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Would you leave your kid in a park while you went to work?

A South Carolina mother is behind bars and her 9-year-old daughter has been placed in state custody after witnesses say she was left alone in a park for hours while Mom worked at McDonald’s.

Debra Harrell dropped her 9-year-old girl off at a park while she worked at a McDonald’s about a mile and a half away. After an adult noticed that she wasn’t accompanied by a grownup, she asked the girl where her parents were, and when she found out she was left alone in the park for hours, she notified authorities.

When the girl repeated the story to the officers, she was taken into headquarters, and her mother confessed to leaving the child at the park while she worked her shifts. The mother-daughter pair also said that the girl walked to and from her mom’s work to eat lunch. Harrell was arrested for “unlawful conduct towards a child” and her daughter was placed in state custody.

Would you leave your 9-year-old child outside alone for hours?

I’ve seen so many comments on this topic decrying the helicopter parenting of today, and people saying that they were outside “all day, all summer long” when they were kids. So what’s the big deal?

But really? No. I would not leave my 9-year-old kid outside for hours while I worked a mile and a half away. I really wouldn’t. That in no way sits well in my head, and while I agree that the situation for this mother is incredibly difficult, this is a choice that she shouldn’t have made.

Moms speak out

I talked to a mom who used to live in the same area and she agrees that it was a terrible idea. “That is scary as hell she would leave her daughter in that area alone,” explains Nicole, mom of two. “I wonder why she didn’t just leave her at home?”

That is a sentiment echoed by many other moms I spoke with about this situation. “No way would I just leave my kid outside for hours on end alone,” says Kimmy, mom of four. And Jessica also has a daughter the same age and says that she would be more likely to leave her at home than to drop her at a park and expect her to trek a mile and a half each way to eat lunch.

This is not about a child being allowed to play alone outside while a parent is at home. It’s really not the same situation. I really do feel for this mother who probably feels that she has no other options (working at McDonald’s and trying to afford child care has to be nearly impossible). But she should have found a better solution. Another mom I spoke with shares that she used to have free rein while her dad was working. “But it’s a different world now,” she says. “I would never leave my kid in a public place like that.”

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