Earlier this month, police arrested a mother in Scottsdale, Arizona, for leaving her two young children in the car while she went to a job interview.
On March 20, 35-year-old Shanesha Taylor, who is homeless, parked her car containing her two-year-old and six-month-old sons in the sun while she went to her interview. Someone saw the children by themselves in the car, which reportedly had the windows slightly open and was hot inside, and called the police. Police arrived and freed the children; Taylor showed up 45 minutes later and was arrested for two felony counts of child abuse. She said she couldn’t find anyone to take care of her kids, so she left them in the car alone. She was released early this morning from jail; her children are now in custody of Child Protective Services.
“She was upset. This is a sad situation all around. She said she was homeless. She needed the job. Obviously not getting the job. So it’s just a sad situation,” Scottsdale Police Department told KPHO.
Spurred in part by a Change.org petition and a YouCaring fundraiser, over the weekend, activists mobilized to raise money for Shanesha Taylor’s $9,000 bail and other legal fees. So far, the fundraiser has raised over $65,000 from folks who say Taylor shouldn’t be punished for trying to do right by her kids.
Some might see this arrest as exclusively a child neglect issue, which, I will confess, was my first instinct. But I would urge you to consider how this story underscores the desperate situations parents are forced into in this country, either by poverty, lack of affordable housing, single parenthood or some combination of the three. Not everyone can afford a babysitter, daycare or a nanny; America really is a nation of latchkey kids (or in this case, babies) being left by themselves while Mom or Dad work. There are larger issues at play here: between the cost of childcare in this country and the cost of housing, a lot of parents who want to work have to make difficult choices regarding their kids. And be honest: Shanesha Taylor certainly isn’t the only single parent who has left young children by themselves while she was trying to put food on the table. But Shanesha was doubly unfortunate enough to be homeless, so the young children were left alone in public, in her car, and she was caught. It’s a sucky situation all-around.
Poverty is the problem here; poverty is what led to Taylor’s criminal behavior. We shouldn’t judge Shanesha Taylor so harshly for not having any resources she could rely on. The types of punishment the government is pursuing — taking her kids away from her or putting her in jail — don’t address that lack of resources. Punishing her could actually strip her of even more future resources. Obviously I don’t think that babies should be left alone inside hot cars, but we need to have empathy for the complexities of this situation.
Here’s hoping the Maricopa County attorneys drop the charges against Shanesha Taylor and this case is used to draw further attention to the systematic issues that led to her decision-making in the first place.
Email me at Jessica@TheFrisky.com. Follow me on Twitter.