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To the Local Mom Whose Child got Locked in a Hot Car

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Hi Mama,

I don’t know you and I don’t know anything more about you than what I read in the paper a few days ago. From that article I know your toddler got accidentally locked in the car when a gust of wind blew the door shut with the keys inside. I know you worked frantically for a few minutes to get her out before calling the police. I know the police broke the window and found her to be warm, but healthy.

And I know they gave you a ticket for suspected child abuse or neglect.

It could be there’s more to the story than what the newspaper reported, but if that is truly what happened, I am so sorry. I can only imagine the terror you felt at realizing your baby was stuck in that car. You did your best to get her out and then knew you needed help. You called who any of us should feel safe calling in that moment, and now here you are facing child abuse allegations and a potential investigation. Mama, this should bother all of us because this exact situation could happen to any parent.

What should you have done differently to avoid being considered abusive or neglectful? What actual abuse or harm did your child suffer if she was deemed to be entirely healthy and you were present with her the whole time? I can imagine this incident was traumatic for all of you (probably for you more than anyone), but how does adding the trauma of a child abuse investigation help? This was NOT a child left in a hot car on purpose or even on accident. You never left her at all. This was an emergency you did everything you could to solve.

And let’s not ignore the fact that if this incident had happened twenty years ago, that toddler (with some direction) would have been able to jump into the front seat, unlock the door and hop out. Instead, she was secured in a five-point harness FOR HER SAFETY, which then put her in an unsafe situation. Moms can’t win.

Is it really the expectation for all of us to be perfect parents? Our car doors should never blow shut. We should know immediately that our efforts to unlock the door will be fruitless. Our beloved, well attended, totally healthy children are deemed “abused” or “neglected” because they were in a hot car for about 15 minutes while we worked to get them out, reassuring them of our love and presence the whole time?

It’s one thing to feel like the world judges you as a mother for any perceived imperfections. It’s another thing to have an actual JUDGE called in to judge you for an accident that was entirely outside of your control.

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