Outrage of The Week: Is This Really “Abuse”? Only To Deluded Judge

Hi Readers — Soon I will be compiling stories of Take Our Children to the Park & Leave Them There Day, which went well in parks around the world (well, not a TON of parks, but they WERE around the world and all the participants enjoyed the day). But in the meantime, I just got  this gut-kicking story by a really great reporter, Brendan Lyons, in the Albany Times Union:

Two years ago, Anne Bruscino was a 21-year-old college student studying to be a special ed teacher and working part time at a day care center for kids with disabilities. One morning, as she was about to bring in eight kids from the center’s playground — a playground that is fenced in, faces the center’s big office windows and is protected by security cameras — she got momentarily distracted by one child running off to greet a parent and ended up leaving a 3-year-old girl, Caitlin, outside by herself for five minutes.

After Anne realized her mistake of course she ran out and brought Caitlin in. She also notified her supervisor, and papers were filed. And at last her case — yup, it’s an actual “case” — came up before a New York State administrative law judge, Susan Lyn Preston. Judge Preston’s ruling?

Anne should be placed on New York state’s Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment. She could remain there for 25 years (almost assuring she never works with children again),  because: “Clearly, Caitlin was at imminent risk of harm in this situation.The fact that the playground was surrounded by a chain-link fence does not eliminate the risk that Caitlin could have been abducted. A person with an evil intent could have easily gotten over the fence or lured Caitlin to the fence.”

Readers — this is when I lost it. As sick as I am of a society that insists on perfection in all dealings with children (deeming people “negligent” when they are merely human), it is when those in power buy into the “a child is in danger every single second, no matter how safe the circumstances” that I wonder when we are all going to end up on some registry or another.

Let’s think: What would it actually have taken for the girl to have been spontaneously abducted in the span of five minutes, as the judge so clearly believes was a distinct possibility?

First of all, a child abductor would have had to have been passing by the center at the precise time Caitlin was unchaperoned. Since, according to FBI statistics, there are only about 115 “stereotypical” abductions in the whole country each year (that is, abductions by strangers, intending to transport the child), this already would have been SOME rotten luck.

Then, that abductor would have had to immediately scale the fence, hide from the security cameras, avoid detection on the part of  anyone glancing out the office window, and pray that the child did not utter a single peep that might call attention to the crime. He’d also have to be out of there within about a minute, climbing back over the fence again.

This time while holding a 3-year-old.

Now, I’m not saying this could NEVER happen. If all the stars aligned AND the planets AND the world’s worst luck (and best fence-climber), there’s an extremely slight chance it could. Just like there’s a slight chance of getting hit by lightning in any 5  minutes you sit on your porch. But to say the child was in “imminent risk of harm in this situation” is the equivalent of saying that no matter how many fences, monitors and safeguards we put up, every child is at risk every single second an adult isn’t serving as a physical bodyguard.

That’s a perception that is very common and really off-base. Feel free to look at my previous posts on Stranger Danger, crime going down, and how TV alters our sense of danger, if you’d like to read more about all that.

Meantime, Anne is appealing the judge’s decision. If you would like: Please add a note of support, below, to send to the Times Union, asking that Anne, described by the paper as a successful student, “doting” day care worker  and volunteer with disabled children, be considered not an abusive person, but rather a young woman who sounds like she’d be a great asset to the teaching world.

She could watch my dear ones any day. — Lenore

143 Responses

  1. It is very clear to me that the child was NOT in “imminent risk of harm.” This should be overturned on appeal, and similar cases this judge has had should be reviewed.

    The public interest is not served by villifying the acts of good, but imperfect citizens.

  2. The judge works inside the legal system and may have information that the layman does not. Perhaps the judge has info about a predator in that neighborhood to which the rest of the neighborhood, including the workers at the daycare, are not privy. If that is the case, it is up to the judge and the local police to notify them that there is a world class fence climbing predator with an invisibility cloak stalking that day care. If the danger actually exists, the judgement should stand.

    If it is pure fantasy — as it appears to be — then the appeal should succeed.

  3. Dear god.

    Obviously the woman messed up. But messing up ONCE is not child abuse!

  4. So everyone has to be perfect 100% of the time in order to be allowed to deal with children? That would be the perfect recipe for the extinction of humanity! This judge needs to have more compassion and a firmer grasp on reality! It’s obvious that with the fence, the tons of windows, AND a security camera to boot, that child was just fine. As evidenced by the fact NOTHING HAPPENED.

  5. Yes, not negligent. Human. One time when I was little my mom left my brother behind as we all got in the car for a family day trip. It was 20 minutes before she realized one was missing. No CPS. Just a funny family story that still gets a laugh and a nod of understanding even now 40 years later.

  6. Dear God, think what else could have happened in those five minutes!
    The child could have gotten dust in her eye.
    The child may have gotten chilled by a gust of cold air.
    The moon may have crashed into the playground.
    A predator riding an invisible kangaroo could have hopped over the fence and abducted the child in the kangaroo’s pouch.
    That judge is playing a dangerous game of “what if” that flies in the face of the child’s actual safety behind a tall fence, cameras, and all those office windows.

  7. Uly – My kids were in a preschool that had a similar setup. Except that they could have gotten out, if they intended to, y walking through a small court yard. The child would have then had to climb a gate to reach the latch to open it.

    If the school had called me and told me that they had left my kid outside unattended for five minutes, I would have asked why they were calling? If they said they left him outside and he sat their crying and was miserable until they came out and got him, I would have paid him some extra attention, but not been mad at the school.

    My point is that the kid was in a fenced in playground were small children are supposed to be. Leaving him or her there for 5 minutes alone is not “messing up.” It’s the normal give and take of day care.

    Letting the kids sit inside in front of the TV because you’re too paranoid to get punished as an abuser, now that would be messing up. (and after this, understandable)

  8. Two points about this story. First, after what happened to Anne, there will be less incentive to actually file an incident report for fear of being branded for 25 years.

    Second, if this is availalble to private schools why don’t the public schools use this? Or do they know it’s useless?

    It’s a shame that the day care would not stand behind her, either.

  9. I disagree Brian. Leaving a kid outside who is supposed to be inside (or vice versa) is messing up, aka “making a mistake”. Likewise, putting out 22 cups of juice when you’re supposed to have 24 (meaning some kids have none) is “messing up”, as is writing the name wrong on their cubby.

    Just because it’s not a big, huge problem doesn’t mean she did not, in fact, mess this one up. She was supposed to bring all the children in. She did not do so. What else would you call it?

  10. This is a gross travesty of justice, mocking any true case of negligence or child endangerment, even if the child were indeed left alone for a few minutes in the enclosed yard – which she WASN’T, considering another teacher remained with her for the short time until the child’s teacher returned. My heart goes out to this young woman and dearly hope the case is dismissed.

  11. This judge is out of touch and insane. He is looking to make an example out of someone.
    It’s like we’re in some sort of new Salem Witch Trial era.

  12. I usually try not to get outraged by the Outrage of the week. I figure the logic that applies to abductions applies to this as well – It is a small sampling and just because it is in the media doesn’t mean everyone behaves this way. However, I just can’t stay silent on this one. I think we can back up all the way to the part where this started to get ridiculous “…and papers were filed.” Really. You have to fill out a report if a child is left alone for 5 minutes? They had better come arrest me then because I have lost track of a kid for a few minutes on several occasions. And I don’t think twice about letting them play in the fenced back yard for much longer.

  13. Does the judge have children? Does she know just how difficult it is to constantly keep track of 8 toddlers? I worked in the toddler room in a Day Care center for several years while I was in school, and it takes about 3 seconds for a toddler to slip away and about 5 minutes to wrangle one back into order, especially when you have 7 other toddlers to keep track of. If Judge Preston is so concerned about the safety of those children (not just Caitlin, who was FINE), perhaps she should consider that one adult to EIGHT TODDLERS is simply an insane ratio, and the rules that dictate adult/toddler ratio should be modified. If Anne had had a second pair of hands to herd the cats…errr… toddlers, Caitlin likely would not have been left outside alone. (And even with two caregivers, it can still happen. Those toddlers are slippery little suckers!)

    That said, Judge Preston should consider the meaning of the word “imminent.” It does not mean “remote possibility.” It means likely to happen, and soon. Imminent risk of danger does not apply to this situation.

    One final note is this, if we want to hang on to keep good people who clearly care about children and who are good at their jobs, we need to offer more support for day care workers, teachers, nannies — not scare them off with threats that a minor misstep will result in banishment from a chosen career path. (Particularly special ed teachers, who we need so desperately!) I would be thrilled to have a person like Anne watch my kids!

  14. I do not think that Anne should face this sort of penalty – Being placed on the Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment – for what it would open up in ways of punishing other families and workers. Would any child spotted alone on a front porch, sitting in the sunshine, watching birds – be subject to sending their parent or caretakers name to such a list? If the child had been in a “time out”, would it still be the same? Will we need to set age limits and time limits to the amount of time a child may be left alone in the glorious sunshine? Will need to start installing intruder proof roofing on our back yards in order to allow our children to be outside?
    I do realize that she forgot/didn’t see/didn’t count – which should be a punishment from her job situation – of not following an employment rule to count on the way out and count on the way in. Child Abuse and Maltreatment? No.

  15. why is anyone surprisedcps and legal system reacted this way?this is what they do ALL THE TIME TO EVERYONE! as far as they are concernced the judge has shown “she’s tough on child abusers” even though this is in no way abuse. the state has managed to throw it’s weight around to show why we need them to ” to protect the children” [ because the human race clearly won’t survive by our own wits] cps has been able to bully another innocent person and apply for more funding because ‘look at all the dangers we have to save children from” . the fact that a totally innocent person is having her life an career destroyed is totally irrevelent to these people; all that matters is that they’ve shown once again that they can legally control us and thats it.

  16. We had a similar incident at my son’s preschool — a three-year-old kid was left out on the playground and it happened to take place on the day the state was making a surprise inspection. Whoops! The parents all got a letter about it but no one freaked out and life went on. Personally, I think it happened because the teachers were flustered over the surprise inspection–unintended consequences…

    This young woman screwed up, no doubt, and it shouldn’t happen again, but the judge is nuts. Don’t ruin her life over this.

  17. Please, please, please can we leave this woman’s name OFF the child abuse registry?! The registry is for someone who has committed violent or sexual crimes against children. As a mother of 5 children, when I go to Meghan’s Law and enter my zipcode to see the list of sex offenders in my area, I expect to see a list of people who are unable to stop their compulsion to harm children. This woman is NOT one of those people and you are doing a dis-service to the registry to add her name.

  18. Ugh! This story kills me! How devastating for the young woman who seems to have a passion and talent for a career that NEEDS people with passion and talent. What really gets me though is that the toddler WASN’T alone. Somebody, albeit another teacher, stopped to take CARE of the child. If anything, this story is an example of how helpful and aware people can be when it comes to children in public places. I truly hope this ridiculous ruling is appealed.

  19. Here’s what we get with such paranoid reaction to the smallest hint of danger:

    A friend of mine, married with kids 7 and 2, freaks out at the prospect of taking them to the doctor to treat injuries, fearing that an over-reacting doctor or nurse will contact an over-reacting CPS who will take away her children. So instead of having the child checked out to see if, say, that sidewalk face-plant, cat scratch or fall off the swing did any real damage, she combs the internet for information and attempts her own diagnosis, weighing the risk of untreated injury versus the risk of ending up treated like Anne Bruscino. How have we come to this?

  20. Maybe the judge has never figured out that if someone was dedicated enough, especially if they have a weapon, they can abduct a child right from the arms of their parents. Perhaps all mom’s should start getting Concealed Carry Licenses? Or maybe we should just ban Van’s, since they always seem to be involved in these stories somehow.

  21. This kind of stuff is EXACTLY why I’ve decided not to be a Special Ed teacher. I could put up with the expensive school loans, the low pay, the extremely exhausting and draining job, and even the obnoxious parents. I figured it was all worth it if I was doing something meaningful for kids who are frequently overlooked, but the idea that one little, harmless mistake could ruin your entire career… that was too much. If I’m going to get into debt paying my own way through college, I’d like to know that I’ll have a decent chance of being able to pay off those loans without some small mistake making my degree worthless.

    Unfortunately, I think this kind of thing is much more likely than the sort of stranger danger it protects against. I can say from experience that when you’re working with kids with special needs, things will occasionally get out of hand. Something will come up. It is inevitable, no matter how good you are at your job.

    I’ve worked as a sort of rent-a-nanny for an agency that caters to people with kids with special needs for about 5 years now. You would not BELIEVE the kinds of things parents get worked up about. I had a parent call and demand that I be fired because the 7 year old, developmentally normal, sibling of the 3 year old autistic boy I was watching left a pair of SAFETY scissors out and I didn’t put them away… I was with the 3 year old the whole time, and I had supervised most of the 7 year old’s art project, but simply didn’t notice the scissors were left out. The parents kept saying “what if the boy had picked up the scissors and cut his finger off?” That’s only one of about 7 such situations I’ve had since I started this job.

    Fortunately, my boss is super reasonable, and she knows that I’m great at what I do. Thank God none of these parents decided to press charges, though, because all it would take is one worked up judge, like the one in this story.

  22. Wow. In my opinion, the child is in greater “imminent risk of harm” every minute that she spends out on the playground WITH her classmates and teachers. I mean, that’s when kids have collisions and get tepted to do crazy things and even throw violent tantrums. Alone? It may have been the safest 5 minutes of that child’s day.

    I hate to think what that judge would say my kids are in imminent danger of for hours every day – they play untethered at the park, where there is no chain-link fence; I let them play in our yard unsupervised, where we have no fence and a wooded ravine complete with wild beasts and a stream; they play on the sidewalk right next to the road. Oh my!

    People are going to start hiding and lying about these little mishaps if they are going to generate this ridiculous kind of reaction.

  23. This young woman’s name should not be added to a registry of child abuse and maltreatment for several reasons: there was no abuse or maltreatment; doing so unfairly limits her ability to work, and it also dilutes the effect of having such a registry. The point of these registries is so that folks can educate themselves about truly dangerous people, which this young woman clearly is not. If we as a society insist on labeling everyone who ever makes an error in judgment without resulting harm, we will have a nation full of unemployable people – whose interest does this serve? Shouldn’t we focus our energies on the true no-goodniks instead of wasting resources on this kind of thing?

  24. Big hole in the judge’s logic: If you’re dealing with a kidnapper capable of scaling a fence and then hauling a kid over it, why would the mere presence of a daycare worker stop him?

    What’s this bit about “luring her to the fence”? What could your putative monster do to her in that situation? Pedophiles do not have supernatural powers (this is actually a controversial statement!). Many therapists who work with what they claim to be abuse victims say that it’s possible for a child to be traumatized by the “vibrational frequencies of an abuser’s thoughts.” This makes as much sense as my saying that when I was a senior in high school, I batted 50 touchdowns in one basketball game; it’s simply word salad. The notion of “non-contact molestation” was popularized in the late 80s by John Bradshaw and other members of the “all families are dysfunctional” crowd that blamed every single misfortune an adult could have on not just bad, but downright evil parenting.

  25. I’d be surprised if this smart, capable, young woman WANTED to continue in her desired profession. Who would subject themselves to that kind of scrutiny and punishment for an honest mistake? Who will be our future teachers, doctors, nurses? Stories and decisions like these will make it even harder for future generations to choose these kinds of careers.

    It was not Caitlin who was “at imminent risk of harm”. It is Judge Preston’s ruling placing one of the foundations of our society in imminent danger.

    With hope and peace,
    J, mom to 10 year old brain cancer warrior
    May is brain tumor awareness month. Your child is more likely to get a brain tumor than be abducted by a stranger.

    PS – Kudos to Liz (Support post) for letting her ‘fragile’ child free range. You can’t save a kid’s life and then not let them live.

  26. I have seen many cases where an inattentive driver gets off with a slap on the wrist after killing a pedestrian or cyclist, simply because there was no malice involved.

    Not ‘someone could have been there when they veered off the road’ but ‘someone was there and was killed when they veered off the road’. And in the worst case, yes, the someone was a child.

  27. The article is no longer available. I can only hope that this means that someone has realized the absurdity of the situation and that it has already been remedied.

    I am ignoring my kids (4 and 3 years old) RIGHT NOW. They’re in a completely different room watching a movie and converting oxygen to carbon dioxide all by themselves. They are also periodically playing with obnoxiously loud toys. Later on, after our “quiet time” (not really quiet, what with the toys!) I will send them into the backyard to play. Alone. Without me. I will open the windows and listen for sounds of distress, but if I don’t hear any, I’m unlikely to check on them very often.

    I guess I should be on that list, too.

    As someone who has worked with kids with disabilities, this young woman deserves a flipping medal. What she doesn’t deserve is to have one mistake ruin her entire career. We ALL make mistakes. Even this judge, obviously.

  28. STUPID! Maybe the judge should walk in her shoes for a day and see what happens.

  29. “A friend of mine, married with kids 7 and 2, freaks out at the prospect of taking them to the doctor to treat injuries, fearing that an over-reacting doctor or nurse will contact an over-reacting CPS who will take away her children. So instead of having the child checked out to see if, say, that sidewalk face-plant, cat scratch or fall off the swing did any real damage,”

    Well, I don’t take the kid in to the doctor for that either, but not because I’m afraid of the doctor calling the CPS – but because it’s not that big a deal. I put a band aid on it and move on. I mean, if her pupils look fine and she’s not vomitting and the bleeding stops and she goes on playing – what’s the big deal? A cat scratch? Really? I don’t even check the internet. Why does falling off a swing warrant a doctor’s trip? (Of course, this is how not having a pay-for-service system drives up health care costs, but, that’s another story…)
    Doctors can usually tell the difference between everyday bruises and abuse-inflicted bruises. I’m not too concerned about that. I might be concerned about them getting annoyed if I went in twice a week to check a routine bruise, however.

    As for the outrage, I certainly hope this woman wins her appeal. Sometimes you get out of control judges, I realize. I’m not sure how this even got to the courts in the first place?

  30. “Doctors can usually tell the difference between everyday bruises and abuse-inflicted bruises. I’m not too concerned about that. I might be concerned about them getting annoyed if I went in twice a week to check a routine bruise, however.”

    I was a clumsy kid (wait, still am!) – and even in the early 1980s, I was questioned by doctors as to if my parents were hurting me. It’s not always so easy to tell abuse from normal falls and bumps.

    But seriously, this story just makes me sick. I would never go into a profession like teaching or day-care…and this is why.

  31. All I can think about are all of the times I put my children in “imminent danger,” only counting the times up until they were age 4 (my 7 year old son is out riding bikes with his friend right now, which I’m sure would count, but never mind). I can think of dozens of times that they either left the house without my knowledge for a few minutes or got away from me for a few minutes at the store. Oh, and then there’s the time my son, at age 4, bolted across the street when I was cutting the grass and could have been hit by a car. Good god, I’m a criminal, should I just turn myself in right now?

  32. If this judge had any say I would be on the registry too. All for what happened today with my 2 year old. I left him unsupervised for 43 minutes while I watched a show as I fed my 4 month old her bottle. When she was done and my show over I went to check on him to see if he was asleep or awake. I found him out of bed sitting on the dresser next to his bed. He has a fish tank in his room sitting on said dresser. While he was unsupervised he had climbed out of his bed on to this dresser pulled out one of the two filters dumbed the contents all over the dresser along with the contents of a tube of water test strips. I should be in jail according to this judge.

    He was clearly in more imminate danger that that little girl. My son could have eaten some of the filter content, drank the fish tank water, eaten a fish, fallen and broken an arm or a leg or both or all four. He could have fallen and cracked his head on the dresser or the bed, fallen and gotten trapped in the corner created by the bed and the dresser. A number of things could have happened while he was supposed to be sleeping.

    I really hope that this lady gets let off the hook. Caitlin was just fine. Five minutes outside alone in a very well watched and fenced area is not in imminate danger. She was more likely to fall and scrape her knee then be kidnapped.

  33. Should I be in jail and on the registry now too as now both my kids are unsupervised as they are taking their naps? Where do we draw the line?

  34. Anne Bruscino needs to apply to THIS preschool: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100524/ap_on_re_us/us_forest_preschool

    She should take a copy of the newspaper story and attach it to her application. I bet they’d laugh at the absurdity of the situation and hire her on the spot!

  35. “But seriously, this story just makes me sick. I would never go into a profession like teaching or day-care…and this is why.”

    Me too! Once I got a black eye playing soccer while my brother still had stitches from running into a door… my father the pastor would not go anywhere with the both of us together until we healed. Too dangerous – for him, not us.

  36. Many therapists who work with what they claim to be abuse victims say that it’s possible for a child to be traumatized by the “vibrational frequencies of an abuser’s thoughts.”

    I doubt very much that “many” therapists say that. A few crackpots, maybe, but I know therapists who work with abuse victims and they are fantastic people doing very difficult and very needed work. Let’s not tar a whole profession just because a few wackaloons are getting media attention.

  37. Sooner or later, all this utter social nonsense is going to have to coalesce into real reform, rather than merely being represented by our collective stream of blog-bitching, bullshit enforcement, and outrage journalism. When that defining moment comes and I’m able to render targeted financial support, my wallet will open wider than Steven Tyler’s mouth as he’s screaming WALK THIS WAY!

  38. OK, is anybody still wondering why more people don’t go into this very challenging and burnout-prone profession? (My sister is an elementary teacher with a Special Ed credential. I’ve heard some stories.)

    For pity’s sake, the child was BEHIND A FENCE in an area MONITORED BY A CAMERA. For FIVE MINUTES. Yes, something could have happened. She could have been abducted, or hit by lightning, or killed in a freak meteor shower; depending on the distance from the nearest road traffic, a car or truck could have mounted the kerb, smashed through the fence, and killed her. In which case, what difference would it have made whether she had direct adult supervision or not?

    Or, back here in the real world, she could have been upset at being left behind and started to cry, or had a potty accident. In which case the teacher could have apologized, given her a hug, and got her into some dry clothes, and that would have been the end of that.

    In the event, NOTHING HAPPENED. Only if the judge has photographic evidence or eyewitness testimony that someone was trying to lure Caitlin away or otherwise harm her (or that some serious accident was about to befall her) is the phrase “imminent risk of harm” appropriate. And if leaving a three-year-old without direct physical supervision for five minutes in a secure environment constitutes child abuse, well, better lock me up and throw away the key.

  39. What an awful experience for the caregiver! The judge is making this out to be a much bigger deal that it was. As others have said, managing toddlers is like herding cats. You may think you have them all, but it’s amazing what they can get into with just a moment’s distraction, and it’s impossible to keep perfect attention on every child when you’re dealing with eight of them.

  40. Imagine being Judge Susan Lyn Preston’s neighbor. Could you make a single move without living in fear?
    And that fear would have a very real basis in reality.

    Remember the name:

    Judge Susan Lyn Preston

    If her opinion in this case is this heavy handed, I wonder what happened to her when she was a child that is driving such an over-the-top decision.

  41. What a ridiculous over reaction on the part of the judge! You’d think we all those years of education, she’d know what the word “imminent” means.

    On the other hand, I also think it’s a huge overreaction to not take your children to the doctor out of CPS paranoia or to abandon a teaching dream.

    Everyone needs a sense of proportion.

  42. Wow, how timely.

    Just this afternoon, one of my daughter’s therapists gave her a small, enticing object. It was just the right size and shape for her to choke on, and she instantly popped in into her mouth and proceeded to run around the house, screaming, with it inside. I was terrified, envisioning it lodged in her windpipe with us desperately performing the Heimlich maneuver on my tiny toddler. In the end, it took both of us and all our efforts to pin her down while I fished it out. I shook for hours afterward.

    But did I call her boss and report her for child endangerment, demanding her dismisal? Call the cops? Prepare a lawsuit to ruin this young therapist’s life? OF COURSE NOT. Because these things happen, and my daughter is just fine. I merely reminded her that my little girl has pica as well as autism and she needs to be very careful with small objects.

    Poor Anne. This is such a tragic case, and even more so that most people realize — it’s very, very hard to find good people who want to work with children with disabilities. It’s difficult, emotionally and physically demanding, and not even especially well-paying.

  43. Pretty soon nobody is going to be training for any kinds of jobs. It’ll be too risky to work, period. I’m not sure how we’ll all be able to pay rent/mortgage payments, but I guess the government will have to step in, right? I mean, for sure the government and of course the media will help when they see what they’ve done to us.

    Please have some sense when dealing with this appeal, judges.

  44. Honesty, Lenore, i may have to remove myself from your email list. I cannot take the spikes in blood pressure that I endure daily from your tales of absolute lunacy in the world. I am a school teacher, taught special education for 9 years and am a devout free-range parent. I feel so intensely for this poor woman. On the flip side of the coin, when my son was in daycare and now that he is in a preschool program, I get frustrated about the teachers who are obviously so worried about a parent thinking they are not tender and nurturing toward the angels at all times that they won’t even engage in what I consider routine discipline. This overreaction is having a pervasive deleterious effect on children learning independence AND self control!

  45. if i were the child’s parent, i’d have been upset about the incident. in a minor, low-key “how’d that make you feel, honey?” kinda way. but if i were the child’s parent and this sentence were imposed on the teacher, i’d be appalled. and – unless there’s a LOT to the story we don’t know – i’d be fighting it. because that young teacher? would’ve learned plenty from the experience itself…and does NOT need to be punished for it, let alone placed on a registry to ruin her career.

    a travesty of justice, that.

  46. Has this world gone crazy??? 5 minutes in a fenced yard with a video camera makes someone a danger to children? Omgosh, are we going to arrest all the parents who “lose” their kids in the mall for 5 minutes? It was a mistake and nothing happened. Give the lady a break.

  47. My friend’s 3 yr old scaled the chain link fence at her school in 5 minutes and was found 3 hours later – unharmed of course but about to cross a busy street. So – there are dangers that can occur – but a kid breaking out is more likely than the random predator I’m guessing.

  48. Why do people think a child left alone for a few minutes is in such imminent danger?

  49. when my oldest was almost 2, I went to the bathroom(in our home). I heard our back door open…when I came out of the bathroom in a total state three seconds later, I found a trail of his clothes including the diaper leading to the back door. Grabbing shoes I ran out the door to try and catch him. The child was half a block on down the street, walking in the middle of the street totally naked between our two dogs. He was hollering every few seconds…DAD. I screamed(screeched) his name. The dogs split off to either side into the woods and K sat down in the middle of the street and started bawling.
    In the meantime I had left my just turned 1 year old asleep inside the house. Now the grand total of time we are talking about from start to finish was probably about 6 minutes, but if we lived in a city that would totally have put me in the danger to my kids category…
    It is a crying shame this young woman is being treated this way.

  50. Is there some way / place that we can show support for her, that matters? I think I missed that part.

  51. This is ridiculous! How can this possibly be called justice? This ruling needs to be overturned, and quickly.

  52. This is so frustrating, it almost made me cry. You summed up the ridiculousness of the judge’s line of thought perfectly, Lenore. Let’s hope for some REAL justice for this girl.

  53. The web site for the same newspaper this story came from has a blog post about losing your kids. (See http://tiny.cc/iwx7v ) Wonder if the judge is going to go after all the parents who posted to that blog.

  54. 25 years on a list? 25 years for leaving a child outside for 5 minutes in a fenced in area with cameras?


    I’m sorry, but I fear for my country, I fear for my own liberty, when a judge does NOT do their homework and does NOT even know the risks involved in the cases (s)he sits on.

    What a crime – not because some well-intentioned, and OBVIOUSLY good girl since she REPORTED it – is given a sentence fit for someone who actually DOES abuse a child.

    I’m utterly and completely disgusted. This judge should be removed from the bench and put on a list of judges no longer permitted to handle cases since she apparently can’t take 5 minutes to look up some statistics that are EASILY and READILY available. THAT would be justice.

    Disgusting job, judge. Absolutely disgusting. You should be ashamed of yourself for ignoring how you got on that bench in the first place. Research and hard work.

  55. This is ridiculous. Common sense must insist that this was a small mistake and certainly not worthy of a ‘case’ or punishment like this!!
    Makes me feel sick on behalf of that poor childcare worker.

  56. We need better judges, apparently.

  57. Recently we had social services called on us for not supervising our kids (20 mins out playing gasp). In our case however the government officials who investigated us considered poor supervising as leaving your children for hours not minutes. The neighbour who calledon us then got in trouble for wasting much needed resources. Not everyone in government offices are all bad and a lot of them recognize that kids don’t need parents constantly hanging over them…just a few numbskulls.

  58. There has got to be more to the story than we know, right? This can be the entire truth; she must have done something else that didn’t make the paper. Right?

  59. Elle: the straw that broke the camel’s back? I’ve wondered about this myself. Was this a single event or did this caregiver have a habit of losing count of children. Devil’s advocate I know but many people here are saying that the judge should have researched the situation without knowing the full story themselves.

  60. Shaking my head here and wondering why all the uproar over an error, which Anne (the woman in question) handled in a responsible manner, yet is being branded as a ‘child abuser.’ She did everything right, and while her ‘charge’ may have been left behind a few minutes, the situation was such that there was little, if any, potential for any harm. Hoping that Anne will be able to appeal to the (misguided) judge in this case.

    More disturbing, however, was an incident I read about a few months ago where a bunch of 2-3 y.o. kids at a daycare center (based in NJ) went on a field trip to NYC to the circus, and one of the kids was left behind. The poor kid was found unattended by some venue personnel, then the police were contacted and they found the parents – not sure what happened with the caregivers/center in question.

    A few years ago, my 30-something brother, who is autistic/mentally challenged and lives in a group home, had experienced an incident in which one of the aides had taken him to a local high school track to go running, but decided to leave him unsupervised, and then was LATE in picking him up. Imagine how upsetting this was — and, needless to say, said aide is no longer working there (and hopefully, not employed in this line of work any longer).

  61. Wow, that story is really sick and abusive – against the teacher by the judge. Arrest Judge Preston, put her on the watch list instead. That would do more good.

  62. If that judge came to visit our local kindergarten he’d have a fit: one fence to the road, a metre high and actually removable, now I come to think of it. No cameras either. Does that mean we’re abusing our children?

    I remember one child went home from a children’s club I worked at before they had finished: They were playing football and he got bored. Mum wasn’t very happy, but we apologised and changed the way we watch entrances (which have no fences whatsoever) End of story.

  63. OMG. Sentence me to death, please — yesterday I lost my 3-yo at an amusement park. Clearly I don’t deserve to be a parent, and need to be locked away.

    (And if no-one wants to imprison me — how about the security guard, who found my little one and carried her — *gasp* — in his arms to the meeting point! OMG, he touched her!).

    So long,

  64. How could Anne have know for certain that the other child was running off to greet a parent? That child may have been running off to a stranger who had an appealing appearance. And even if Anne had known that approaching adult were a parent, perhaps that parent was planning to abduct his/her own child–isn’t that the way those things USUALLY go?

    Seems to me the bigger question is: Why was only ONE adult in charge of children in an “uncontrolled environment”? If Anne had not been ALONE with the children, each child would have been adequately supervised. Under that thought process, Anne did the best she could and protected the one child who was truly at risk for abduction.

    And, FYI, it doesn’t sound to me like either child was inadequately supervised–sounds like they had a common-sense adult with them who is now getting the short end of the stick because of a parent should be keeping their child at home since no one will ever be able to meet that parent’s expectations for their little darling. If that day care center doesn’t support her, she should sue them to the ends of the earth once this parent’s attorney is done with her.

  65. Reading about this actually made me feel slightly physically sick. The judgement is wrong in just about every way possible… child in danger? No. Child neglected? No. Child abuse deserving registering as a child cruelty offender?!!! I despair and I really hope to hear soon that this insane and disgusting decision has been overturned.

  66. I’m almost 60 years old Czech woman. When reading such stories, I only wonder what has happened to the world in the course of 27 years, since our son was born. We live and lived in Prague (Czech Rep.). Our son was a latch-key child since the age of 8, returning from school alone and going afterwards to play with the neighborhood kids on the city streets.
    When we went to village for summer holidays, I used to sent him to play with local kids alone since the age of 4 and usually I saw him only at meal times (sometimes alone, sometimes with other kids) or if there was a scratch or bruise that needed to be tended. Sometimes I fed them all, sometimes it was some other mother. I didn’t even know, where the whole pack was going to play – in the fields or swimming in pond or going for explorations in a quarry…
    Probably I would now end in jail as a negligent mother…

  67. The government has no business getting involved in this AT ALL. This is between the facility and the parent. If the parent thought their child was in imminent danger, they have every right to take their child out of the program. If the parent was okay with it (which any rational parent would be) then it is lesson learned, end of incident. When we let the government get involved in more and more parenting decisions, we head closer and closer to a nanny state where, suddenly, nobody is capable of raising their own children anymore.

    To the judge: Imminent danger? Are you crazy? I’m thinking a fair consequence to this decision would be you never being able to hear a case again based on this one lapse of judgement, regardless of what your past record may be.

  68. I am not happy with where the world is going. I really think that I need to find some developing country to live in where they have more important things to worry about than a child left alone for 5 minutes – who wasn’t actually alone because an adult was with her, who was in an enclosed area that was not facing any street, where there were cameras.

  69. I think that the judge needs to take a look at the definitions of “abuse” and “mistreatment”. A child playing in what sounds to me to be a very, very safe yard, unattended, for five minutes, would not fall into the category of abuse or mistreatment.

    I have a similarly safe yard. It’s surrounded by fence, and there are windows all along the back of my house that look over it. I let my 2- and 5-year-olds play unattended for a lot more than five minutes at a time, and I know they are safe. Because like you said, it would have to be the rarest of freak occurances that my kids would wander into a blind spot, and at the same time somone who really, really, really wanted to risk stealing them would be walking in my neighborhood, by my house, see them, hop the fence and run off without me noticing.

    Am I abusing or mistreating my children? I certainly don’t like to think so!

  70. Judge Preseton,

    Anne Bruscino is not guilty of any crime, or even neglect. She is not guilty, period. Your judgment of her is nonsensical, and makes me wonder what hidden pressures drive you to such an explicitly irrational decision.
    When I was a very young child of Caitlins age at a daycare, I am told that I actually managed to climb over the fence they had around the play yard. I then, as a toddler, proceeded to cross a busy highway on my own. Multiple people driving by stopped and stayed with me until a daycare worker found me.
    No one, not a single person, committed any act of abduction or violence against me.
    No one was arrested. No one was charged. No one was fired. There were no hearings or court cases. My parents did not blame the daycare. In fact, my mother apologized for me being such a handful to take care of.

    Even with “special needs” children, it is apparent the child was in no danger. The layers of security were so numerous that Anne Bruscino was in fact entirely superfluous. Fences, security cameras and the presence of another teacher confirm this.

    Frankly, the whole episode is a disgrace. The entire system has squandered taxpayers money on a pointless witch-hunt. Money that would be better spent investigating actual criminal mis-treatment of children that have been sexually or physically abused. In addition, such a judgment against Anne Bruscino discourages anyone who may have been thinking of joining the field she is in. Why become a teacher if the most insignificant and trivial of mistakes will shatter your life and career?

    You are holding a teacher to a higher standard than your own peers. I would gladly see Anne Bruscino “neglect” my child in exchange for throwing some of our Senators under this bus.

    Jeff C. Mercer, CISSP
    Information Systems Security Specialist
    US Postal Service

  71. This story reads like a tragedy. Here we have a daycare worker who is honest enough to admit to a mistake, so we punish he by banishing her from working with children ever again. If we take all the good honest daycare workers away, who will care for our children? Very sad.

  72. I live near this school. It is part of the Center for Disability Services, which partly explains the over cautious procedures and need to document everything. The judge’s ruling that the child was unsafe becasue she might be “taken,” however, is over the top. The playground does not abut a street, it is in a very safe neighborhood, and the building next door is a residence for retired nuns.

  73. I was just thinking about doctors who make mistakes, and NOTHING is done…. so leaving a child alone for a few minutes is more offensive than killing or maiming someone? We are all human, including doctors, and we all make mistakes. For pete’s sake, this is ridiculous.

  74. The problem with the proposed scenario of her having prior marks against her is that you can’t entirely decline to prosecute or punish someone for something, and then throw it back at them if there’s another offense. A parent might be able to get away with that, but it doesn’t fly in the legal system. The only time something like that can happen is if the accused has previously agreed to something like ARD (something similar was mentioned here a couple of weeks ago, forget what it was called) where prosecution is deferred in favor of the perp fulfilling certain commitments within a stated period, whereupon the record is expunged. And there is not a shred of evidence that Anne Bruscino had any such existing arrangement.

    I appreciate the impulse to find some reason why this might not be as outrageous as it sounds, but I’m afraid it probably is. It’s AWFUL.

  75. “Seems to me the bigger question is: Why was only ONE adult in charge of children in an “uncontrolled environment”?”

    I agree, SueG. When my daughter is taking part in group education/socialization, there’s one adult for every two children, and then a supervisor on top of that. And then usually a parent or two observing. There’s absolutely no way that one person should ever be in charge of *eight* young children with disabilities! So much can go wrong so quickly. That’s on the facility, not on this poor young woman.

  76. Upon further thought into this matter, I have one additional question. If Anne remains on this list, what happens when she has her own children? Would they be taken away? Or would she have to jump through unreasonable hoops to show that she was a good mom? If that were the case than it’s even worse that I originally thought!

  77. Does Judge Preston have a perfect record? Has she never made a mistake? We need to assess risk when making decisions. Children are in danger only when danger is eminent. The possiblity of danger is always present on some level. It’s called being alive. The decision regarding Anne Bruscino must be overturned. Mistakes happened, the risk was essentially non existant and nothing happened.

  78. This is such a sad story, a bright and promising teacher being labelled a criminal almost. I agree with the other posters- surely the school was understaffed If the girl had to be in two places at once.

  79. Why was only one adult- a trainee teacher at that having to look after so many children? Surely understaffing is the real problem here!

  80. If you read the article closely, there was another adult on the playground. She ran ahead with a child who really needed to use the bathroom while the others started going inside.

  81. Reminds me of the New York Times exposé, “In Tiny Courts of N.Y., Abuses of Law and Power”.


    Having said that, a bit of Googling will turn up at least one article in which Judge Preston was then serving as defense attorney for someone whose Constitutional rights had been violated by a small-town New York judge, so I can’t entirely condemn her.

    Bottom line? I disagree with the judge’s decision, but personal attacks are out of line.

  82. If you ask me, the real problem with this ruling isn’t that Anne’s career is getting shot down the tubes, or that the school is losing a great teacher, or the kids are losing someone who cares about them.

    No, the problem is that this judge is establishing precedent (I feel so smart after my semester of paralegal classes!). That means if a similar case comes before another judge, that judge will be REQUIRED to give a similar punishment. That’s how we keep things “Fair” in the courts, so someone who murders a child in MA doesn’t get 20 years while someone who murders a child in TX gets the electric chair.

    So, in summation, any day care worker who leaves a child alone for 5 minutes in a fenced in, secure yard WILL be put on “The List.”

    Let’s think of some other things that could get you on “The List” if that’s the case.
    *Taking a shower while your kid is awake.
    *Letting your kids play outside without you.
    *Leaving your kid in the car while you run in to pay for gas.
    *Feeding an infant in a quiet room while your older child is in another room.
    *Pooping for longer than 30 seconds.
    *Letting your child take a nap without you in the room.

    The list could go on and on. This needs to be thrown out immediately, or in protest parents everywhere should start turning themselves in. If a parent called CPS to “confess” they left their child alone for 5 minutes, they’d just get in trouble for wasting the case worker’s time. Why should this be any different?

  83. Goodness, she shouldn’t be branded as an abuser for years because of a “what if” situation. The safeguards in place, a fence and a security camera, are the backup to keep the kid safe in many situations, including the one in the story. A child in that situation is not in “imminent danger.”

  84. What’s really the bottom line here is that THIS WAS NOT ABUSE. I would disagree with, but I would not be outraged by, a decision to fire her because the center did not consider her trustworthy enough. I would disagree with, and be less outraged by, a state policy that suspended her ability to work in daycare for a given period of time due to this action.

    What is completely, inarguably, beyond the pale here is giving her the same legal status as someone who whipped their kids with electrical cords and burned them with cigarettes. All because she made a completely understandable mistake in the course of her job, which resulted in no harm to the child, precisely BECAUSE the overall environment was safe and secure. And the really bitterly ironic thing is that it would take months if not years to gather evidence and prove that kind of abuse in court to a sufficient standard to convict (if it was ever established at all, which it frequently isn’t), whereas this young woman reported her error and was immediately cast as the villain.

  85. On a similar note, I noticed on ParentDish that people are taking after Jordan Romero’s family and saying that because people get charged with child neglect for letting their kids play in the street, they should be put in jail.

    Now for the record, I don’t agree with the Jordan Romero situation. I’m not going to argue or defend it, but that’s my opinion. HOWEVER, the point is not that we all have to agree that it’s fine and dandy for a 13-year-old to summit Everest, the point is that a less-restrictive parenting method than you or I would use IS NOT NEGLECT. People should ALSO not be charged for letting their kids play in the street, EVEN IF IT IS DANGEROUS*, unless there is an actual pattern of not caring for and watching out for their children. Neglect should be reserved for people who don’t clothe their children up to a minimum standard, people who don’t feed their kids regularly, people who make ABSOLUTELY NO or an OBVIOUSLY VERY DEFICIENT effort to provide for the well-being of their kids — NOT people who do things we don’t agree with, not even objectively DUMB things.

    And so, even if we thought that Anne’s behavior was an inexcusable screw-up of the first order, it is NOT neglect or abuse.

    The whole idea that it’s criminal to have a different idea of what’s safe for kids, or to sometimes fail to carry it out effectively, is really pernicious, and is at the root of a lot of what we discuss here.

    *What I mean here is, if you turn your back and your kid runs into the street, or even decides that it’s a cool place to play hockey, even if it actually is a dangerous, busy street, that’s not criminal neglect, or shouldn’t be. If you let your young kids run the streets and possibly get into busy streets, because the overall pattern of your behavior is not to be aware or mindful of what they’re doing, that’s different.

  86. At first I just felt angry about this story, but now I feel very depressed, both for the young woman and also at how crazy judges get to call all the shots. It is frightening how much power judges and and the DSS have.

    What a horrible person that Preston woman is. She has destroyed someone’s life and has made a mockery of the judicial system. It makes me sick. Shame on her.

  87. Uly – If not putting out enough juice cups is messing up, then I agree, leaving the kid in the secured playground is messing up. I’m just leery of calling a small mistake with no (of very few) actual negative consequences and that was dealt with responsibly and immediately a “mess up.” The reason why they have a fence is so that when one or two kids need individual attention the rest are not in danger. And that is what happened here – 2 kids needed individual attention, 2 caregivers were responsibly distracted, and the safety net worked.

    Someone else mentioned a 3 year old scaling a chain link fence. A kid at that age with those abilities and desires should have a warning label! Seriously, if my kid could and would do that, I’d feel compelled to warn any adult in whose care I left him.

  88. ya’ll better just take my kid form me now if this is the “standard” to which we must all be held. Fer crying out loud. I … I just dont have anything nice to say.

  89. I spent quite a few years teaching daycare. We had up to 24 two-year-olds, and 3-4 teachers at any given point. When we would take the kids out to the playground and one had to go potty or get their diaper changed, or when a parent came to pick their kid up, it left 2 teachers with 23 kids. Say another kid throws up all over themselves. Teacher #3 is now left outside with 22 kids while teacher #2 cleans up vomit and #1 is changing diapers. And what happens when one kid rounds the corner of the playground and is now behind the building? Do we let that one play, knowing that he’s safe and you can still hear him, or do we leave the others unattended while we herd him back to the fold?

    In a daycare setting, it is IMPOSSIBLE to keep tabs on all students, all the time. As a parent (and a judge), you have to be aware and understanding of how things work in a daycare. If you’re not, you should just stay home. You can’t be in the bathroom monitoring the kid using the toilet AND be sitting at the table to make sure the kids don’t eat their glue during art. You can’t watch to make sure each kid chews 10 times before swallowing, and you can’t break up 2 fights at once.

    And you would get in more trouble for leaving 7 kids alone in the classroom while you went to get the one who decided to run at the last minute.

    I’ve had my kids at a daycare where they would forget to feed them, bloody noses couldn’t be explained, and I would walk into a room full of kids with no teacher in sight. THAT is negligent. Leaving a kid ‘alone’ for 5 minutes in a playground that is more protected than our bank deposit boxes is not.

  90. I wonder how often things like this do happen because the centers have such strict liability guidelines. My sister was fired from a preschool job shortly after starting a new job because while on the playground, she chased after one student who had strayed from the area where the children were supposed to be playing, momentarily leaving the other students without her direct supervision. She acknowledged that it was an error in judgment and she should have asked for another teacher to assist her, but she didn’t get a second chance.

  91. I’m just leery of calling a small mistake with no (of very few) actual negative consequences and that was dealt with responsibly and immediately a “mess up.”

    Ah, well, I don’t call BIG mistakes “messing up”. There we go!

  92. Well, maybe I do sometimes? Now I’m going over all my speech in the past to see if I do. But as a general thing, I think messing up is little to medium, and you would say something else for something big, like leaving the kid alone in the alligator pit at the zoo or something. (Or worse, not alone, per se, but with no other HUMANS….)

  93. As far as scaling a chain link fence, my older niece was able to climb a six foot tall one at that age, though she didn’t figure out how to get OVER it (she just went to the top and came back on the same side) until she was five. Our rule is she can climb over any fence where the gate is open. Gate is closed? No climbing.

  94. “That’s how we keep things “Fair” in the courts, so someone who murders a child in MA doesn’t get 20 years while someone who murders a child in TX gets the electric chair.”

    Actually, each state makes it’s own laws and penalties. What happens in MA has absolutely no influence whatsoever over what happens in Texas. For that matter, since laws give a range of sentences (say 1 to 10 years) what happens in one city in the same state has no influence whatsoever on what happens in another city in the same state and what happens in one courtroom in the same court house has no bearing what happens in any of the other courtrooms.

    This one particular judge may have set precedent for what will happen if another case exactly like this one is brought before her (and that’s a may since facts will always differ) but it does absolutely nothing for any other judge on the planet, even the one in the next room. They are free to follow her example or ignore it. Only the Supreme Court of the US makes laws that everyone in the country has to follow. We just have to hope that the rest of the judges in the country have more common sense.

    On another note, I took the 4 year old to the dentist today. The dentist has a big cabinet full of toys in the front lobby. My kid wandered between my exam room and the toys (as the dentist intends) while my cleaning was happening. As I was leaving, I heard another mother, with an older child who was playing in the toy cabinet , say “you can’t stay here by yourself.” Really, what is going to happen in the dentist office? Does she really think a pedophile is going to just happen to have the same dental appointment and will jump the kid with 3 employees sitting at the desk a yard away? The dentist actually WANTS kids to feel free to roam around and play with the toys so that they are comfortable at the dentist. They specifically told me that when we first talked about bringing my daughter in. They want you to start bringing your child in by 3 so that they can hang out and play while you get your teeth cleaned to get used to what happens and the noise so it was totally not that the mother didn’t want her son to bother the employees (I wouldn’t have left my kid alone if it hadn’t been made clear that that is what they wanted me to do).

  95. OK let’s get this straight…

    115 stereotypical stranger abductions a year

    Each year, 5,000 children die in accidents (vast majority = cars & swimming pools)

    Just sayin.

  96. That poor, poor woman. I desperately hope this is overturned. I know how it feels to have idiots in power undermine your confidence. I’ve been through it with social workers and a ridiculous judge myself.

  97. Seems to me there is a big difference between abusive behavior and a mistake. Anna made a mistake (as every single caregiver/parent will likely do in the course of a child’s life.) I would bet all the money in the world that Anna will never make that mistake again. The child is totally fine and yet this college student’s future is ruined. It will be the judge who has to bear that burden of knowing she is responsible for ruining a young woman’s life. Ironic, eh?

  98. Quote from Donna: I heard another mother, with an older child who was playing in the toy cabinet , say “you can’t stay here by yourself.”

    That woman apparently has identity issues. She doesn’t realize that when she’s in the room, your child isn’t “by herself.” And no, that doesn’t make her “responsible for what happens.” That means nothing’s GOING to happen that would be prevented by your presence.

    Half the people in the world have no brains about what’s safe for children, and the other half (well, I”m not being precise about percentages) really DOES let them run wild and into danger or making a nuisance of themselves to others. Or so it seems, some days.

  99. I just can’t wrap my brain around the “imminent risk of harm” part. It sounds like she left the child in the middle of the interstate rather than a fenced, secure yard.

    There IS someone in this story who should lose their job: the judge, whose understanding of “imminent”, “risk” and “harm” are not consistent with common sense, or, unless MA is an even stranger place than I believe it to be, legal precedent.

    This case also begs the question of whether a parent who let their three-year old out in their own fenced yard unobserved for 5 minutes (perhaps while she ran to answer the phone or use the restroom) would be deemed a child abuser in MA and be subject to loosing custody or having to be supervised.

  100. This case is too extreme for me to ignore. I hope that the public outrage of the extreme legal action against this woman is acknowledged and her case is appealed successfully, and the judge is called to task. As someone stated above, if they had called me to say that my kid was outside for 5 minutes unattended, I too, would have asked why they bothered to call me.

    Even if the judge knew about some local predator and the day care folks did not have the info, this does not make the defendant negligent in any way. On the contrary. There was no wilful intent to do any harm or to withhold adequate safety measures.

    Free range parenting = using reason, shielding our kids from our own neuroses. I figure my daughter will have opportunity to develop her own neurosis. She doesn’t need mine or any other adult’s foisted upon her.

  101. I think that you are all missing the point. It’s one thing to forget about YOUR own child either driving off and forgetting you like a reader mentioned before or a hundred different scenarios, but when you are a parent of a child, a special needs child, you have to protect them equally if not more. The issue is not about the ‘so called 5 minutes. How do we really know it was five and not six or seven minutes…Do we even know if this was her first time doing this? How can we be sure that she has not done this before and just not reported it. In this day and age, I think parents, care givers whatever, are NOT be held accountable for the situations they are putting their children in. I mean, look at the SEVERAL mom’s that have left their kids in the car and forgot about them and then they died. These children DID NOT ASK TO DIE. What they did is count on us as parents to be there and always take care of them. But after that incident, nothing really happened to the mother. She appeared on Oprah and told her story which I did not believe at all. That mother murdered her own child, yes by accident, but she still was the cause of death.

    This young lady weather she is a young student or not needs to be held accountable for her actions. We can all come up with alternative examples of WHAT COULD HAVE happened. The fact is that she left a young child with disabilities…alone…on the playground…with NO supervision…AND SHE WAS 3!

    My question to you all: WHAT ABOUT THE LITTLE GIRL?

    I have been sitting here reading all the comments and it’s funny that NO one has come to the defense of this child. Everyone is so worried about the teacher and blah blah…WHAT ABOUT THE CHILD?! That is the most important thing in this story.

    Shame on all of you who are putting the needs of a young woman before the needs of a “special child”. We will never know what that did do this little girl being left behind whenever one else went inside. You can only imagine what she might have thought and my heart goes out to her.

  102. There is too much of a gray line. BUT, if the world expected us all to be perfect, then someone better come take my 5 kids away…and probably every other parent out there!

  103. Please, it’s not necessary to shout. We can all read perfectly well. And most of us are parents. And I dare say well all love our children, and are concerned for the welfare of disabled three year old little girls as much as anyone else.

    We can’t undo the little girl being left alone for five minutes. What we can perhaps undo is what appears to be a travesty of justice.

    Do you want to cry over spilled milk, or do you want to help clean it up?

  104. Sandra G,

    The article does address the needs of the child. Nothing happened. Another teacher sat with her and when Anne (the day care worker) noticed that she was missing, she found her and asked her if she was okay, which she was. Anne was stuck between a rock and a hard place. Maybe we don’t have all the facts, and maybe she deserved some consequences, but is there any way in which you feel this situation warrents her being put on New York state’s Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment (for up to $25 years)?

    We haven’t all been writing about the poor child because we feel as though there was not significant risk involved as per the article in question. You see, it’s not as though we are required to question every aspect of what has been reported. We are just saying “wow, if this is as it seems, it’s crazy”. And in addition, the judge was clear in saying that the reason it was dangerous was because someone could have abducted the child, not because the child could have fallen ill due to some sort of exposure or been emotionally damaged.

  105. Where did you read that this girl is disabled? All I see is that the girl was a 3-year-old at at daycare, and the teacher happened to be going to school to work with disabled kids. Maybe I missed something….

    I’m not saying that this girl is any less important than a disabled child, but come on, folks. This situation is bad enough without people throwing in “facts” to make it look worse.

    I think the biggest issue here really is the teacher/student ratio. It is insane how many small, rambunctious, violent, loud, potty training kids can be left under the supervision of one teacher. A good daycare would pay for extra teachers, even though they aren’t required. But good luck finding one of those.

  106. Having three kids of my own, I would guess that a three year old left behind on a playground while everybody else went in was probably very excited to be getting extra outdoor time…three year olds understand everybody is going inside. If she really wanted to be with them, she would have been – evidence that any time my 3 year olds won’t leave a place when I want them to, I turn my back and walk away. They always catch up VERY quickly when they realize they might be left behind.

    There is no trauma. She was in no danger. Nothing bad happened. She was in a familiar place. If a 3 year old can’t handle being alone for five minutes in a setting she is familiar with, she has bigger problems in life.

  107. Melouise,
    “Two years ago, Anne Bruscino was a 21-year-old college student studying to be a special ed teacher and working part time at a day care center for kids with disabilities.”


  108. Mind the situation: on a fenced-of terrain! If it were my kid, I would say; Gee, it must have been very busy. And I would ask my kid if she had experienced any discomfort. If not, I really wouldn’t bother. It wasn’t like the child could run under a car straight away, or was left in the rain, snow or heat for hours on end. In the Netherlands this would not have even been reported. My kids are out on the street in a sub-urban area all the time by themselves (in a group) since they were 4 to 5 years old. And I know off people to scared to let their kids go out, but they are putting them in the grave danger of being blind to risks when they are older. It’s better to fall of small chair when you’re young, then to fall of a bridge when your old.

  109. Whether the child was a special needs child or not:

    The term “Special Needs” doesn’t mean the child can’t benefit from hardships. Everyone can. But I don’t consider being left alone for a few minutes, or even an hour a hardship. But hey, this story says when Bruscino ran back outside the child was with another teacher.

    Special Needs is a term that covers a spectrum. There is a tendency for certain parents to over-protect a special needs child, just like helicopter parents over-protect normal kids and make them into special needs kids!!!!

    Consider the case of: KYLE MAYNARD

    whose life is a testament to taking personal responsibility and not seeing himself as disabled, no doubt a talent fostered by parents who taught that a circumstance is a matter of viewpoint. You have a choice to think of something as a disability or an opportunity.

    Kyle even wrote a great book entitled: NO EXCUSES!

    Read the reviews at:


  110. Personally I think it is 100% fine to leave a 3-year-old “alone” in a fenced-in play area designed for toddlers for five minutes. Or even longer, depending on whether there was anything reachable that the child could have used to hurt herself. Honestly, I don’t even believe this should be seen as a “violation.” I think that the rule requiring a particular student-teacher ratio 100% of the time is overkill. For instance, if 20 3-year-olds are napping and one of the 2 teachers needs to take a phone call, the other teacher should be able to be with the kids for a little while. And if a preschooler has to take a pee, she should be able to do so without reshuffling the whole daycare staff.

  111. Tou can drink and drive and kill people including children, you could get away with 2 years but leave a child alone in a chain link fenced area and you get 25 years. I get it, this is the USA, the land of the free.

  112. Sandra G – What about the little girl? What are we supposed to be feeling sympathy for her about? She was perfectly fine. She was not injured. She was not even upset when either the first teacher found her or Anne realized that she was gone and came back. She got an extra 5 minutes of play time and probably got a whole lot of extra attention because this happened to her. Sorry, no sympathy from me.

    And, honestly, even if she was upset for the 5 minutes, so? I’m not so overly bothered by that fact that I think this teacher needs to be on some list as a child abuser for 25 years. I’m sure I’ve made my child upset for more than 5 minutes at 3. I’m sure my child’s teacher made her upset for more than 5 minutes at 3. I don’t believe that my child needs to have a completely upset-free life. Actually, I think that would hinder her development. She needs to learn to deal with the little upsets in life and being left playing on her very familiar playground is a little upset, even at 3.

    And what about a learning experience on accountability for this little girl for her part in the situation, I know that my child’s class, even at 3, knew to stay in line when moving outside the classroom. Darting out of line to continue playing when the teacher’s back was turned – which is what it sounds like this little girl did – was grounds for a time out. If this had been my child, I’d have kinda hoped that she WOULD have been upset about being left. Maybe next time she wouldn’t jump out of line the second the teacher’s back was turned.

  113. “Shame on all of you who are putting the needs of a young woman before the needs of a “special child”. We will never know what that did do this little girl being left behind whenever one else went inside. You can only imagine what she might have thought and my heart goes out to her.”

    Shame on us? Seriously? I’m quite certain that my toddler is more traumatized each time she has to come inside from the playground than this little girl was about her slightly extended recess. You know what really traumatizes children, special needs or otherwise? Being told *that* their experience was traumatic. For most of human history children endured hardships almost unthinkable for us, but all of humanity was not “traumatized” by daily life. They learned, they coped, they grew stronger. It’s pretty damn sad that today, getting an extra five minutes of playtime can be twisted into some sort of horrific, psyche-scarring event.

  114. Why the hell does a mistake like this go to court when nothing actually happened to the child? What a waste of everybody’s time and money.

    It also sounds to me like the traumatised person here is the judge, projecting her own feelings of fear and vulnerability onto the situation. It’s called secondary traumatic stress. Cops who work with abused children start seeing every child with a tear in their eye as victims of horrific crimes and need to take a break or change departments. It’s only human and it sounds to me like the judge needs a big break too.

  115. This is insane and the indication of a legal system that is fundamentally stupid. We’ve gotten this idea into our heads that perfection is the norm, that anyone who fails even once, no matter how minor, is some kind of criminal. It’s the kind of thinking that leads to zero tolerance policies.

    Parents are constantly bombarded with this stuff. If you forget even once to buckle your child into the safety seat, you might as well have thrown them out the window. If you let them have a single sip of your Coke, you’re a monster who is giving them diabetes. A sip of communion wine will make them an alcoholic, a single unsupervised moment will get them abducted, not playing Mozart will keep them from getting into Harvard, etc.

    Humans — life in general — has an inbuilt safety factor. The reason you put in CC cameras and fences is to create that safety factor. You can’t then go crazy when that safety factor WORKS as INTENDED.

    Yes, sometimes you mess up and really bad things happen. But most of the time you mess up and nothing bad happens. Or something very minor happens. This is an absurd over-reaction. And if she were in my town, she could baby sit my kid any day.

  116. […] Outrage of The Week: Is This Really “Abuse”? Only To Deluded Judge Hi Readers — Soon I will be compiling stories of Take Our Children to the Park & Leave Them There Day, which went […] […]

  117. “Shame on all of you who are putting the needs of a young woman before the needs of a “special child.”

    The needs of the child were put first. She was found and safely taken inside, after suffering zero harm. She has no further needs as far as this situation is concerned.

    So, now can we turn to the need of another human being not to be the victim of gross injustice?

  118. When we were about 3 and 4 my cousin and I were left at a private swim lesson.

    When Mom and Aunt got back – one of us was locked in a walk in closet. The other in a laundry room.
    Reason – I have no fear and at the time no respect for the water. I kept trying to drown cousin every time the teacher was working with another kid. I was removed from the water walked over to cousin and shoved her under the water. Cousin was egging me on so we were both put on the side of the pool. Now on equal footing cousin cousin tried bashing my head against the concrete.

    Our moms did not get mad at the lady. We both got warmed bottoms – and were not left together with non family members for about 6 years.

    The rule was amended to we were never left alone in the same room after the washing out of mouth with soap and shoving down stairs incidents.

    Now she is one of my best friends. (We had a huge fight at 15/16 yo told our parents to stop comparing night and day – been best friends ever since)

  119. This is entirely ridiculous. If the sun is out, my kids are outside, sometimes by themselves… and I don’t have security cameras.

    This should not even be a news story, and I am sickened that tax money is being used to pay a judge who would entertain this as a serious case. If the kid had been abducted, that’s a different story altogether.

    Parents in this country are completely screwed up.

  120. @SandraG.: From all we know, the kid was fine, no tears, no fears. So why come to “her defense” if she wasn’t in any danger at all and may even have had a great time? There is no indication, that the kid was harmed.

    Now, I lost my kid in an amusement park — and that was not a funny experience.

    What I am saying is, that if it happens to parents to lose their kids, who am I (or is any other parent) to judge a person who is in charge of ten or more kids?

    Yes, they get paid for it, and they are (hopefully) trained to do their jobs, but: they are human! And that’s exactly what I want for my kids: I want them to be around people who are human. Even if that includes making mistakes.

    That’s what life is about. You live, you learn.

    My 3yo’s experience wasn’t funny and it upset her (and I wish it hadn’t happened) — but I also trust that she will also have learned, that people are friendly and will help. And that things will turn out well in the end.

    So long,

  121. We all make mistakes and it seems like Anne, upon learning of her mistake, took immediate action to make it right. The child was safe and Anne sounds like a caring and responsible adult. This action against her could ruin her career. Is this one 5 minute mistake really punishable by an entire career? I don’t think so. Have some comment sense Mr. Judge!

  122. Does anyone know of any updates regarding this “case?” My heart goes out to this girl. Her just life being turned into a joke by some iron-fist yielding judge. It is this kind of outrageous jurisprudence that seems to have become the “norm.”
    We, as a society, are so uptight and we possibIy harbor feelings of guilt in knowing that as many of us work, we have to put our greatest teasures (our children) in the hands of others.
    In doing so, we have become hyper-sensitive in creating a standard of institutionalized care which is not only unattainable, but unnatural and possibly unhealthy.
    As a former special education teacher, I can relate to the fear that any traces of humanity may be misconstrued as weakness or failure, or my goodness, as in this poor girl’s experience, it can even be misconstrued as worse!
    At large, people in this field (childcare/education) often have the toughest jobs and it becomes a labor of love, as we all know the lack of funding and resources that most of us are given to work with (not to mention the hysterical, oversompensating parents and administrations) are mediocre, at best.
    However, this really struck a chord, as I have seen good intentions be turned into a curse.
    All of this “protocol” and “hypothetical delusions” portrayed on the big screen.
    So long days of wonder where children play on blankets in the field without said cameras and barbed wire fencing. Yes, it is great to be proactive and cautionary, but are we bordering neurotic?
    I am shocked and frightened (to be quite honest) at a system which perpetuates this type of judgment.
    It is unbelievable that this is deemed an offense that is equated with true abusers.
    Yes, these sentiments of mass hysteria do leak into the mainstream, teachers being discouraged from even giving a pat on the back. Where does it end? God help us when even the judges are jaded!
    Good luck finding caregivers and teachers, people. Sadly, we are leaving by the droves.

  123. This is horrifying. That poor woman! Unfortunately, this is the kind of thing that assures that I (and many others) will never work with children.

  124. As the director of a childcare center, my heart aches for this young caregiver who made a simple mistake and was honest enough to report it. This type of extreme fear-based over-reaction by the court will only encourage other caregivers and centers to cover up safety incidents. The only way to keep children 100% safe is to lock them in a padded room…nope, they’ll still find a way to get hurt. AND they’ll be emotionally scarred. It’s time for common sense and some trust in our caregivers, parents and the universe.

  125. Thank you Lenore, for another great interpretation of an unbelievable story! This makes me so sad and depressed. WHen, WHO, and What decided that caregivers must be perfect??? I just want an answer to this!

  126. Sandra G: Had the article said that this young woman had a history of bad and dangerous behavior, and that the judge referred to that in the sentencing, that would be entirely different. But it did NOT say that. In fact, it said nearly the opposite, including that her colleagues give her high marks. I’m confused why you would invent “what if” scenarios to justify a sentence that, given the fairly detailed list of facts presented, is out of proportion.

    Sky: I’m sorry that my poor examples detracted from the point I was trying to make: that severe reactions to minor incidents leads to a reluctance to seek help or report problems, which itself can be harmful to kids. The friend I mentioned, with kids 2 and 7, in fact has a high threshold for her kids’ scrapes and bruises, but avoids medical attention even for what might be more serious and hard-to-diagnose injuries, for that reason.

  127. Lenore, I hope Anne can see these comments. This is certainly a tragedy for our perceptions of supervision. Anne made an error (one that was minor for the messy world of student teaching!) The saddest part is that it should remained one of many learning opportunities in a long teaching career, as any good teacher carries with them from those tumultuous early days.

    I am hoping the courts regain their sanity.

  128. So should she have ignored the child that was running off, I don’t get it. I mean WTF!?! It’s one of those split second decisions – secure the kid that could actually run into real danger. Chasing one kid while dragging a three year-old along seems like it would slow her down, maybe causing her to not keep the runaway out of the street or whatever. I don’t see a mistake at all. Fence, big windows, security cameras – sounds like the three year-old was in the safety of a prison lock down to me. Bullet proof windows, right? 😉

  129. Hi!
    This exact same thing happened to me when i worked in a regular preschool one year. I had 2-3.5 yr olds in my class. Same situation – returning from playground, a child left behind unknowingly, situation rectified within 1 minute.
    I was written up for it. I accepted my part in it – it was an oversight, but no harm occured. The child was fine, his mom was fine. She still is a friend, all these years later. But being legally penalized, tarred and feathered for this – ONLY IN AMERICA!!!

    FYI, I loved teaching little kids and all my little students returned the love with lots of hugs. As any teacher will tell you, working with little kids requires extreme patience, compounded even more if it is special needs kids. Punishing a great teacher for a very human mistake is the best way to scare away committed and talented people from the very schools that need them the most.

    I hope the legal system wakes up from its stupor!

  130. Unless someone above already mentioned it, isn’t being able to leave a kid alone for a few minutes exactly the reason for having the fence? And the security cameras? And the huge overlooking windows? And the guard tower with sniper? (ok, maybe not the last one). As it is this ‘playground’ sounds almost prison-like because of society’s fears.

    Also, when you also think about it, just how big is this school playground where another kid can run off to greet a parent and be so far away that the supervisor still couldn’t see the other kid? Come on! It’s not like she was left on a busy street corner to fend for herself!

  131. Shame on all you parents that leave or would leave your children alone, unsupervised while they are playing or doing whatever. I see you “parents” on the phone shopping while your kid/s are their with you and at any time while you back is turned, someone could come up and take your child. That is how children get abducted which then makes YOU part of the problem. And for those of you who want to quote stats; a child is reported missing every 4 seconds. Thing about that EVERY 4 seconds. I think a lot of you are naive because it has not happened to you. But listen to the parents of abducted children and you will hear them say ” I turned away for just a second.” That’s all it takes. Everyone is rooting for the teacher here, but if something DID happen to the girl then everyone would be changing their story.

    And for those of you who obviously did not READ the story, here is the opening sentence: Two years ago, Anne Bruscino was a 21-year-old college student studying to be a special ed teacher and working part time at a day care center for kids with disabilities.

  132. Sandra, at least get your math right. A child is reported missing every 40 seconds, not 4 seconds. The operative word of course is ‘reported’. As we well know, about 100 kids a year truly go missing in ways that the parent could possibly have prevented if they had chained themselves to their child permanently.

    Are you CHAINED to your children PERMANENTLY? Do you let them sleep in their OWN room? UNSUPERVISED? Where someone could BREAK in and STEAL them? If so then SHAME on YOU!

  133. Rich, obviously you are not be a parent. Your comments are so ridiculous it’s sad. Yes my daughter sleeps in her own bed, but at least we take proper precautions that protect her. Look doors and windows etc. You are soooo missing the point. At least we are not leaving our child outside, unsupervised, on a playground by herself or where ever. Unfortunately, we live in a world that has forced to 110% more careful/cautious with our children then our parents were with us. You think that it will never happen to you until it does. So many parents let/do bad things to their children and the parents don’t have to pay any consequences for their actions which is a crock!

  134. Sandra, actually, I are a parent.

    We can agree on one thing, the world has changed. But we know that children are not being snatched any more than they were in our parents’ generation. This is a simple fact. Saying otherwise doesn’t make it so.

    No, what has changed is that our children are now less capable. And that’s sad.

  135. Okay, people..two words “head counts”. This is part of EVERY daycare worker’s job. You need to always have the correct number of children with you. This is NOT hard to do. I DO work in a daycare. I DO know the state regulations and this girl was CLEARLY in violation. The job description includes keeping all children in your care safe. How does one do that if you leave one child on the playground. All you people making the “I’m a parent and I leave my kids unsupervised” arguement and think its okay would be singing a different tune if your unsupervised child did get hurt. Judge Preston was doing her job. Thank God nothing happened to the child. Now, thanks to this case and the expertise of Judge Preston, perhaps daycare workers will take their jobs more seriously and learn to count heads AT ALL TIMES! That way evil doers will not have the chance to act.

  136. The problem here, klb, is that the punishment is not in porportion to her mistake. Could I see her being fired or suspended for such an incident? Sure. But banned from working with children for life? -A carear destroyed, her name on the registry… That is just ludicrous.

  137. Just come across this post, it has taken me ages but have finally read all of these comments. I total agree with klb great reply. exactly my feeling aswell!

  138. Justice grinds slowly (almost 3 years!), but in this case there is a happy ending:


    ALBANY — A mid-level appeals court effectively restored a young woman’s bid for a teaching career in a ruling that will remove her name from a child-abuse registry for briefly leaving a toddler on a playground.

    The state appellate panel’s decision underscores what some critics say is an inherently rigid system that can leave a person listed on a child-abuse registry for arguably minor errors involving children.

    “It was a very difficult thing for me; it threw my future off course,” Bruscino said in an interview Saturday. “It’s hard to believe that it did happen and that all of this has taken almost three years. It’s definitely eye-opening … how one moment in your life can change things.”

    The fallout led Bruscino to shift her studies to psychology because of the uncertainty of what could have been revealed through a background check in the teaching sector. Now, Bruscino said, she intends to pursue a master’s degree in speech therapy and resume her dream of teaching.

  139. this is definitely not child abuse, no one is perfect!

  140. […] at a fenced-in, security-camera-monitored, daycare center playground for less than six minutes? (Here’s the original story, as reported by the Times Union.) Well now she has been officially taken off that list! She is free […]

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