Remember The Mom Arrested for Letting Her 12-Year-old Take Younger Sibs to Mall?

Hi Readers — Remember that story? A mom let her 12-year-old daughter and the girl’s friend take their combined three siblings to the mall. The kids shopped and had lunch but afterward, when the two older girls went into a dressing room to try on some shirts, they left the younger kids — 7 and 8 and a 3-year-old, who was in a stroller —  in the cosmetics department. Fearing God knows what (an attack by triplet pedophiles who snatch kids in public while nearby adults continue calmly selling cosmetics?), the clerks summoned mall security. Security brought the kids to the Macy’s office and hauled in the mom. The mom was arrested. And this is where the follow-up story, by Spiked Online’s fabulous Nancy McDermott, picks up. Read it here. And weep. — Lenore

46 Responses

  1. What happened to this poor mother was unconscionable and sickening. But I feel compelled to speak up in defense of Love and Logic. It’s actually extremely compatible with the Free Range mindset. It’s all about allowing children as many choices as possible, letting them accept the natural consequences of those choices, both good and bad. Let them learn the painful lessons of life in small ways when they’re children so they don’t have to learn them in BIG ways when they’re grown. The classes that mother attended may have been different, but I suspect that by the time she was required to attend those classes that she was so traumatized by the entire ordeal she couldn’t see the forest for the trees.

    How sad.

  2. At my son’s preschool they speak of ‘guardrail’ adults. People in the village who help keep the kids in line. A gentle “would you do that with your mom here?” Kind of thing.

    If only the adults in this story had been guardrails rather than bullies.

  3. “What happened to this poor mother was unconscionable and sickening”
    To that I agree!!
    I am curious, to anyone who can answer, what is meant by a “deferred prosecution”? To be more specific, is there a time limit or expiration of this? Or will this mom have this hanging over her head for all time?

  4. “What parent hasn’t personally experienced a rebuff from a stranger for allowing their child to do something entirely ordinary,”

    I got a rebuff from a stranger once, for carrying my three year old. It was an older man at the gun counter at a major outdoors store and he said something to the effect that my daughter was big enough to walk by herself. I was ticked at the time because he inserted himself unasked, but in hindsight, and in light of stories like these, I have to laugh and wish there were more busy bodies like him.

  5. @ Terje – Most states have a program that allows people to resolve charges without a conviction for minor situations. You have to do certain things required by the court. If you complete all those things, the charges are dismissed against you. Once the charges are dismissed, they can never be used against you again. But if you fail to complete the requirements, the prosecution of the charges will go forward as if you never entered the program. I’m not a Montana lawyer but that is what this sounds like to me. Once she successfully completed the year of probation and the parenting classes, her charges were dismissed.

  6. If you are curious as to why people refuse to allow their 7 year old kids wander the streets alone, maybe it’s because these GENIUS parents let them do shows like this one:

    http://www.celebitchy.com/101075/seven_year_olds_do_single_ladies_performance_amazing_inappropriate_or_both/

    If you’re going to let your daughters perform like this, no wonder you have to lock them in the house. Don’t think you will get any “mother of the year” awards tho!

  7. Argh.

    Thanks for posting the update, Lenore.

    What a sad story for that poor family (and our entire country really — what are we coming to?).

  8. There oughtta be a law… against stupid overreactions to innocent non-crimes. Can we charge the police and prosecutors with Prosecuting While Stupid?

  9. This is a truly disturbing article.

    Bridget Kevane deserves recognition
    in your next book, Lenore.

    Maybe you could call the chapter:

    “Living in The Police State of America.”

    Susan Wordal, the city prosecutor – deserves to
    be remembered too. What a character!
    Imagine being HER neighbor. Yikes!!! You could
    put her in a chapter with all the other power hungry
    know-it-alls trying to run everybody else’s lives.

    The article said about our hero, Bridget:

    “Bridget Kevane was never convicted of a crime;
    she never had to put on an orange jump suit or
    suffer the public humiliation of a trial. But in many
    ways, the degradation of having her judgments
    as a parent monitored by the state were every
    bit as hard.”

    Maybe you could get Bridget Kevane and other victims of not-so-well-meaning-busybodies to join you when you appear on Dr. Phil or some other show. But a longer more involved program would get your message across with greater impact.

    Hey!
    Have you considered hosting your own TV show
    on Free Range Kids issues? If you did that, “you” would be the one in control, grilling “characters” like
    Prosecutor Susan Wordal. But of course people like
    that would probably stay away. All the better, so you
    could give the poor victims more time to tell their stories!

  10. “If you’re going to let your daughters perform like this, no wonder you have to lock them in the house. Don’t think you will get any “mother of the year” awards tho!”

    I’m confused. Does watching little girls dance inappropriately make normally safe adult strangers want to molest them? Because watching little girls dance like this makes me uncomfortable, not criminally horny.

  11. I was a regular babysitter at age 12. The mother had every right to expect her daughter and the girl’s friend to be responsible for the younger children. The whole prosecuting- the-mom thing was so overboard, but I do hope at least the 12 year olds learned a lesosn about responsibility.

  12. “Does watching little girls dance inappropriately make normally safe adult strangers want to molest them?”

    I’m not convinced that watching little girls dance inappropriately makes normally pedophilic adult strangers want to molest them. They already do, right? by definition.

    But it makes me really uncomfortable, too. I think, if I had been encouraged to dress like that as a child (or, less drastically, in the bikinis-to-the-beach scenario in one of the comments on Celebitchy), I would now consider that relatively normal. (“I dressed like that when I was seven; why the hell shouldn’t I now?”) Instead of the choice being between covering most of my legs and all of my torso (which is “normal”) and showing a little midriff (which is “sexy”), it becomes a choice between showing a little midriff (which is now “normal”) and… what? There’s not much left! :-)

    To my mind it has nothing to do with perverts and pedophiles and everything to do with personal choice and self-expression.

  13. Karin, that single ladies routine was dreamed up at the mall by unattended children? Was it an older sibling or a pedophile (or both!) who filmed it and put it on youtube? Or did mall security force them to dance? Or is it totally unrelated to the current discussion?

  14. A big debate that surfaced when Lenore first posted this was whether or not the mom made an error in judgment in deciding to allow the 12 year olds to watch the younger kids…this seemed to lead down the path that then she should just accept that, yes, this was her fault, that this was the “obvious” result of sending 2 12 year old girls to the mall, and that therefor, she is responsible (apparently criminally).

    I wouldn’t want to dispute that of course she is responsible for her own children. I also don’t disagree that the 2 12 year olds did not fulfill their responsibility, but a better resolution would have been a JUMBO punishment for those 2 girls, beginning with their parents being called.

    I guess in a world where child services cannot always prevent children from being killed in their own homes (mostly because they are too overloaded and perhaps underpaid – I am not trying to criticize social workers in general… I digress), it just seems to me to be a waste of resources to even work towards prosecuting this. Had this been a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th offense? Sure, obviously, she didn’t figure out that her 12 year old won’t listen, now work toward her.

  15. Sad that it ended up this way. 12 year olds ought to be old enough to watch younger kids. That used to be such a common age for babysitting. I was discussing that with some other moms in my area, and most wouldn’t hire 12 year olds or even teenage babysitters, despite having been babysitters themselves at that age. Too much worry that current teens aren’t responsible enough.

  16. “Too much worry that current teens aren’t responsible enough.”

    Maybe they aren’t, if they’re being raised by helicopter parents.

    As for this case, even if the mother HAD shown poor judgment, it’s sad that a lapse in judgment that led to no harm is considered a criminal act.

  17. I suppose normally pedophilic strangers might be more inclined to target *those particular* girls, though. But I could be wrong in that assumption.

    I’m one of those who argued that the mom made an error in judgment in allowing *those particular* 12 year olds to be in charge in that situation, because regardless of what 12 year olds in general are or ought to be capable of, those particular ones evidently weren’t responsible enough. But I would never never never suggest that that “error in judgment” made her a terrible person, much less a criminal. I’ve made errors in judgment too — my whole point was that errors in judgment aren’t criminal acts.

  18. Oh. I did weep.
    I remember coming back from an overseas trip with my daughter and saying grimly to my husband ‘I’ve now had my mothering judged in three continents’. It’s an awful thing to feel like you are constantly on trial, and my experience was but the graze of a butterfly’s wing compared to hers.

  19. Lenore – please start a thread about the Single Ladies video that was posted above. I’m itching to comment, but don’t want to take over this thread.

    Thanks

  20. This is exactly one of the things that is stressing me out the most about my -16 week old daughter. I’m not a fighter; I don’t want to fight other people for the rest of my life. Maybe I’m just reading too many horror stories and too much advice, but it’s scary as hell to think that something like this could happen to me.

    Pardon my French, but fuck those people.

  21. @nettabird: Amen. Your French is spot on.

    My thought is that this female prosecutor should have her reproductive organs removed. Yes… I’m exaggerating, but this kind of stuff makes me see red. What a disgusting excuse for a human being. I’m sorry – anyone that sees children as beings to be shoved into a prison-like atmosphere and coddled until they’re 18, then shoved to jail for the slightest mistake they make (because how can you learn when you’ve never been given the chance), needs to spend some of their own time under intense social scrutiny – because that’s exactly the message people like her send.

    FR Parents need their own continent – so that when our self-reliant, super-smart, ultra observant, responsible and conscientious children take over the world and lead the sheepish, mentally-unstable, completely dependent, we – the parents of these brilliant minds – can rejoice and feel at ease.

  22. I was trying to figure out how to email the link to Lenore but couldn’t. I “hijacked” this thread to see if it might be noticed by her to post for discussion. My apologies for the confusion!!!

  23. This is a shame. I don’t see that any crime was committed. I still don’t think it’s acting in the best interest of a 3 year old to vonfine them to a stroller though. And I seem to remember the duration being longer than an hour.

  24. *confine

  25. “what is meant by a “deferred prosecution””

    Typically you have an agreement where you are required to plead guilty, but the judge does not accept your plea. Instead he gives you terms, community service, anger management, cash restitution, etc, and a time period to complete it. If you show up at the end of the time period with proof you complied with the terms, the charges against you are dismissed. If you failed in anyway, the judge accepts your guilty plea, without trial, and you are sentenced, usually to jail. Basically they strong arm people to enter a guilty plea with a promise it will be dismissed if they do all this stuff. Most people would rather do this than accept the uncertainty of a trial, possible conviction, then possible years of appeals.

  26. Regarding this case itself.

    I am not surprised by what happened because I have seen these cases run out in my area, and I now know how utopian do-gooders like the prosecutor perceive the world and their role in it.

    But what was done to this mother was wrong, it was a crime, and no free or reasonable society would even consider entertaining prosecution for anything even remotely resembling what happened here.

    The reality is that the mother was probably more responsible than most. She gave her 12 yr old an opportunity to display responsibility, and to grow into an adult. This is part of the process of raising responsible, intelligent, moral children. You give them challenges when they are ready. 12 has certainly been old enough for some young women to babysit for the last eighty years, there is no reason why that can not continue. She showed a lapse in judgement. That is to be expected. That is how the 12 yr old learns. From mistakes. The other children were never in any real danger, no more danger than one takes when driving their kids to school in a car each day. There was no negligence. There was no abuse. Anyone who thinks there was negligence or abuse, such as the prosecutor and 3 out of the 4 people in the mock trial jury, is an insane person who should not be trusted with anything.

  27. When I was 12 I looked after my younger siblings. And after I left home, that duty fell to my younger sibling. At 12 my siblings were 9, 8 and 1.

    When I was 18 my mother got very sick and wound up in hospital for many months. At 18 I was technically an adult, so therefore the responsibility of my younger siblings (well, mostly the youngest who was 7) fell to me.

    If I HADNT had the experience I would not have coped at all in an already bad situation. Im greatful my mother was so “neglectful” and ensured each of us could fend for ourselves. It paid dividends when we suddenly found ourselves without a mother constantly being there!

    We got ourselves to school, we for the most part got ourselves fed (shhh, I may have given my brother food poisoning once!), our homework was done and we didnt kill each other. I graduated that year with the equivalent of a “B” grade (not what I was capable of, but pretty good considering the circumstances).

  28. An interesting pattern in all of this is the combination of fear and domination. This is core politics in any mammalian society. First you frighten the hell out of anyone around. Then you coherse them through threat or actual punishment to get everyone to become subservient to you. Parenting doesn’t come into it, otherwise the powers-that-be would be applying a bit of that parenting psychology broadly in society. But they don’t. They just want to hurt someone as the easiest way to build a career – vested interest writ large. There are two questions we can ask about all laws and public policies, “Who is this going to hurt?” and “Why do the policy-makers want to hurt them?” And we have to keep asking those questions to create freedom

  29. oops, sorry for the coherse in that last -of course coerce.

  30. owen is right…they want to hurt people and build careers. it happened to me and it happens far more often then anyone thinks or knows because it rarely makes the news. even though i was foubd innocent of any wrongdoing and the cps was censued for it…i’m still guilty in the eyes of the “authorities”. my life has been destroyed and my savings and retirement gone fighting this. thry are only interested in how much power they have and you don’t. the “best intrests of the child” have nothing to do with it. i was told because i was found innocent[not not guilty] i was not injured. didnt matter that the months of “parenting classes
    ‘ i had to take [out of my own pocket ] not only bankrupted me and caused finanial hardship for me but caused me many times to consider suicide as my only way to make it end. and it’s still not over. even years later now my adult children have been contacted to see if they have kids yet because”we need to check because as victims of abuse and neglect[not] they are more likely to abuse their own kids. when, for the love of God, does it ever end?

  31. [...] three younger kids are left standing at the cosmetics counter while the older girls try on clothes, the mother is arrested for neglect. Appropriate or overkill? — Free Range [...]

  32. It always annoys me when young adults (the bail person) who has little liffe experience is given control over the life decisions of others. This women is humiliated and forced to respond to a system and in particular a young women, who is not qualified to speak into the situation, over something in which no one was hurt. When will we let parents be parents. Micro managing parents is not helping us grow as a society.

  33. Oh for the love of all things holy! Here in Cleveland, our department of human services can’t seem to keep crack addicts from killing their children and awards custody to known drug traffickers. They need to send the prosecutors from Bozeman to Cleveland (or Detroit, or DC….) for a stint in the real world so they can see what actual child abuse is looks like.

  34. BTW, when I was still a practicing divorce attorney, I had to defend more than one client from ridiculous claims of child abuse during custody proceedings for things like making a sassy 12 year old get out of the car and walk 2 blocks home; leaving a sleeping child in bed while going next door to borrow milk for said child’s breakfast and allowing a child to walk home from school with another child. Fortunately, the judges were possessed of common sense, but it cost my clients to defend against this ridiculousness.

  35. That was such a depressing article. Did the prosecuter ever say what the danger actually was?

  36. What gets me is that my great grandmother was married at 13. Up until quite recently, kids were helping raise their siblings from a young age. We used to call it working together as a family, now we put mom in jail. What is this world coming to?

  37. Wow, this is completely appalling!! At 12 I was a regular babysitter for a 5-year-old and a newborn. At 14 I had a baby sister of my own to help take care of. And at no point in time were any of those kids harmed by my actions and child services were never involved! But now, at 31, I worry constantly that someone will call DFCS on me because of my free-rangeness towards my toddler. When did this world become so overreactive that those of us that aren’t crazy helicopter parents have to live in fear of people who “clearly” know what’s “best” for our kids?? It’s completely depressing.

  38. Remember the story? It threads through my brian every single time I take my kids to the mall. Hell!

  39. Today, 16 year old Jessica Watson completed her solo trip sailing around the globe. Alone. I gotta wonder what the Montana prosecutor would charge HER mother with but the punishment would presumably begin with death by firing squad and escalate from there.

    I wonder how much depressing hatemail Watson’s mother is getting for letting her daughter sail alone, but well monitored, for 7 months around the planet.

  40. We’re in a similar boat as the lady in the article, but not from letting the kids shop on their own. My youngest loves being able to buy her own slurpee. But that’s not what my comment is about.
    We’re currently undergoing the preliminaries to “supervision” by CPS. I don’t dare let my eldest walk home from school anymore – don’t want that neglect charge. Then there’s the mothers that live around here who do nothing but booze it up. Hells bells, i can’t trust them to look after their own kids, nevermind keep an eye on mine.
    All that and more because some busy body didn’t think I was providing the medical care I should for a child who needed a more intense hearing exam – I had orders from a specialist as to what to do if a problem creeped up again, and it did not include having a second audiology test before being seen by a doctor first! Heaven forbid I, the parent, know what my child needs. Oh no… this volunteer tester knew more than I did. *eyeroll* My children were examined and questioned without a parent present and now, 3 months later, we have less than a week left to have the house in “ship shape” or we could loose our kids. But the definition of “ship shape” is by some woman who comes in, makes arbitrary decisions about things because of what is on the surface and has offered us no actual help.
    We’re not bad parents. We just have had extra stresses this pass year and house keeping was not a priority. I’m not even allowed to let my kids stay home sick from school because they have missed more than 5 days of school. If they do, I have been threatened with loosing them. So they have gone to school when they should have been at home, sick, and I got yelled at by the teachers for allowing a sick kid to go to school. I was ordered to take parenting courses but the course that the social worker ordered me to take is for drug using, alcohol abusing, domestic violence escaping mothers. I’m none of the above, yet this was the “only” parenting course she wanted me to take. I’m so glad they were full and couldn’t take me.
    I can’t win. If I don’t obey the social worker’s insane orders, I will loose my kids, but if I do what is best for my children, I’m neglectful? No wonder parents are at their wits end.

  41. “They want to hurt people and build their careers” Not sure what percentage of public officials fall into that category, but it would probably explain many cases where some poor so-and-so gets “railroaded” off to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. This usually happens to people who are not very smart and have little or no money. The police and the prosecutor need a “fall guy” so it looks like they’ve “solved” some terrible crime. Meanwhile, the guy who did it is still running around loose. I tend to be pro-law-and-order, but not when the wrong man gets sent to the slammer because the DA want to look “good” for the next election.

  42. north of 49..get alawyer and have them present when cps comes.. they are capable of lying about the entire “inspection”. they will probably show up with the police to make sure you cooperate [ and to show you that their word if the word of god]. by law if the police don’t have a warrent and don’t believe the kids are in immediate danger you CAN deny them entry into your house…that’s why they ask you to step out side were if they want the can charge you with resisting even if your on your own property and simply answering questions[ thouhg not the way they want you to]…something i learned too late.

  43. This sums up my biggest fear in parenting. I don’t like being a worry wart. I don’t like hovering over my kids. I want to give them independence. I’m not afraid of the boogeyman being out there to get my kids, but what I fear is that others will think I am a bad parent for NOT being afraid of such. And to be CHARGED with being a bad parent…that makes me afraid.

  44. I have to say I had conflicted feelings from the start about this case. I’m the mother of two sons – age 30 and 28 – who are very independent world travelers. The term “free-rangers” was not used when I was raising my sons – or it it was, I didn’t know it – but I suppose I raised my sons along those lines.

    However, hearing about this case last summer, I thought that the mother was wrong in allowing the two 12 year olds to take three – or was it four? – little kids to a local mall. The two “big girls” were definitely old enough to be at the mall unsupervised, but NOT there caring for small children.

    Some of the responders to the first article I read wrote that 12 year olds are responsible baby sitters. Yes they are – IN a home. NOT at a mall. And NOT with three or four smaller children.

    The charges against the mother were completely overblown and ridiculous. But the fact remains that she was not acting in the kids’ best interests in what she did.

  45. What if these were the twelve yr old own kids (plausible in our society); are they going to prosecute grandma?

  46. I was at a Home Depot waiting in line, and some lady starts trying to tell me that I am leaving my infant daughter in the car in front unattended in a loud voice so that everyone in the store could her. My son was in the car with her, but he had the seat laid back, so I guess she couldn’t see him. I told her that my son was in the car, and to butt out of my business. She continued on telling me how she got into trouble with the police for the same thing. On and on. I told her to look outside, that there was someone with her. She continued in the same vein for about 10 minutes. I finally told to get out of my face before she had something for real to call the police about.

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