Whitlene Loussaint had just returned from attending church in the pouring rain and left her 2-month-old son in the back of her idling car while she went inside to fetch an umbrella. When she returned moments later, her car was gone from her driveway.
New regulations signed into law by Florida Gov. Charlie Crist last month make it a second-degree misdemeanor to leave a child under the age of 6 alone in a vehicle for more than 15 minutes, but it is illegal to leave a child in a running car for any amount of time. Loussaint may be the first person prosecuted under the measure and faces 60 days in jail and a $500 fine if convicted.
In her own driveway--trying to get an umbrella to protect the baby from the rain--way less than 15 minutes--and trying to keep the baby from catching a chill and this is neglect. I wonder if they'll also try to take the baby away from her. And they will probably never catch the real wrong-doers--the ones who stole the car and the baby.
We all make different parenting choices for different reasons. This morning, while I was dropping my oldest off at summer camp, a woman was running back to her car to minimize the time her youngest was in the car while waiting for her to drop off the oldest. I wouldn't do that, but if I need to go into a gas station convenience store, now that my children are older, I lock the door, take the keys with me, and go pay the attendent--if there is a window where I can see the kids. If someone were to steal my car or break a window, I'm supposed to be at fault, somehow.
These are all very tough decisions, but to take it to extremes of punishing parents for others wrongdoing is bizarre to me.
UPDATE: From an article at Fox News:
Currently, mothers who leave children alone in the car are treated much more harshly than fathers — with moms being 26 percent more likely to do time than dads and their average sentence being two years longer [emphasis mine], according to a study done by The Associated Press.
Paid baby sitters and day-care workers are more likely to be charged and convicted than parents for leaving kids in cars but are imprisoned less frequently and for less than half the time that moms and dads are, the AP found.