styles. Yes, both myself and my husband recall being left along in cars for hours as a child (while parents were in the pub), however it is not a parenting style to get nostalgic about.

  126. Nicole R February 7, 2015 at 11:03 am #

    This one goes beyond free-range for me. Leaving two very young children in a car while you attend an adult event is very different than leaving a school-age child (or siblings) for a few minutes while you run into the convenience store.

    So I would actually call this one worth CPS investigating. But I think I would expect them to find that monitoring and education would be a better choice than ten years in prison.

  127. Papilio February 7, 2015 at 7:13 pm #

    “While I don’t think any of us believe it’s a good idea to have two very young kids stuck alone in a car for that long, on a 35 degree day, strapped into their seats,” “As wacky as that sounds”

    Yet so many people here start by saying that for them, this is not Free-Range…
    Maybe you should make a separate page on this site to bust some myths and explain what FRK is NOT (neglect, letting kids do whatever they want, etc). You know, for all those people who cite that crime-security-thingy article or who hear about Izzy on the subway and then go ‘Oh, I have a 5-year-old but I wouldn’t put her on the subway!’ or other irrelevant stuff because they have some misconception of what FRK is.

  128. David February 8, 2015 at 10:09 am #

    Like many commentators below, I can’t agree with you on this one, Lenore. An hour at 35F where you’re strapped in place and unable to run around is a cruelly cold experience for someone of any age. This is a case of senseless neglect. Free-rangers should acknowledge that, or risk undermining the case they make defending other much more reasonable parenting decisions.

  129. Buffy February 8, 2015 at 10:35 am #

    @David, Lenore is not saying this behavior was acceptable. She is asking, and we are discussing, if a 10-year prison sentence is appropriate punishment; especially considering that sentences for violent crimes are often far less than 10 years.

  130. JP Merzetti February 8, 2015 at 11:12 pm #

    Okay. You might want to play at being historically correct here (for whatever that’s worth.)
    Let’s just suppose this happened in 1962 (minus of course, the teckie-toy cell phones.)
    Assuming a France dad would have at that time been enamored enough with the taste of wine back then, to pull just such a stunt. We’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.
    Now lets suppose, all things being equal – these two parents were taken to task. What would have ensued?

    We have to throw that hail Mary pass into some long-lost end-zone of sensibility, judging our social evolution on such grounds as to believe ourselves……better? worse? about the same?
    Personally, I don’t believe humankind has improved much on the model since then. I have my reasons.

    So then…..back to the past:
    What would have happened? A firm tongue-lashing? (Hardly tar and feathers) Socially outcast from the community?
    Is wine tasting a blue collar or lower class activity? I rather doubt it is, actually.
    Of course, this shouldn’t matter (hardly) but the public perception is what it is. We live with it.
    I just can’t shake the idea that whatever steps were taken back then…..punitive or otherwise….no children would have been removed from any parent. That can be cashed like a government check. Absolutely good tender. Spot-on and reliable.
    No parent would have done time….hard or otherwise.
    No fees or fines exchanging hands.
    Moral judgements? Of course…..we were hardly Neanderthals back then.

    Back to this business of child-removal: apparently, we hated children to bits in 1962….
    (I was actually a child at the time)….and I recall it not.
    We hated them so much that we kept them together mixed and matched irrevocably and regardless of the folly of their elders (minus those times of horrific and terrific abuse)
    …..and apparently the state knew the difference between these two things. They should have. They were paid handsomely to know such things, and earned a certain measure of respect for so doing.

    Ten years for being a bit of a twit and and idiot…with no child actually damaged in any measureable way. No discernment of particular bodily harm.
    Spiritual, psychological (let’s weigh that one out as we imagine the future of those two kids….)bounce – bounce – bounce….
    Ten years for that, um?

    Meanwhile some dude in some room somewhere pushes a teckie-toy button just like he did when he was 13 playing video games from hell, only this time it’s for real, and that button push relays a series of events that go all the way to real consequences: the drone delivers the punch: the punch delivers the collateral damage: which delivers a dead child.

    Said dude is rewarded handsomely for his efforts.

    And this whacked out law and order is supposed to earn considered critical respect?