A Montana day care worker had a decision to make when a parent showed up who not only didn’t have legal custody of his children but who also had alcohol on his breath.
Martha McClure was caring for the three young children (all under the age of 4) when their father, Francis Joseph Jackson, allegedly showed up at her day care, along with an unidentified woman, and asked for his kids. McClure knew that Jackson’s parental rights had been revoked and that he wasn’t allowed to be in contact with them — and even if that wasn’t the case, she could smell alcohol on his breath. When she told him he could not pick up his kids, police say he became angry and began threatening her.
In the ensuing altercation, police reports state that McClure ended up being hit in the face with a snow shovel and punched to the ground. The couple fled, sans children, and Jackson was arrested shortly after the incident took place.
This scary situation has a happy ending, but you have to consider a pretty important question: At what point should a day care worker or a school employee take that enormous step and keep a parent away from a child?
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Generally, most schools and day cares have policies in place that would prohibit the wrong person picking up one of the children in their care. An approved pickup list is one of the most common ways to ensure that a child is not released into the wrong hands. Often staff at day care or school will have an ongoing relationship with the parent who does the pickup most often, but if they don’t, they can and do ask for ID.
In the event that a non-approved person comes to pick up a child, day care staff can and should prevent this person from leaving with that child. Whether it’s a biological parent or not, if there is a custody dispute and a parent does not have the legal right to take a child home, that is something the day care or school staff should abide by. Same should go for releasing a child into the care of someone who seems to be inebriated or otherwise impaired — another common policy that many day care owners and school districts create for the safety of the children.
These policies are put into place to prevent a child going home with the wrong person. Getting in between a parent and their child can be risky, as McClure found out. But abiding by the rules and ensuring the safety of the children you care for should be top priority. We hope that McClure recovers quickly. She is a true hero.