No one will disagree that parenting can be hard work. Although most parents would not trade their children for anything, even the best parents in the happiest families will agree that sometimes being a parent is challenging and stressful. Unfortunately, not everyone is equipped with the resources and support systems that can alleviate some of the difficulties that come with being a parent.
Dr. Harvey Karp, author of “The Happiest Baby on the Block,” writes that Navy SEALS are trained to endure and withstand torture by being subjected to prolonged sleep deprivation and hours of the recorded sounds of infants screaming and crying. In short, they are trained to withstand torture by dealing with the same exhaustion and noise new mothers deal with on a daily-and nightly-basis. If it is enough to break a Navy SEAL, how can a parent without adequate support, education, or skills be expected to handle every parenting situation gracefully?
Anger and frustration, when unchecked, can have deadly results. Countless child safety campaigns remind parents to never, ever shake a baby-yet in the heat of frustration, a parent at his or her wits’ end may unthinkingly perform the very act against which they have been cautioned. Shaken baby syndrome causes serious brain damage and death. One rash act can claim a baby’s life and ruin that of his parents.
In helping parents to minimize the frustration that can lead to such a devastating outcome, many child welfare experts tell frustrated new parents to simply walk away when they feel that their anger or frustration is getting beyond their control. To prevent abuse, they advise parents to place the child somewhere safe, like a crib, and step outside to get away from the crying, take some deep breaths, and calm down. But what if a parent misunderstands that advice? What if, in an attempt to keep from harming his or her child, the parent breaks the law by neglecting that child?
A Midwest City mother was arrested this week after allegedly leaving her 11-month-old baby at home alone for approximately three hours. A neighbor called police after hearing the baby crying. Police found the child asleep with an empty bottle and a soiled diaper. When the mother, Ebony Jackson, 24, arrived home a short time later, she told authorities that she left to “clear her head.”
She was arrested on a complaint of child endangerment, and her baby was taken into protective custody by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS).
Clearly, it is never a good idea to leave an infant or small child home alone. Children are vulnerable and have no way to protect themselves in a dangerous situation. Additionally, neglecting a child’s basic needs-including food, hygiene, and companionship-can cause significant emotional trauma. However, it is possible that Jackson simply made a misguided decision in an attempt to protect her child as she felt her own frustration rising.
Certainly, there are bad parents. There are abusive parents, and there are neglectful parents. Yet there are also parents who are unprepared and ill-equipped to meet the demands of parenthood. There are parents who want to do the right thing, but who make terrible decisions without coping skills or support systems. One mistake, one poor choice, one rash act can lead to criminal charges and DHS proceedings which result in the loss of custody of one’s own children. If you are accused of child neglect or child endangerment, contact an attorney who can help you take a proactive approach to your defense by helping you find the resources necessary to improve your parenting skills and demonstrate to DHS officials and judges that you are diligently working to restore and preserve your family. Call our office for more information.