When I got home Cathi looked drained. I could tell she had been crying. She asked me to sit down. She really hesitated to tell me what happened. She told me that when she left to go to America's Best she left Jacob with Jonas, Isaac, Sam and Oliver to babysit. She had Lucy and Austin in the van. While Austin was getting his eyes checked some police entered the store and asked for the owner of the van. Cathi had apparently left the house not realizing that she had Sam in the very back seat. He had got in the van before she left and had fallen asleep.
Yesterday's high according to KSL was 64°F (at 5pm) and the van was parked in the shade of a building. Not that the sun was out in full force. It rained straight for two days until yesterday morning. So the situation at that very moment was far from life threatening. Sam had awaken from his nap and was crying. Now the crime that Cathi committed according to the Utah State Codes is "Child Neglect" (78A-6-105 25a). She was not aware that Sam was asleep in the van so it was an accident. But she isn't completely free from wrong doing. When she left the house she did not fully account for every child and literally hand over the responsibility properly to Jacob (who probably doesn't qualify as a responsible babysitter in Utah).
She was angry at herself and angry at the person calling the police. My attitude would be considerably different had yesterday's high been in the 90's or 100's. I'm glad Sam is safe and that is what matters. What can be done to ensure this doesn't happen again? Cathi has told me she has put two new rules on herself:
- Accounting for each child BEFORE leaving them with a babysitter. Also keeping track of the kids during the day. Sometimes they roam around our yard, Bremers and Browns (the families on each side) but with them being so small they can't be trusted to stay in that zone, or to be wise enough to make good decisions about what activities they get involved in while with their friends.
- Babysitting - no more leaving Jacob or Lucy as the babysitter for more than an hour. Austin is responsible enough we believe, but Jacob or Lucy are not at this point.
Last week I saw a guy holding up his infant with one hand balancing the baby while smiling and cooing at him. Some would consider this dangerous. Had they guy dropped the infant, that would have probably constituted neglect. Where is the line between unnecessary risk/horse play, or neglect/thoughtlessness? When parent's make bonehead mistakes with their kids and the safety of the children is in question family services steps in to try to ensure that they are safe and that those same mistakes don't happen again. Problem is, they can't. Accident's happen. We're human. We get lazy, we don't do every single tiny little action with precision 100% of the time. But that doesn't free us from our responsibilities. We need to do better.
So probation at this point would be the best action in my opinion. If mistakes involving the safety of children are frequent, then greater action should be taken. But I don't think my wife should be treated like a criminal at this point. I'm also very grateful that this situation didn't happen in hot weather, or that Sam got out of the car and wandered off. The thought of that really worries me.