When I was nine years old, my family moved to Eau Gallie, Florida, near Melbourne. That summer my mother decided she needed to come up with something for my younger brother and me to do. She got some kind of deal buying a book of tickets to the local skating rink. Five days a week we would walk there in the morning and spend hours there before walking back home. There were no mobile phones back then. Our only way to contact home was to use a quarter in the pay phone that was there. The walk was about two miles.
So she set us off by ourselves and we came back hours later by ourselves day after day.
A mother in Augusta, Georgia did something similar. Lenore Skenazy describes what happened at Reason magazine’s blog.
Here are the facts: Debra Harrell works at McDonald’s in North Augusta, South Carolina. For most of the summer, her daughter had stayed there with her, playing on a laptop that Harrell had scrounged up the money to purchase. (McDonald’s has free WiFi.) Sadly, the Harrell home was robbed and the laptop stolen, so the girl asked her mother if she could be dropped off at the park to play instead.
Harrell said yes. She gave her daughter a cell phone. The girl went to the park—a place so popular that at any given time there are about 40 kids frolicking—two days in a row. There were swings, a “splash pad,” and shade. On her third day at the park, an adult asked the girl where her mother was. At work, the daughter replied.
The shocked adult called the cops. Authorities declared the girl “abandoned” and proceeded to arrest the mother.
I’m not surprised that the cops nabbed the mother. That’s what they do, especially when summoned by some nosy parent. I’m not surprise that the Department of Social Services took the daughter into custody (a much less safe environment for the typical child) because, again, that’s what they do. I hate it but I’m not surprised by it.
What makes me angry is how the media is full of stupid, moronic, sermonizing, cowards. (The video below takes a minute to appear on my browser. You can also go here if you don’t see it.)
Here is a woman thrown into jail and her daughter is now the property of the Department of Social Services, and these people craft a narrative and speak with moral outrage as if the woman is the aggressor. No, she and her daughter are the victims; these interfering busybodies, both private and public, are the aggressors.
Debra Harrell did nothing wrong. But I doubt she can hire a real lawyer on her McDonald’s salary. If you don’t think Ms. Harrell was evaluated for her ability to afford a lawyer when the police were deciding whether or not to arrest her, then you are being naïve.
Imagining the possibility of a kidnapping is not a rational accusation. Read the story again. The girl could easily have been hurt if she had been home when it was robbed. She obviously doesn’t live in a safe neighborhood. Do we take all the children of all poor minorities now?
The playground, on the other hand, was full of witnesses. Despite the common myth, the fact is that the crime rate has dropped. Children are as safe as they were a generation or two ago.
Let’s be honest: this nine-year-old girl was abducted and imprisoned by the South Carolina bureaucrats because she is capable of taking care of herself and expects to do so. The system punishes the independent and demands dependence and helplessness. Debra Harrell and her daughter need to learn their proper place in the world. This is re-education for them.
I’ll let Skenazy have the last word:
Because some busybody thought she knew more about this girl’s safety than the girl’s own mother, a family has been separated. Harrell is in jail and the child is in the custody of the Department of Social Services. If only the girl had spent her whole summer sitting in McDonald’s—surfing the internet and eating a Big Mac instead of playing outside and getting fresh air—this never would have happened.