In July of 2013, a Canadian mom was charged with child abandonment after leaving her 6-year-old son home alone for 90 minutes. Her ex-husband found out and alerted the authorities, at which point Child and Family Services told the court that the child should be placed in the father's custody. The child has remained with him throughout the 18-month ordeal. Last Friday, a judge found the mother not guilty, after determining that the child was never in any danger.
Gee, I hope she didn't miss raising him for an entire year and a half.
Michael Law, the mom's lawyer, said that the prosecutor has 30 days to appeal the judge's ruling, but that this is unlikely. Now that the criminal trial is over, Law and the mother will be taking action in family court during the next couple of weeks to try and get custody of her child back.
Child abandonment is defined in Canada as, "one who unlawfully abandons or exposes a child who is under the age of ten years, so that its life is or is likely to be endangered or its health is or is likely to be permanently injured." Just how endangered was this boy? The Winnipeg Free Press reports that when the police showed up, he was found eating pudding and completing a puzzle while watching TV in a locked house.
Clearly, the kid's a born multi-tasker. But what was his mother? A daredevil? A negligent hussy? Canada's Worst Mom?
The prosecutor asserted that the boy was in serious risk of a break-in or fire—truly low-probability dangers. The judge, recognizing the reality of actual odds, did not convict the mother of the charge.
Even if you disagree with the mother's judgment, it is clear that the boy was not in a dangerous situation. What's more, what purpose would a conviction have served? How is jailing a mom helpful to her child? If it seems like she might need some parenting lessons, go ahead and prescribe those—not a fine, and certainly not prison.
A conviction would have had far-reaching implications for any parents who believe that giving their children some independence is normal, even healthy. Criminalizing the parents of latchkey kids would only reinforce the crazy idea that parents must be supervising their kids 24/7, despite the fact we live in one of the safest times in all of human history.
Latchkey kids have been part of the American landscape since World War II. A key around the neck is not a symbol of parental neglect. It's a symbol of parental confidence in their kids and their community.