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Elementary School Kids Elementary School Kids

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

Posted by on Jul. 16, 2014 at 11:24 AM
  • 33 Replies

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? Should she have been thrown in jail?

by on Jul. 16, 2014 at 11:24 AM
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Replies (1-10):
mommy053008
by Maria on Jul. 16, 2014 at 11:38 AM
I don't see a huge deal pending on how long she was left unattended.
steelcrazy
by Emerald Member on Jul. 16, 2014 at 11:45 AM
1 mom liked this

Most people hire a sitter to look after their children, especially at that age, while they are at work.  What did the child do about meals while mom was working?  How about the restroom?  What if she got seriously hurt?  Not to mention that hours on end in a park day after day seems boring.  Jail time seems a bit extreme IMO.  

Andrewsmom70
by Gold Member on Jul. 16, 2014 at 12:44 PM
2 moms liked this
She had a cell phone with her. It seems the mom was doing the best she could for her daughter. I'm sure she provided food/water for her child. It did seem, from what I read in another story, like the child usually stayed at the restaurant most days playing on a laptop computer the mom bought cheap. But someone broke in their house and stole it.

Working at McDonald's, I doubt she made too much money. Paying for a babysitter probably wasn't in the budget.

Putting the mom in jail doesn't seem like the best option for either the child or the mom.

Quoting steelcrazy:

Most people hire a sitter to look after their children, especially at that age, while they are at work.  What did the child do about meals while mom was working?  How about the restroom?  What if she got seriously hurt?  Not to mention that hours on end in a park day after day seems boring.  Jail time seems a bit extreme IMO.  

KenneMaw
by Member on Jul. 16, 2014 at 12:47 PM

I don't think jail is the best option, but it is a shame that didn't have another adult looking after the girl in the park.   I know kidnapings are few and far between, but it is easy for a child to get hurt at that age.   

GwenMB
by Gwen on Jul. 16, 2014 at 12:56 PM

It sounds to me like this mom was doing this best she could. They should have helped her with childcare, not throw her in jail.  Being in jail does no one any good, esp that child.

M4LG5
by Gold Member on Jul. 16, 2014 at 12:57 PM

 Would I leave my 9 year old alone at a park by herself?  No BUT the mother does not deserve to be put in jail nor does the child deserve to be put in foster care.

Having a job like McDonald's probably doesn't earn enough to pay childcare so the mother did the best she could and it is not even CLOSE to be considered "abandoned". 

M4LG5
by Gold Member on Jul. 16, 2014 at 12:59 PM
1 mom liked this

 there are TOO MANY children put in foster care for asinine reasons while they are not removing kids from homes that are being beaten everyday. 

Quoting GwenMB:

It sounds to me like this mom was doing this best she could. They should have helped her with childcare, not throw her in jail.  Being in jail does no one any good, esp that child.

 

ljmom24
by Bronze Member on Jul. 16, 2014 at 1:40 PM
1 mom liked this
My oldest is 10 and a lot of his friends go to a park without supervision and have been fora while. Most have cell phones and parks here have port a potties and they go home when they are hungry. like others have said I'm sure the pay check from mcdonalds doesn't leave much room to pay a baby sitter. Would we rather she quit and go on welfare? I don't think 9 is too young to be alone in a park for a few hours and a better alternative then spending hours on a lap top. Think too many kids are home with heads buried in computers and video games and not enough outside at parks. On one hand we say our kids are fat and out of shape and in the other we say playing in parks is unsafe. Talk about mix messages.
jenerica.
by New Member on Jul. 16, 2014 at 1:40 PM
1 mom liked this

It amazes me that a mother was arrested for allowing her child to hang out in an area that is designed for the entertainment and safety of children. 

wakymom
by Ruby Member on Jul. 16, 2014 at 1:51 PM

 Was what that mom did ideal? No. Was it worth being thrown in jail over? Imo, no.

 

 

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