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Winnipeg's Worst Mom
January 21, 2015 permalink
A mother in Winnipeg left her six-year-old son alone for 90 minutes at home. She lost custody of the boy and has not seen him for eighteen months. On top of that she faces criminal charges of abandonment. America's worst mom, Leonare Skenazy, is defending the mother.
City parent defended by 'worst mom'
Abandonment case continues
Was a Winnipeg mom wrong to leave her six-year-old son home alone for 90 minutes?
Or are police and justice officials acting like helicopter parents?
Either way, America's worst mom is on her side.
New York City resident Lenore Skenazy says the Winnipeg mom -- who left her son alone in a locked bungalow on a summer afternoon with the TV on and food and water with him -- should not have been charged with child abandonment.
Skenazy said, at most, the mother should have been told "don't do it again."
"Just because something makes you feel uncomfortable or self-righteous doesn't make it dangerous," Skenazy said during a phone interview Tuesday.
"This mother loves her child more than anyone. She knows her child better than the judge, lawyers and police.
"Every parent makes decisions that other parents don't agree with."
Skenazy knows what it's like to be accused of bad parenting.
She made international headlines in 2008 and was dubbed America's worst mom after she gave subway fare to her nine-year-old son so he could fulfil his request of finding his way home by himself.
Since then, Skenazy has written the book Free-Range Kids, is the host of the TV show World's Worst Mom, and has been interviewed by media outlets from around the world. She said free-range kids are treated as smart people who don't need to be watched constantly.
Earlier this week, a Winnipeg mother was on trial after pleading not guilty to child abandonment.
Provincial court Judge Margaret Wiebe was told the woman left her child alone at home for 90 minutes so she could run some errands.
Court was told the child's father -- the parents are separated -- spotted the mom driving alone on Pembina Highway and phoned the home. When the child said he was alone, the dad called police.
The Crown called it abandonment and argued there were numerous ways the child could have been injured or worse while alone, including turning on the stove, choking on food or falling out of a window.
"Just because nothing bad happened, that's not the test," Crown attorney Nancy Fazenda said.
Michael Law, the woman's lawyer, said there was no evidence of potential harm brought forward and said people who had been convicted of the offence in the past had left their children in vehicles during hot summer or cold winter days, or with weapons.
"It must be more than purely speculative," he said.
Skenazy said she doesn't understand why the mother has not seen her son since she was arrested 18 months ago. Law would only say Child and Family Services is involved in the case.
"That's horrific," she said. "How's that in the best interests of the child?"
Skenazy said the court case is one more example of how North American society is too protective of children.
"I was walking to school as a kindergartner. Now you can't ever walk to school when you are 10," she said.
"What we have done is massively underestimate our children and massively overestimate the danger."
Arthur Schafer, a University of Manitoba professor and the director of the U of M Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics, said whatever happens to the Winnipeg woman will be at the discretion of the court and will take into consideration whether harm was intended or negligently risked through her actions and what, if any, punishment there should be.
"The defence that nothing bad came of it, if the child had come to harm, it would have been worse," Schafer said. "Imagine two parents who leave their kids for the same length of time in a locked house in similar circumstances and one house burns down and the other doesn't or in one, the child manages to fall out of a window to its death and the other that doesn't happen. But they could equally have happened so both can be very serious."
If the woman was convicted, Schafer said he would expect any punishment would take into account that the woman hasn't seen her child in 18 months.
"It seems unlikely they'd need to imprison her or fine her heavily. The fact that she has suffered greatly, she's lost custody of her child, she's been stigmatized, she's been charged, even if she's not convicted, might be viewed by the court as sufficient punishment. Or not."
Source: Winnipeg Free Press
Addendum: Acquitted. But no sign of her children returning.
Winnipeg mother found not guilty for leaving child unattended in locked home
Mother not guilty for leaving child in locked home
A Manitoba court acquitted a Winnipeg mother in a case involving a six year old child left home alone for an hour and a half.
The name of the family is being withheld to protect the child.
In July 2013, the woman left her son alone in front of the TV, inside her locked home, while she ran errands.
Police arrested the woman after Child and Family Services found out she intentionally left her child unattended for 90 minutes.(file image)
The father, her estranged husband, found out and called police.
She was charged with child abandonment for intentionally leaving the boy unattended for 90 minutes.
“The child was found safe, TV on, he was eating pudding,” said Mike Law, the woman’s defence lawyer.
Child abandonment charges could result in up to five years in jail.
The judge said in this case the mother used "poor judgment" and made a mistake, but she didn't break the law.
“She's estranged from the father and his family, so she really had nobody and she had to go to work and she had to get medication,” said Law.
The decision came down to risk.
Provincial court Judge Margaret Wiebe said the boy was left “in a well-kept home with no evident or immediate dangers."
“It would be a stretch and new area of law to consider this circumstance to be child abandonment,” said Law.
If the mother was convicted the case could have set precedent; potentially making it a crime to leave kids under 12 home alone across Canada.
“That has a huge ramifications in that if the government is not going to support more child space, what do you do?,” said child development expert Ruth Lindsey-Armstrong.
Lindsey-Armstrong said that would exacerbate a growing problem.
“Nowadays people are looking for childcare for their 12, 13, 14-year-old because they feel their children aren't independent enough to stay by themselves,” she said.
The mother broke down in tears when she heard the not-guilty decision. She hadn’t seen her son for 15 months and hopes to see him soon.
Since the incident the child been staying with his father, whose role in this played a part in the judge's decision.
The father called police to say he was worried about his son's safety, yet didn't immediately drive over to check on him.
According to Manitoba’s Child and Family Services act kids under 12 must be left with reasonable provisions made for supervision.
If not, child and family services could get involved.
An incident becomes a criminal charge of child abandonment if there are risks to a child's life or health.