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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This time while holding a 3-year-old.

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

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

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

She could watch my dear ones any day. — Lenore