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This past summer we saw too many stories of children being left in hot cars while Mom or Dad went shopping or to work. Some of these stories ended horrifically; children died and parents were charged with crimes.

But what if you only leave your child to run into the store for a loaf of bread? What if it is a cool day and you’re going to be in the store for five minutes? Is it okay under these circumstances to leave a child alone in your car?

A New Jersey woman found out that it was not okay, and in the process, she wound up on New Jersey’s Child Abuse Registry. It was a cool April morning when Carolyn left her 19-month old son asleep in his car seat to run a quick errand.

She left the motor running and locked the doors while she ran into the market to grab some milk and bread. When she returned to her car, after having been gone less than ten minutes, police were waiting for her and took her into custody.

A security guard had noticed the child in the car and called 911.  Carolyn was arrested and charged with child endangerment, and then released on her own recognizance.

A few days later, child protective services show up on her doorstep. They go into her home where they find her other three children happy, dressed well and seemingly healthy. They were current on immunizations and had health insurance. The home was clean and well-kept, and there were no signs of abuse or neglect. Carolyn admitted to the caseworker that she knew what she had done was wrong.

Two weeks later, a civil suit was filed by CPP.  After months of random visits to Carolyn’s home and many interviews, the suit was dropped. However, it was determined that under New Jersey’s child abuse law, Carolyn had not exercised “a minimum degree of care” and failed to “adequately supervise the child”. As a result, Carolyn was placed on the child abuse registry alongside men who had raped their daughters.

Her lawyers have filed an appeal, saying that Carolyn deserves a hearing before a judge to determine whether she is a danger to her own children and whether she belongs on the registry.

What do you think? Have you ever left your child in the car to run a quick errand?

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