Free-Range Kids

'Child Endangerment' Charge for Mom Who Left Baby in Shopping Cart

No one was endangered.



An Arizona mom of four has been charged with child endangerment after accidentally leaving her baby in his carseat in a shopping cart. The mom left the supermarket without the tot, who was spotted almost immediately by an off-duty cop and taken next door to a Supercuts. He remained there, watched over by the locals, for 40 minutes—the time it took for the mom, Cherish Peterson, to get home, realize her mistake, and rush back.

As KPHO/KTVK reported, "Fortunately, the baby boy is uninjured and doing fine."

Fortunately? Like, "Phew! Somehow the boy wasn't mangled?" The kid was in a carseat in a stationary cart. What's that "fortunately" doing there?

Sadly, that's the way the media and much of America automatically respond any time a child is unsupervised. The underlying assumption is that any moment spent outside a parent's purview is a moment that the child could—and probably will—suffer grievous harm.  It's the reason a panel of three judges convicted a New Jersey mom of "child abuse" for letting her toddler wait in the car for 5 to 10 minutes on a temperate day. Those judges said a "parade of horribles" could have rained down on the child—kidnapping, freezing, boiling, everything but locusts—so she was guilty for not acting to prevent all that exceedingly unlikely danger.

That's the reason this story of the child in the shopping cart commanded over three minutes of airtime on the news. In any other era it might have been, if anything, a feel-good story of a ditzy mom helped by a kindly bystander, or one of those funniest home video moments. Instead, the mom is weeping on camera and confessing her sins as if she's facing the electric chair.

The police are pressing child endangerment charges. But I'm hopeful that if this case ends up in court, the mom's lawyer will refer to the New Jersey Supreme Court's recent 7-0 decision that declared being an imperfect parent or having an imperfect day does not constitute a crime.

Leaving her kid in the cart is not something this mom did intentionally and she has no intention of doing it again. A screw-up isn't unheard of. It isn't abuse. It isn't something to be judged. It isn't news. And it most certainly isn't a crime.

Maybe, just maybe, the court will understand this.

On a related note: Boston Globe magazine recently ran an article, "When Did Parents Get So Scared?" The author interviewed me talking about America's child-danger obsessed culture, but ends by quoting John Walsh, the man whose son was abducted and murdered more than 30 years ago. This is a common practice when reporters interview me: the "other side" is a grief-stricken parent, making it seem as if we represent equal likely outcomes: A child growing up safe and sound, or being raped and murdered by a stranger.

The Globe piece ends with Walsh saying, "Children are a gift, and there are people who hunt them." Like deer season. He then tells the writer to prepare her kids for that possibility. "Give them the tools to make them safe, and maybe you'll be one of those lucky ones."

In other words: Maybe, just maybe, there's an off-chance your child will live.

NEXT: I Forgot to Remember to Forget

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  1. “Leaving her kid in the cart is not something this mom did intentionally and she has no intention of doing it again”

    How can you possibly forget your child? Yeah, I kid your keys or cell phone…but a CHILD?

    Not only that, it took her 40 minutes to realize it?


    1. It took he 40 minutes to return and retrieve her child. So I would say it took her 20 minutes to realize her mistake. Certainly not the greatest day of her life. Not a crime.

      1. I agree it’s not a crime.

        My point is how do you forget to begin with?

        No matter how distracted, I’m always conscience of the fact I have my daughter with me.


        1. I admire your ability to remain so focused, Rufus. I myself have never possessed the ability to remain constantly focused on a single mental topic – my family are full of people who “live life in their head,” so to speak. We get so caught up thinking that we end up on autopilot much of the time.

        2. because she’s a woman?

        3. Friday I was driving down the interstate when I realized I didn’t know what state I was in.

      2. Not event that, necessarily – I read it as taking her 40 minutes to return to the child, which had been moved in her absence.

        When I was a new father, I would at times be so scattered trying to juggle all the new and unfamiliar things that needed to be done that I would forget where my daughter was located for a time. This would lead to all sorts of dangerous situations, where she would engage in frightening behaviors such as “amusing herself” and “exploring her surroundings.” Many people who meet my daughter now comment on how self-possessed and independent she seems.

        Children, like any other person or activity, can be forgotten. It isn’t a mark of criminal neglect to not have a uni-focused mind. If it were actually an existential emergency to forget them, it wouldn’t happen as often – but the fact of the matter is, it usually isn’t, so our minds aren’t always operating in an adrenaline focused state of hyper-awareness.

        1. You coulda made this point minus the snark above, pal.

          And yes, I damn well am focused where my kid is concerned.

        2. Then you’re not a good parent. You ALWAYS know where your kid is. ALWAYS!!! In this world of perverts and child molesters any parent that loses sight of an infant should be charged and convicted.

          I know where my dog is 100% of the time. Let alone a child.

          But then we have to look at this cute blonde white woman with her cute blonde family photo and give her a break while the black woman gets 18 years probation for leaving her kids in the car?

          I think not.

    2. I can see her, once she made the initial screw-up, not realizing it for a while. Its not like you drive while constantly looking over your shoulder to see if the kids are all there during the trip.

  2. One thing I do like is that this is an abuse that, unlike most “family” law, can drop on womens’ heads as easily as men’s.

    It’s no excuse, of course, but there is at least one case in the relentlessly pro-mother system where the baleful eye of Govzilla falls on everyone.

    1. Nothing says equality like universal prosecution for victim-less crimes!

      Progress! the nanny state way.

    2. “Govzilla,” for the win. I’m using that.

    3. “Govzilla” – yes

      And there is a case for strictly enforcing bad laws:

      “Every law that isn’t uniformly and promptly enforced, all the time, contributes to public corruption because selective enforcement means someone is using it for blackmail or extortion — and probably thinks ‘that’s what it’s for’ meaning blackmail and extortion have become the norm. So yes, the whole damn thing from prostitution to labor laws to export restrictions to monopoly busters. If you’re not going to enforce it for everybody, all the time, then get rid of it so you don’t have the temptation to become corrupt as you use it for blackmail, extortion, revenge, or for the harassment of dissenters.”

  3. Romulus and Remus seem to have turned out fine.

    1. They grew up to be violent psychopaths that raped women!1!

      1. And it took them more than a day to build their frickin city.
        Lazy bastards.

        1. but it was a hell of a Star Empire

  4. Leaving her kid in the cart is not something this mom did intentionally and she has no intention of doing it again. A screw-up isn’t unheard of. It isn’t abuse. It isn’t something to be judged. It isn’t news.

    OK, normally I’m with you on these issues but . . .

    *forgetting* your child – not losing track of one of the mobile ones, but completely forgetting the one that’s sitting quietly in the cart, unable to walk off, is a pretty big deal. Its actually pretty damn careless.

    Not a crime? Sure. Mistakes happen and there’s nothing that the crim jus system can do that won’t make this situation worse anyway.

    News? Its most definitely.

    1. You raise a good point, Mammy. Yes, social shaming (ie, news) is the appropriate response here. But for statists there is no separation between society and government so if it’s newsworthy it has to be worthy of government action. All government actions are, of course, inherently newsworthy. Vicious cycle.

    2. I was left, very intentionally, in a toy store when I was a child. Not an infant I think I was around 8 years old. I was left because I refused to leave the store when it was time to go.
      When I was 8, not that long ago, no one would have thought twice about that sort of behavior. Certainly no police officer would have moves me from the store. You know what I didn’t grow up to be? A mewling, invalid. I grew up to be the sort of adult who takes responsibility for my actions.

      Admittedly, this is a different situation, but my point is this: if a child is left alone for 40 minutes it’s not going to kill them. It might even teach them valuable life lessons.

      1. the child wasn’t alone for more than a handful of minutes. It was not with it’s mother for 40 minutes

  5. I am gonna have to go with Rufus on this one. At no time, ever, was I not conscience of where my son was and what he was doing until after he was 12 or so.

    How the fuck do you forget a toddler in a grocery cart? Cherish Peterson is an idiot.

    1. How many children do you have? I never got forgotten anywhere, but I was the first and mom was still in hyper parent mode. My youngest sister was totally forgotten at the house once or twice. She was being quite and mom had her attention split a dozen different ways. Plus, kids tend not to die or seriously get injured if you leave them alone for a few minutes.

      1. Leaving a child at the house forgetfully is one thing, as you said the mind might be going a dozen different ways and the kid isn’t right there in front of you. I would venture to say this is a little different though. Unless there has been some drastic redesign of shopping carts recently, the child seat is right there in front of you. Your only job when you’re done shopping is to get the crap from the cart into the car. I would think you’d do a once over just to make sure you got everything. I do a once over and all I’m worried about leaving is my soda or something small that might not has gotten bagged. And the article didn’t mention other kids that might have been distracting her.

        I can’t say as I’d go so far as to support criminal charges, but at the very least I’m a lot less sympathetic to this woman compared to most of the stories we hear.

    2. It happens very easily with things you do routinely. You do a certain sequence of things frequently, then you mix up in your memory whether you did Step 6 today or the last time. The lady may have a very clear memory of putting the child in the car seat back in the car, but doesn’t realize that was the previous trip to the grocery she’s recalling rather than the last one.

      Medication screw-ups are easy once you’re taking enough different drugs. Did I just take this pill, or do I just have a generic memory of taking it from all the times I did take it? If I don’t take it now, am I short a dose? If I do take it now, am I double dosing? And that’s with something that can have a profound effect on your own health, so it’s easy to imagine mixups when taking care of kids.

      1. Did I just take this pill, or do I just have a generic memory of taking it from all the times I did take it?

        I routinely have this problem with my insulin. One of these days I’m going to start writing down when I dose.

    3. I just want to point out, this was not a toddler, he was a 2 month old infant. I don’t think I could imagine forgetting my 1 year old in a cart, let alone a 2 month old, in a car-seat right in front of my eyes.

  6. [T]he tot, who was spotted almost immediately by an off-duty cop and taken next door to a Supercuts. He remained there, watched over by the locals, for 40 minutes…

    So, that Supercuts is an CPS-authorized emergency childcare provider in that jurisdiction? And the employees have all had background checks. Why is a police officer not competent to provide childcare for forty minutes?

    Yeah, any of us dump a found kid off there, and we’d face charges ourselves. Now one may presume (hope?) that the cop knew at least one of the on-duty employees there, doubtlessly some chick he was trying to impress.

    This is not to defend Cherish Peterson, who is indeed an idiot as noted above, but I’m not sure this rises to the level of neglect or abuse.

    1. Also, handing that kid over to Supercuts (presuming he actually knew the employees) is not the absolute worst thing he could have done, far better than dropping the kid off at CPS. But I guaran-fucking-tee you that procedures were not followed here and that any non-cop would suffer consequences for doing the same thing.

      1. I actually was wondering, when I read the article, if we would face kidnapping charges for picking up a stranger’s 2 month old and taking said kid to another building without the parent’s knowledge / consent.

  7. Related: I watched the 1st episode of Sesame Street over the weekend (it’s on Amazon Prime if you’re interested)…

    Anyway… I was 4 when it aired, and watched it at the time.
    In the episode, there was a short film showing “Around, over, through”. In it, there was a group of some 5-7 year olds playing follow-the-leader. They went around a clothesline, through a culvert (in a junkyard!), over some sawhorses (on a construction site!)… no parents in sight.

    This is how kids played when I was a kid. Can you imagine?

    Trigger warning: Free range kids

  8. Who cares if any one on here would never forget their child? Really, all you can say is you have never forgotten your kid yet. There’s still time.

    But that’s the thing with these kinds of a faux outrage, a person you never met, did something you never could imagine doing, that has zero impact on society, and instead of minding your own fucking business, you have to become self righteous.

    The bigger outrage with this story is that for 40 minutes, there was a cart that no one could use because there was a baby stuck in it. Also, I’m wondering, can I just push that baby cart to the side and grab a baby-free cart? Or do I face potential charges for not really caring about someone else’s kid?

  9. government as god campaigning for ever-increasing “reasons” or excuses to micromangle us all. Stupid people. Do they forget our heritage? What about pioneer days when Dad was off on the hunt with the neighbour men, ten year old Sadie had to go out and feed the chickens all by her loneseome…. “people hunt them” was known… particularly, in those times and places, indians. Risks were weighed, decisions made on the best availble information, precautions taken, and Sadie almost always came back in with the day’s egg production in the tin pail, more dirt on her feet, and possibly a report “Mama, the pigs found another oak tree and have rooted up some mushrooms”.

    During the Great Depression, my Mom baked bread in the home kitchen’s wood burning oven, put the unwrapped loaves into her toy wagon, walked downtown (a couple of miles) al by herself, sold the loaves on the street (no labels, no Health department Certificates, no business license) for five cents the loaf, and always made it back home in time for dinner, all the nickels in her pocket. She was NINE YEARS OLD at that time. Later, she encouraged us when we decided to erect a Kool Ade stand at the kerb in front of the house…. made at the kerbside, no health inspections, no building permit for the stand, no health department insepction, no labour law issues, and we learned about Cost of Goods Sold, SHrinkage (we drank a lot), profit, profit per hour….. and had a great time. No one was harmed.

  10. Obviously the kid would be better off if mom were in prison.

  11. He then tells the writer to prepare her kids for that possibility. “Give them the tools to make them safe, and maybe you’ll be one of those lucky ones.

    I started learning how to shoot when I was 6, was a licensed hunter at 12, and physically mature at 13.

  12. People are ticketed and charged all the time for intentional and unintentional mistakes. We have lesser charges for mistakes. That said, was she on her cell phone or day dreaming or simply overwhelmed?

  13. That woman can’t be the first to do that. No one hurt. Embarrassing? Probably. Criminal? Certainly not. Everyone is going overboard again. You people are stupid and should mind your business.

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