CHILDREN being left alone in the car is child neglect. Yes, that is hard to accept. Often parents say they have no choice and that it’s just for a minute.
But in that minute you could lose your child. It has happened. It is often a case of bad judgment, and the parents will have to live with that for the rest of their lives.
Should parents then be threatened with legal action?
Must it come to this, to get parents to be better parents? Aren’t they punished enough when they lose a child? Surely the pain of loss is more than enough punishment for any parent.
This is a tough topic to tackle because firstly parents very often already feel that they are being judged – by their own family members, their friends, society at large and other parents.
But to take it to court is almost like the modern day “tar and feather” effect – everyone in your country will know you “neglected” your child and you would be labelled a “bad parent”.
Mum of two and teacher Bridget Emily Mowe believes that stern action should be taken against parents for neglect.
“Right now, most parents are taking things too lightly. If it’s proven that the parent is responsible, then legal action should be taken. I think parents should be punished so that other parents would be on high alert,” she says.
“I agree 100% that accidents happen and that nobody is perfect. If it was an accident, then we should move on. But if it was done purposely then they should have action taken against them.
“I am always concerned about safety because of a fear of losing my children, or just the thought of anything bad happening to them when I am not around. I love them too much,” says Bridget.
She suggests that the community help out by having more security guards stationed at crowded places like malls and also at public restrooms.
Psychologist and family therapist Ivy Tan believes that legal action should be taken not just against parents, but caregivers and guardians too if they are found guilty of neglect.
She points out that in the United States, the mere fact of exposing your child to endangerment gets you in trouble. It doesn’t necessarily need to have caused injury. Just the action of exposing your child to harm would criminalise you.
In California, under the Unattended Child in Motor Vehicle Act “Kaitlyn’s Law” parents would be prosecuted when if expose they children in “conditions that present a significant risk to the child’s health and safety” or “when the vehicle’s engine is running or the vehicle’s keys are in the ignition, or both.”
“I do empathise that sometimes it may be a matter of inconvenience for a parent to bring their children in and out of the car or to wake the baby up to grab something quick. The easier option would be to leave the child in the car, or even with an older child/sibling. It’s certainly more appealing – no heavy lifting, a happier baby and a less-frazzled mum or dad.
“But what if something happened? Would you blame yourself for taking that option? Would you be able to live with that guilt?” asks Ivy.
Unfortunately, in such cases, parents have to learn the hard way.
Many times we have seen the photographs in the newspapers of the heartbroken parents weeping inconsolably.
While we sympathise with them, the question that begs to be asked is: Why did they take the option of leaving their child alone in the car or allow their child to go to the shops alone, even after other parents have done it in the past and lost their children?
Why is it still happening today?
Nothing can be done after the fact. So, why even take the chance if there is even the smallest risk of losing your child?
The agony and heartbreak of losing a child is something parents will never recover from.
Their lives will never be the same again.
The remorse will live with them forever.
So, isn’t the pain of child loss enough “punishment” for a parent? Why punish them more with legal action? Shouldn’t the fear of losing a child be enough to make them more vigilant and less negligent?
How can any law make them better parents, when love for the child can’t?
“At times, I truly believe that there may be circumstances that overwhelmed the parents and their thoughts and actions got