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Mom arrested for tattooing 11-year-old

A mother in South Carolina is drawing criticism from parents across the country for tattooing her 11-year-old daughter — an act deemed illegal in her home state.

Odessa Clay, 30, was arrested in late September and charged with tattooing a minor. Last week, Clay told WCTI-TV she only did it because her daughter asked her to.

The tattoo — a small, heart-shaped marking — was inked near the child’s right shoulder. Her mother told WCTI she first numbed the girls skin, then used her own tools to create the outline of the heart.

One law enforcement involved in Clay’s arrest told The Huffington PostMonday, he thinks the woman should receive a harsher punishment.

"I feel she oughta be charged with child abuse," Pamlico County Sheriff Bill Sawyer Jr. said. "She scarred her child for life."

As of Monday, North Carolina's Craven County district attorney said his office had no intention of pursuing elevated charges. The maximum penalty for tattooing a minor, District Attorney Scott Thomas said, is 60 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Clay’s arrest brings back memories similar case in Washington state. In July, a 13-year-old boy got a 6-inch dragon tattoo. The boy said he got the tattoo while on a trip with a family friend but refused to tell his parents who actually did it.

"The parents were not happy about it," Centralia Police Sgt. Pat Fitzgerald told KING-TV. "The parents would not have allowed or condoned it."

Officials at the Washington Department of Licensing told KING they plan on following up on a police investigation to determine whether disciplinary action needs to take place if the business involved is identified.

Both incidents have parents concerned. In the case of Odessa Clay, there opinions have lit up comment boards across the Internet.

“As a tattooed mom I think it’s highly inappropriate,” a woman named Samantha wrote on “Just because your kid wants something doesn’t mean they should have it.”

“Children raising children,” a commenter named Lilgibronne posted on Yahoo Shine. “Shes your daughter, not one of your 30-year-old friends.”

Still, some say the charges Clay is facing are a little over the top.

“While I don't like tattoos, I think arresting a parent for letting a child get a small tattoo is ridiculous,” Albgrl posted on Yahoo Shine. “I've worked in social services and seen parents neglecting, abusing, harassing, starving, imprisoning their children. These parents don't always get arrested.”

What do you think? Should a parent face criminal charges for allowing their pre-teen and teenage children get tattoos?


Asked by LostSoul88 at 9:57 AM on Oct. 10, 2012 in Parenting Debate

Level 40 (119,496 Credits)
This question is closed.
Answers (12)
  • no. doing it under force would be another issue, though.

    Answer by dullscissors at 10:21 AM on Oct. 10, 2012

  • I have mixed feelings about this. I personally hate tattoo's so I would never give my kids a tattoo or support them getting one. The girl is only 11 so I cannot comprehend what this mother was thinking giving in to her daughter about something like this, at the very least it shows that she is either completely irresponsible or maybe just a bit out of touch. I don't know if that's worth sending her to jail over though.

    Answer by RachaelMommy3 at 10:37 AM on Oct. 10, 2012

  • “Just because your kid wants something doesn’t mean they should have it.”

    That's exactly how I feel. My kids could want a cigarette or some alcohol but, I'm not going to just give it to them. If they really want a tattoo they should wait until they are legally old enough for one & can pay for it themselves.

    Answer by 3libras at 12:47 PM on Oct. 10, 2012

  • An 11 yo is not IMO old enough to make a decision that will alter her body forever, whether parents agree or not.

    Answer by missanc at 10:32 AM on Oct. 10, 2012

  • I say that the parents should be charged. I personally have several tattoos myself, and plan to get many more. My daughter asks for one all the time, and my response is always the same, I tell her that when she turns 18 and if she still wants one I will personnally take to get it done PROFESSIONALLY. I am honestly more appalled that this mother did the tattoo herself. She knew it was illegal, and that is why she didn't take the child to do it the right way. When I was 13 I did the same thing to myself and I got a severe infection from it, and now I have a scar that I covered with a professional tattoo.

    Answer by pddnosmom3313 at 10:56 AM on Oct. 10, 2012

  • And, I think the mom knew it was illegal. If you do the crime, you do the time, period.

    Answer by 3libras at 12:50 PM on Oct. 10, 2012

  • I don't know about this. I do not want my daughter to get a tattoo. I would not allow her to get a tattoo. I understand that some people like tattoos but I don't think children should be making decisions that impact their lives. Should she go to jail? No. Was she trained? Did she use safe equipment and safe technique?

    Answer by booklover545 at 10:23 AM on Oct. 10, 2012

  • An 11 yo is not IMO old enough to make a decision that will alter her body forever, whether parents agree or not.

    What ab pierced ears? And no they do not always grow back asometimes get infected. I do not think an 11 year old should get a tatoo.
    The woman knew she was not allowed to tatoo her child. She may not have known the exact penalty, but she knew it was against the law. That holds a penalty and what ever it is should be the sentence, even if it is a little over the top. I do wonderif she is in a shop or what? If in a shop she needs to have her tools confiscated and barred from working in that profession.

    Since she says she numbed the skin, I would say professional. I am wondering why she would do it at home rather than at a parlor where I would assume it would be easier.
    There seems to be a lot unsaid

    Answer by Dardenella at 11:04 AM on Oct. 10, 2012

  • I think the mom is wrong for doing it, but I don't think she should go to jail.

    Answer by mompam at 1:58 PM on Oct. 10, 2012

  • In Magaia they teach their sons how to masterbate when they are 13....

    What I'm saying is, there are a lot of alarming cultural norms out there. Tattooing your child is not a social norm in our culture. I certainly wouldn't do it to my child.

    I would probably have mom take some parenting classes, I wouldn't send her off to jail.

    Answer by Skepticchick at 2:18 PM on Oct. 10, 2012