A teenaged Brooklyn mother was caring for her own eleven month old baby as well as her boyfriend’s two year old sister.
She was alone, bathing the babies and trying to make dinner at the same time.
The dinner was burning.
So she allegedly left the babies, unsupervised, in the tub for a few minutes to tend to dinner.
And her eleven month old went down in the water, not breathing, for a time.
The baby has been on a ventilator, in a coma, for a month now.
Her prognosis is uncertain.
And the young mother has been in confinement ever since, facing charges of endangerment of a child and reckless endangerment – or worse.
The father of the baby hopes to win custody when – and if – the baby is discharged from the hospital.
The mother and her supporters insist that she should be released from jail, that she is not a criminal, that what happened was an accident, that she was learning how to be a mother without any role models.
The article illustrates one legal process for handling such circumstances: criminal charges against the mother who allegedly neglected her child.
The other legal process, juvenile dependency, is a civil process by which children are taken into protective custody and the court supervises reunification of the child with the parents, when and where appropriate. The goal is for the parents to improve their parenting skills and then be with their kids.
The two processes are not mutually exclusive.
But when should the criminal process be resorted to? That is the question here.
And, not surprisingly, that is decided on a case by case basis.