Civil Liberties

This Mom Beat Ridiculous 'Child Neglect' Charges, But Life Is Still Tough

What happened after the charges were dropped.


Nicole Gainey

Last summer, Florida mom Nicole Gainey was arrested, handcuffed, taken to the local jail, fingerprinted, and held for seven hours for the "crime" of letting her 7-year-old son walk half a mile to the local park. She faced a possible $5,000 fine and five years in jail, but thanks to the Rutherford Institute and lawyer Brian H. Bieber, prosecutors dropped the charges.

Her legal ordeal may have ended months ago, but the resulting emotional and financial troubles are ongoing. Gainey has struggled to keep a job and her son, now 8, has issues of his own. Here is a note from her (edited down):

Dear Lenore: I am the mother that got arrested July 26 for letting my son son walk to the park that is closer than his school by himself, and since my arrest our lives have changed for the worse.

My son was 7 at the time, now he's 8. He walked to our neighborhood park half mile from my home on a Saturday afternoon about 4 p mfor an hour. He had his own cell phone, he had been going there all that summer, and some nosy busybody at the community pool that's on the way called the cops, due to him looking too young to be by himself.

So then the police picked up my son at the playground and placed him in the cop car while they went to talk to the people at the pool. Then they came to my home and never told me he was in back of the car, and arrested me. It wasn't until they were putting me in the back of the car that I found out that my son was in there this whole time, like he was a criminal.

As he got out & walked past me he tells me, "I'm sorry mommy. I wanted to go play at the park"—thinking it was his fault. Since then, the charge was not filed but I can not get a job anywhere, I think due to this, and I am struggling very bad. Also my son used to be a carefree outgoing little boy. Everything has changed.

Thank you for sharing my story when it happened. A lot of readers were on my side. Well, I was wondering if you will put my Go Fund Me link on your page. If anyone can help even a small bit, my children and I will be very grateful.  Please tap to donate.

Let me reiterate—again—that the reason this story went national is that it's rare for parents to face consequences this horrifying. I publish stories like this for two reasons: to support the parents, and to incite the kind of national outrage needed to pressure the cops to stop arresting perfectly responsible moms and dads.

The same way crazy stories about kids getting suspended for Pop Tart guns and sporks have made Americans deeply skeptical of zero tolerance laws, stories of parents arrested for giving their kids a bit of freedom have made the country start wondering: Why is the government telling loving parents how to raise their kids?

So do no freak out about possibly getting arrested if you send your kids outside. The odds are vastly on your side. And so, increasingly, is the rest of the country.