Free-Range Kids

Parents Arrested, CPS Might Take Kids Because They Stayed in Car During Errand

Imperfect parenting should not be illegal.

|

Car kid
Dreamstime

Heather Hypes, a 24-year-old Michigan mom, just had one of those days. We've all had them: the kids are tired, the checkout line takes forever, the credit card is doing something funky. But unlike most of us, Hypes is paying dearly for her bad luck—she's been arrested, and worries the state is going to take away her kids, all because she left them alone while she ran an errand.

Hypes and her husband are facing stiff fines and jail time for making an imperfect, but far from dangerous, decision.

Here's what happened, in Hypes' own words:

Dear Free-Range Kids: Hi, my name is Heather and I am a proud mother of two beautiful children, a three-year-old daughter (will be 4 in February) and a seven-month-old son. This nightmare started when my husband and I were on our way to work (we clean out abandon homes) and our daughter kept asking for something to drink. We decided to stop at Walmart, since there were a couple other things we had to grab anyways, and when we arrived our son was sleeping and our daughter was playing games on my phone.

My husband was just going to run in but I decided to run in with him so we could do it faster. After grabbing the few things we needed and heading to the check outs we realized we forgot to get our daughters juice. I headed to the back of the store to grab her juice while he went to get a snack because we knew our daughter would want something to eat as well.

When we got to the self-scans we went to different machines so it would be faster because half of the items could be covered with our bridge card and some couldn't. He was having trouble with his transaction (bridge card), I went over to his machine once I was done with mine to help him and we ended up having to void the order and re-scan it. So, in a nutshell, a five-minute run in turned into a 27-minute run. 

You can probably guess what happened next. Hypes and her husband returned to the truck only to find two Walmart employees standing next to it. They called the cops, even though they could see the kids were fine. It was about 50 degrees out, and rainy. The parents had left the truck locked and the windows cracked. Hypes tells me that she "didn't honestly even know that it was illegal" to leave her kids in the car while she ran an errand. She says her own mother used to do that all the time.

"I just thought it was a judgment call on the parents part as long as you didn't leave them in there for hours or in extreme heat or in any dangerous environment," she wrote in an email.

The officers informed Hypes that she would soon be hearing from CPS. But when the inspector from CPS paid her home a visit, he found nothing that troubled him and said the agency would most likely drop the case.

About a week later, there were warrants out for the Hypes' arrest on two counts each of child abuse in the fourth degree. Now Heather and her husband are looking at a possible $2,000 in fines and six months in jail. She is embarrassed, and terrified that kids will be taken away.

No one is suggesting that very young children should routinely be left alone in a car for half an hour, which is what happened on the terrible, no good, very bad day Heather describes. But as the New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously declared, simply leaving a child in a car does not constitute abuse or neglect. Those crimes are evidenced by a pattern of harm to children, not a single incident.

In any case, how could it possibly make Heather and her husband better parents to send them to jail and impoverish them? Isn't that much worse for the kids than the alleged crime for which their parents are being punished?

The Hypes have set up a PayPal account and are asking for assistance with their legal fees. That link can be found here.

Advertisement

NEXT: CORRECTED! Don't Bring a Dildo To an Anti-Gun Fight?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. No one is suggesting that very young children should routinely be left alone in a car for half an hour,

    Like, as a hobby? As a parenting strategy? Time out? For fun? How do we mean?

    Weather permitting, in a crowded lot, absolutely leave the little buggers. Jesus Christ, are we really debating the possible threat of child abduction at Walmart or succumbing to hypothermia in 50 degree weather in a previously heated car? I routinely walked to school in ~20 degree weather! Half an hour along a ditch bank! And I was a dumb kid! I didn’t let my hair dry before I left the house! I arrived at school with icicles hanging off my head! I can only imagine how that would be treated now.

    /hyperventilates

    1. in high school, before i had a car, i had to walk about a mile to the bus stop. There were 4 hills. I carried my books and musical instrument. In the winter it snowed…so you are DAMN RIGHT that I will tell my kids that I used to walk to school, uphill both ways, carrying the little cripple kid from down the street. The last part is poetic licence since my neighbor friend was a red neck.

  2. In any case, how could it possibly make Heather and her husband better parents to send them to jail and impoverish them? Isn’t that much worse for the kids than the alleged crime for which their parents are being punished?

    HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA!

    Oh wait, you’re serious! You think social workers and the state attorneys actually give a shit about the welfare of the children!

    1. The more kids you steal, the more state and federal money you can suck up.

  3. Too bad, Mary Sue. You should always plan for the worst.

  4. 1) I suspect the young age of the parents, not the young age of the kids, is the biggest driver in this case, …but

    2) haven’t we established something of a standard that if the child is, say, 5-6 or older and can get out of the car by themselves, that there shouldn’t be any concern about leaving them in the car? The oldest child here was 3.

    That’s a big young to be left alone for 27 minutes. 5 minutes, sure, but especially with both parents in attendance, one should have gone back to the car, or only one should have gone into the store. Don’t get me wrong, the charges are excessive, but this is a more marginal case than the one awhile back where someone went into the cell phone store for five minutes and their kid was 9 or 10.

    1. I tend to agree with your point on 27 minutes…I wouldn’t do it for 2 minutes though, not because I would be afraid for my child’s safety, but because I would be afraid of what the local busybodies would do.

      All it takes is 1 A-hole who thinks they “have to do something” or they “couldn’t live with themselves” to ruin someone’s life and I refuse to give those people any power over me…

      1. It sets a precedent, though. It’s simply an invitation to get CPS and the cops involved in these marginal cases. Half an hour? Well, maybe you wouldn’t, most people probably wouldn’t, but this couple did, and seemingly for a legitimate reason.

        Unfortunately, once we say well here’s where I draw the line, the line is pushed back to the point where, as you say, even two minutes is intolerable for indignant busybody martinets.

        1. My wife once ran into a convenience store, left our baby locked in our van, parked right in front (you know the setup – full glass, small convenience store, you can see the car parked directly in front from every point of the store). She was in for a minute, but when she came out, there was a guy standing there getting ready to call in our plates.

          We live in Chicago, so it’s unreasonable to imagine an overzealous government worker saving our baby from us.

          Stand your ground and fight for your rights and all, but some principles aren’t worth the prospect of losing your kids. Everyone else can rot in hell if it means I get to keep my children.

          1. Edit: “it’s NOT unreasonable”

          2. there was a guy standing there getting ready to call in our plates.

            I wonder, if you were to come out of a store, and there’s some guy you don’t know peering in your car windows at your kid . . .

            Would you be justified in pulling your concealed pistol on him and holding him until the cops got there to arrest him for attempted kidnapping or something?

            1. In Chicago that would get you arrested because no one can get a concealed pistol permit without blowing the chief, mayor, and entire city council.

              Besides, a baseball bat to the back of the head has a better chance of getting the message across that their conduct is unacceptable.

      2. I wouldn’t do it for 2 minutes though, not because I would be afraid for my child’s safety, but because I would be afraid of what the local busybodies would do.

        All it takes is 1 A-hole who thinks they “have to do something” or they “couldn’t live with themselves” to ruin someone’s life and I refuse to give those people any power over me…

        In a way though, by modifying your behavior and not leaving your kids in the car for even 2 minutes, you’ve already given them power over you.

        I know what you mean though, it’s not worth the hassle and worry of having some shithead ruin your life because they think your business is somehow any of theirs.. I’m just glad I don’t have kids.

        1. Yes, you are right…Then it’s about degrees of power to be more specific…

    2. They didn’t make the best decision, but they should not be met with violence over it.

  5. So last night’s Modern Family actually touched on today’s parenting…

    Jay wants to go golfing but Gloria has scheduled a playdate for Joe…Jay asks why they need to schedule a date for kids to play and that when he was a kid he just went outside and played. Gloria responds that the other boy’s parents are coming also and he can’t go golfing. Jay asks why they all need to sit and watch their kids play and Gloria tells him that its what parents do now…

    Indeed it is…never out of sight and rarely out of reach…

    1. My brother tells me he worries if his kids (age 12 and 10) are out in the yard playing and he can’t see them. He lives in suburban Indianapolis. He says things are different than when we were growing up. Yes they are. In one generation we went from my mother (just be home by dinner) to my brother’s paranoia that a stranger is going to kidnap his 12 year old out of his own backyard. Worst first thinking at its finest.

      1. If your kids are going to be kidnapped or molested, odds overwhelming state it will be a stepfather, uncle, or other relative. Tell your brother he should be more afraid of you than of any imaginary stranger-danger.

        1. One for the diamond mine and the younger one to polish monocles.

          1. Encourage him to have a third. You still need one for the factory.

          2. “Polishing monocles,” is that what they’re calling it now? That’s just sick.

        2. Odds, shmodds.
          Unless the chance is zero, which it never is, you worry.
          These parents, because it would have been so much marginally slower to have had one of them stay in the car, they were in the wrong.
          A stern warning would have been enough, though

          1. Lighten up, Francis. Nothing wrong with kids sitting in the car for half an hour on a 50-degree day.

      2. He says things are different than when we were growing up.

        Yeah, violent crime is down like 75%.

    2. At me house, we host parties–actually a lot of them, for two introverts like my wife and myself–with our friends and neighbors who all have kids of similar ages. The basement is set up as a playroom, and we let the kids head down there and just kind of keep an ear out for distress noises.

      A few of the parents will consistently go where the kids are and stay there, watching them, the entire time. I don’t understand that–the whole point is supposed to be for the kids to entertain each other, so the adults can have adult time. If you really love watching kids that much, I’ll hire you to babysit mine while we go out!

      1. Pirate parties ?

      2. The only reason for check on the kids when they are in the basement is I don’t want them destroying my nice crap. It has nothing to do with their safety and everything to do with my stuff’s safety (I think daddys $4000 server should be pink). Put fear of god into them…spot check every hour or so. (Gladly there is an invisible force field around my server closet)

    3. Indeed it is…never out of sight and rarely out of reach…

      Can you imagine the next generation of helpless pussies we’re creating?

      1. The military is already having to deal with them. To our detriment.

        The only recruits with fighting spirit are the gang bangers who are there to get trained for gang warfare.

  6. Heather Hypes, a 24-year-old Michigan mom

    I refuse to believe this article is nothing more than viral marketing for Stan Lee’s next comic book series.

  7. I suggest contacting Wal-mart and politely suggesting this is bad publicity for them and they ought to pick up the legal fees: http://corporate.walmart.com/contact-us

    1. Yeah, it looks pretty bad for Walmart when you’ve got Walmart employees out in the parking lot looking in the car at the kids and the Walmart employees are telling the cops “You need to get down here, there’s some kids alone in a car and there’s some pretty skeevy-looking characters out in the parking lot looking in the car at them.”

  8. ” Heather and her husband are looking at a possible $2,000 in fines and six months in jail.”

    Which of course serves the best interests of the children, which is the State’s greatest concern.

  9. Shopping at Walmart is doing more damage to those kids and all the kids than any idle car ride could ever do. Is there no Whole Foods in that town?

    1. It’s a food desert.

      1. I’ve said it before: their five dollar tubs of peanuts are a killer deal, both for budget and low-carb snacking. At 34.5oz you’re getting close to ~1200kcal/dollar, with only 3g carbs per ounce.

        1. I like to stop at Walmart on my way to the tracktor pull

    2. CPS should shut down all Wal-Marts and replace them with Whole Foods.

      For the children.

  10. Everyone fucking understands that the cataclysmic clouds that perpetually haunt the collective imagination with its infinity of depraved potentialities are riddled with glistening Insipids clacking together gigantic goddamn fangs flaring from dark hungry holes punched through fucking taut moldy skin with skittering claws gangled on the ends of muscular hairy limbs designed by the gods for ripping and raping the innocent, left alone, and wayward.

    THIS, my lovely friends, is what the goddamn planet is producing and then calling civilized, socially-justified, and fucking loving.

    Civilized fucking society is barbarism painted in calico as far THIS MOTHERFUCKER is concerned! I fucking hate humans. I don’t want them hurt I just want them eaten by an angry ozone devil spat into existence by a herd of pissed-off giraffes riding tricycles mounted to weather balloons painted with shimmering bands by the cosmic winds. This is how much I hate motherfucking humans.

  11. When I was a kid, my parents would routinely leave me and my brother in the car while running errands.

    This was preferred for all of us. For me, it meant I could listen to the radio, read, or play with whatever toys I had in the car. For my parents, it meant they could get their errands done faster.

    The 1980s and early 1990s feel like ages ago now…

    1. So things were still fairly sane in the early 90’s. Imagine how it feels for someone who grew up in the late 50’s early 60’s. My folks would leave me in the car with a bronto-burger and my pet saber tooth tiger. The only real danger was falling out the bottom of the car where dad put his feet to make the car move.

  12. So, in a nutshell, a five-minute run in turned into a 27-minute run.

    It took 22 minutes to re-conduct part of your business in there that originally took less than 5?

    I think what’s happening here is excessive, but let’s not pretend that we’re retarded enough to buy this. Somebody should have run back out to check on the kids once you knew you were going to be delayed.

    1. For instance, there have been times Banjos was driving on a long trip with just the three girls. She’s run in to go to the bathroom plenty of times. But if there’s somebody in there dropping bombs and reading the paper, she doesn’t chalk it up to “a two minute bathroom break turned into 25 minutes because of somebody else.” She goes out and stands by the car until the bathroom is empty and she can make the trip as short as possible.

      1. Free-range parenting means never having to say you’re sorry.

        1. Saying sorry is an under-rated virtue but- ‘Sorry, we fucked up. Thoughtless chumps were are. Will do much better in the future, kids” cannot be processed by a state driven to intervene in a mostly impractical and violent way.

        2. I don’t see that they did anything that they should be sorry for.

    2. “Somebody should have run back out to check on the kids once you knew you were going to be delayed.”

      Yes. But, they did not- like thoughtless chumps. However, thoughtless chumps should be reminded by the momentary thoughtful who themselves are often fucking thoughtless chumps because all flesh bags with letters spilling from their tonsils are capable of engaging in really dumb shit from time to time.

      Thoughtless bullshit with zero negative consequences should negate any intervention from the state. This is the crux. Not how great of a fucking parent you and I are when we hold us and them up to the loving lights of Jebus.

      1. Did you miss the part where I said what is happening here is excessive?

        1. Probably. Sorry, here’s a bowl of imagination chili prepared fresh from my brain kitchen.

          1. Now I wonder if chili can be cooked sous vide.

            Except the spaghetti noodles and the shredded cheddar cheese parts of course.

            -native Cincinattian.

            1. Kill it with fire sloop, you are in Texas now.

            2. Skyline was a block from Good Samaritan Hospital, where I trained, in 1983 !

    3. It’s irksome that this should even be litigated among strangers. You wouldn’t do this with your kids, and that’s fine, but that people think of this as an opportunity for moral preening rather than minding their own business is the real problem. Well, that and CPS being supercilious twats.

      And I’m not calling you out: the incident made the news, it’s reported here, it’s opened up for debate. That’s fine. The galling thing is that it happened at all. They’re not Walmart’s kids, Walmart is not their village, it has sod all to do with anyone outside the family until there’s appreciable risk involved. Not just the risk of risk.

      1. I’m not disputing you. And the last thing I want is for people to by judged by the state here.

        It’s just my opinion that they manipulated a part of the story for sympathy. A part that is easily contradicted. Also they could have easily remedied/avoided the issue had they used a little brainpower.

        1. Hell, I think Lenore went too far in even suggesting the possibility that the parents could be in the wrong. Were the State’s precious little future tax earners harmed during those pivotal 27 minutes? No? Was there any imminent threat? Then piss off, CPS. Go dig yourselves a hole and crawl in it and hide from the terrifying world.

          1. (I’m not arguing with you, I’m just aggravated by these stories. It’s a little like a situation my buddy found himself in recently: some pissant nobody peeked into his backyard, saw his puppy dog, and reported my friend and his wife to Animal Welfare. They sent out a crew, inspected the yard and house, found no reason to take the dog, and left. The guy did it a second time. The crew came out again, found nothing, went away. It’s like that, except CPS doesn’t exercise the same level of discretion. Infuriating.)

            1. Sounds like that busybody needs a bag of your buddy’s dog’s best work left on his front porch in a flaming paper bag.

              1. It shouldn’t even come to that, though. He deserves public censure for being an asshole, much like Walmart deserves to be called out for having assisted in hassling this family and inflicting vastly more harm on them than these parents did to their children. But they won’t be! Because this has become the new norm: moral posturing and invasive public policy. Infuriating!

    4. Somebody should have run back out to check on the kids once you knew you were going to be delayed.

      Thanks, Captain Hindsight! Got any suggestions on how the DP inter dimensional rift could have been prevented?

      1. Take them into the store. Leave one parent in the car. One parent stay to re-ring the transaction while the other goes out, since that part took 22 minutes apparently.

        Gee, that was tough.

  13. I’m sure the two busybody employees went home that day and promptly dislocated their shoulders from patting themselves on the back. Jesus fucking Christ, people need to mind their own Goddamn business.

    1. Or at the very fucking least offer the thoughtless chumps a bit of meaningful advice in why you shouldn’t leave your little kids alone for almost a half hour in the vehicle because Walmart parking lots. What more needs to be stated here? Walmart parking lots steam with lurching lechers, maniacal twins, grinning midget hordes, shit- the list of malevolents is endless.

    2. If you see something, say something.
      It takes a village.
      Social contract.
      They’ve been taught that everything IS their goddamn business.

  14. I really need to start wearing a cup when I read these kinds of stories nut punches.

  15. I have driven half way across the country by myself atleast 8 times with young children in tow (atleast 4 of those times I had three of them).
    1.) Be a fucking Boy Scout and always be prepared. Bring everything you could ever possibly need and even bring things you think you wouldn’t.
    2.) Drive-thrus are your best friend.
    3.) Just take the damn kids inside the store with you. Shopping carts have seats in them for a reason. If need be, but them cookies to get them to behave. It’s not worth the headache of dealing with CPS later even if you swear you’ll only run in for 5 minutes.
    4.) When you have to piss, find a fast food restaurant, park right near the entrance run in and out as fast as humanly possible with the doors locked.

    These simple rules will keep you from dealing with busybody assholes and CPS.

    1. 4a) Hide the kids in the trunk to avoid the prying eyes of the public’s hall monitors.

  16. Unless the cops were there when they came out of the store (and it doesn’t sound like it), I don’t know why they didn’t just drive away.

    Probably wouldn’t have changed the outcome (still would have had a CPS visit, and somebody overriding the CPS recommendation, etc.). Still . . . .

    1. Probably for the best they stuck around. The cops reported the incident to CPS, but didn’t arrest anyone or haul the kids away. Who knows how it would have ended up had they left, but I imagine it would involve several cops waiting for them at their home, demanding they exit the vehicle with their hands up and cuffing them in front of their neighbors.

      1. demanding they exit the vehicle with their hands up and cuffing them in front of their neighbors.

        If they’re lucky.

    2. Good point. Tell the Walmart employees to politely fuck off and mind their own business.
      Push back if necessary…why are you hanging around my car with my 3 year old.
      That probably would have been the reaction not too long ago…why the hell are YOU nosing around my car with my kids in it. Might get your ass kicked.

  17. Heather Hypes

    Don’t b’leve the Hypes!

  18. No one is suggesting that very young children should routinely be left alone in a car for half an hour

    FUCK OFF LENORE!

    Why do you give them that?

    I’ll fucking suggest it. If it’s 50 degrees out, you can leave your kids in the car for a half hour any goddamned time you see fit!

    God fucking dammit, even the opposition to these power hungry, statist, nanny shitbags has been pussified!

    Just fucking say it. There is nothing wrong with leaving your kid in the car if the weather permits it.

    1. Just fucking say it. There is nothing wrong with leaving your kid in the car if the weather permits it

      *looks around*

      There’s nothing wrong with leaving your kid in the car if weather permits it and there’s no one around to catch you.

      1. I suppose that depends on how you define “wrong”. Morally or legally…

  19. This is why the future is fucked. How the fuck will ne bod grow up to be a free, moral agent if he’s raised in this absurd fashion–that is, never be left unattended, never engaging in any spontaneous, self-directed group activities, never kept out of instant contact with parents or other authorities, kept in school run like a fucking jail, and so forth. If human children were this delicate, none of us would have survived growing up years ago. So, instead, we can look forward to generations of authoritarian buffoons (though one has to wonder if people raised like this will actually be able to survive as adults, or, if they can, if they will be able to propagate a culture into the future–hopefully not). Add this to how very few children are raised in environments that admit the existence of right and wrong as anything but the whimsies of those in power, and it’s even worse. Maybe my parents did all sorts of fucked up things, but I was let to develop into a human being, and the ideas of good and evil, honour and shame, were omnipresent. A person’s judgment of what was right or honorable could be disputed, but that good and evil, honour and shame were intrinsec properties of moral existence was unquestionable. There was also the importance of loving life and pursuing happiness. These days, I see most younger people oblivious to good or evil, honour or shame, and seemingly incapable of loving life in se and oblivious to real happiness as even a possibility.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.