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Parents Talk: Leaving Kids in Cars

Are you endangering the life of a child if you leave them unattended in a car?

It's something most parents - when pressed - would admit they've done at one time or another probably for the sake of convenience. 

Leaving a child in a car for a few minutes while you run into the store to pay for your gas or drop a letter into the mailbox seems harmless enough but in Iowa, it's grounds for child endangerment charges.

Last week in Waterloo, there were two separate incidents of children being left alone while their parents went shopping.

The first incident occurred around 6 p.m. Tuesday night when officers found a 3 year-old girl alone in a parked car outside a Walgreens. Police say the child had been left alone for 15-20 minutes. 

In the second incident, officers were called to Wal-Mart around 10:45 p.m. and found a 6-month-old boy and a 6-year-old girl alone inside a van. Authorities say the children had been alone for about 30 minutes with the windows rolled down.

In both instances, the parents were located and charged with child endangerment. Their children were turned over to family members.

What do you think? Is child endangerment too harsh a charge for someone leaving their child alone in a car? At what age do you think it's OK to let a child stay behind in a vehicle while you run an errand? Tell us in the comments below.

Maria Houser Conzemius September 16, 2012 at 11:38 AM
My daughter and I ate at an Iowa City restaurant downtown recently. We saw a woman park her car, leave it running, and run past us into the restaurant. Two small children sat in back. I saw one little boy climb into the front seat several times. I went outside, got the license plate number, and called the police. Turns out the restaurant owner was the children's father. He refused to serve us lunch. But I'm still glad I called the police, because if she would do this once -- especially with the car running -- she would do it again. One of my early cases as a social worker was referred to me by the Department of Human Services. Two children were sitting in a vehicle while their parents shopped at a junkyard. The older of the two boys got a loaded gun out of the glove box and was pointing it at the younger boy when someone called the police. Turns out that leaving the kids alone in the car was the tip of the iceberg. There were other serious problems in the home as well.
Maria Houser Conzemius September 16, 2012 at 11:42 AM
Another thing that happened at least once was that a mother left her child in the car with the car running at a convenience store. Someone stole the car with the child in it. As soon as the thief realized there was a baby in a carrier in the back seat, he threw the child out the window into a ditch. A "nosy" elderly woman had asked her husband to check out whatever was in the ditch and identified the car. They found the baby, safe and sound. "Thank goodness for nosy people!" the mother said later, glad that she had her baby back safe and sound.
CFBusinessOwner September 16, 2012 at 01:26 PM
Here's an idea: Take the children into the store/post office and use it as a teaching time---to teach them how to behave in a store, to see how you pay for things, etc. It may feel like a hassle but all these little trips/lessons will add up to having well behaved children who LIKE being with you when they're older.
Maria Houser Conzemius September 17, 2012 at 01:12 PM
+1, Noreen Gosch!
Maria Houser Conzemius September 17, 2012 at 01:13 PM
+1, CFBusinessOwner!

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