Beware the Vultures

Readers: This is a topic we have visited before, but it continues to grow as an “issue.” Today in my inbox I got this notice from “Safe Kids,” urging people to call 911 whenever they see a kid in a car, and using this tragic story as its rationale — the story of a mom who forgot her child in the car for 10 hours.

Seems to me there is a rather huge difference between accidentally forgetting your child in the car, and deliberately choosing to leave him there for a short while while you run an errand. But the “Safe Kids” people obscure that and — as is so popular in our culture today — paint every kids-alone situation as a disaster waiting (perhaps seconds) to happen.

So then what you get is this other letter I got in the mail today. Read on! — L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: This is going to have to be anonymous because I learned I could actually get into serious trouble with social services for this??!! My 4-year-old goes to pre-k. My 9-month-old had an ear infection and an upper respiratory infection. It was a 20 degree windy day, and it is a 100 foot walk from the car to the building, so I decided to leave the baby in the heated car while I took her sister in, so she wouldn’t be exposed to the wind.

I was in the building out of view of the 9-month-old for approximately 30 seconds — at worst it could have been 45. The car was locked, the car alarm set. I return and the 9-month-old is sleeping peacefully exactly where I left her. I move on with my day and forget about it.

The following week I pull into the pre- k and a cop blocks my car into the parking space and proceeds to interrogate me about my “dangerous habit” of leaving my child in the car. He threatened me with “consequences” if it continued. This, in front of an entire parking lot full of curious, staring parents and children, the former probably wondering if I was dealing meth or crack to their 4-year-olds…

What exactly did they think was going to happen in that 45 seconds? Was a giant vulture equipped with a huge can opener going to swoop down and extract the baby from the car? Is a terrorist going to blow it up? Will she be kidnapped in spite of the car alarm in 45 seconds in broad day light from this suburban parking lot? And as a parent, could my presence have protected her if she was? And more importantly for me: who, exactly, has so much time on their hands that they are peeking in other peoples’ car windows checking for unattended babies and monitoring the behavior of their parents? And why isn’t this person being properly medicated for THEIR condition? (signed) — Mik

195 Responses

  1. You: “Officer, Am I being detained?”
    Cop: “No”
    You: Walk away

  2. I went to the website you linked to, and it talked about calling if you see a child in a car on a hot day, not just any child in any car.

  3. That is why I am so freaked out over leaving my child in the car…I end up dragging my 12 week old in her carseat back and forth out of the drop in day care just so I don’t get the cops called on me. Tomorrow, instead of just leaving the kids in the car in front of the mail place while I drop off a package for my deployed husband, I am going to have to drag two kids under 2 in the mail express for 2 minutes of signing the customs form & payment. Amazing how my siblings and I lived when my mom would leave us in the car to run into the post office or to get a gallon of milk!

  4. What state is this in? We could probably help you figure out what the actual law is in your area – odds are good that what you are doing is fine. Then you could call the police and inquire about why policemen are interrogating you about perfectly legal behavior.

  5. This is very disheartening. If there is so much danger, why aren’t those officers out patrolling the streets? This is the kind of thing that pits community members against each other. people shouldn’t be alerting the police about a kid left in a car for a few minutes, they should watch the car if they’re that concerned. I’ve only known the calling of police regarding a kid in a car to be justified once. The kid had been in that car for hours.

  6. With the approach of warm weather, these tragic stories always happen. And they’re always accidents. So so sad.

  7. When my oldest was an infant, I put her in the car after getting groceries, shut the door, and returned my shopping cart to the corral 2 cars over from mine. Some high-strung woman spotted her in the approximately 20 seconds I was away from–but never out of sight of–my car, spotted me and told me she was “so relieved!!!” when I returned. I think if I had taken 5 more seconds she’d have called the cops.

  8. A couple of weeks ago, our 8yo decided to have a fit and full blown tantrum while we were shopping. The hubs and I decided to leave him in the car while the rest of us went and did our shopping. We told him where we were going to be, which stores specifically, and that he was to stay there, lock the doors and calm down.

    Then we went shopping, dropped stuff off at the car, kept on shopping and had a nice relaxing time of it.

    Total time out of sight? 20 minutes. Maximum distance from car? 1 block. Peaceful shopping – priceless!

    Seriously – some people are idiots when it comes to child safety. The difference is between taking 2 minutes for mom to do something and 20 minutes because of having to tow an unruly child (or more than one) ever since the “never leave your child in a car.” There’s safety and then there’s insanity.

  9. I leave my kids in the car at the post office, pharmacy, bank, and gas station. All places where I have a constant view of the car. I too go into Family Dollar (once in a while) for a 50 cent birthday card and leave them in the car. My two children are in 5 pt car seats, in a locked car. While I run into the bank, gas station, etc. I know they are safe, otherwise I wouldn’t do it. My husband on the other hand would rather spend 10 minutes inside the post office ensuing time-outs instead of the 2 minutes and looking out the front window at his locked car.

  10. When my baby was little, I used to sell on ebay to earn extra money since I had quit my main job when she was born. Twice a week, I would drive over to the podunk post office about 15 miles from the house (faster to get in and out than going to the big one in the city – also faster to get there). I ALWAYS left my daughter in the car when dropping off those packages off (they already had postage on them, so it was just dropping them off). Most of the time, she’d be sound asleep when we got there as she loved to ride in the car. The reason I chose the small post office was because I was almost guaranteed a spot by the door, so it was easy to keep an eye on her as I went in and got the cart to come back out and get my boxes and then wait for them to scan the barcodes and hand me my proof of mailing receipts. In and out in less than 5 minutes total and half of that time was actually standing at the car putting boxes on the cart. Never was she out of sight and never was she more than 20 feet away. I got a lot of nasty glares over it and one snippy comment from a grumpy old man, but I didn’t and still don’t see that I did anything wrong. It’s not like I left her in the car in the parking lot of a bar while I went in to go drinking. This whole no kids in cars at any time for any reason thing is ridiculous.

  11. Oy. They may mean call if you see a baby unattended in a hot car in the middle of summer but people read it to mean call the second a parent walks away leaving any aged child in a car at any time. Stupid.

    On a related note: I was just on a parenting site and they were discussing when a child can run into the store to pick up things while mom waits in the car with the older kids. Apparently the consensus is not until they are at LEAST 12, but preferably 14-16 because you just never know and kids go missing every second from every store. In another topic they were discussing playing outside alone and anyone who thought it was okay before the age of 12-14 were implied to be neglectful and uncaring for the safety of their children. And the other day I got into it with a nutcase on a topic about babyproofing. Me and 1 other mom said we don’t babyproof. The other mom got voted down for her answer several times and this mom accused her of not caring for her children and then when I agreed with her I was told my kids were going to die…I’d see one day the error of my ways, lol. Yet I have 5 kids (the oldest being 10) and so far they’ve all survived (the other mom only had 1 who was 3 so I thought I’d chime in since she was being berated because it’s easy to watch just 1 kid…I had 3 kids under 3 and still didn’t babyproof). She really got on my case when I said I didn’t know where my 8mo was. He had wandered off to see what his older siblings were doing and I said I assumed they were watching him. She told me I was stupid for assuming older kids would just watch their baby brother and that I’d be sorry. All I could do was laugh. Hell, they babysit every Saturday so I can sleep in…make him bottles, change his diaper, play with him and make sure he stays out of trouble. They LOVE it.

  12. The city cops had a letter distributed to all daycare parents that they would take appropriate action (whatever that means) if they saw any kids left in cars while the parents dropped off other kids. Totally ridiculous, but also intimidating. I still do it sometimes, though.

    I mean, when you think about it, the kid alone in a car is probably safer than the one you are dropping off. What with violent classmates, frustrated teachers, germs, messes . . . .

  13. Thanks for the link to that SafeKids bulletin; it pointed me to a document containing state-by-state laws about leaving kids unattended in cars. I knew that PA had such a law, but I didn’t know what it entailed. Now I do: It only applies to kids under 6 “when the motor vehicle is out of the person’s sight and under circumstances which endanger the health, safety or welfare of the child.” Of course the “circumstances” are up for debate, but as my child is now 6, I’m (hopefully) off the hook now.

    When he was 5 there was a day I had to go to the bank, it was raining cats and dogs, and the closest parking space I could find was around the block. He very sensibly asked to remain in the car. I locked the doors, gave him the speech about not unlocking them for anyone except me (not that he could from his car seat in the back), and RAN all the way to the bank and back. I was petrified the whole time — not because I thought anything would happen to him (I knew he was fine) — but because I was afraid someone would spot him through the downpour and call the police. Luckily no one did, and he was exactly as I’d left him, listening happily to his iPod in his carseat, when I returned.

  14. Jen – wow – and yet I’ve read that 7 is now considered old enough to be taught in school about masturbation and sexual “positions.” Beam me up, Scotty.

  15. It is frustrating, that I must drag ALL three kids into a gas station to pay the cashier a few dollars. I had one nice man, who saw me struggle to carry all THREE sleeping children into the gas station to pay, quietly bewail the state of the world with me. The man was so kind. He said “you know, ten years ago, or twenty, I’dve left mine, but now a days, they are all paranoid something bad is gonna happen. More power to you honey, I am so glad I didn’t have all these people meddling with my parenting when I was a Dad with young kids…”
    It was so refreshing to hear somebody else thinking like I was, that it is crazier to carry all three children into the Turkey Hill for 30 seconds, while they are sleeping to hand the cashier a bill, than it is to let them sleep in a locked car, strapped into their seats.

  16. “And as a parent, could my presence have protected her if she was?”

    This is the stupidest aspect of this whole “leaving your kids alone for two seconds” paranoia. Sure, there are situations where your presence provides a significant measure of safety. You don’t leave a two year old home alone for an hour, for example. A situation where someone is both willing and able to appear out of nowhere and extract a child strapped into a locked vehicle in full public view within 45 seconds — even if that were a remotely plausible scenario — is not among the situations where parental presence provides safety. I suppose the only argument would be that no one would ever do it if a parent was watching — but *no one would ever do it anyway.*

  17. This kind of thing is why I was glad my youngest had pneumonia during a school break rather than the middle of a school week. I didn’t have to worry about if I could leave her in the warm car a few minutes to pick up her brother from kindergarten or if I should take a very sick little girl out into the cold, rainy weather we’d been having. Easy enough to bundle her up, but easier yet to not worry about it all.

    And I leave my kids in the car to drop the shopping cart off in the corral. They’re fine, and I figure much safer than traipsing after me as I get rid of the cart.

  18. If people are concerned about your kids the least they could do is wait by the car and have a friendly chat when you get back. A friend who has four kids and is naturally pregnant with another set of twins!! had this happen to her. She had sick kids and didnt want to get them out of the car. She raced to the pharmacy, got what she needed and left. Her phone rings at home and is the police asking if she drives this brand of car and was she just at the pharmacy? A concerned citizen rang the police on her! My friend said ‘well there was no concerned person by the car when I got back’.

  19. Yeah, those two circumstances are TOTALLY different. We all, of course, hate car/kid tragedies like the former and am fine with any effort to avoid those tragic circumstances.

    That said, the thing about never leaving your kid in the car consciously while you run in to drop off something (like your other children) drives me NUTS! I did this often when my twins were infants and still do with them as toddlers. There are just some circumstances where it is WAY better for all of us to have them stay put — and as a parent I know when that is, and take precautions to make sure everyone stays safe and happy.

    Of course there are circumstances where it’s not a good idea, and I would hope any laws set in place would be for those kinds of situations. NOT super-short daycare/preschool drop-offs. Geesh!

  20. People have been frightened by the media into being idiots. The two times my kids have been in danger have been the results of idiots. The time pertaining to the topic of this article is when I was out with my kids running errands, and the then 10-year-old felt like she was going to be sick to her stomach. So I pulled into a fast-food place and walked her in as far as seeing her into the restroom. My 12-year-old son remained in the car with my 4-year-old daughter. I was in the restroom just long enough to check on her.

    When I came back out, I was faced with several angry patrons threatening to call the police because they were *sure* someone was going to take my 4-year-old out of the car! I asked them “this one was going to be sick (and ended up with the opposite problem, so it wasn’t like she could just stay outside), so what should I have done?” They said I should have *waited* and taken them all inside. During which time she would have had a massive problem, embarrassing herself in front of a whole bunch of people on a freezing day. They honestly thought my daughter would have been better off p**ping herself in front of a picture window in the sleet then having my 12-year-old remain with my 4-year-old in a locked car right in front of the entryway!

    I say again: idiots.

  21. Safe kids is a pretty good organization- they give out free car seats, promote car safety and drowning prevention, give out helmets, etc, etc. Their campaigns become annoying when they decide to extend them too broadly. There are situations where you should call 911 and try to remove a child from a vehicle- hyperthermia is dangerous and does kill a surprising number of kids each year. But for goodness sake, you don’t need to say all kids in all situations!

    Safe kids would be much better off telling parents to roll down their windows ALL the way while they take in the groceries during the warm months of the year. The hot car issue primarily has to do with your car turning into a solar oven. That shouldn’t happen with all of the windows open.

  22. I have a similar experience to the anonymous poster. I left my two year old asleep in a locked but well ventilated car to visit a store for a few minutes. I was about 20 yards away and she only left my sight for the time it took to look in my wallet and pay for the goods. Upon return I had a handwritten note on my windshield saying how irresponsible I was and my daughter could have been abducted at any time. Despicable.

  23. I remember when I started kindergarten. My mom took me outside her fabric store and pointed down the street. She said “Walk that way, you will see the school a couple blocks down.” Wow, talk about free range. This was back in the 70’s when people kept the eye signs in the windows. It was a symbol of someone who participated in Child watch. I did get a little scared, two blocks away. I was 5 ,the world looks bigger then. I had a sweet old lady come to my rescue. It probably made her day.

    As far as the car goes I have found that at times I can’t trust my kids alone in the car as they have spilled drinks all over and played with the gears. It’s more about protecting my car. When they were babes I left them to sleep in the car. I always knew when they woke up. Mothers intuition still works in this day and age.

  24. There are more kids under the age of 5 that die when run over by their parents cars than die in them due to hypothermia.

    The common tragic senarior is the kid runs behind daddy’s SUV when he is backing out of the drive way. Its a common problem with SUV’s and pickup trucks. You can’t see very well small objects behind them.

  25. @SKL: Well, who else is going to make more drones while the government gets their cloning programs down pat?

    Seriously, we’re heading toward a scary society… where you’re rewarded for being an obnoxious, tattling nutjob. I recall in school that tattling was looking down upon… seems that it’s quickly becoming fashionable. “IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING!” *sigh* I want to move to my own island now.

  26. They only see what they want to see. And, thanks to our enlightened society, that now only takes ‘seconds’. Wouldn’t want to inconvenience anyone by asking people to do a true risk assessment before ‘sounding the alarm’.

    The rest of us will just watch for when the true wolf comes along, and then we’ll see how everyone continues sleeping.

  27. I am so glad to see this topic today. There are many, many times when children are actually better off left in the car. It is so wrong for people to report people just because a child is sitting in a car! Absurd, actually.

    When I see a child in a car, my new habit is to stay nearby to watch for busybodies. I’ve warded off a couple of them already!

  28. I run a preschool, and was told by my Oregon state certifier that we need to have an official policy barring parents from leaving their babies in the car when they come in to pick up or drop off their preschoolers. I encourage the parents to offer to stand next to each other’s occupied cars, as an easier way to comply than hauling sleeping babies out of the car.

    Again, our fear is not that anything will happen to the kids, but that someone will report a violation of this ridiculous rule.

  29. In 2010, 49 kids (less than 1 per state) died by being left in the car. Wonder why they didn’t include stats of how many kids were killed in parking lots when they WEREN’T left in the car! Betcha the number would be a LOT higher, if such numbers were kept track of!

  30. I try not to leave my daughter in the car alone even though she asks me to, especially on windy or stormy days or when I have to go to a store she hates – not because I fear for her safety, but because I dread the possibility of someone calling the police… . Even if we forget something before school and I leave her in the car in our parking lot in front of our building in a perfectly safe community and run up to fetch the missing thing and run right back, I’m afraid the neighbors are going to comment or report me… I do not think this is normal – why do we, mothers, need to feel like criminals when we are not doing anything wrong? I tried to look up laws about leaving children in cars, but was not able to find enough information – it all sounded very vague… Could someone recommend where I could read about such laws?? (I live in Illinois). Thanks!

  31. …and another thought… I still remember the day when my mom first sent me to a grocery store alone – I was 5, same age as my daughter now, and my mom gave me some money, walked with me to the stoplight and sent me forth… All I had to do was cross the street, walk into the store, buy a loaf of bread she asked for, and walk back to her, still waiting by the stoplight. Up to this day I remember how I felt that day – an indescribable feeling of being in charge for the first time in my life and knowing I’m capable to be on my own! I think this “never-ever-leave-your-kid-alone” thing now is robbing our kids of some rich experiences!

  32. I live on a US military base overseas. Last year I left my two boys (aged 8 and 4 then) in the car, windows open, keys with me, while I ran with my girl (aged 9) into the post office. I came out and was berated by some man who told me he’d call Security Forces (the cops) next time it happened. I was 5 minutes, the boys stayed buckled in their seats and were laughing and talking. Plus I was angry at this guy because my husband was deployed at the time and I was tired of dragging the kids with me everywhere with no tie to myself for 7 months. I was not in some crime ridden city, I was on an Air Force base, a really safe place. I went home and found out that on base there are regulations about how old my children have to be to do certain things. And every base is different! I had to laugh because most of these people are the ones who vote and politically believe gov’t controls too much of our personal lives, we need to make our own decisions. Apparently, unless it comes to our kids? (BTW, I was reading about the base I am moving to next month. The housing regulation handbook said my kids had to be supervised on the playground until age 12! Ummm, no, my kids won’t be. At 10, 9 and 5 it’s time for them to have fun on their own. I will be working hard to change that rule while I live there.)

  33. I still remember just 30 years ago, going to the store next door with the money my mother had given me and buying for her, of all things, a bottle of wine. I was 8, she had dinner on the stove and had forgotten the wine to be cooked in whatever she was making. I remember a few years later, at 9 or 11 going to the store and buying cigarettes for the disabled neighbor lady that lived in the apartment above us. At 10 I used to even cross a 4 lane highway, on my own, to go to the movies on the other side. And back when I was 4, I was riding my bike to the end of the block unsupervised on the street in front of our house, while Dad sat on the back porch, out of sight, with headphones on and talking on his old HAM radio, by 5 I was allowed to ride around the block on my own. Oh and no helmets either.

  34. This is the reason I got screwed bringing my two-year-old into daycare. I knew that with all the mandated reporters at the daycare, I couldn’t leave my four-year-old in a locked car even for a second. I also knew there was ahuge chance she would ruin the carefully orchestrated positive drop-off of my toddler at her first day at daycare. But I had to bring the older child in. It was worse than expected–everything was going perfectly, we were out of sight of the baby, who was happily playing with a teacher, when the four-year-old had a FIT.

    Then the two-year-old freaked out. She has spent approximately 20% of her daycare time (just three hours) crying. I might have to take her out and put off work for another six months. I knew that the four-year-old would ruin it because she wants to go to the baby daycare instead of her school (long story).

    THANKS, PSYCHO PARANOIACS. I could have had a great school experience, but nooooo.

    We also live on a military post. It is absurd. The problem is you have people from all over the country, so people from Texas and Florida (poor, crime-ridden states with lots of soldiers) make up a disproportionate amount of the population and thus, the rules. Convincing them to lay off and run the post like a normal country is hard. They don’t know what “normal” is.

  35. PS I have heard lots of this about seven-year-olds being taught about sexual positions and masturbation. I’ve seen it on facebook from friends conservative, liberal, wacky and sane. What the heck is this about? Is this some urban myth or what? Where does it come from? I just do not know ANYONE who could think that except in the case of the highest-risk children, discussion of sex in that level of detail was appropriate. Not to mention POSITIONS, which are never really necessary to discuss as a preventative health measure, which I thought public sex education was about.

  36. Not a kids in the car story, but a kids left at home story – I took my daughter to the optometrist yesterday and left my sons, ages 13 and 10, at home. When we returned, the 13yo was in the yard and the 10yo was on the roof of the addition on the back of our house, and they were having a nerf-gun war. I laughed, then got my camera and took some snapshots.

    As to the leaving of kids in the car while you run an errand quickly, I think the people who make these asinine rules probably don’t have any kids themselves. Otherwise they would see that what they advocate is sometimes just not reasonably prudent.

  37. This is bullying. Just like the bully of schoolyard legend, these people are counting on our slinking away with our tail between our legs, feeling lucky to have gotten off with just losing our milk money, or, in this case, a tongue lashing.

    They say the bully is able to function and thrive in an atmosphere of shame and silence. It helps their cause if they leave you with the impression that you’re on your own, and they are the majority. I believe a lot of parents are suffering under all the “safety” pressure and would stand with us if they knew that option was there. Let’s actually take the helpful advice of the safety experts that Lenore’s post links to, and – Get the word out!

    No more shame, no more silence! (With apologies to Churchill,) We shall fight them in the schools, we shall fight them in the parking-lots, we shall fight them in cyberspace! (well done @ Jen Connelly) We shall never surrender!

    Time to shame the shamers. I would suggest the letter writer ask the teachers at the school about the incident and express his/her dissatisfaction with the handling of the situ, if s/he hasn’t already done so. And then an open letter should be written and tacked up explaining the whole situation (with grievance). The perpetrator(s) may never come forward, but maybe they’ll feel the weight of their folly, when they realize the anguish they’ve caused, and, failing that, they’ll at least realize that, should they again feel the desire to “teach someone a lesson”, their actions will be made public.

    We need to speak up for ourselves and for each other and fight the bullies.

    Ask not for whom Child Protection Services rings (the doorbell), they ring for thee.

    (w/apologies to Donne.)

  38. Reading the original letter and many of the comments here, I have to observe:

    Isn’t it interesting how many of these “high-strung helpfuls” are bold enough to call the authorities and report a person, but not brave enough to wait 45 seconds to meet you by your car for a neighborly conversation to share their concerns?

    If they would behave like rational human beings and have a discussion with the actual parent, maybe we could politely ask them upon what they are basing their fears? What statistics? What facts? What laws, specifically, do they feel are being broken or bruised?

    Of course, the fact that they don’t confront anyone directly but hide somewhere and call the police speaks volumes about how confident they are in their beliefs.

    The police should realize this, and take these calls with a HUGE grain of salt. A sensible officer might respond to the call just to be sure real laws weren’t being broken, but then mention to the parent, “You’re not doing anything wrong, but be aware that someone here is prone to overreact and call us for no reason. Have a nice day.”

    Now that I think of it, why don’t we ever read stories of the police informing the wronged parent that it’s perfectly okay to leave your kid in your line of sight if they are this age, and so on? Why do they always approach the daycare (as someone said) and insist that they institute a policy that goes beyond what the law requires? Why do they seem to want to intimidate the parent who has done nothing wrong? Isn’t it their job to enforce existing laws — not make up new ones and not over-enforce, beyond the law?

    The high-strung helpfuls and the police are out of line and out of control, it seems.

  39. I once accidentally locked my 2 year old in a car, parked in the sun, in the middle of a summer’s day in Australia. I did worry about how long I had to get him out… minutes? tens of minutes? … he ended up being in there for about 20 minutes because the police (who I called) couldn’t break in so they waited for the roadside assistance people who took longer to arrive… who still couldn’t break in…. at this point my son, while still very calm, was clearly getting very hot (he was red in the face and sweating profusely) so the ambulance officers (who’d also arrived) said it was time for him to definitely be out, so they broke the car window… which again was not that quick in terms of how quick you’d need to be to actually successfully abduct a child locked in a car in a public place.

    My point is, apart from hypothermia, I think it’d be quite clear whether a child was actually in distress inside the car, and it’s not that quick and easy to break in. So any fears of child abduction are ridiculous, and any bystanders would most likely know when it was really getting dangerous for the kid to remain in the car. I agree there are tragedies and we should be aware of the real dangers of leaving kids in car… but we’re aware of the (far more common) dangers of driving cars and still allowed to do that!

    My favourite comment above is the one where someone left a note saying how dangerous it is to leave kids in a car… but didn’t hang around. If you are concerned, shouldn’t you wait for the driver to come back? Doesn’t leaving kids in what you think is a dangerous situation make you some kind of accessory, should “the worst happen”???

  40. When I go grocery shopping with my 3 year old, I put him in the car and buckle him in his car seat before I load the groceries in the car. Then I lock the car and return the cart with my son staying in the car. This is a deliberate choice on my part, as I feel it is safer for my son to be belted in the car than to walk through the parking lot with me and back from returning the cart. (Like Chris mentioned above) Does parental judgement count for nothing anymore? Can I not decide what’s best?

    Then again, I’m in Switzerland and people leave their kids alone all over the place here, so I don’t think anybody would have a problem with seeing a kid in a car at all.

  41. So we live in a police state, bolstered by idiots. This makes me glad I live in a very free range area and have very darkly tinted windows. I’ve left one or the other of mine in the fan before but I always tell her to stay in the back where no one can see her.

  42. So, call 911 if you see a child in a car. How about, if you’re that concerned for the child’s safety, wait around for a couple of minutes, during which the parent will almost certainly return.

    Ideally, wait nearby inconspicuously, when it’s clear the parent has just nipped in somewhere for a moment, leave. Don’t say anything, don’t tell them off. It’s their decision whether it’s what you’d do as a parent or not.

    Or, you could call the police, waste their time and cause someone unnecessary distress.

  43. I guess that’s the negative side of “it takes a village”. The unwelcome, unsolicited input into how you raise your child.
    http://quasiagitato.wordpress.com

  44. People don’t leave their kids in e car to return carts? WTF?

    What is wrong with Americans (among others) these days? paranoia rules.

    My MIL told me that cops/CPS stories are rare like kidnappings, and I shouldn’t worry. I don’t know if this is true or not.

  45. I guess children become less desirable to “snatch” once they are over 6 years old. You know, they can talk and scream things like, “That is NOT my mommy!”

    Per usual, I am saddened to hear about things like this.

    Who knew I was “fighting the power,” when I chose to let my son stay in the car reading his awesome book, rather than drag him through the snow into Target while I returned a pair of socks? Sometimes parents really do know what we are doing.

    What the heck happened to freedom of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Did that die on 9/11/01, too?

  46. This sums up our society: a fellow (FELLOW) parent at your daycare is too shy or fearful to say to you something like, “Hey, cold isn’t it? Quick, run your kid in, I will sit here in my warm idling car and keep both eyes on your warm, idling car where your other child is. We’re all in this together. Maybe we can have coffee sometime?”

    However, same fellow parent has just enough balls to open their mouth and ANONYMOUSLY report you to the police.

    Suspicion over community. This is the message being imparted. Nice.

  47. Whatever someone thinks about leaving a child “alone” in a car, they should at least realize that a busy drop-off period is one of the safer places to do it! With the doors locked and alarm on, what could an evildoer do that wouldn’t attract the attention of 30 parents and 10 911 calls, while the child is still safe and laughing inside the locked vehicle?

  48. Renee – Sadly, it was already dead by the time 9/11 happened. According to an article in my recent Psychology Today magazine, we’ve been moving toward this uber-paranoid, ultra-child-centric, isolationist attitude for roughly 25 years now.

    mamamezzo – Actually, this is what happens when the idea of “the village” gets twisted to the point that any child of any age left alone for any length of time is a reason to call the authorities. In contrast, if there was an actual, healthy “village” mentality, authorities wouldn’t be called to begin with.

    Manny – I think it’d be more like:
    You: Am I being arrested/charged?
    Cop: No.
    You: *Calls cop’s superior officer for unlawful detainment (the cruiser is blocking the parent’s car in, keeping her from leaving).*

    or:
    Cop: *Rant about the “dangers” of leaving a child in the car for 30 seconds.*
    You: Would you rather I take my child out, expose him directly to the carbon monoxide and other toxins from car exhaust of the many other cars around here? Or expose him to the chance of frost bite* while outside?

    *Note: It doesn’t matter if frost bite (or the toxin argument) is a near-impossibility. We’re talking about dealing with the stupidity of the “OMGYOURCHILDCOULDBETAKENIFYOULEAVEHIMALONEFORONESECOND!!11!!!” mindset.

  49. This is not the only country with busybodies run amok. Friends in Switzerland told me the story of the police who threatened their next-door neighbor because another neighbor thought they weren’t providing their pet rabbits enough fresh grass….

    But we’re mixing two issues here. Abduction is not the problem; heat is. If you live in Florida, as I do, or another Southern state, you know how quickly the inside of a car can become lethally hot. It’s a concern for pets as well as children. And we can’t seem to get through a summer without hearing about a child who dies, forgotten, in a daycare or preschool bus. Imprisoned in their car seats, they have no chance. Not that encouraging passersby to call 911 would help in that situation, since there are not many folks passing by preschool parking lots.

  50. Sheesh. I don’t know where the “Safe Kids” people live, but in my neighbourhood we tend to TALK to each other first, instead of sticking posters, sending e-mails or (chuckles) call the police on someone.
    As for the poor annonymous writer, I would advise to involve your community more cheekily. Next time you’re in a fix like the one you described, try to get a parent you know (or only know by sight), and ask for help. “Hey, would you mind checking on the baby while I step inside for a minute? I can get your kid for you, if you hand me an authorisation”. It works for me, and I’ve made a couple of good friends this way.

  51. These laws are left vague for reasons. First, there are some really bad parents out there with no common sense whatsoever. Second, every situation is different. You can’t really have a law that says “children under x are not allowed to be left in cars” because that implicitly gives you permission to leave children over x in the car. Not all kids over x should be left in the car and it’s not always safe to leave children over x in a car due to weather, neighborhood, etc. Some parents don’t know the difference. Third, the dumb choices parents make with their kids would boggle your mind so you need a blanket law to cover all those things that you will never think of. We actually had a person who regularly played a game where her 9 year old stepson jumped into her moving car through the window (Dukes of Hazzard style). As would happen, Jr. eventually missed the window and was seriously injured. Since no parent with half a brain would think this was a good idea, it would probably never be written into law as a possibility, therefore, you need a general child cruelty law.

    All states have some sort of general child cruelty law. Even if your state has a law saying “kids under 6 are not to be left in a car when the motor vehicle is out of the person’s sight and under circumstances which endanger the health, safety or welfare of the child.” You are NOT off the hook if you have a child over 6. If, perchance, your child is injured, car jacked, kidnapped, etc. you WILL be charged under the general child cruelty statute.

    That seems to be the standard of the law these days. If nothing happens, the parent is lectured. If something happens, no matter how unlikely and random the event was, the parent will be charged with a crime and there are enough vague laws to cover any event that could possibly happen.

  52. Anna – In Illinois, you can’t leave kids under 6 alone without someone (14 and over) watching the kid for more than 10 minutes.

    Now that I know that, I might be a little less afraid.

    But ditto to everyone who said, if the child is in such an unsafe situation that the police must be called, shouldn’t the person calling stand there and make sure the kid is okay?

  53. I’ll bet if you asked these nosey parkers why they don’t just wait by the car and make sure the child is all right themselves, they’ll answer that they “can’t take the responsibility for other people’s children.”

    Brilliant. But they can take the responsibility for having someone arrested and possibly putting their children’s custody in jeopardy, over a trivial non-incident. Nice definition of what it means to “take responsibility” or not to.

  54. In 2010, 49 kids (less than 1 per state) died by being left in the car. Wonder why they didn’t include stats of how many kids were killed in parking lots when they WEREN’T left in the car! Betcha the number would be a LOT higher, if such numbers were kept track of!

    And it’s tragic for those families, but not exactly an epidemic, as you said.

    More importantly, these children are rarely intentionally left in the car. Instead, they’re forgotten – an important distinction. Their parents or caregivers have been tired or sick or distracted, there was a change in the routine (usually somebody had the kid who usually didn’t at this time of day) and the kid fell asleep or otherwise didn’t remind the driver of their presence, and they were forgotten.

    You’ve had things like this happen, you mean to stop at the store on the way to work, but then you forget, right? It’s like that, but with a kid in the car.

    It really can happen to anybody, and there are some things you can do, if you’re concerned, to make sure you do NOT forget your kid… although it’s not a huge problem once your child is old enough to exit the car alone, really.

    I can’t drive and don’t own a car, so we walk or take the bus everywhere. Yesterday, as we waited for the bus to get home from their Tae Kwon Do, they ran up and down the middle of the sidewalk. And the driver tried to chew me out because “you should hold your children so they don’t run in front of cars”. WTF? They are FIVE and SEVEN, and sure Ana is short, but she’s not THAT short. If they’re dumb enough at that age to run, apropos of nothing (they weren’t kicking a ball or anything that might cause them to dart into traffic to fetch it), right into a very busy street, well, I refuse to be held responsible for this. Nowhere NEAR the curb.

    Which is basically what I told him, although arguing with a bus driver is about as unprofitable as arguing with a cop. They can very easily ruin your whole day.

  55. In my opinion, there are so many other “free range” issues to focus on that are much more important that this one. Leaving our kids alone in the car doesn’t help foster their independance, build communities or teach them a valuable lesson — especially when they’re locked in car seats. It’s just a convenience for us, as parents. I am trying to raise my kids with free-range values, but it’s for their sakes, not to make my life easier. Getting in a huff about being allowed to leave our kids alone in the car seems like a waste of time, in my opinion, and does nothing to push the free-range movement mainstream.

  56. A couple things…first, I can understand having to take a pre-schooler in to day care, but this letter writer had to walk a 4-year-old 100 feet into a school building. Seems to me a 4-year-old could do this on his/her own, and instead of persecuting parents who briefly leave their young kids in the car, school rules requiring perfectly competent kids to be walked into the building need to be relaxed.

    Secondly, I continue to be amazed at police departments who have nothing better to do than hassle good parents over nothing, especially if the neighborhood/city is THAT dangerous!

  57. http://www.floridachildinjurylawblog.com/florida-law-on-leaving-children-unattended-in-a-car/

    We have a law against leaving the children in the car unattended.

    I think it’s odd. 15 minutes max time and no time at all with the motor running so the AC could cool the children in the Florida heat. I’ve only left them in the car alone in front of my house when running back in for something so it hasn’t been a big deal to me most of the time, but Little Boy has been asking to stay in the car on occasion — I haven’t had any quick errands where I’ve been willing to allow it, but someday I will and it will be fear of imprisonment that stops me rather than lack of trust for the boy. Though that reasoning won’t help him on a deeper instinctual level when it is time for him to do things on his own.

  58. “Tattle tale, tattle tale, hang your britches on a nail.”

    That’s what we used to say when we were in school.

    Someone needs to do that now, it seems.

    At times like this, I wish I was a real-life JR Ewing. I am telling you, anyone who reported on me for leaving my child alone in the car, I’d do to them the sort of things JR Ewing used to do to people who messed with him.

    In one memorable clip, he caught his mistress with another man, by bribing the owner of the hotel they were staying in. Right in front of both of them, he picks up the man’s business card (left on the table by the phone), calls his boss, and tells him (using his own creative wording) that his company won’t do anymore business with them unless they fire him, which they apparently did do, and strolls right out of there–not angry, not berating anyone, just cool and laughing the whole time about it.

    Oh how I would LOVE to be able to do that sort of thing to the busy-bodies–AND those who encourage it, too. I wouldn’t dare hesitate to absolute “go JR Ewing on them”–which would include letting them know I did it, and letting them know that it’s retribution for them poking their nose in my business.

    I have much more to say, which I’m going to do in another post right after this one, so this one isn’t so long. Mainly it’s going to be a true story, MY true story, of just how awful this sort of meddling from outsiders can be.

    Brace yourself Lenore, brace yourself all the rest of you, you won’t believe what I’m about to tell you. (Then again maybe you will, maybe it’s all too familiar to each & every one of you.)

    LRH

  59. Just had this thought too… you know those signs on fire alarms that say “false alarms risk lives” or somesuch? The idea is, if the fire company is busy with your false alarm some poor soul actually IN a fire is dying. What on earth could justify calling 911 if there is no immediate danger? I wonder how much leeway 911 dispatchers have to determine if a call is a legitimate danger or just some dumb@ss.

  60. We should be very concerned that this issue has been growing. Just as children used to be able to walk to school without causing passersby to panic, children used to be able to sit in their cars without causing alarm. Once people are made to believe that it is a “safety issue”, the allowable age for a child’s independence in such scenarios immediately begins to climb upward. I speak from experience – someone called the police on me when I left my 8th grade son in the car with my buckled toddler while I went into the store with my other four children to buy something for dinner. 8th grade!!! We have to fight this trend toward requiring every parent to helicopter every minute and in every situation, or we will all be sorry. I already am!

  61. “Leaving our kids alone in the car doesn’t help foster their independance, build communities or teach them a valuable lesson — especially when they’re locked in car seats. ”

    You’re right as far as that goes, but there’s a deeper issue. Conceding this issue to the culture of fear just feeds to the idea that life is unsafe and children must be “protected” all the time from imaginary “dangers.” This is the kind of thing we have to push back against if we ever hope to convince people that we’re not abusive parents for letting our kids walk a couple of blocks unattended. If we smile quietly and nod while people tell us (and government officials enforce) that we’re “endangering” our children by leaving then locked in alone for a couple of minutes in a safe environment, it just makes it that much harder to justify giving our kids actual freedom, and to keep them from trying to impose restrictions upon us in doing so.

  62. 99% of these posts come back to another parent who thinks they are going to be a hero by saving some other person’s kid.

    The police should always be the last step. If you see something that concerns you enough to intervene then you have to MAKE IT YOUR BUSINESS. Talk to the person face to face. If that doesn’t work, offer to help or befriend the person in order to help. You have no right to call the police unless its your business already. And its not your business unless you are already involved.

    Further, in general, just worry about your own kids and leave everyone alone. If you have that much extra time and energy, go volunteer at a low income school and you can burn your extra parenting energy there.

  63. The ‘tattle tail” comments remind me of when I was in 1st grade. I tattled on someone – don’t remember what for. Then I had to wear a donkey tail pinned to my rear all the rest of the day (including to lunch in the cafeteria where my older brothers also ate). I was so humiliated.

    That cured me of tattling. But I was never sure how to process the conflicting advice that if someone bothers you, tell someone rather than retaliating.

    Mostly I just allowed myself to be bullied, avoiding both of the above problems. But, I lived through it.

    Anyhoo, I agree with those who say if you’re really that concerned, stay by the car and if you find that the parent doesn’t return soon and the child really is in danger, THEN call the cops.

  64. That cured me of tattling. But I was never sure how to process the conflicting advice that if someone bothers you, tell someone rather than retaliating.

    What my nieces are told is that they can tell us to keep somebody OUT of trouble (generally understood to mean of a physical nature – hitting your little sister, climbing out third-story windows, attempting to drive a car) but not to get somebody INTO trouble (if somebody is writing their name all over the walls, I can figure that out on my own, thanks).

  65. People are just as nutty about their dogs. I was in a grocery store when a customer “reported” to management that someone had left their DOG in the car. It was a very mild day, not hot at all.

    Soon the entire store was whispering and rubbernecking to see who the culprit was.

    Police were called, the car surrounded, waiting for the guilty party to come out of the store.

    It was a complete and utter circus.

    I didn’t wait around to see the final show…I didn’t want to see how depraved it turned out…

  66. I have to say I never left my kids alone in the car at any time, not because I thought someone would come along and take them, but because I thought it was unsafe. Shortly after my first kid could walk at 8 months he was able to undo his car seat and I know he would have climbed over the seats and messed with the stearing wheel and stuff, so I did not trust leaving him in there. I cannot count the number of times I had to pull the car over and put him back in his car seat. Also we now live in Phoenix and it can become unbearable hot in a car in just a few mintues, so I would not leave a kid in the car here either. I have to say that if I saw kids in car here in the summer and they were left alone for more than a couple of minutes I would call 911.

  67. I promised a follow-up with my “own vulture story,” and here it is.

    I warn you–this is a VERY long post, VERY long. To wit, Lenore–if you decide you have to pull this posting ultimately because it’s too long and ungainly or whatever, I will understand. I won’t be mad that I typed all of this out “in vain,” because it won’t be–typing it out, as it is, is very cathartic for me, it being where people can read it
    & know the story is an added bonus besides that.

    Lenore, the rest of you–as I prepare to launch into “my story,” as I will call it, I wanted to say a couple of things really quickly.

    First-off, Lenore, I really love the title “Beware the Vultures.” It is absolutely appropriate. To me, people who meddle in these are vultures, and frankly, I wish I could deal with them like we do
    vultures. They need to be an endangered species. I will get to that here in a bit.

    To Lori, who states that this is not really a free-range issue–I beg to differ. Free-range, sometimes, is about convenience–and why not? If we parent as these morons tell us to, there is no respect of convenience granted towards the parents, and it matters. Further, it’s about how a parent ought to be able to make those decisions–leave in the car, take with me–without worrying about a bunch of damn vultures swooping in & poking their nose in their business. It’s about how, truth is, a child really isn’t in imminent danger being in the inside of a car for a couple of minutes–so long as it’s not the scenario of it being 95°F and the car is parked in the sun with the windows rolled up & the doors locked.

    —————————————————–
    Now, for my own “vulture story.”
    —————————————————–

    (Actually, I have two of them, somewhat.)

    My wife & I have 2 children, ages 2 & 4 (roughly). We have had child protective services called on us for BOTH of them. With the 2-year old, our son–right after he was born, with both still in the
    hospital, CPS became involved because a nurse in the hospital claimed my wife was holding our baby “like a sack of potatoes.” Never mind that my wife has previously worked as a worker in a daycare center, and has been highly praised by her previous employer. Never mind that my wife has no history whatsoever of hurting a child–accidentally or
    on purpose. Never mind that this was in the hospital, within the 1st two days or so of when my wife underwent a C-section (any of you women
    who’ve had a C section can probably relate–you’re sore as all get-out) and wasn’t herself–but STILL didn’t hurt our son.

    And, most of all, never mind that the proper thing to do may have been–umm, maybe, to HELP? Instead, she calls CPS. No big deal, right?

    Wrong. They end up doing an “emergency removal,” for the 1st 9 months of his life–only 3 days after he’s born–he is kept by a “foster
    care” family. We only get to see them at their convenience–and believe me, their personal convenience was the top priority. We, as
    the parents–they couldn’t have given a damn less about us, the system OR the foster care family–and the latter were people we knew in our
    church! As it turned out, we’d see him maybe once a weekend–while other people, who HAD to be around to make sure we didn’t flee with him, hung over us–yes, like vultures–with very critical eyes as if we were prisoners on a work-release program and their organization had thousands of dollars in the safe & they had to make sure we didn’t rob
    them.

    Further, we had to go to family court every month–waiting sometimes all day to be seen, with both of us having to take time off of work & lose working hours in the process–to go through the red-taped
    proceedings. Eventually, a new foster care family was swapped for the old one, they were much more accommodating for visits (in fact, they
    were so nice, we VOLUNTARILY still see them occasionally even now), then around Thanksgiving weekend visits were ordered. Finally, in December, NINE MONTHS after he was born and they involved themselves, he is released into our care, on a TRIAL basis–the case is still legally open. Then, about 4 months later–again, we’re STILL having to
    go to court and wait around all day–they dismissed the case, and he’s been home with us ever since.

    —————————————————–
    Now, for part 2 of our “vulture” story
    —————————————————–

    With our 4 year old, the story is even worse. Just after she was born, a nosy neighbor called because, we were told, we had been spotted
    carrying our little girl in her carseat with her head not properly padded around the edges of her head, and thus her head would’ve been able to “flop.” I remember that well–we were constantly putting
    padding around her head because we knew that newborn’s necks are rather fragile, but no matter what, that freaking padding ALWAYS managed to get lose and her head was not restrained. Regardless, there was never a problem–in fact, we demonstrated to our PEDIATRICIAN what
    it was like, and we were told that it was okay, that the seat nonetheless did provide enough padding as it was.

    Still, because CPS was called, they wanted to tell us who could watch our child in the day while we were at work. I told them to shove it up
    their ass (really, I did that), that who watched my child when wasn’t their business–and it made the case nasty. In the end, after a situation much like with our other child, after several months the case was dismissed–after months in the courts, all over
    “abuse” which never happened.

    It gets worse, a LOT worse.

    Our daycare called CPS, this is AFTER the case is dismissed, because a cockroach was found in her diaper bag. Now, I understand cockroaches are gross, I’m fine with that–but calling CPS because of a bug in a diaper bag? We were back in court again, only a MONTH after it was all dismissed.

    Our court-appointed lawyers advised us that the case may not work out in our favor, because of the “shock value” of a cockroach being part of the story, and because our old case had only been dismissed for a month. They advised us to enter into a “conservatorship,” whereby the current foster parent would be “in charge” of our situation, and we
    would still be the parents–but this “conservator” would have the authority to say where the child lived. We could always go to court later to have this arrangement undone, once our situation improved–but it would have to be at our own expense, of some nearly $3000 (which, to us, is an extremely huge amount of money).

    That is what was set-up, nearly three years ago. During that time since, we have only seen our girl on weekends, sometimes not at all,
    and had to pay nearly $400 a month to daycare–the very same daycare who called on us! During this time, we only would see her on the weekend for maybe a 24 hour period, no more. The only concern that was demonstrated by the system was whether or not we had paid the daycare. The system could’ve cared less of our time with our child.

    Finally, last September, that somewhat changed–I had lost my job, I was being hounded for daycare money yet again. I boldly stated that I really should be allowed to watch our child at home while
    I was looking work, because there was no way we could afford daycare while I was out of work (it was hard enough as it was before).

    Surprisingly, this was agree to, our girl was removed from that evil daycare, and our little girl has been home all the time (except weekends, for a 24 hour period) ever since.

    But–and this is the big BUT–it is totally at the discretion of the head-conservator, the foster parent. It’s not legally stated to be that way, it could still change at any time–though there is no indication of this happening.

    This year, we were blessed with a large tax refund, and just last Tuesday we retained an attorney to have this setup reversed, so that we are technically the “lead” parents, as we should be. We had seen
    this attorney before in family court, he was very aggressive, especially against CPS, and we decided that if we ever were to be able
    to go to court to have our girl be ours totally again, he would be the one we’d hire.

    We did so–at our OWN expense, of $2500.

    All of this occurred because a nosy neighbor called about a non-issue, ALL because the daycare called over a bug in a diaper, ALL because people think the first thing to do is call the police or social services over every little thing they see.

    This is to say nothing of previous occasions, such as the one where I had our child outside at a public auction when the child was newborn,
    and a bystander advised me I should have my child protected with a mosquito-netting type of child-seat. I was courteous to her, thinking
    she was just being helpful (wrong), and said to the effect “well there’s another thing the hospital could’ve told me about.” Her reply was “well that’s just common sense!” (and it was as snotty & indigent as it sounds). My reply: “well, it’s also common courtesy to MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS!!”

    Damn right it is.

    It has left me a person very leery of the idea & mentality that we need to go around tattle-telling on other people over the silliest of things. It has left my wife a mess half the time, neurotic that everyone is out to get us–sometimes, even family. We have a
    family member, an in-law (married in, as is the case with me), who is very judgmental of people’s parenting, very snotty about it–and my wife & I, and a couple of others, can’t stand her. All she does is criticize, and allude to calling CPS (she never has, never does) and thinks that this whole setup is just the best thing since GPS.

    I become angry when my own wife’s parents try to show understanding towards this person, when they ought to be telling her “shut your mouth if that’s all you have to say.” After all we’ve been through, they sure ought to understand how this sort of thing would be highly dis-tasteful to us. I have to be the enforcer, and frankly–while I’m up to the task, it gets old afterwhile.

    —————————————————–
    In Closing
    —————————————————–

    What was gained by my family, a family of limited means, having to go through all of this, when our children are doing fine (even the last
    CPS workers have said so!) I will tell you what was gained–my wife freaks out anytime I publicly discipline my children, even if I eventually take them to the bathroom to do so discreetly, because she is scared someone is going to call. I refuse to do that–I discipline anyway, let them call, I’m not going to stop being the parent just because a bunch of nosy busy-bodies can’t stay out of my fucking business. I have an issue to discipline over, it’s the right thing to do–I’m doing it.
    Period.

    We paid the $2500 for the attorney to undo this conservatorship thing because our child is worth it. However, think of what we could’ve done with
    that money otherwise. We could’ve taken a great family vacation. We could’ve done some work around the house to improve the place. We
    could’ve gotten a much newer car–and in our case, believe me, that’s relevant, the newest car we’ve ever owned is a 1999, and that was last
    year. But instead, we’re having to spend it to undo the actions initiated by a bunch of busy-bodies.

    So please, those of you who think that it’s no big deal that people want to call social services or the police–think again. You are making a mess of things. Shame on you.

    And let me apologize if this story is too long and doesn’t belong here–again, Lenore, if you feel compelled to remove it or reframe it in some other manner (say, as a separate article you do with this being a “letter” to you), I consent wholly & fully to it. (I saved it to my own records so I won’t lose it, in fact I saved it there first & then copied & pasted here.)

    All of that said, back to the original issue–where I live, the law clearly states that you CAN leave kids in the car, done rightly–if they’re under 5 (I believe), it can be no more than 5 minutes, and of
    course it can’t be the “windows rolled up, hot day, no air conditioning” deal. But those occasions where I leave our kids in the car to go check the mail, and it’s not hot? It’s totally legal, and even after all that I’ve been through, I’m not only aware of that, I’m bold enough to STILL leave them in there, chancing that someone may call, because I’m not going to be ruled by fear, not even after all we’ve been through.

    Sad story is this–I am finding out that it what it takes anymore to be a parent, and it shouldn’t have to be that way.

    Thank you for letting me post this ultra-long “megapost.”

    LRH

  68. I used to always bring my son (14m) into my daughters preschool regardless of whether he was sleeping or sick, specifically for this reason. Then winter happened. On days when my son was sleeping, i didnt want to trudge through the snow in the parking lot with a grumpy or sleeping toddler. So I began pulling in front of the building, specifically right under the sign that reads “this parking lot is monitored 24hrs a day,” locking the doors and using the remote keyless starter to keep the car warm. I soon realized that other parents with babies were doing the exact same thing and now I don’t feel better.

  69. I live in Pennsylvania in the US. I have a son in preschool and an infant daughter. She used to fall asleep on the drive to the school, so instead of waking her up and dragging her inside, I’d park in the lot (a church parking lot with the building right there), leave the car running with AC or heat depending on the weather, run in, drop him off, and be back out in less than two minutes. The teacher gently informed me that I couldn’t do that. I said, “Is it a liability issue for you?” She answered yes, and I promised not to do it anymore. Problem solved, right? No. Two weeks later letters were distributed listing the PA state law that spelled out that children under the age of six could not be left in cars if their parents were out of the line of sight. I understand the preschool was covering its own behind, but really, the private conversation between the teacher and I should have been enough.

  70. Hey, Lori? It’s OK if parents are “convenienced” once in awhile.

  71. I’ve gotten in trouble for this too. With a 7 year old. Returning a redbox movie. He chose to stay, didn’t want to cross the parking lot in soccer cleats. “Friendly do-gooders” scared the crap out of him. I defended my action, cop berated me, I rolled my eyes, said “whatever” and rolled up my window and drove away. Boy did that feel good. (Though I was worried they’d track down my license plate and come after me a bit, I was certain they’d have had no case.)

  72. i’m surprised that noone has warned the original poster that the police have most likely reported to cps that conversation[confrontation?] and if someone reports again guess what will happen because she will then have a record of warnings.

  73. I leave my children in the car with relative frequency. They are 3 and 6 years old and know the rules: don’t open the doors, don’t unbuckled your seat , don’t leave the car. Sometimes running to the mailbox to post a letter, dropping off the dry cleaning, picking up carry out dinner etc. is quick enough that leaving kids alone in the car isn’t a real danger of any kind. My mother used to leave us in the car for a half-hour or more while she did her grocery shopping!

    People need to realize that they are their own worst enemies when it comes to fear of the possible but highly unlikely. Sigh.

  74. Larry – I don’t normally advocate suing, but if I were in your shoes, I’d be seeking compensation against the CPS agency (yes, even if it is “the government”) for that. Talk about undue hardship and harassment.

    I had a near-miss with CPS myself a couple years ago (before my son was born). Whenever I left the house to go to work or otherwise leave, I would tell our dogs that my husband would be home in a couple of hours. Evidently, a neighbor heard me once or twice (how, I have no idea, as we go in and out through our garage) and called CPS, insisting that we were leaving a child home alone for long periods.

    Twice (that we know of), CPS was called, and twice they showed up at our door. The first time, they took my husband’s dismissal that we don’t have kids. The second time, they actually came in to look around the house. They, of course, found no evidence of children (big shocker there), and finally made sure to put it on our record (yes, despite not even having kids at the time, we now have a record with CPS) that we didn’t have kids.

    I can only imagine what would have happened if we did have kids at that time. How would our neighbor know the child was actually alone? What would we have had to deal with if (especially after seeing what Larry went through).

  75. I don’t understand why some parents here are allowing the opinions of others to dictate what they do. It seems to me that when you say “I can’t leave my kid alone in a car because someone will call the cops” that’s a form of worst-first thinking, and is just as bad as thinking you can’t leave your kid in the car because they will either be snatched or be in some other mortal peril.

    As believers in the free-range philosphy, we try not to allow other people’s opinion to influence how we act and let our kids act in other situations,why let this bother us?

    If you really are only gone for “a minute,” you will be in, out, and gone before the cops get there even if someone does actually call the cops.

    If some busybody on the street approaches you about it, treat them like any other jerk on the road – ignore them, avoid them, or flip them off/confront them. If its the cops, ask if you are under arrest, get a badge number and leave. If its the policy of the person who owns the parking lot (church, school, store etc) you can either work with them to change the policy or choose not to support that entity.

    Know your rights and the law (here’s a helpful website http://www.ndaa.org/pdf/ncpca_statute_child_neglect_abandonment_3_07.pdf) and do what you, as the parent, think is best.

    If we all modified our behaviors because of what we thought would happen the free range philosophy would be dead.

  76. Gad, now I’m depressed. I live in Connecticut and there is a law here that says you can’t leave a child under the age of TWELVE in a car “unsupervised…for a period of time that presents a substantial risk to the child’s health or safety” – which as others have noted, is a catchall to mean whatever the powers-that-be choose it to mean. That’s a misdemeanor charge. Leave them after 8 pm, it’s a felony. Seriously.

  77. I lived in fear for months after someone called the police on me (8th grade son in car with 2 year old brother buckled in car seat for 20 minutes). I was so sure I had done nothing wrong and that the policeman would say the call was just a waste of his time. Boy was I wrong. The cop told me: 1. that my teenager could not sit in the car with a younger sibling until he had his own driver’s license (I had not left the keys in the car, if you’re wondering) 2. that he, the policeman, had the right to take my child away without telling me before I came out of the store, and 3. took all my children’s names and ages (the two in the car, and the four who accompanied me into the store) and said that he was reporting me to CPS. The man who made the call stood there listening with his arms crossed and a sour look on his face.
    I had always felt that I was a very good mother with adequately fed and bathed, well-behaved children who were all very loved. From that day, I felt myself change. I often felt depressed or drifty (dwelling too much on what had happened and what might be coming). I was constantly looking at our home with the eyes of a social worker thinking “if they visit right now, will they note that pile of laundry or those dishes or that it is time for another shopping run.” I worried even more if any of my children got normal childhood cuts, scratches or bruises. What if CPS would visit today?!! Thank goodness we moved far, far away about 7months later without having had any unwelcome visitors. I felt like I could leave it all behind.
    While my story seems insignificant after Larry’s, it still felt like a lot of damage had been done to our life through the effects of that “do gooder’s” call. I used to have a better opinion of police thinking that their job was to protect good citizens. Now because of that experience, I (as well as my children who were with me that day) am somewhat paranoid of them.
    What arrogance of any person to turn another person in for not parenting by HIS (or HER) rules!

  78. Larry, I’m not an advocate of frivolous lawsuits either but not only would I go after CPS, I’d go after that nurse AND that neighbor of yours for defamation of character, libel, fraud, emotional damages, pain and suffering. This is just too reminiscent of Salem Witch Trials when anyone can make accusations and the accused are guilty until proven innocent.

    Case in point – Dragonwolf! Are you KIDDING me?! You have a record with CPS despite having NO children and never having EVER done anything to put a CHILD in danger?! Did your crackpot neighbor have the sense to feel stupid when she realized you’d been speaking to your dog?? I’d call the FBI and report that your neighbor has 50 bags of fertilizer in their shed and then when the terrorist threat squad shows up, blink your eyes, and say oops, my bad…

  79. The nature of my family business requires me to run countless errands and to many places that are not appropriate to bring 3 roudy kids (like to meet a potential client, inside warehouse for sale, etc). For times I have to leave them for more than just a few minutes, I have equipped my car with walkie talkies and a DVD player so that my kids, 6,4 and 1 can sit in their carseats watching a movie while I have a quick chat with someone (just outside the car) or run into a business to pay a bill or pick something up. I always lock the car and can see the car from the window of the business. This gives my two older kids the chance to be awesome big brothers to their baby sister. They’re always proud when I come back to the car and they’ve taken care of her needs (like picking up the sippy cup she threw). Getting to watch a DVD is also a fun perk since they don’t watch much TV. They know never to open the van door, and the windows are tinted, so unless someone is really snooping, they won’t even see them in there anyway!

    I am shocked at the number of people who think it is their business to call the cops on everyone they see.

  80. “I can’t leave my kid alone in a car because someone will call the cops” that’s a form of worst-first thinking, and is just as bad as thinking you can’t leave your kid in the car because they will either be snatched or be in some other mortal peril. ”

    It’s not a matter of worst-first thinking if you are involved with some institution that has told you *they will do exactly that,* or you’re living in a community where the authorities have publicly promoted that exact action. The likelihood of something happening that a significant number of people think is a good thing to do and their civic duty, or possibly even their “responsibility” as part of their job, is much greater than that of a freak abduction or violent occurrence that is rarely motivated, let alone risked.

  81. I wish we (all of the posters here) could all meet at a big parking lot one day and simultaneously walk away from our cars (with kids left safely inside) and watch from a distance while the do-gooders try to summon enough police to deal with us all!

    Then wouldn’t it be nice if the police began to discourage that kind of frivolous call.

  82. Larry, what did she mean when she said she was holding the baby “like a sack of potatoes”? Does that mean she had the baby suspended by its hair, dangling inches off the ground, or that he was cradled in her arms, just not like a china doll? I can understand the first being a problem, but seriously, having that happen because the child wasn’t being held gently enough? I completely agree with all the others who say you should take it and do whatever you can to cost that woman her job and license the way she cost you your child.

  83. Actually, a bit of googling will give you the definition of “substantial risk”:

    “Substantial risk of physical injury means that the parent, caregiver immediate family member, other person residing in the home, or the parent’s paramour has created a REAL AND SIGNIFICANT DANGER of physical injury which would likely cause disfigurement, death or impairment of physical health or loss or impairment of bodily functions.” (State of Illinois)

    http://www.state.il.us/dcfs/dcfswebresource/allegations/allegations2-07.htm

    Anyway, surely the arguement here is that leaving your child in the car for X minutes will not result in “disfigurement, death or imparement of health”.

    As a side note: a bit of wandering around in the Illinois DCFS website lead me here:

    http://www.state.il.us/dcfs/library/com_communications_zipcants.shtml

    It is a list of abuse allegations by zip code in Illinois. Interestingly the majority (BY FAR!!) of the incidents are north of Chicago, close, but not in the city… is this kind of reporting “infectious”? Are one or two or a handful of people doing the reporting?

  84. If your state has a law that says kids under the age of X can’t be left alone in a car, you should follow it. To complain about it is like complaining about the speed limit. The law is the law and if you break it, you risk the consequences. If you think the law is stupid, call your lawmakers.

    AZ doesn’t have a law like that, but it doesn’t matter. Its so hot here I wouldn’t leave anyone, of any age, in a car that didn’t have the AC running or windows down (and windows down only if it was less than 80 out). Anyone who does should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

  85. My two year old is a very light sleeper. After a long day he finally fell asleep in the car and when I got home I left him there. (nice day no threat of heat or cold). I live on two tree covered acres and can’t even see my neighbors. You can’t see the driveway from the road, much less the car or a kid in a car seat from the road and I can see the car from our big living room window. All this Is to say that when I told a friend I’d left him in the car to sleep she was mortified! Her eyes got big as saucers. She didn’t say anything but she didn’t approve. What nonsense.

    I have to comment on putting the kids in the car and then putting the cart away. I always do that and it’s not for them it’s for me. I love that moment of quite it gives me. People have given me dirty looks but that’s it – so far. I’m just waiting.

  86. I also find it interesting the people who complain about other people’s parenting. Many years ago I was visiting my cousin who had 2 young children (7 and 5). Those children were absolute beasts. They were, by far, the most unruly children I still have ever had the misfortune of interacting with in my life. And it was 100% because the parents didn’t parent; the kids responded to me when I disciplined them.

    I had been at my father’s house for the week before and his wife kept telling me horror stories about these kids kicking glass doors, breaking things, hanging off balconies while my cousin did nothing. I was sure she was exaggerating. My first day at my cousin’s we went shopping for a present because the kids were going to a birthday party. We went to a little toy store in the mall where the kids proceeded to race around the store until they knocked over this huge display, blocking the entrance to the store. While an employee and I tried to right the display, the kids took off in another direction and my cousin did nothing but stand in line ignoring them. The visit just got worse from there and I finally left 2 days earlier than planned because I couldn’t tolerate the kids any more.

    But one day my cousin comes home irate. Apparently she had been in a diner when a couple came in and asked to be seated by the window so that they could see out because their child was asleep in the car. She insisted that CPS should have been called and they should go to prison for life. I had witnessed her children wreck utter destruction in a store, throw remote controls at each other, terrorize the neighbors, break things and much more. She had a bright child going into Special Ed classes because she was such a behavior problem. The only fruit and vegetables I saw her children eat were given to them by me from my supply (and they craved them). And SHE was ranting about someone else’s parenting? Regardless of what I think about leaving a kid alone while you go into a restaurant, my cousin is really the last person on the planet who should be commenting on anyone’s parenting.

  87. Most states do not have a specific law against leaving children in a car. Nevertheless, people will still act as if such a law exists even where it doesn’t.

    Even the policeman who harrassed me in WA State wrongly accused me of breaking the law (saying my 8th grade son was two years too young to sit with my toddler in the car). Friends of ours checked for us afterward with the Chief of Police in our town who verified that what I had found on line was true – the part about needing to be 16 years old only applies when the motor of the car is running! If the car is not running, the law there only forbids leaving a child under 12 parked in front of a drinking establishment! It says nothing about a school, home, bank, cleaners or any other type of store!

  88. All of this is making me so sad, I wanted to post about a time when I saw a response that I think was done WELL.

    Summer day (but not blazing hot), small airport, big event going on at the airport. Lots of visitors coming and going, walking past all the parked cars. A couple arrives, and as they’re walking from their car to the main airfield, they notice an infant carseat in the back of a car, with a blanket completely covering it, and all the windows rolled up. Wife stays by the car, husband makes a note of the car info and goes to the airport office. They announce over the loudspeaker “Owner of a car with license plate blah-blah-blah with a blanket-covered carseat in the back, please report to your car immediately or come to the office and let us know that there is no child in the carseat. If we can’t determine that there is no baby in the carseat, we intend to break a window in 15 minutes”. (Given the weather, 15 mins was reasonable.) Repeat announcement five minutes later. Five minutes after that, car owners show up very embarrassed, with baby in stroller. They thank everyone involved for being concerned, and remove the blanket from the carseat so that it’s now clearly EMPTY. Loudspeaker announcement lets everyone know situation resolved. No police involvement, no property damage, no child in distress… no problem!!

  89. Donna, I have to agree. I find that the most self-righteous do-gooders are those with children who are monsters. My theory is they have to degrade what others do in some way to make them feel less like parenting failures themselves.

    Like many others, I have a lot more fear about people calling CPS than I do about my kid getting abducted. She’s outgoing and social, and I am teaching her as best I can to interact with other people without fear while also being aware of the world around her. I hate that the people who are really the biggest threat to her are those who claim to only want to make sure she’s “safe”.

  90. That link provided by Safe Kids was really helpful. Through it, I found the California code:

    (a) A parent, legal guardian, or other person responsible for a child who is 6 years of age
    or younger may not leave that child inside a motor vehicle without being subject to the
    supervision of a person who is 12 years of age or older, under either of the following
    circumstances:
    (1) Where there are conditions that present a significant risk to the child’s health or
    safety.
    (2) When the vehicle’s engine is running or the vehicle’s keys are in the ignition, or both.

    So in other words, this morning when I strapped BabyNonymous into her car seat and realized that she had dropped her pacifier in the house, it was just fine for me to do what I did: run back in the house and grab the pacifier. The keys weren’t in the ignition–I was holding them the whole time.

  91. This subject gets my dander up. WAY WAY up. My 4 yr old daughter started at preschool this past September and in the info packet they sent out at the end of the summer there was a letter with a message in big, bold font that it’s a law in Massachusetts that children are never to be left in a car alone, even for a second; that if a parent does this, it is considered neglect; that they are mandatory reporters and will call CPS on us for neglect if it happens.

    THERE IS NO SUCH LAW in Mass for ordinary citizens. For licensed care providers, yes, that is the law, but not if I want to leave my sleeping 2 yr old in the car in the suburban synagogue parking lot for 3 minutes on a cloudy, cool day.

    Nevertheless, I do leave my 2 yr old sleeping in the car because he’s really heavy, and it’s just easier not to have to juggle him AND a 4 yr old with all of her preschool detritus.

    But I worry every time I do it, because I have ALREADY had CPS called on me. I had a 7 year relationship with my therapist, but she wasn’t on my husband’s new health insurance when his employer switched plans, so I had to find someone new. I saw this new therapist once, and foolishly acted as though she were my old therapist: talking about my perceived failures and successes as a parent and asking for her help and advice. I told her about how I had “lost it” with my 7 yr old, and she called CPS on me that afternoon. What does CPS recommend when a parent is deemed “neglectful” and they are called to intervene? They recommend you find a therapist with whom you can talk about your perceived failures and successes as a parent and ask for advice!!!

    So, because I was doing what I ought to have been doing, I now have a “record” with CPS and have to look over my shoulder if I don’t want to lug my 35lb sleeping or screaming 2.5 yr old into my daughter’s school for the 3 minutes it takes to collect her and all her stuff.

    Pisses me off.

  92. AZGal – We’re not complaining about it in places where it is law. The problem comes where there isn’t a law, or the child is of age stated in the law, and the authorities are still called.

    It’s also about common sense. When it’s 80 here in Ohio, I wouldn’t leave my son in car for any length of time, either.

  93. I have seriously gotten dirty looks for leaving them in the car while I go to Red-Box in the 7-11 parking lot.

    I love the actual Washington Law, you can’t leave your kid in a non-running car if they are under 12 while you run in the tavern/bar.

  94. @ Elissa

    I just wanted to say thank you!

    The link you provided is great! I’m headed to Hawaii this winter with my daughter, and it was good to know that our usual pattern here (in Canada) won’t have to change. She is well over thier limit of 14yo, and so I can abandon her anywhere😉

    (I joke about “abandoning”, but I do leave her to shop on her own often, in cities that I know she can handle herself in, and I’m happy to see that once we are both comfortable and decide that it is safe in the area we will be staying in that she will be able to go off on her own).

    As you say: Know the law. Then DECIDE if you are willing to break it or not. There is no excuse of “not knowing” in court or with CPS.

  95. But that poster “said” that WA had a law…which leads to misinformed adults and police. It didn’t say on the poster “only at a tavern is it a crime”.

    That said, today I left my three kids 6-11 in the car a few times when I went in stores to get fever reducer (which I had to go back because it had been tampered with) and to get the anti-biotics for my son’s strep throat. Really, I figure I was doing everyone a favor, because he even at 8, still puts his hands on everything.

    The worst thing that happened? They spilled soda on the back seat and had to sit in it the rest of the way home. (Usually we have water bottles, but didn’t expect to spend so LONG in the “Immediate Care” that was anything but!)

  96. I am a little confused about the mechanics of the story. How was the baby locked in a heated (and running) car, and the mother was able to get back inside? I ask this question from experience. I did the same thing years ago … Except it was Florida and air conditioning. Did you know that when you keep the car running and locked, only taking your remote keyless entry with you into the store, the remote keyless entry becomes disabled? Neither did I. My then six month old daughter was trapped in the air conditioned car, and I couldn’t get in. I had to call the police to get into the car and get my baby. They took my name, but luckily no agency followed up.

  97. Rachel — it doesn’t say the car was running. I don’t know what she meant by “heated” — maybe just that the car was still warm.

    Or maybe she had two metal keys.

  98. When my oldest daughter (now 16) was less than a year old, I left her in the car while I went in to pay for the gas I’d just pumped. She had just fallen asleep and it would’ve been Cranky Baby City if I’d tried to get her untangled from a mess of straps and buckles. I started the car (having moved it away from the pumps) to keep the AC running and took what I had THOUGHT to be the spare key from my glove box, locking the doors before going in to pay. Imagine my total dismay when I tried to unlock the door and realized I gotten the wrong key. Nothing to do then but call the cops to unlock it and dread the lecture I knew I’d be getting.

    About 10 minutes later the police showed up and the officer approached with slim jim in hand. He had a warning for me all right–“If I use this on your door, the electronic locks might be damaged permanently.” Not ONE WORD about having locked the baby in the car! In fact, he seemed understanding (and somewhat amused) about the whole thing and left with a smiling, “Be more careful next time!”

    Where has common sense like this gone?

  99. It’s all about common sense right? There’s leaving your kid in the car and then there is leaving your kid in the car. I think that there has to be some kind of rule though or some way to hold some parents accountable. my husband is a medic and he has broken into so many cars because Mom/Dad has left a sleeping baby in the car on a hot summer day. One mom was pissed because he broke the new car window and really she was only gone for 20 minutes?? !! Or how about the stories of folks leaving their kids in the car while they run into the bar to grab a quick drink? I leave my 9 and 6 yo in the car when i get gas, pick up the pizza and yes even when I return the grocery cart. There is free range and then there is just negligence.

  100. I don’t have kids of my own so I haven’t had this yet, but my mom used to leave my sister and I in the car all the time. In fact we used to ask for it because waiting in line was boring.

  101. […] Beware the Vultures Readers: This is a topic we have visited before, but it continues to grow as an “issue.” Today in my inbox I got this […] […]

  102. Erica, in WA, the law states that you cannot leave your child in a parked car in front of a tavern. So, no, no going in for a quick nip.

    Back in the day when I only used cash, I would leave the kids in the car when I went to pay for gas. To me, it is just plain stupid to take the kids out of the car for that. Then, I moved to nanny state CA, and decided that until the kids look 12, to use the credit card instead and pay the fees.

    Now that the youngest is 6, and the oldest is approaching babysitting age, I do not feel that the same conditions need apply as for babies in car seats. Because they are NOT babies any more, and sometimes, it is better that they do something educational, like read the books we just got from the library than it is to go get a gallon of milk with me. But, according to these laws, like in CA, I need to treat them like babies.

    And I would be surely pissed like the other Washingtonian who had the responsible 14 year old in the car with the toddler and the police harassing me when I was certainly following the law, and leaving a responsible person in charge. Shoot, had the kid been from Montana, and 14.5, he may have even had his drivers permit! But in WA, he can’t sit in the car with a toddler.

  103. I’d be willing to bet that 90% of the time this kind of thing happens, it is because somebody who doesn’t usually transport the baby for some reason has them on that day, and they forget about it, like the lady in the article going to work. Not that they go into a store intending to be very quick and get caught up or distracted. If I were to leave my baby in the car while I ran in somewhere, I highly doubt I would forget her, since I would be thinking constantly: “gotta hurry, baby’s in the car”. On the other hand, on days when her father has to take her somewhere for some reason without me, he gets several calls checking up.

  104. I actually have done this for the entire school year thus far… I leave my 2 year old in the heated van with tinted windows while I walk my 5 year old into the school yard which is about the same distance as this story. My toddler also suffers from ear infections, and living in northern Canada, it can sometimes be -40 in the mornings, so leaving her in the van is the best thing for her, rather than lugging her on this stupid morning hike. Like the story above, van locked, windows tinted and toddler is safe. She is so used to it, she doesn’t cry and knows I’ll be back in the van in about 3 minutes…. MY GOD, the world has gotten so crazy.

  105. I’m with Lori. I live in New York City, don’t have a car, almost never drive my kids anywhere, and don’t have a strong view about when exactly it is or isn’t safe to leave a nine-month-old unattended in a car for a short while. I do find it ironic, though, that anyone could consider it more “free-range” to lock a baby in a car, strapped into a car seat, than to take the baby inside with you. It’s certainly the exact opposite of what I think makes for a “free-range” chicken, and it doesn’t foster the baby’s independence or benefit the baby in any way.

  106. This winter my 5 year old was sick and I needed to make a quick run into the store to pick up her Rx and some soup for her. It was a sunny day but very cold. I decided to put a sheet of paper under my windshield wiper and wrote “My daughter is sick and should not be out in the weather or around other people. The car is locked and today’s weather causes no danger to her in the car. If you are concerned please call my cell phone.” And I put my number on it. When I returned I asked her if she’d seen anyone reading the “notice”. She hadn’t. I think that this, like the free range permission slip, is a way of acknowledging and hopefully quelling other people’s concerns. A little girl was forgotten in a car parallel parked on my street
    a block from my house in a heavily travelled, by both pedestrian and vehicle, downtown neighborhood last year. In that case a 911 call would have saved her life, and knowing the number of people who must have passed that car, and my own geographical proximity to the tragedy, haunted me. So I think leaving a note lets people know you know your kid is there, and curbs any alarmist thoughts. I want other people looking out for my kids. It’s part of what makes Free Range work. I just think we all need a little help in the common sense department in these overprotective, overreactive times.

  107. Larry, I can’t believe they kept your child from you until he was 9 months old. What kind of society do we live in where the government can just step in and TAKE someone’s child for basically no reason. The mother child bond is almost sacred and that first year of life is so precious and important. I just don’t know what I would have done if I was in your shoes. My first instinct would have definitely been to outright refuse to hand her over, but I’m sure they would just end up physically restraining me.

    I know it will never make up for the time you missed with your son, but I agree with others that say you need to sue the pants off of somebody (and I am generally not in favor of over-litigation, but if there ever was a case where “pain and suffering” were not just buzz words, this is it)

  108. My girlfriend was in a similar situation at her kid’s daycare. Her kids are at separate daycare since there is no space for siblings at either center so she has to drag both kids in, to do drop off #1, and the same when it’s pick up for kid #2. He oldest is 2.5 yo and is going through his terrible 2’s. A few times he has run off on her and into the parking lot and nearly been hit by a car (the parking lot is only for the daycare so it would be only other parents in the parking lot). He youngest is 18 months so as she struggles with him, the older one takes off, or vice versa. She started to leave the younger one in the car while she got the older one. She was reported to child services and because she did it repetitively, she is currently in the courts, fighting a charge of child endangerment. So the message I’m getting here is: It’s better to let one child get hit by a car than to leave a child in a locked car for less than 5 minutes on a cool spring day.

    On another note, it’s against the law in my province to smoke in a car with a child in it (YAY!!!). This is one law to protect children that I fully support. A few times I have reported it to the local police station (or on their website) and I’m always told that I will be called in to make a formal statement should anything further come of this. Nothing ever has. Pretty sad that we police parents who are looking out for the safety of their children (running in front of a car) but not ones who are endangering the health of their children (smoking in the car).

  109. @ Emiky
    These tragic stories “always” happen. Always? Is this an epidemic? Lets be rational. They are tragedies, true, but they don’t “always” happen. In fact, they are the extreme minority. Don’t perpetuate paranoid stereotypes.

  110. Where I live the law is that you can’t leave a child in the car period. I do it only on a very rare occasion & I’ve always been able to see the car & never when it’s warm. The law should be written differently. Am I in violation when I get gas? Should I hold an infant in my arms while I go inside to pay & then fill my tank? Parents should be allowed to use some discresion & common sense. Luckily with my car seat you can’t always see & I have tinted windows. I have never been harassed luckily. It’s ironic that years ago durring the war when women had to work many left their babies & children in their car while they worked a night shift.

  111. I was allowed to stay alone in the car starting when I was about ten or 11. I think it’s ridiculous that 20 years later, that could be considered a crime.

  112. My parents used to leave me in the car alone (or with my younger sibs) all the time.

    These days, how old is old enough to stay in the car alone?

  113. Larry- Your story, and others like it, is what I worry about. When I mention this, people tell me CPS doesn’t have the time to deal with such minor things, and always say that there must be something else going on. BULLSHIT. All it takes is ONE CPS worker that doesn’t like the way you do things to make life hell.And they take kids only to put them in worse places? Like we all haven’t heard about the messes in foster care.

    I have see this IRL, and want to add, if you are on certain PERSCRIPTION drugs, CPS can snatch your babe too. They are not suppose to, there is nothing illegal about it, but it happens. Another girl that goes to the same doc as me had this happen- we had our kids a few weeks apart, but hers was stolen (and yes, I feel this is legal kidnapping) and she STILL hasn’t gotten them back. VERY scary- and totally unjust.

    CPS should be worried about serious abuse, not little shit. Sadly, I am in the USA again, but if I have these problems I will be going back to Mexico ASAP. I hope these stories are the exception not the rule.

    And I leave my babe in the car a lot. I just don’t see the sound and fury over this, no one has any common sense left.

  114. Controversial momma- sorry, you are still a NOSY BUSY BODY who needs to get a LIFE! Reporting people for smoking in their own car because a kids in there- come on.

    Stupid enough there’s a law, but worse that people like you take it upon yourself to be the reporters. Let the cops do their jobs, and MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS.

    You gonna start reporting parents for buying happy meals too???? I’m sure this is as bad as 2nd hand smoke. Do you call when people smoke in their homes too? what’s so special about a car?

    Just because you don’t like smoking doesn’t mean you have the right to interfere with parents rights.

    I hate cigarettes, but I HATE SMOKING POLICE EVEN MORE!!! Its still legal to smoke, back off!

  115. These comments are convincing me that perhaps Mexico won’t be too bad a place to raise my future hypothetical kids.

    At least in Mexico, people let you raise your own freaking children.

    By the way…screw the police. I’ve lost all respect for them after being LITERALLY stalked (driving with a brown person is apparently suspicious behavior) and after hearing so many stories of them coming up with bullsh*** laws that are based on their own power-plays.(I even have my own, where the time that my fiance and I were allowed to be in the park at night (we’re in our 20’s) changed depending on what a*shat officer felt the need to heft his sweaty bulk over. We found out later that our city ordinance allows for people to stay well into the night, so long as we don’t camp out there.

    You can’t even be free-range as an adult anymore.

    I will believe a good cop when I see him (or her). Still searching…

  116. We used to beg to stay in the car while our mom ran errands! We each brought a book, or had our homework, and did it while we waited. Beats the hell out of waiting in a bank line. Plus the HW and errands got done at the same time.

    I like the idea of leaving a note for busybodies in the window. Maybe instead of the Baby On Board signs someone could print one of those up. “I am running errands in this shopping center and prefer to leave my children in the car for X reasons. I should return by X:XX time. Thank you for your concern, I can be reached at XXX-XXXX.”

  117. My folks used to leave us in the car all the time. I can remember at least twice when we got out, and twice more when we got the car into neutral and rolled backwards down small hills & onto roads (fortunately we lived in a small town, so not much traffic…but we did hit a tree hard enough to damage the bumper. I think they stopped leaving us after that.

    So I don’t do it. And since I know it doesn’t take much heat to overheat a closed car, and not much cold to chill, I will leave my energetic toddler alone in the vehicle to return the shopping cart or load the groceries onto the front porch (I’m walking around outside the car, not going into a building)…and that’s it. Call me paranoid if you want, but it’s not that big a deal to take him with me.

    As for would I call — in bad weather, I might, but I’d wait, too. I don’t live in the States but in my country it’s pretty hard for Child and Family Services to remove kids from families. They may not always get it right but you can bet there’s more than one side to every story.

  118. Becca – the sleeping thing is an issue. What about those times you have to pop in somewhere for something and your overtired little one has FINALLY fallen asleep in the car? And you know once you’ve woken up, that’s the chance of a rest for them gone for hours, because for some reason they’ll never settle again soon if woken. I’ve certainly been there.

  119. Larry, thank you for sharing your story. I’m heartsick for you and your family. I wish you all the strength you need to get through the nightmare.

    Are you going to sue? Would you like to but can’t afford it? Maybe we could set up a fund for cause and all chip in some money. Please keep us posted.

    People, we’ve got to seriously start thinking in terms of activism here. Letters to lawmakers, letters to the Safety Council pointing out that telling people to call 911 may very likely do more harm than good. Someone had the idea of a leave your child in the car and walk away demo. What else? We should start brainstorming ideas.

  120. In my first comment for this post I wrote it’s time to shame the shamers, and so:

    @Controversial momma — Did my eyes deceive me? Are you coming here and saying you have reported to THE POLICE people you have seen smoking in a car with children inside?

    Have you not read the stories here about how such actions have RUINED PEOPLE’S LIVES. You are playing with fire with your “helpful” little heads-up to the police. I hope you suffer many many sleepless nights when you acknowledge that because of YOU someone’s may have their CHILD TAKEN AWAY FROM THEM.

  121. “Leaving our kids alone in the car doesn’t help foster their independance, build communities or teach them a valuable lesson — especially when they’re locked in car seats. It’s just a convenience for us, as parents”.

    My take:

    Independence in kids (or anyone for that matter, isn’t it what the word means, after all?) can more or less only be fostered by being alone.

    Build communities — if this topic was boiled down to one single issue, it would be — Community — as in, Lack of. As many have pointed out in their comments, assuming the “concerned citizens” in these tales were actually really concerned, they are missing an excellent opportunity for community building by not saying things like: “You run the other child inside, I’ll keep an eye on this one”. The message, I’d like to help you out, rather than, I’d like to call the police on you is, is a great way to build community.

    Teach them a valuable lesson: See point one and two.

    Convenience for us — now you’re talking. The free range gang I know and love from this website, well, we love us a little convenience, and can’t get our heads around why anyone would think that a bad thing.

  122. The thing that is often overlooked about treating parents like this (because “the safety of children must come first”), is that treating parents like this is not good for CHILDREN. Nervous, confused, stressed and cowered parents are not good for children. The interests of parents and children are not separate.

  123. cowed not “cowered”

  124. @ Lori and David – I’m not sure you’ve been reading this blog too closely. You are simply focusing on one of several reasons that we all think the movement is important and ignoring the basic premise. The free range movement is about fighting the overriding fear in society that the world is a dangerous place so children need to be supervised by an adult every second of every day. It is about society being able to access the legitimate risks and act accordingly. Yes, one reason may of us support the free range movement is because it fosters independence but that is a result of living free range and not the heart if the movement.

    Clearly, leaving a 9 month old in a car fits with the free range movement. A child, regardless of age, is virtually 100% safe in a car in a daycare parking lot for 45 seconds. So parents should be able to leave them there if they chose. The “concerned citizens” need to evaluate the true risk and not jump to the conclusion that a baby left alone for 1 second is in mortal danger.

    And there is a benefit to the child. It may not foster independence in an infant (although clearly does in an older child) but not being able to stay in the comfortable car rather than being lugged out in the heat or cold is a benefit.

    Further, even if it had absolutely no benefit to the child, fostering independence is only one of many reasons behind the free range movement. Another is taking the handcuffs off parents and letting them make reasonable choices for their children without society’s interference. And another is to make parenting less stressful and less of a chore and more enjoyable. I don’t mean that we abdicate our role as parents but that it’s okay to consider ourselves and our convenience. That we as rational, intelligent adults can say “There is no risk to leaving my baby in the car here for 45 seconds and it is more convenient so I’m going to leave him” without the parent’s-interests-are-meaningless-and-must-be-subjugated-to-children-every-second patrol interfering.

  125. Donna That was an outstanding post, I couldn’t have done it better myself.

    I appreciate all of the replies, I wasn’t sure such a long post would’ve been welcome.

    The thing is, everyone I’ve spoken to tells me I have no basis for a suit–apparently none of the accusations are considered “malicious” etc. ;That’s a main gripe I have with society–the seemingly unlimited power of persecution snitches & tattle-tales have. It’s disgusting.

    At this point my focus is on our filing we’ve done to bring our girl home. But it shouldn’t cost us $2500.

    LRH
    LG Optimus V (Android)

  126. I’ve read Lenore’s book and have read this site avidly since I learned about it. I’m certainly not an expert, by any means. I’ve commented before on this site that I’m just dipping my toes into the free-range waters as my kids are still young. As a parent whose first instinct is to be overprotective, I have to conciously force myself to give my kids the independance they deserve. And doing that is hard for me, but I’m trying. I understand what folks are saying when it comes to this issue — and I agree with many of you. I just don’t think the negative associations among many people when it comes to leaving kids alone in cars makes it worth pursuing as a free-range ideal, in my opinion. I’d much rather see parents writing about how they let their child go into the grocery and buy milk on their own, while they waited in the car, if that makes sense.

  127. “I just don’t think the negative associations among many people when it comes to leaving kids alone in cars makes it worth pursuing as a free-range ideal”

    I don’t think we should say that it’s okay for “concerned citizens” to stick their noses in this situation but not in others. How does that argument play out? It’s okay for you to force me into your belief that my child is unsafe in a car for 45 seconds but not your belief that it’s unsafe for my 9 year old to walk to school (a more dangerous activity in the grand scheme of danger although neither are particularly dangerous).

    There are negative associations to letting children out of your sight as well as leaving children in a car. Adam Walsh may be a fluke but it was still an example of a child who was allowed to play by himself in the toy section of a store a few feet from his mother and was abducted and murdered. If we let the fact that there are some negative associations related to a practice rule the day, we’re stuck with helicoptering our children (and dealing with the negative associations of helicoptering which I guess means we simply have no children).

    The fact is that the more ingrained in society that these “rules” of parenting become, the more difficult it is going to be to break them. More kids will be held hostage to helicopter parenting. More parents will be prosecuted and/or have their children removed for perfectly safe behavior. Society will become more ingrained in the belief that there are no accidents and everything that goes wrong must be a result of a criminal act (spend some time in criminal court and you will see this clearly and it’s filling our prisons beyond capacity and releasing people who need to be in prison). While in the grand scheme of life this is a small issue and does seem somewhat silly to fight, it’s a symptom of a much bigger problem.

  128. I hate how nosy people are these days. Once when I was out running errands, I had to go mail a package at the post office real quick, but my 2 year old fell asleep in the car before we got there. So I had a huge debate at the post office…run in, mail the package while leaving him in the car? Wake him up and try to mail the package with a screaming toddler? Or just give it up all together? I ran in real quick to see if there was a line…there was, so I gave up. Not because I was afraid something might happen to him, but because I was afraid someone would see him in the car and call the cops.
    I ended up just giving my husband the package and asking him to mail it while he was at work the next day.

  129. Uly makes a very important and pertinent point – there is a huge difference in the situations between leaving a child in the car intentionally, and forgetting a child in the car accidentally. One can assume that a parent leaving a child in a car intentionally has used their judgement to determine whether or not it is safe.

    The conundrum is, of course, that a passerby doesn’t know how long the child has been in the car, when the adult intends to be back, and whether or not the adult has forgotten about the child.

    If I thought a child had been forgotten in a car and is running a reasonable risk of hyperthermia, I would call emergency services (I do not think that any child left in a car is running a reasonable risk of being abducted or whatever). Of course, there are criteria to consider first.

    If the car is in direct sunlight andon a very hot day, and with all the windows up, and the child appears to be either unconscious, distressed, or very hot, yeah, I’d call 000 (or hell, even smash the window myself if I thought things were really dire).

    If the child looks like it is old enough to get out of the car if it needs to, no. If the car is not in direct sunlight, or the day is not extremely hot, or there’s a window down, or I’ve just seen the parent leave, or if I can communicate to the child and they say they’re ok or that mum will just be a sec, no.

    Seriously though, I could not live with myself if I did see a child trapped in a hot car and did nothing. I can think of worse ways to die than being slowly baked to death, but not many.

    @ Tuppence and staceyjw – Smoking in a car with the windows up and a child in the car is not on. It’s not the same as smoking in a house, or standing next to them and smoking outside. They’re trapped in a small, barely-ventilated room with the source of the smoke. That’s pretty much an absolute worst case scenario for second hand smoke.

    Here is a scientific paper on the second hand smoke effects on children in cars:

    http://www.ersj.org.uk/content/34/3/629.full.pdf

    And here is a flyer thing from my home state from when smoking with a child in the car became illegal.

    http://www.mhcs.health.nsw.gov.au/publication_pdfs/8545/DOH-8545-ENG.pdf

    You’ll note that the penalty is a fine, not “we’ll take your kids away”. There are quite a few places in the world where smoking with a child in the car is, yes, illegal.

  130. Also, Tuppence, every time the cops respond to something like that, you’re running the risk (how big this risk is depends on your area) that they’re NOT responding to something a little more, well, important.

    Let’s save the emergency line for the actual emergencies (and CPS for situations where children really need to be protected).

  131. I found an article on a website called popehat.com that says:

    According to the CIA World Factbook, the United States has an estimated population of 307,212,123, and a birth rate of 13.83 per 1,000 people. That means, roughly, that 4,248,744 children are born each year. Out of those children, as well as those born earlier, “up to” 77 will choke to death on a hot dog.

    The actual odds that your child will choke to death on a hot dog are therefore, roughly, one in 181,230.

    So, should you never let a child “eat alone?”

    You might want to carry those stats with you and whip them out the next time anybody calls you done for leaving your child alone for a few minutes in a car.

  132. It is stories like this that make me glad about our decision to get tinted windows on our car. We got them for just this reason – so we could leave the kids in the back but it would be difficult for people to notice that we were doing just that!

  133. “I just don’t think the negative associations among many people when it comes to leaving kids alone in cars makes it worth pursuing as a free-range ideal”

    Donna said it very well. You could say that about anything, if you let the people who are already anti-Free Range define “bad associations.”

    “Pursuing as a free-range ideal?” No, not exactly — that makes it sound much more grandiose and proactive than it is. I don’t think Lenore or anyone else is trying to get people to leave kids in the car more, if they weren’t otherwise inclined to, as though the point is for kids to spend time alone in the car, and kids who didn’t sit alone in the car were somehow being deprived of something essential. The point is for other people to stop being stupid about what constitutes a “danger,” and for those who might have a desire to do so in appropriate situations, to realize that there’s nothing to fear in doing it (provided you’re not in one of those situations where losing your parental rights over it is a known risk.)

  134. Just in case no one else has posted it:

    http://tinyurl.com/celr3l

    This is a story from the WaPO on how parents accidentally leave their kids in cars. It’s very rare but its an absolutely gut-wrenching read. I was able to get through it once; can’t read it again.

    Long story short: our memories are not well-designed. It is very easy for people to forget about a kid in the back seat when they’re tired or distracted or out of their routine.

  135. @ Larry- I am so sorry you have had to deal with this.

    When I read about your neighbor calling about the baby’s head “flopping” I gasped. Not because the baby’s head flopped but because I had a busy body (without kids of her own) reprimand me for not supporting my infant daughter’s head when I lifted her out of her baby seat.

    My response: “After going through labor and delivery, I realized her head will not fall off if her neck bends back a bit”…thankfully she didn’t call CPS on me

    She did however try to hire my caregiver away from me by offing her more money…witch

  136. This issue and Free Range will always belong together in my mind. It is the only reason I found this website in the first place! Over a year ago when I was feeling so low and alone after my encounter with the do-gooder and the CPS-reporting policeman in the grocery store parking lot, I did an internet search to see if there was anyone else out there on my side. It led me here, and I found friends! I don’t believe there is any other place to find support for parents who have faced this type of harrassment.

  137. I had an idea…..wouldn’t it be great if we could get bumper stickers or car magnets through this website with messages that resonate with Free Range parents. I don’t know, something like “No grown up tattlers” or “Life has risks” or some better ideas others can come up with. Then we could all order some for ourselves plus extras to hand out to people who like ours.

  138. antsy I like that idea very much. Maybe a good one could read “raise your kids, not mine.” Or one like “you can raise my kids when you pay for their food & daycare.”

    LRH
    LG Optimus V, Android 2.2, Virgin Mobile

  139. I have had CPS called on me. I stayed in my car with a sleeping infant while my two older kids (aged 4 and 6) played at a park in my line of site. A concerned “friend” thought this constituted neglect and so called CPS. Unlike others here, though, we actually had a positive encounter with the agency. The CPS worker interviewed both my husband and I, took a look at our home, and even had a professional come and interview our kids. Clearly we aren’t criminally neglectful parents, and the worker expressed her angst at responding to calls like these. She said that roughly 80% of all reports she investigates are just people not liking other people’s parenting styles. Anyhow, I think one reason our experience wasn’t so bad is that we were very kind and respectful to the CPS worker. We had to beat down our inner hostility towards The Man (is the CPS system) to be that polite, but it paid off. I think if we’d been at all angry or aggressive towards her (even if not directly hostile), our story might have been different. It would have set off the worker’s inner radar detector and made her see us differently. Right now I’m debating whether or not to have our record expunged. You can do that if they find you innocent. Is it better to have no record with them at all? Or is it better to prove you’ve been exonerated (perhaps if the same “friend” chooses to report you later)?

  140. I recently left my 2 month old baby in the car while checking the mail. I parked directly in front of the mailboxes, and was away from the car for literally less than 30 seconds. Another woman was also getting her mail, and gave me a dirty look and said, “You know, it only takes a few moments for someone to break a window snatch a baby.” I didn’t even respond. People are so fearful and paranoid! Did she really think someone would be lurking in a large parking lot, in broad daylight, in full view of several apartment buildings and the main office of the complex, just waiting to steal a baby?

  141. “You’ll note that the penalty is a fine, not “we’ll take your kids away”.

    There is no crime for which the actual penalty is “we’ll take your kids away.” That’s something that happens at the discretion of the authorities, if they think your behavior is horrific enough to warrant it. It can be the result of any infraction, or no real infraction (cf. Larry’s story above) if someone with the power to do it decides you’re a “danger.” So calling the cops in such a situation could well result in the kid being taken away.

    And the point isn’t whether smoking with a child in the car is good, bad, harmless, or something else, the point is that some things are not appropriate things for outsiders to meddle in, law or no law.

  142. “You know, it only takes a few moments for someone to break a window snatch a baby.”

    To which the appropriate response is, “The only person close enough to my car right now to do that in a few seconds is YOU. Is this a cry for help?”

  143. Another sticker/magnet slogan idea “Stop Meddling!”

  144. I go back to an earlier revelation: WHO wants to risk jail time for the privilege of taking care of my high-maintenance, incontinent, crabby, stinky, snotty, noisy, hungry baby/tot who isn’t going to like them anyway? Extra points if they are ambitious enough to steal BOTH of my brats at the same time!

    Or maybe we should answer, “don’t worry, I have taught my children to bite!!”

    Easy for me to joke, as I haven’t been reported yet. Truth is, I do hightail it back to my car ASAP lest some busybody report me. And we recently switched to boosters, which my kids can unbuckle – convenient, but with preschoolers who have a mind of their own, I hesitate to trust them 100% not to sneak into the front seat and touch the controls. But that’s my personal choice.

  145. “And the point isn’t whether smoking with a child in the car is good, bad, harmless, or something else, the point is that some things are not appropriate things for outsiders to meddle in, law or no law.”

    I agree. You don’t have to like what the other parent is doing. I, who grew up in a house with smokers, can rant all day about the awfulness of smoking around children. It still makes me ill to think of being in a car with smokers. That said, it’s not my business if other people choose to raise their children that way. I can tell caretakers of MY CHILD not to smoke with her in the car. As for other children, I can roll my eyes, feel sorry for the child, want to shove the cigarettes down the throat of the parent, rant to my friends and family, but I don’t need to call the police or CPS. It’s a parenting call that is none of my business.

    It seems like society used to be better at determining a time to interfere and a difference of opinion on how to parent. We used to be better at rolling our eyes when we saw someone parenting in a way that we didn’t agree with and then moving on with our lives. Many now seem to take the stance of “if you don’t do it my way, you are doing it wrong and I must force you to do it my way.”

  146. Again Donna–right on. People really do need to mind their own business.

    There can be payback though, this is funny–last Friday I was with family, one of them has a tendency to be judgmental. She got hers though–she tried to take him to the bathroom when he had to go & stupidly tried to pick him up & carry him vs letting him walk (thinking “he’s too young for that”–at age 2!) and he showed her what he thought of that.

    He peed on her! Ha ha!

    That’s my boy!

    LRH
    Blackberry Bold 9000

  147. Mike, I’m not sure it’s quite as rare as that. Oh, that a kid dies, yes, that’s pretty rare, thankfully. But that people forget their kids…? I don’t think so. The first time I ever read that article and saw it posted, there were a number of replies to it going ‘I forgot my kid in the car/high chair/crib/daycare once, but luckily nothing bad happened”.

    Actually, quite a few of them were forgetting the kid in the car, but the parent (or, in a few cases, older child) remembered before the kid had TIME to die of exposure.

    And then of course there’s the people who routinely forget they don’t have the kid that day. Man, it happens to everybody. (Heck, last week I forgot whether or not one of my nieces had put on pants before going to school! I spent the day worrying about it, because once the thought was in my head it WOULD not leave.)

    Sera, yes, obviously if you think a child is actually at risk of dying, please, do what you have to do. Use your best judgment. But if the kid clearly is NOT at risk, don’t stand around criticizing the driver when they return ten seconds later.

  148. At a new years party this year, my 2 1/2 year old daughter was really overwhelmed with all of the family ( and the football on TV) who were at her Nana’s house. Desperately needing a nap, Nana and I finally caved (I almost never use the car as a means of putting her to sleep – bad habits formed that way…) and strapped her in her car seat and took a drive… worked like a charm, my kid fell asleep. Upon returning to Nana’s house, in the country on 10 acres with only family and close friends with us, I left my little girl in the car to nap in peace. It was cold, so I put a blanket on her, kept the window open so that I could see in from the house. Numerous well meaning hyper paranoid grandmothers, most of whom weren’t related to her, fussed at me for not taking care of her. I finally caved and went out and checked – she was warm and still sleeping happily. So, I left her there. I told them all that she was fine, she was warm and most importantly, she was asleep. She has a bad track record for staying asleep when brought in from the car and I knew that coming back into the very noisy house would not work. In the end, she got her nap, I stood my ground and the grandma’s all got a lesson in chilling the blink out.

  149. I get that some people forget their kids, but the implication is that every child in a car alone has been forgotten or intentionally neglected.

    Personally, I am a single mom and I pretty much go nowhere (aside from occasional business meetings) without my kids. I actually feel very weird when I’ve gone somewhere without them. Aside from the fact that they, being of sound mind and vocal chord, would not let me forget them in the backseat! I venture to say that the vast majority of kids left in cars alone are NOT forgotten and in fact are very much on their parent’s mind the entire time they are separated. Yes, there are rare exceptions.

    So assuming I give people the benefit of the doubt that they are actually terrified for a peaceful kid left in a car for a few minutes (as far as they know) on a mild day. Would these same people dial 9-1-1 if they saw my kids walking through the parking lot within yards of moving vehicles? (I generally let them walk on their own but ask them to stay close to me in parking lots, which they don’t always exactly do.)

    Will that be the next thing we have to worry about? “Hello 911, there is a child walking around without anyone holding her hand . . . she looks about 4 years old . . . can you please send a unit ASAP? And after that, will folks be calling 9-1-1 on unattended kids in bathrooms? The logic is the same. After all, bad stuff has been known to happen in parking lots and bathrooms.

  150. “The first time I ever read that article and saw it posted, there were a number of replies to it going ‘I forgot my kid in the car/high chair/crib/daycare once, but luckily nothing bad happened”.

    Yep, I did it once, right outside my own back door, with the car parked on the street. I can’t even remember just what the usual routine was then, but that day I had my hands full and so I decided to leave toddler in car seat and then go back and get her after I’d unloaded. That in itself would get the crazies after me, I know, because you’re always supposed to take the KID in and leave the STUFF outside — but kid was sleeping and the street outside my back door at the time was perfectly safe. I remembered maybe 20 minutes later when I walked past her bedroom door and realized it was open — if child was quiet and not in view and not in her crib with the door shut — OMIGOSH SHE’S STILL IN THE CAR!!!! It wasn’t a particularly hot day and I think I’d even left the side door of the van open, so there was no danger at all, except to my mental state.

  151. This poor mum, I would be requesting an apology from the Police Department on the handling of that incident in the school parking lot.
    I feel for her, i have done this many times when the weather was awful and you had a sleeping baby.
    To be hunilated like that at your childs school is unforgiveable. She’s right the other parent’s probably thought she had been dealing crack. Who is that police department let me send them a letter or two, have they nothing better to do?

    Seriously.

  152. I frequently leave the kids in the car parked in our driveway while I run upstairs (one flight up) to get something out of our apartment. If the weather is warm, I’ll leave the windows open. I’m never gone more than a minute. I always wonder if someone is going to call CPS on me.

  153. Thank g-d for tinted rear windows is all I can say. I leave my kids in the car all the time. They are older now, but even when they were younger. This letter really bothers me. And again — more grunt work and aggravation for the poor parent who has to shlep the reluctant/heavy/sick/sleeping kids.

    How did the cop even know you had done this??Very disturbing.

  154. […] on this one:  the peer pressure is monumental.  Whether it’s “Back to Sleep” or leaving a baby for thirty seconds, oh how withering is the judgment of others, and oh boy how generously they will heap it upon […]

  155. OMG they actually did it here in Utah– they passed SB124 and it’s gone to the Governor’s desk last week. It says you can’t leave a child under 9 in the car with the engine running or the keys in the car. There’s no exception for if it’s hot and the engine needs to be running to keep the A/C on. I just sent the governor an email begging him to veto it. Please, if you live in Utah, do the same!

  156. At a local MOPS gathering, we were just talking about your website, which led to a discussion on how often we do things because we are worried what other people will think of us, instead of because we actually think it is safe or unsafe for our kids. This led to a discussion about leaving kids in the car. Obviously, we shouldn’t leave a child in a running unlocked car…or a hot car that doesn’t have air-conditioning. There’s common sense to these things.

    But when I lived in North Dakota, we had SUB ZERO and I do mean SUB ZERO temps. If I went up town to get mail from the post office with my daughter, I would have to get her out of the car in the cold, cold wind, somehow get her coat on her (since it is also a parental no-no to put a baby in the car seat in a coat)…by then, she would be chilled to the bone for the quick walk to to door. It made no sense. How much more sense would it have made to lock the running car with the baby inside, rush inside and get the mail and rush back. But I never did. Because I always worried what someone would think of me. Sometimes we do MORE dangerous things because we are afraid what others will think of us.

  157. Tdr, I am also thankful for tinted windows. When I lived in CA we had an older car that only had lap belts in the back. Car seats only work up to 40 lbs with the harness, then they are supposed to be used with a shoulder belt only – NEVER a lap belt.

    Well, I had 3 kids in seats at one point, but had to graduate them to lap belt (no booster for the above reason.) I called the CHIP to ask if what I was doing was legal. Cop #1 said that I should have the child in the booster seat sit up front with the shoulder belt. (Um, which one? I had two that needed boosters.) Cop #2 said they were Ok in the back seat with lap belts, and if anyone said otherwise tell them that he said so. Um, sure, I am sure they will agree to that outside the county where they don’t know you. Oh, and CA law says that children under 12 are not supposed to be in the front seat!

    So, I basically figured a belt of some sort, even without the booster to 80lbs, was better than nothing, and hoped that no one would notice. No one did, even the one time we got stopped for a tail light out.

  158. Um, Sarah, I can think of few more dangerous kid/car combinations than leaving a small child alone in a car with the keys in the ignition and the engine running.

    Seriously. If the kid’s old enough to get out of it’s carseat and into the front and play with/bump/lean on the controls, they might have a serious accident.

  159. Sera Your point makes sense, but it doesn’t invalidate everything.

    The solution, I feel: discipline. Our (almost) 4 year old girl grabbed our carkeys, and when I found out, she was on the receiving end of very powerful & emphatic discipline. In subsequent occurrences on the same day (where we’d check out a couple of garage sales & would leave the kids in the car while we did so), I actually made a point to leave the keys in the car anyway–and let it be known, I DARE you to touch those keys, to even stare at them with too much interest–and found out what I’ll do to you.

    If it upset or scared her, tough–that’s the price you pay when you play with things no one gave you explicit permission to play with, especially when (as was the case that day) we had just given her a few toys to play with to occupy herself. Incidentally, I also took the toys away and let it be known–why should I let you have those toys when you disrespect me that way (to say nothing of playing with other things when the toys ought to do it for you)?

    I’m the same way with the whole getting out of their seat, and even with removing their shoes. Maybe they like to ramble around while we’re out of the car for a couple of minutes–tough. Your tempermant & nature isn’t my main concern (although I factor it in to SOME extent), but obedience of my orders.

    Others will tell me “that’s what kids do” (exploring playing etc), my response–we need to expect more out of them, and that includes obedience.

    LRH

  160. Sigh….this is very sad indeed but I guess society is just trying to be safe than sorry.

    I am writing from Australia and there was a small epidemic of addicted gamblers leaving their children in the cars at the casino whilst they ducked in for a bet or ten. One child was found well equipped with a blanket, pillows, snacks and a portable DVD. His parents had no intention of coming back anytime soon!

  161. Amy, this reminds me of a fascinating discussion I had with friends of various ages, in the UK, about parents going to the pub when they were kids. Several older people said they were often left on the back step of the pub, or even in the back of the car, with a soft drink and some crisps, until their parents had finished having a quiet drink!

    Boring maybe, but no one at the time would have considered it dangerous.

  162. “Seriously. If the kid’s old enough to get out of it’s carseat and into the front and play with/bump/lean on the controls, they might have a serious accident.”

    Well, not if they know better and can be expected not to do what they know better than to do, which is the case with some kids.

  163. Tinted windows are a life saver with this sort of thing! I’m always thankful for my minivan’s privacy, when I do dastardly things like leave my 10 year old in the car while running books into the library for 30 seconds. I’m glad no one can see what evil I’m up to!

  164. “Seriously. If the kid’s old enough to get out of it’s carseat and into the front and play with/bump/lean on the controls, they might have a serious accident.”

    Play with, yes. Bump, no

    All automatic cars built in at least the last decade can’t be knocked out of park. You have to seek to move the gear out of park, usually by pushing a button while you move the shifter. A child who is old enough to intentionally take the car out of park and disengage the parking brake is old enough to know better.

    Manual transmission cars are less difficult to get rolling if left on, but a child still needs to be able to activiely disengage the parking brake. Again, a child who can disengage the parking brake should know better. A kid who can engage a clutch while moving the gear shift REALLY should know better.

    By all means, if your child can’t be trusted not to mess with things that you tell him or her not to mess with, don’t leave them in the car alone. But leave the rest of us alone.

  165. As a parent it is not outrageous to be worried that someone will call the cops on you. It happens in Illinois…way more often than it should. It is often safer for me to run inside and do my biz then come back out. NOT dragging kids through the hot or the cold (and we have an auto starter so we can leave our car running and appropriately temperature controlled AND locked but without the worry that the kids will dislodge the gear shift, before we had that we did it ab it differently). But here a woman was arrested for it last year…as she walked less than 100 feet to drop off clothing in a (OUTSIDE) donation bin. In Illinois the law is something like 13 years old (It may be 11, but I think it’s 13 and regardless it’s RIDICULOUS.) to leave your kids alone under any circumstance. I don’t leave my infant in the car because it freaks him out and being in tune with my child’s needs is the corner stone of free ranging I think. My older 2 kids (6 and 5 years old) know that it’s a privilege for them to stay in the car instead of being dragged in to Walgreens for less than 5 minutes and they are clear on the rule of you keep your tush in your seat and your seatbelt on or next time I make you come with me. So far they haven’t broken the rule.

    And really, what scares me more than danger to my child in this situation, is other parents sticking their nose where it doesn’t belong.

  166. My children have acquired boo-boos in a variety of places (even the kneeler in the pew at church can hurt!) but the one place we have never had an type of injury is inside a parked car. Try making two lists – one of possible injuries inside a locked, parked car with keys removed, and a second list of possible injuries that could happen to the child outside of the car. The second list could be ENDLESS!

    One day, when a child was not feeling well I wanted to leave him in the car but decided against it because I was parked a block away from my destination, and as usual, feared busybodies with cell phones. On the walk, he tripped and fell smack into a pile of glass shards. I was so peeved – this was all because I felt kept from using my OWN judgment!

  167. Bravo, Donna. Especially this:

    “A child who is old enough to intentionally take the car out of park and disengage the parking brake is old enough to know better.”

    Even accidentally — I can’t imagine a child under 3 having the manual dexterity/strength to do either, let alone both of those. And three is old enough for a typical child to learn a minimum number of absolutely, always, never things — like “never touch anything on the car when Mom or Dad isn’t there.” You can’t teach a three year old to stay out of all kinds of trouble, but you can certainly teach them a few absolutes, which they are capable of obeying.

    And though I won’t argue with those who’ve experienced this, I’ve always wondered about these wunderkinds who can unstrap themselves from car seats at ages one and two and get themselves into trouble with car controls — because surely, any typical child over age three knows better and has the capacity to obey when told not to. My kids always fussed about getting themselves in and out at least until age 4, though at that age I always insisted they manage unless I was in a tearing hurry, and they were always able to do it after a little sturm and drang. How do those little fingers push the buttons and squeeze the clasps that even I sometimes struggled with?

  168. What the…? I mean, when I saw two kids sleeping for 20 minutes in a parked car, windows down and no parents to be seen (outside the liquor store) ya, I was judgmental and happy to see when someone called the cops, but for 45 seconds? Come on!

  169. Blerg. I mean, I can see the rationale… I knew someone whose poor baby died of overheating this way… but not in winter and not for 45 seconds. A car seat is probably the safest place in the whole world.

  170. the director of the preschool i work at runs out in to the parking lot to check a car if she sees a mom who usually has a baby dropping off their child without it also we have some parents that have 2 very young children example an infant and a 1 year old if the mom gets the infant straps them into the car and then runs back in for the one year old the director runs out to stand next to the car just in case something happens.

  171. WOW! This is one popular topic! What a touchy subject for so many people. Leaving the sleeping baby in the carseat in a locked car. Well, I no longer have any small infants. But I still have a rearward facing child seat. I think it is time to pull that out of retirement and borrow my 7 year olds realistic looking baby doll. I think dolly needs a trip to the mall!

  172. This is just crazy! Why is this such a big deal? A whole 30 seconds of letting your kid stay in a safe car. Wow. When we were kids my mom let us stay in the car for 30 minutes or more. What is happening in todays world? It’s no wonder our kids are growing up so scared, and reliant on other people!

  173. Gary, I’d be careful if I were you. People have had their cars broken into because they had realistic dolls in there and passersby thought the dolls were dying children.

  174. I am with the majority on this one. Leaving a child in the car while running a short errand close by makes more sense than dragging the child with you. I can’t think of anywhere more dangerous for a child to walk around than a petrol station. Plenty of cars pulling in at speed or pulling out, not necessarily aware of where a child is.
    Maybe this was a rule thought up by the fuel lobby to ensure parents spend more at petrol station- if one of my kids comes in with me it usually costs me the equivalent of at least 5 dollars in candy and comics

    Plus, if anyone is as desperate to steal a child that they will break into a car, then they may also snatch the child away from your grasp while you are walking to the cash desk. This begs the question: is a parent doing enough for their child’s safety leading them by the hand: Perhaps there should be a law forcing parents to cuff their children to them in public, up to the age of 18? You can never to too safe🙂

  175. Been there, done that. Had the “follow up” with social services inspecting my home too.

  176. Umm Larry, I’m sure there is more to your story. One child being removed from your care might be a case of a mistaken belief in your lack of parenting skills…but two children on separate occasions??? And for that long… Sorry Mr but having worked in child protection, children are not removed for lame reasons and if it is a mistake, you can bet they are returned ASAP so methinks you are either in complete denial or hiding something.

  177. so will the police get arrested for leaving kids in their cars??

    http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/Police-Forget-Van-Full-of-Teens-118785669.html

  178. When we lived in Europe in the late 1980s, my mom said mothers often left their sleeping or young babies in prams parked outside the stores while they went in and did their shopping.

    I just don’t understand why leaving a child strapped in a car seat in a locked car on a temperate day for a few minutes while I run into the post office/dry cleaners/preschool is a crime. Ridiculous.

  179. I just wanted to respond to the person that said that this isn’t really a free range issue. That leaving kids in the car by themselves doesn’t foster independence.

    It does! One of the most annoying parts of being a kid is being dragged around by your parents all the time. Yes, there are things that we need to do, but it’s only common consideration to let our children relax in the car while we are running in and out of different places.

    One woman said she took three sleeping children out of a car to pay for her gas!! That is insane. Yes, she felt pressured to do it, but that doesn’t make it sane. We are all afraid of the bogeyman, but if more of us starting leaving our kids in the car for a few minutes while we ran in to get the milk, maybe the country could get over this extreme paranoia.

    We don’t have to accept the general state of affairs, we can talk to other parents (at the kids’ schools, in the neighborhood, etc.). We need to mobilize!

  180. I remember when my daughter was only a few weeks old. I would run into the post office (having left the car running with the A/C on) and people would ask where she was. They were HORRIFIED that I had left my comfortable, asleep infant in the car rather than rouse her. I live in a small town in the high desert. The closest towns in all directions are 30 minutes away. The odds of someone breaking into my car in the 3 minutes I was in the Post Office were relatively slim, and even if it had happened they would have been caught within an hour with air surveillance. The A/C was on, she wasn’t going to overheat…. I understand this fear is born of real incidents of idiot parents locking their kids in cars in the summer with the windows rolled up and no cool air – but for cripes sake, folks, take the actual circumstances of each specific event for what they are and don’t make sweeping judgments based on the worst case scenario!

  181. […] Never leave your kid in the car, even for 30 seconds. Not because it’s dangerous, but because someone may call the cops on you. […]

  182. I’m in my mid 60s, I was a free range child and so were my children. Things are no worse now for danger to children than they were when I was a child, except for busybodies sticking their noses into everyone else’s business.
    I left my kids at home alone to run to the grocery store, I knew my neighbors would help if my kids needed it (they never did), I left them in the unlocked car, winter and summer, I drove with a child standing on the seat next to me (before seatbelts), my kids survived without incident. Too many nonsensical rules, nowadays, and too many people willing to call the cops for nonsensical reasons.

    Unfortunately, calling the cops, these days, usually makes things much worse, if not outright dangerous for you and your kids. I used to teach my kids that cops were there to help in a time of trouble, now I teach my grandkids to avoid cops like the plague.

  183. Homeschool.

    N E V E R call the police. Quit using “public” schools, parks, libraries, post offices, etc. Starve them out.

    If at first you don’t secede…

  184. Do not talk to the police under any circumstances.

    Video well worth the 45 minutes of your time.

  185. How about a bumpersticker that says: You mind your business and I’ll mind mine!!! Been there done that with CPS. Someone called in on me when my kids were young (thank god they’re grown now!) and reported that I fed them PB&Js for breakfast. I do have one question though, wouldn’t you be suspicious if I (a total stranger) offered to keep an eye on your kids in the car while you ran a quick errand? Thanks for having this site and making us aware that stranger danger is absolute bullshit!!!!

  186. Read Greg Weingarten’s article, Fatal Distraction in the WA Post about kids who die in hot cars. After you hear the medical examiner’s testimony about the child who pulled out all of her hair before she died, then tell me it’s okay to leave your kid in the car. There have been kids who were left in the car in 50 degree weather and still died because it got so hot in the car.

    It’s never okay to leave a child in the car, or anyone who can’t physically let themselves out. So young children, mentally challenged, disabled, etc. Even for 30 seconds. People are easily distracted and 30 seconds can turn into 30 minutes. I’ll gladly call 911 if I see a child in the car, and I’ll break your car window out while I wait for the police if the operator tells me to do so.

  187. I know this is an old thread, but thought I would link to this recent piece of news http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10723499
    Here in Auckland, NZ we had a tornado this week – nothing on the devastating scale in the US, but a very unusual thing here, and with no warning. Tragically one man was killed, but this article is about the narrow escape of three small kids whose mum left them in the car for a moment while she popped into a shop…only to have a practically unheard of tornado strike that carpark at that moment, throw the car in the air and dump it on its roof!! NOT in the realm of predictable risks I would say! Great thing – kids, being secure in their carseats, were only scratched and shocked(because of the way the car fell, if she had been in the car with them she probably would have been killed) Second great thing – NO criticism of the mum in the article, just praise for her great use of secure carseats. And it occurred to me, that given the extra time it would have taken for her to get all 3 out of the car, they would probably all have been standing by the car when the twister struck, and probably not such a great outcome…

  188. Good on the Kiwi press for not mother bashing how lucky they all were but what a freak thing to happen glad all are ok. Well done for reframing this incident Kiwi Mum, Love your work.

  189. An amazing amount of bad can happen in a minute. It takes less than a minute for a car thief to steal your car. Frequently there are reports of children left in cars that were stolen. Usually they find the child unharmed but why take that chance? Is waiting until you can have a friend with you when you run the errand such a terrible thing?
    Oh, and to the couple who left their 8 yr old in the car while they went away shopping for 20 minutes a block away, SHAME on you! He could have gotten out of the car and been picked up by someone. Most times when pedophiles pick up a child it’s because they seize an opportunity. Don’t give them that opportunity.

  190. Because it’s called life. Stuff happens ALL THE TIME, but almost always NOTHING happens. Nothing happens in a minute, 5 minutes, 10 minutes.

    My children are more likely to be hit by a car in the parking lot or dealing with street parking than they are to be stolen (or be in my car while it is being stolen) in the 5 minutes it takes me to walk inside a store and pick something up that I need. COULD it happen…yes, it could. They could also be ripped out of my arms as we walk hand in hand across the parking lot together. If your guide is “why take the risk” there is nothing safe enough…

    Katya – you can not avoid life, shit happens. “Why take that chance” is a ridiculous way to look at most things in life. You could be killed in a car wreck regardless of if you are in the car, a pedestrian or on a bike, so you should just stay home? Why take the risk? You could die in pregnancy and child birth…why take the risk? Your dryer could catch on fire…why take the risk and dry your clothes in a dryer? You could hit your head in the shower and drown if your foot hits the tub drainer…why take the risk….You could choke on food if you eat without a friend who knows CPR, so never eat alone….why take the risk? You could be assaulted in an elevator…why take the risk, walk up those stairs…oh wait…you could be assaulted in a stair well…why take that risk…most rapes happen because the rapist seizes an opportunity…don’t leave your house, hire a body guard…why take the risk? All of your personal information could be stolen over the internet through no fault of your own and your entire credit history and financial life could be ruined….why take the risk.

    The only thing in MY life where “why take the risk” rings true for is driving after having even one drink…it’s not a risk I’m willing to take.” The rest of life, every thing you do is a risk, a calculated risk. And if your life or town has been personally affected by a tragedy like those that OCCASIONALLY BUT VERY RARELY happen than your risk benefit analysis will be different…and that’s okay.

  191. Here I am Warminsters most wanted: I ran into the grocery store in a very nice suburb to pick up hotdog/hambuger buns, potato salad, cheese curls(part of tonights dinner) and corn flakes Iwas there for 5 to 7 min. My almost 7 year old decided to stay in the car since we were both wet since we just left the pool the car windowswere down, doors locked, cold water bottle next to her. As I am checking out I here my license plate being called over head…my stomach sinks into guilt. As I go outside 3 police cars are there…let the lecturing begin. I am told over and over and over again what COULD have happened then 1 officer states in front of my 6 year old daughter that I am a bad parent. I freak out, I cannot beleive this person who knows nothing about me is saying this in front of my child. They talk to me longer then the amount of time I was in the store.
    Through all of this I came out with a hatered toward lecturing cops, FYI I will most likely do it again. I am a great parent and as my inner city students can atest to a great mom to all children.

  192. Wow thanks everyone, what a relief to read there are other “evil-doers” like me! Today, my daughter and 2 grandchildren were running errands – it is 53 degrees windy and cloudy today – we stopped at a strip mall to check out a small second hand store – the 3 year old grandson was fast asleep, we tried to jostle him awake, no luck, we slammed the car doors and waited…no response from him. I hit the lock button and armed the security system and the rest of us walked the few feet to the store. We had stepped inside for less than 5 minutes (I quickly realized the store had nothing to offer me) when my car was paged over-head and this raging crazy women said she was calling the police! With her cell phone to her ear she followed us out to my car screaming at us the whole time. I unlocked my car and myself, my daughter and 4 year old granddaughter got in the car, slammed the doors and drove away – all the while my grandson sat buckled in his car seat fast asleep. This happened 8 hours ago, and I still keep looking for the cops to show up and arrest me. The world has gone mad….

  193. Someone earlier said they know what the laws are in each state. I really want to know what the laws are in Virginia. Today a woman went all crazy on me and the cops followed me but didn’t do anything. Given how many times something similar has happened to me in this crazy state, I want to know what my best response is when someone threatens that they are calling the cops about my unattended (sleeping, sick) child. Should I just drive away or stay and “chat” with the caller? If approached by the police, should I say anything to them or just walk away? Is there a simple question or statement I can make that would shut them up? Could I actually be arrested? I just want to know the factual information.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: