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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Endangerment or Free Range?

We're sure that you've at least heard a little about the woman who left her child at the park while she worked. Debra Harrell, North Augusta, South Carolina, left her nine year old daughter at the park...while she went to work. Harrell worked at McDonald's about two miles away. The police were called and Harrell was arrested.

Harrell was in a very tough situation that thousands of parents face particularly during the summer when school isn't in session: child care so that the parent can continue to work...to continue to pay for child care. It appears in this instance of "endangerment" that the very people who could afford to make a different decision are the ones complaining that she couldn't afford to make a different decision. This situation brings up more questions than answers about if and when a child should be left alone.

We will be the first to admit that many of us here would not have made her decision. That doesn't make her decision criminal. If the decision to leave an average nine year old child at the park unsupervised is criminal, then parents since the 1950s should have done their time in jail. Children from the 1950s all the way through the 1990s were routinely left to their own devices during the day in the summer without cell phones. Many of us weren't allowed back in the house until dusk unless it was to use the bathroom or get a drink of water.

The park had shade and access to water. The little girl had a cell phone. The little girl knew where her mother worked; stories hold that she was often at that McDonald's right down the road. There's a parenting movement known as free range parenting. They allow their children to go to more places alone than just spend a few hours at the park.

What about teenagers? Often they have very little forethought of consequences. Should they always be supervised at the park?

Do you believe Harrell should be treated like a criminal? Do you believe she made a poor choice? What would you have done in a similar situation? Comment below and join the conversation!
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