Because my homecolony doesn’t make the news much, when I hear the mention of Fullerton, CA, my antennae perk right up. Like a couple of weeks ago, when I heard a story about a married couple arrested after they parked their van at the Brea Mall and went inside to do a little shopping.
Problem was, Ho and Tae Kim left their 3-year-old child in the van. And because it was a 91-degree F day, the only reason they didn’t come back to a dead toddler is because some sharp-eyed shopper caught sight of the crying, sweltering little girl and called the police, who later opined that it seemed the 30-something couple forgot the tot was with them.
The Kims were arrested for felony child endangerment and held on $100,000 bail each, while the couple’s three children were temporarily taken in by relatives.
Neither Keanu Reeves nor the film Parenthood are very impressive artistically, but in that film Reeves does voice a line that makes a good point: “[Y]ou need a license to buy a dog, or drive a car. Hell, you need a license to catch a fish! But they’ll let any butt-reaming asshole be a father.”
But butt-reaming American jurisprudence is such that ultimately the couple is likely to receive little more than a light fine, and there is no chance their children will be taken from them.
Hey, I’m just an ant, so what do I know about parenting human children? Nonetheless, I can’t help wondering whether your society might be better off by setting the bar a bit higher when it comes to the custody of young children. Were the Kims running a daycare center rather than a dental office, surely their license would be revoked had they made such a potentially deadly oversight regarding someone else’s kids. Why is society more accepting of an adult’s mistreating one’s own flesh and blood?
Presumably it comes out of tradition. Because for most of human history children were seen partly as chattel and partly as little slaves—consider, for example, how relatively recent child-labor laws are (thank you, Mr. Dickens!)—it’s not surprising to find vestigial attitudes allowing parents to inflict more neglect and outright damage than any little tyke should have to suffer. But you know the battle cry of the bad parent: “Don’t tell me how to raise my kids!”
The irony, of course, is that it’s even worse when one does wrong by one’s own offspring, since those are the only minors for whom the parent is responsible, both morally (because hey, mom and dad, you made them) and legally.
Yet somehow society doesn’t get it, and so you must get caught doing something awfully serious—as in molestation or breaking bones—to lose custody of your little ones.
If you want a barometer of just how wacky attitudes toward bad parenting get, consider this other case of kids being left alone in a hot car. But first, a warning to those with heart trouble: the shocking twist in this story may cause coronary arrest.
Shanesha Taylor, a 35-year-old single mother of three, had a job interview last March but couldn’t find anyone to watch her 6-month-old and 2-year-old. Her solution? Rather than canceling the interview or bringing the children inside with and explaining the situation to her prospective employer, she decided to leave the kids alone in her Dodge Durrango while she went inside and tried to make the case that she was responsible enough to become the company’s newest employee.
Taylor’s execrably bad parenting choice was discovered—and perhaps kept from turning tragic—when cries of distress led passersby to the Durrango, parked directly in the noontime sun with the air conditioner off and the windows rolled down only slightly. Reportedly, the infant, dressed in two shirts and covered by a blanket, was “crying hysterically and sweating profusely,” with the temperature in the SUV estimated by a police officer on the scene to be around 100 degrees Farenheit.
Taylor was arrested when she returned to her vehicle about an hour later and, like the Kims, arrested for felony child endangerment. But apparently they do things differently in Arizona, because Taylor’s bail amount was $91,000 lower than the Kims’, even though she was booked on two counts and didn’t forget about her children but left them alone by design.
The excuse Taylor gave the police was that she was jobless and homeless, and therefore driven by desperation. However, both claims turned out to be false.
It’s no shock to find bad deeds going unpunished. But rewarded? Yes, here’s that surprise twist: Taylor’s tearful mugshot went viral, leading to the following:
- an anonymous donor paid her bail
- a petition to the Maricopa County Attorney to drop all charges against Taylor
- an #ISupportShanesha trend on Twitter
- a crowdfunding campaign for Taylor that eventually grossed $114,000
And just last month the charges were basically dropped, conditioned only up her completing some parenting classes and using her six-figure windfall for childcare expenses (including future education). Naturally, she retains custody of her kids.
A woman walks into a job interview. She’s left her toddler and infant alone in a hot car in the parking lot alone. She lies to police about why, but no charges of any sort are filed. People from far and wide rally around her, paying her bail and giving her over $100K besides.
It is a joke, just not a funny one. It’s almost surprising she didn’t get the job.
Love and formic acid,