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Another child-bakes-in-car story,
October 3, 2002 9:44 AM   Subscribe

Another child-bakes-in-car story, but this one is especially heartbreaking: single mother trying to keep her temp job has no child care for her developmentally disabled daughter and leaves her in the car out of desperation. Every summer there's a rash of these cases, with some eliciting more hatred and disgust than others. What gives -- the general decline of parenting/morals/personal responsibility, or should we get serious about child care in the land of "family values"? (Thanks to Jim Romenesko.)
posted by serafinapekkala (41 comments total)

 
Here's a crazy idea.
Can't afford child care?
Don't have a child.

Was that a troll? Oops!
posted by glenwood at 9:51 AM on October 3, 2002


I shouldn't have done that. Sorry. Feelin' saucy today.
posted by glenwood at 9:52 AM on October 3, 2002


Well it certainly wasn't a haiku.
posted by madprops at 10:04 AM on October 3, 2002


Why is this woman killing her child any more heartbreaking than any other story of a dead baby?

More infuriating, yes. More heartbreaking, no. I don't care how "desperate" someone is, you just don't do this.

Remember, in order to lock a kid in your car you have to pass a test and get licensed to drive that car. Only then can you leave your unlicensed, anyone-can-have-one child inside.

I don't think you can blame any "general decline of parenting" on this. This is one person's ignorance. I hope they go to jail for a long, long time.
posted by bondcliff at 10:08 AM on October 3, 2002


Land of family values, indeed. That's just a bit of rhetoric used by the politicians as a convenient way of being for something yet offending no one ("I'm here to say that I'm for things that are good and against things that are bad!")

Ironically, there have been those who have advanced the point that as a government becomes more paternalistic (or socialistic) that people feel a decreased responsibility to the community.

My grandfather has an adopted sister whose parents died sometime in the 1920s. His parents took the girl into their family because that was what you did: kid on your street needs a home and parents and there are no social services to fall back upon. How likely would that be to happen now? How many of you would take in a child from your street because to fail to do so would be unconscionable? How many well-meaning social services would you have to navigate in order to do so?

That the mother in this story had no one to look after her child is the tragedy. That our society is so fractured and our communities so tenuous is the problem and it is unlikely to be ameliorated by any conceivable government action.

Sigh. At least she wasn't having her hair done.
posted by matt_wartell at 10:19 AM on October 3, 2002


I dunno.. it's a tough call. Here you have the lower working class trying to get a job, and stay off welfare. Meanwhile, there jobs typically availble for people in these cases don't have day-care.

It's a catch-22. Perhaps the government should look into emergency government-supported day care for parents (single mothers or fathers, mainly) that are working and have their primary care fall through (which is usually a family member of some kind).

I don't think this is ignorance as much as deperation.
posted by rich at 10:22 AM on October 3, 2002


Here's a crazy idea.
Can't afford child care for a developmentally disabled child?
Don't have a developmentally disabled child.

Child care is hard enough to find, but try finding someone who can care for a special needs child sometime. And if you can find someone you trust, and they have a space for your child, try paying for it on a middle class salary. Now, do it as a single parent.
posted by kristin at 10:27 AM on October 3, 2002


matt: actually, I think taking a child 'from the street' is fairly common among the poor. Poor families are often a wild mix of people, some related by blood, some not. Sometimes the family next door breaks up, dad takes off, mom disappears into crack houses for weeks on end, and the neighbors just take in the kids.

I think middle class folks would take in a child in extremis, but would expect the social service system to find a placement, and not simply take care of the child themselves indefinitely.

There is a foster care system. If a parent cannot adequately take care of a child, they should put the child into the foster care system. It may be painful and wrenching, but it's the right thing to do for the child.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 10:28 AM on October 3, 2002


Foster day care parents. An idea who's time has come...
(at least until they start seriously subsidizing childcare for low income families)
posted by BentPenguin at 10:40 AM on October 3, 2002


It would be great if only rich people could have children. That way all the children would be rich too, and in a few generations there would be no more poverty!
What an excellent idea.
posted by Fabulon7 at 10:46 AM on October 3, 2002


There is a foster care system, but the level of abuse that goes on in it is just plain horrific. I have a feeling most kids would be better off taken in by a neighbor than in foster care.

That's actually one of the reasons activists have made such a big deal about homosexual adoption rights. There are not enough homes for the children in the system, and any two adults willing to care for and support a child are incredibly valuable.
posted by Karmakaze at 10:46 AM on October 3, 2002


Nice URL on that CNN story....
posted by hyperizer at 10:47 AM on October 3, 2002


Ouch -- these cases always hit me right in the gut. Out here in CA a year or so ago, it was a lady who actually locked her kids in the TRUNK during work, then drove some office mates to a fastfood restraunt for LUNCH and they heard the kids and reported her.... Kids are "ok." Unlike mr anime watching idiot who fried his kid last summer. Or the grand-dad who forgot. Or the grand-ma...

Forgetfullness aside -- Imagine that mind set, that desperation, that convinces you that there's NO OTHER CHOICE but to lock your kids in the car for the day. Once you've made such an incredibly bad decision, it's a slippery, slippery slope.... But basically you've forfeited your right to make ANY more decisions regarding your kids. If they lived...
posted by acutetype at 10:52 AM on October 3, 2002


People, people.. context.

This is the case where a woman was doing everything 'right' to take care of her child, from moving to a lower cost-of-living state, where she had family, to trying to keep a job, while caring for her child.

She needed a job to care for her child. Once in a while her sister couldn't watch the child, so she had to call out of work. She got fired when she did so.

Her third job. They warn her she will be fired if she doesn't come in. Sister not available.

She shouldn't have to give her child up for foster care. Why can't the government help subsidize day care centers that provide emergency day care facilities for parents in need, up to a certain limit, like 100 hours a year or soemthing?

The parent works, the daycare gets paid, the child is taken care of. Proof of work and registration would make sure it wasn't terribly abused, but I think it's a better alternative than welfare or foster care.

Acutetype - I'm just wondering what other feasible choices in this situation you could see - without yourself being desperate, even.
posted by rich at 11:07 AM on October 3, 2002


While I think there ought to be more affordable and readily available child care, it's also not something that will keep many children from being cooked in hot cars. Nearly all of the cases this year and in recent memory were attributed to either forgetfulness (having day care available but forgetting to deliver the child and absent-mindedly leaving it roast instead) or amazing ignorance (the hair salon lady). This particular case could have been prevented by the availability of damn near any form of child care but not many other cases would be.

A better preventative would be finding some way -- perhaps by splashing horrifying headlines across the news every couple of weeks -- to educate parents and caregivers that "locked in car" = "dead baby," and perhaps the occasional glance into the contents of the back seat would remind them, for example, that there is a child in the car and it shouldn't be left there.

Anecdotally, I have never been in a car when it was somehow unclear or at all possible to forget that there was a kid in there, as has been the cause of some of these baked baby cases. Usually they tend to shout, cry, coo, burble or at least look cute sleeping when you glance back there.

In this particular case, it would seem obvious to me that no job is so important that it's at all appropriate whatsoever to report for work rather than keeping your child out of a situation that will lead to death. Yes, a crappy boss could can you for making the "wrong" choice, but better that than opting for what is clearly the actual wrong choice.
posted by majick at 11:23 AM on October 3, 2002


This is the case where a woman was doing everything 'right' to take care of her child

Like leaving him to bake inside a car? please.

I understand that she was poor and needed a job to support her kid. That part I get. But if one has a choice between earning money and putting your child's life in danger, doing anythign other than protecting your child is doing the wrong thing.
posted by bondcliff at 11:35 AM on October 3, 2002


This is probably a big surprise, but there are child care options for people who have children with special needs. This agency is in Atlanta (where the mother lives) and also provides referrals for emergency child care. I imagine there are many other agencies like this one out there.
posted by karenh at 11:46 AM on October 3, 2002


Strangely, I empathize with the mother in this case... No $ means not being able to take care of the girl at all. It was the decision between leaving her in the car for a day's worth or risking losing her child forever because she couldn't take care of her.

Either way she'd be taking a risk with her child.
posted by kimtoxication at 11:49 AM on October 3, 2002


It was the decision between leaving her in the car for a day's worth or risking losing her child forever because she couldn't take care of her.

Losing the child because she couldn't afford it would have been the best thing for the child. Certainly better than killing it.
posted by bondcliff at 11:56 AM on October 3, 2002


Yeah, but I'm sure most of us have experienced making a hasty illogical decision in a desparate situation... But maybe that's just me. :T
posted by kimtoxication at 12:06 PM on October 3, 2002


it would seem obvious to me that no job is so important that it's at all appropriate whatsoever to report for work rather than keeping your child out of a situation that will lead to death

if one has a choice between earning money and putting your child's life in danger, doing anythign other than protecting your child is doing the wrong thing.

try telling this to the welfare-to-work bureaucracy, which does not consider parenting pre-school children to be work nor does it provide child care options for those in low-wage jobs who cannot afford anything else. try telling this to an unsympathetic boss who doesn't care about your semi-skilled, easily-replaceable single mother problems. i'm not saying the right choice is to go along with your evil boss at the risk of harming your child...but this seems like a case where the mother had nowhere to turn for help and so crossed her fingers and hoped to make it through a bad day by making a bad decision.

think of the outcry over that video of a woman smacking her daughter in the Wal-Mart parking lot...some people are appalled, some people aren't surprised because they've been there too. i think people should get equally outraged that a parent would ever feel she was in the position of choosing between work and family at this extreme level.
posted by serafinapekkala at 12:21 PM on October 3, 2002


When is the goddamn government going to get off their asses and force the carmakers to manufacture cars that don't heat up in the sun??

They have the technology... they're just sitting on it!
posted by BobFrapples at 12:22 PM on October 3, 2002


Child care is hard enough to find, but try finding someone who can care for a special needs child sometime.

That the little girl was a special needs child would've probably opened the door to a subsidized care scenario much faster than for a child of normal abilities. Karenh provided a link to an agency that does just that.

The question is whether or not this woman ever attempted to find another daycare solution besides her unreliable sister. If not, why not? She's been "in the system" inasmuch as the child has had open heart surgery (which I somehow doubt was paid for via private insurance or private pay) which means that she has had interfaces with social workers or someone in the past. Why not get help? If nothing else, pick up a damned phone book, open it up to Child Care and see what you can find. Call a local church/synagogue/mosque. Call someone!

It scares me that there are people who are driving cars on public streets, holding non-menial (albeit temporary) office jobs and supposedly parenting special needs, mentally retarded children who can't form enough independent initiative to look for sources of support when they are in emergent need for them.

Of course, a three year old with special needs is a drag. Perhaps this wasn't an accident, but the remorse is real because it was sought as a solution that could explained away, and now the grief is kicking in?
posted by Dreama at 12:39 PM on October 3, 2002


Why couldn't/wouldn't the mother ask a neighbor to watch her daughter? Couldn't she bring her daughter inside the building and explain the situation to her manager, asking if her daughter can sit and play quietly on the floor next to her? Good God, are employers so callous as to refuse a child a safe place to be during the day?

My previous part-time data entry employee was a single mother who occasionally had no available child care. On those occasions, she would bring her daughter in and have her quietly play in our file room or some out of the way spot. It was never a problem. While one can argue that we, as the place of employment, are not a daycare; we'd rather know the child was safe than risk a tragic or criminal situation.
posted by onhazier at 12:49 PM on October 3, 2002


"[T]ry telling this to the welfare-to-work bureaucracy..." and "[T]ry telling this to an unsympathetic boss..."

Pardon the profanity-laden vehemence of the following response. It is not intended personally but rather reflects my frustration with the sort of passive acceptance of crisis that people display:

Absolutely completely motherfuck the bureaucracy and the boss. They are completely irrelevant. Should I find myself placed in a situation where the choices are between taking an unacceptable risk of my child's death, and losing a job and/or welfare, the job and welfare can fuck themselves with a baseball bat full of nails. Merely because the boss or bureaucracy are authorities of some kind does not mean a parent under their influence shouldn't think for themselves.

Common fucking sense tells us not to put children in places where they will die. Doing otherwise for the sake of some job or government assistance, no matter how desperately needed, is completely wrongheaded. Five or so bucks an hour is not worth any risk of that magnitude and it doesn't take a genius to figure it out.

I know being poor and desperate sucks. I've been there, scraping by on a scrounged dollar or two and living in subway stations. I know the kind of desperate thinking that makes people think some source of income is actually important. However, at no time whatsofuckingever under any circumstances is it rational to allow that sense of desperation exceed the responsibility of the safe care of a child.

I think this woman's situation sucks. I wouldn't wish it on anyone, not even someone shit-ignorant enough to knowingly leave a child in a locked car to die. Nevertheless, what she did was a completely unacceptable response to the situation she found herself in, and any other response that didn't involve killing her child would be more acceptable. Full stop. End of statement.
posted by majick at 1:17 PM on October 3, 2002


You know what? It's become quite clear to me that the people who post here are some of the most ignorant, judgemental individuals I've ever had to misfortune of reading..

Do you people think for an instance that this woman thought something like this would happen?

Actually, more importantly, do you all actually think that you yourselves are immune from poor judgement?

Seeing everyone here writing crap about this woman, when I'm sure that not one of you have ever had a single day as difficult as this woman's life has been, is simply disgusting.

This was supposed to be a discussion board.. Everyone here just waits for an opportunity to pass judgement on others. Well, you guys are fucking zealots.
posted by eas98 at 2:00 PM on October 3, 2002


Thank you eas98, you just said what I have been thinking of this board for a long time.

As a mother of a child I am horrified and sympathetic at the same time.

Why couldn't/wouldn't the mother ask a neighbor to watch her daughter?

Maybe in your neighborhood there are people just dying to care for a Downs child all day for little or no money but I don't know of any.

Couldn't she bring her daughter inside the building and explain the situation to her manager, asking if her daughter can sit and play quietly on the floor next to her?

You must of had a great boss. This woman was a temp. I've been a temp before and you are basically treated like you don't exist and if there is a problem with coming to work then they just replace you. She had already be fired for childcare issues twice before.

This was a terrible decision on this woman's part but "Murder 1"? No. Where is the intent. Involuntary Manslaughter yes. Reckless disregard. Yes. But not murder.
posted by bas67 at 2:34 PM on October 3, 2002


Sorry not murder one. Felony murder.
posted by bas67 at 2:37 PM on October 3, 2002


"...do you all actually think that you yourselves are immune from poor judgement?"

When another person's life is wholly and entirely dependant on the quality of my judgement, I had better either be maximally immune to poor decision-making or abdicate the responsibility.

Being human, I know about making mistakes. I do that all the time. However, it is completely unacceptable to me to misjudge any aspect of my child's safety and security. Should I ever find myself unable to discharge those responsibilities while meeting some other obligation, that other obligation is toast. Keeping your offspring from dying is a zero-tolerance undertaking: you do it right, always, every day, all the time, or you lose.

It simply astonishes me that someone could think otherwise. It's theoretically possible, sure, but that Protection of the Child did not trump "waltzing into a crummy temp job" means that something was not at all right with the value judgement of the person in question.
posted by majick at 2:37 PM on October 3, 2002


Actually, more importantly, do you all actually think that you yourselves are immune from poor judgement?

I do not think I am immune to poor judgement. However, I do think that I should be held accountable of all the bad choices I make. Just because I should have known better.
posted by falameufilho at 2:39 PM on October 3, 2002


Do you people think for an instance that this woman thought something like this would happen?

Is this woman critically stupid? Has she managed to miss all of the reports of children who have died when left in cars for hours in the past few years? Has she herself never sat in a car on a hot Georgia day and realized that it gets damned hot in there, and maybe, just maybe, therefore, it's not a safe place to leave a helpless child?!?!

Actually, more importantly, do you all actually think that you yourselves are immune from poor judgement?

Poor judgement, no. Criminally and ridiculously stupid judgement, I'd like to think so. Not being able to figure out that small, helpless child + car + hot day + alone = bad isn't poor judgement. It's inexcusable negligence if this woman had a shred of adult intellect. She had time to think about this, and this was still the conclusion that she came to. She's either more stupid than her retarded daughter was or just didn't give a damn.

Seeing everyone here writing crap about this woman, when I'm sure that not one of you have ever had a single day as difficult as this woman's life has been, is simply disgusting.

Well, thank you for being so sure about the relative ease or lack thereof of all of our lives. I'm sure you speak with absolutely certainty but I wouldn't hold my breath that you speak with absolute truth. One thing I'm pretty certain about is that no one here has ever been so repulsively ignorant and/or callous as to leave their dog in a closed car for hours, let alone their child.
posted by Dreama at 2:56 PM on October 3, 2002


I've heard so many versions of this story-- except that usually it doesn't turn out bad.

A woman who worked evenings as a waitress would leave her baby in the car in the parking lot with a blanket and a bottle. Could have turned out bad-- after all it gets pretty cold in Minnesota. But eventually she remarried and now she gets to stay home.

A single mother working full time and trying to take night classes let her 7 year old son be a latchkey kid. The neighbors ratted her out and she eventually worked out a very complicated schedule trading with other single moms.

A single mom with two kids had to bring them to work when they got sick (most day care centers do not accept sick kids.) She lost her job. She lost the next job. Finally she found someone who was understanding.

My point is I know lots of desperate women out there. It is only news when there is a tragic ending. It takes a village to raise a child-- but unfortunately few of us live in villages anymore.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:42 PM on October 3, 2002


"More stupid than her retarded daughter." Nice.

I think I'm on the "Jesus, you people are callous" side for this one. Okay, so this woman who arrived in the metro Atlanta area six months ago with a disabled child in tow has a day when her support system breaks down to such a point that she's faced with a tough choice: bring your kid to work with you or be fired. She's supposed to know of every resource available to her?

It's easy enough to rebuke her in retrospect for not using said "resources" (assuming, of course, that she even has internet access at home, and/or a very dedicated social worker-- quite an assumption if you ask me), but the vehemence in here is really surprising. "Can't afford kids/Don't have kids"? It's a miracle no one has suggested eating the poor girl yet.
posted by tyro urge at 4:57 PM on October 3, 2002


We don't have a village? Okay, so let's build a village. One that works.
posted by beth at 5:06 PM on October 3, 2002


The blame here leans on the transit system. If the transit system was better, she'd ride the bus to work. That way she could be kept poor enough not to have a car, thus taking away her murder weapon. HEY HEY DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, HOW MANY KIDS YOU KILL TODAY?
posted by hellinskira at 5:21 PM on October 3, 2002


"actually, I think taking a child 'from the street' is fairly common among the poor. Poor families are often a wild mix of people, some related by blood, some not."

Holy Shit, how classist is this.

The poor, you know, as if those of us who don't have money are not actually real people, just 'the poor.'
posted by SuzySmith at 9:53 PM on October 3, 2002


Pardon the profanity-laden vehemence of the following response. . . the job and welfare can fuck themselves with a baseball bat full of nails.

i can't believe i'm responding to this level of outrageous loutishness, but here goes: this is a total troll, sorry not everyone is as perfectly principled as you, and you can keep your colorful imagery to yourself. sheesh.

and as for Holy Shit, how classist is this, welcome to MetaFilter. /jaded sarcasm
posted by serafinapekkala at 8:40 AM on October 4, 2002


"One thing I'm pretty certain about is that no one here has ever been so repulsively ignorant and/or callous as to leave their dog in a closed car for hours, let alone their child.:

Nice to know that you can afford to have a dog.

(pause)

My point being that it's all very easy for everyone villifying this woman to feel superior. "Oh, if I were ever in that sitaution, I'd never do it."

If, if if.. I want to hear from someone that has *been* in that situation. I want to see where majick's wonderful 'sacrifice the self' psuedo-hippie 'fuck the man' principals end up when he has a defenseless child that no one else will help him with.

falameufilho, how many time have you known better, but still not had the choice?

Look, I don't think people who leave kids in their car to go shopping, have a drink at the bar, get their hair cut, etc.. have any excuse for their actions. But this doesn't really fit into the mold of all those 'you should be outraged' cases - and if people don't see that through their own self-serving, superior morality, well, then, there is nothing I can do for you.

This is a tragedy, not an outrage.
posted by rich at 11:41 AM on October 4, 2002


If, if if.. I want to hear from someone that has *been* in that situation.

See, rich, that's the whole point. The overwhelming majority of people would never and will never be in this situation because the overwhelming majority of people have the common sense, presence of mind and maturity to find alternatives to putting their children at risk. Desperation over anything other than your own life being on the line doesn't come close to excusing this. Even that barely makes it. Your children come first, above all else. Self-preservation only kicks in when it's to further your ability to parent.

I don't know a parent who wouldn't say "screw it" and stay home with their child in this situation. There are other jobs. There is one child. You don't let a job endanger your kid. I don't know a parent who would let themselves get to this point without seeking some kind of help. Like I said, open a phone book and call the first number that looks even remotely promising. It's better than taking a chance. There are countless agencies. There is one child. You do the work you have to do to ensure, if nothing else, the safety and protection of your kid.

I am not discounting the pressures that this woman was facing. I'm sure she felt trapped and worried and at her wit's end. She's not had an easy time of things, she's made some bad choices (procreating with a felon, for one) and she's doing her best to get her life on track. I applaud all of that. But she dropped the ball in a way that just has absolutely no mitigation to it. At all. And if we can't judge that wretched bit of inaction/stupidity/laziness/abrogation/whatever, what can we judge?

This is a tragedy, not an outrage.

Uh, no. If it were an accident, it would be a tragedy. This happened as a direct result of purposeful, intentional acts by one, wholly culpable individual. A child is dead and there is absolutely no reason that she should be. If that doesn't provoke outrage, what does?
posted by Dreama at 5:11 AM on October 5, 2002


Suzy? I don't see what is wrong the term 'the poor'. We speak of 'the rich'. We speak of 'the underprivileged' and 'the privileged'. We even speak of people as 'whites' or 'blacks'. Adjectives are often used to represent adjective-noun combinations in English.

Your outrage is misplaced.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 9:17 AM on October 5, 2002


" The overwhelming majority of people would never and will never be in this situation because the overwhelming majority of people have the common sense, presence of mind and maturity to find alternatives to putting their children at risk."

I think this is inaccurate. I think we, the somewhat technologically elite, tend to forget that there are millions of people out there that have never used a computer.

There are millions of people right here in the States that have never finished high school. That don't have extensive support structures. That believe if they call agencies they don't know that may be associated with the government that would take their children away because they asked for help. That saying 'screw it' to a job is not an option. There are people who don't watch the news or read the paper and do know that leaving a child in a car on a hot day is bad, but probably don't think that on a cooler day, in the shade is just as dangerous.

(and on a side note, I'm just *so* sure she made a conscious choice to go find a felon that was going to jail the next day to have his child, Dreama.)

The reason this is a tragedy is because there is little help for people in this situation, and probably less education aimed at them. It's a tragedy that the jobs people like this woman fill apply a 'throwaway' ethic instead of being able to accomodate or support the problems endemic to the class (poor, working parents) that the companies depend upon. Instead, they take a stance that 'there's always some other body out there.'

It's a tragedy that the government spends millions or billions on placing shrouds over 'offensive naked statues' instead of spending a little money towards maybe subsidizing back-to-work parents.

It's a tragedy that many of us simply assume things we take for granted are common sense for everyone.
posted by rich at 7:21 AM on October 7, 2002


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