A few months ago, an 11-year-old boy got home from school before either of his parents got there. They were tied up in traffic, and the boy didn’t have a house key. So, he played basketball in the driveway while he waited for 90 minutes.
According to a report at Reason, a neighbor called the police after seeing the boy outside. They responded and took the parents into custody for felony neglect.
The mother wrote in an email to Reason:
The authorities claim he had no access to water or shelter. We have an open shed in the back yard and 2 working sinks and 2 hoses. They said he had no food. He ate his snacks already. He had no bathroom, but the responding officer found our yard good enough to relieve himself in while our son sat in a police car alone. In his own yard, in a state, Florida, that has no minimum age for children to be alone.
The parents spent the night in jail after being strip searched and fingerprinted. Felony neglect is defined as:
“A person who willfully or by culpable negligence neglects a child without causing great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement to the child commits a felony of the third degree.”
Both of their children – the 11-year-old and a four-year-old son – were taken away while the parents awaited trial. First, they were placed with an in-state relative, because having their out-of-state grandparent approved as a foster parent would have taken weeks.
When the in-state relative didn’t want to take care of the boys any longer, the parents went to court to beg to have their children returned to them. Only after the 11-year-old spoke to the judge alone in chambers did the judge agree to it, but he made the parents acknowledge their “mistake” and agree to send the boys to day camp and daycare over the summer instead of staying home with their mom.
The parents are still facing criminal charges, to which they’ve pleaded not guilty.