Leaving Children to Play in the Yard

I read David Bernstein’s post regularly on the Volokh Conspiracy. I completely disagree with his post on Friday about a Virginia mother charged with leaving her child in a car who is under 8 years old. Bernstein says.

I not only played in my back yard unattended at age eight, but, if I remember correctly, was free to wander around my neighborhood unaccompanied by an adult so long as I came home before dark, and in New York City (Queens) no less. Somehow, I survived unscathed, as did each and every one of my peers.

Most of the comments on the blog disagree with me. One of his readers commented on how we were becoming a “Nanny State” and others pointed out that his parents would have been guilty of child abuse. As for the latter point, this is true. But we also didn’t wear helmets when riding our bikes, nor did we sit in car seats. It is child abuse today not to put your child in a car seat. The result of this law is there are thousands of more kids who got to become adults because they were not killed in an accident. Does anyone really argue that child seat law is a good law? Times change and, yes, the elements of the care given by parents in 1970 would be child abuse today. This is a good thing.

But the final comment is the real kicker:

[F]ellow defense attorneys have advised me not to take my kid to the local children’s hospital. They say the doctors there lack the judgment to distinguish between a normal accident of childhood or unorthodox parenting on one side, and true neglect or abuse on the other. Worse, once the doctors get their mind set that it’s abuse, nothing will change it. So you take your kid there at least some risk.

So there is a lawyer – apparently a public defender from his email address – out there who would not send their child to a local children’s hospital because the doctors cannot tell the difference between an accident (or “unorthodox parenting”) on the one side and true neglect or abuse on the other?