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Mom Thrown in Jail for Letting 9-Year-Old Play at the Park??

Posted by on Jul. 16, 2014 at 9:15 AM
  • 20 Replies
1 mom liked this

Mom Thrown in Jail for Letting 9-Year-Old Play at the Park

by Maressa Brown

playground swing setA mother in North Augusta, South Carolina named Debra Harrell went to jail earlier this month, charged with "unlawful conduct towards a child." Whatever she did must've been well-deserved, right? Not so much. Harrell's alleged crime: Her daughter was "left behind at a nearby park, for hours at a time," according to the local news. This all because Harrell works at a McDonald's, and for most of the summer, her daughter had stayed there with her, playing on a laptop that Harrell had saved up to buy her. But when their home was robbed, and the laptop was stolen, the little girl asked her mom if she could stay at the park that was practically adjacent to the McD's to play.

Harrell said yes, equipped her daughter with a cellphone, and allowed her to play at the park, surrounded by about 40 kids at any given time, three days in a row. But the third day, an adult asked her where her mom was. When she said she was at work, the other parent called the police, who declared the girl "abandoned."

If the story sounds a bit absurd to you, you're not alone. In the days following the story breaking, the general reaction has been of shock, disbelief, and frustration at this news. Sure, there are some who think Harrell was putting her daughter at risk. But most believe it's nothing short of ludicrous that a mom could be thrown in jail for allowing her 9-year-old to play like a normal kid at the park instead of keeping her cooped up inside, staring at a laptop all day -- while she's working. 

This culture of fear-mongering and distrust some parents have for other parents and their children are really frightening. We need to give kids room to be kids and trust them to look out for themselves by a certain age. Parents who think they're doing others a favor by calling out moms like Harrell need to take a step back and assess what exactly they're "blowing the whistle" on. If there are really any dangers present to warrant an over-the-top reaction like this. And if the parent in question is actually doing something unlawful -- or maybe just parenting differently, perhaps in a way that's more trusting and less helicopter-like.

At least it's heartening to see most parents are siding with Harrell. With hope, they'll continue to stand up for moms like her, in turn preventing parents like the one who called the cops here from sticking their nose where it doesn't belong.

How do you feel about what happened to this mom?


Image via fredrocko/iStock

by on Jul. 16, 2014 at 9:15 AM
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Replies (1-10):
momofthem311
by Silver Member on Jul. 16, 2014 at 9:32 AM
1 mom liked this
While I don't think she should have gone to jail, I feel it's not a good idea to leave your child alone at a park, even at 9 yrs old. Upwards of 12, ok, but 9 is still too young. The sad fact is, is that you can't trust people. If these other parents were in such an uproar saying the mom didn't do anything wrong then why didn't they find out all the facts before calling the police and then watch out for the girl while her mom was working.
I wouldn't do it, leave my kid alone at the park. This mom obviously was trying. She worked and did what she had to I guess but I've been a single parent, I had to work but the thought of leaving my kid alone somewhere never entered my mind. If it came to that then work would have to suffer, maybe that's just me.
hankbugsmama2
by Member on Jul. 16, 2014 at 10:48 AM
1 mom liked this
I was left alone with a 1 year old at that age. People are stupid. I went to every park in my grandmas neighborhood with friends no adults from like age six on.
EarlGrayHot
by on Jul. 16, 2014 at 10:57 AM

Sorry.  Being close to the place where your kid is playing is not the same as being there and able to react if something happens.  Nope.  She was not doing what was best for her daughter nor is leaving her at home with a laptop a good idea.  Find childcare.

Anonymous
by Anonymous 1 on Jul. 16, 2014 at 11:17 AM

It sounds like they don't live in the best of neighbohoods and mom working at McDonald's isn't enough to pay for childcare. She had to save money to buy the laptop. According to the story the park was very close to work so I don't see a big deal if the kid wanted to play at the park and it wasn't raining or snowing.

fullxbusymom
by Bronze Member on Jul. 16, 2014 at 11:24 AM

I don't feel she should be in jail.  However, I do feel that child is way to young to be left alone for that amt. of time.  Sorry but if she was 12 I would feel differently, 9 no way in heck.  A half hour is one thing.  6-8hrs no way!!

She still should have a babysitter at this age.

Emycf
by on Jul. 16, 2014 at 12:09 PM
Yeah, I don't think that was entirely unjustified. She left a 9 year old unattended for hours at a time, in a completely unsecured location. What, it's up to the other kids and their parents at the park to baby sit this child without any contact from the mom to give them a heads up? She should have made arrangements with friends or family. She was irresponsible and put her daughter in a dangerous situation. A cell phone and play equipment do not a baby sitter make.
trulyblessed618
by Member on Jul. 16, 2014 at 12:16 PM
1 mom liked this
Someone posted this yesterday and majority of people thought it was fine for this child to be romping around all day alone. I do not. So many things could happen. I don't believe leaving a child that young to make all decisions for herself is a good idea.
cjsmom1
by Silver Member on Jul. 16, 2014 at 12:25 PM
1 mom liked this
If there was a park across the street from my house I'd let my nine year old go by himself. I'm sure this mom want thrilled about having to let her child be alone for so long, but it was probably the best option. McDonald's doesn't pay much so this woman probably couldn't pay for childcare.
PeachQuean
by on Jul. 16, 2014 at 12:26 PM

Hahahaha 

my 6 yr old goes to th epark for hours on end with all her other 6/7 yr old friends. 

Although I can see the issue since the mom was at work, but still its no different then if the mom was at home. This is so stupid IMO. 

My oldest now 12, stayed home alone after school atthe age of 8, I see no difference at all. 

PeachQuean
by on Jul. 16, 2014 at 12:30 PM
1 mom liked this

My dd as well as myself were both babysitting at the age 8/9. 

When I was 8 I was left for 24 hours to babysit 3 boys who were 1,2 and 3 yrs old.  My oldest dd is 12 and started babysitting at the age of 9 at home and taking the kids to the park for hours etc...

My 6 yr old goes to the park alone or with her friends, I'd never hire a sitter for a 9 yr old. But maybe cause where I live its totally legal and its the norm thing to do. 

Quoting fullxbusymom:

I don't feel she should be in jail.  However, I do feel that child is way to young to be left alone for that amt. of time.  Sorry but if she was 12 I would feel differently, 9 no way in heck.  A half hour is one thing.  6-8hrs no way!!

She still should have a babysitter at this age.


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