A 28-year-old Florida woman was arrested and charged with four counts of negligent child abuse without bodily harm after police observed her four children playing in a park without supervision. When the mother, named Ashley Richardson, arrived at the scene to retrieve them, she told officers that she had been at been at the local food bank and was not expecting to be away so long.
A police officer said she first noticed the children playing alone in Lake Maude Nature Park in the small city of Winter Haven during the early afternoon of Tuesday, August 12. She was eventually waved down by the kids after the eldest, age 8, became caught in a swing meant for toddlers. The officer called in the fire department and the boy was eventually unstuck.
Police say that, upon requesting the children's address, the kids initially would not answer, though, when asked again, they gave an address less than a half mile away and said that they had left the house earlier that morning. Approximately 2.5 hours after police first spotted the kids, Richardson arrived, informed officers that she had been held up at the local food bank and was arrested on the scene.
The Winter Haven Police Department has already received public backlash for the arrest, leading Police Chief Gary Hester to state:
"Six, seven and 8-year-old kids are not equipped to be left unattended, I mean period. I met some pretty mature 6, 7, 8-year-olds but you don't leave them unattended. I guess the question we should be asking is this 28-year-old mother, should she be left unattended. Doesn't look like she's mature enough to be a parent. She's being supervised today in the county jail. Hopefully she learns her lesson."
For the record, I spent far longer than 2 and a half hours unattended in parks throughout my childhood and my parents were never scolded by law officials or told that they needed to "learn a lesson" through jail time. Then again, my folks are middle class and white, so they're not exactly the police department's target demo when it comes to this kind of things.
Richardson's arrest echoes other recent, highly publicized incidents: In July, Debra Harrell was arrested for letting her daughter play in the park while she worked a shift at McDonald's and, just shy of five months ago, Shanesha Taylor, a homeless mother of two, was arrested for leaving her children in the car while attending a job interview.
Glad to see that police resources are going to such good use.
Image via Shutterstock.