Mother criminally charged after letting child play in car for 5 minutes while shopping
"I made a split-second decision to leave my son in the car -- it ended up consuming years of my life," wrote Kim Brooks.
by Site Staff
A woman’s life was altered when she allowed her son to play in the car for a few minutes while she briefly went into a store, and a nosy bystander reported her to police.
Kim Brooks related her story in a recent Salon article, The day I left my son in the car.
Nearly 3 years ago, Brooks says she brought her 4-year-old boy on a brief errand performed shortly before catching a flight. The boy was content to stay in the vehicle playing a video game while his mom went into the store for a single item. After a brief protest, Brooks decided to let her son stay and play. She wrote:
I did something I’d never done before. I left him. I told him I’d be right back. I cracked the windows and child-locked the doors and double-clicked my keys so that the car alarm was set. And then I left him in the car for about five minutes.
“I made a split-second decision to leave my son in the car,” wrote Brooks. “It ended up consuming years of my life.”
Her trip inside the store went without incident. She quickly returned with the item and drove home with her son.
“He didn’t die,” Brooks wrote. “He wasn’t kidnapped or assaulted or forgotten or dragged across state lines by a carjacker. When I returned to the car, he was still playing his game, smiling,” she said.
What Brooks didn’t know was that someone had disapproved of her parental decision and reported her to the government. The nosy witness even walked around her minivan with a camera to document it.
The police became involved, and Brooks was charged with “charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor,” a charge she could barely believe.
“I don’t know,” she told her lawyer. “It doesn’t sound to me like I committed the crime I’m being charged with. I didn’t render him in need of services. He was fine. Maybe I should plead ‘not guilty,’ go to trial.”
But her lawyer assured her that the juvenile court sides heavily against parents and would be eager to convict her and take away her children.
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It was not so long ago that letting a child stay in the car while a parent shops was a routine occurrence for many loving parents. It was something that the author of this blog experienced, and was not looked at as a criminal act until the recent era of the advanced American nanny state. Even today, as Brooks’ lawyer advised her, the act is considered a “gray area” of the law — not explicitly illegal.
Rather than fight and risk a terrible outcome, she struck a deal with prosecutors. She agreed to 100 hours of community service if they would not pursue her criminally.
The event left an impact on Kim Brooks and many who have read her story. One of the more striking impressions was left upon her son, who now fears being abducted by the police. Brooks discussed her son’s reactions various times when she would step away from him:
I got out of the car one day to feed the parking meter next to the driver side window. “Don’t, Mommy. Don’t. The police will come.”
I went to let the dog into our front yard while he was watching his morning cartoon. “Mommy, no!!! The police.”
One afternoon after his swim lesson, he came out of the bathroom and for a second didn’t see me — I’d kneeled down to get his shoes from their cubby. When I looked up he was crying. “Mommy, mommy, I thought someone was going to steal me.”
One can easily recognize the deterioration of parental rights in the USA, with the criminalization of things that used to be commonplace in many decent homes. One recent example was the father who was arrested after letting his 8-year-old son to walk home from school for one mile. Americans have to walk a fine line in their parenting techniques, avoiding “gray areas” that are not explicitly prohibited, yet can be easily pursued under overly broad child welfare laws.