IT’S the issue that’s divided the nation’s mums – is it EVER acceptable to leave your child alone in the car?
Last weekend a toddler had to be dramatically rescued from a hot car in an Essex car park after his mother left him there for over an hour on his own.
He was heard crying at the Common car park in Saffron Walden as temperatures rose to 25C.
Firefighters had to smash the window of the 4 x 4 car in order to get the distressed 18 month-old boy out.
Witnesses were shocked when a woman thought to be the toddler’s mum eventually returned, oblivious to her little boy’s distress, holding hands with an older boy.
She was questioned by police before being reported to social services.
Whilst it isn’t illegal to leave children alone in a car, it is illegal to leave kids under 12 ‘for a long period of time’ or if it endangers them.
Parents are told to ‘use their judgement’ as to what constitutes a long time, or if their children will be in danger.
Many have been quick to condemn the mum who left her toddler in a hot car as “abusive” and “neglectful”, with one parent commenting “Really beggars belief – some people just shouldn’t be allowed to have kids.”
But others admitted they often leave their sleeping babies and toddlers in cars, claiming it’s kinder than waking them up – slamming parents who are afraid of leaving their kids as “paranoid” and “neurotic”.
Here, two mums give their VERY different verdicts on the question – is it ever ok to leave your child alone in the car?
Jess Berg-Quinn, 36, a stay-at-home mum from Gosforth in Newcastle upon Tyne has left her young children alone in the car for 40 minutes at a time
Jess says: “I’ve got three children aged six, four and 17 months and I’ve always happily left them in the car if I’m popping to the shops or nipping to pay for petrol.
If they’re sleeping, I’ll make sure to park the car in a shady spot then can leave them for up to 40 minutes with the windows partially open to let in some air while I go and run my errands. I’m not rushing around the shop like a mad woman either in a bid to get back.
I feel they’re perfectly safe for that amount of time – and if anything did happen, and one of them woke up or wasn’t happy, I’ve told my older son to climb into the front seat and beep the horn to get my attention.
But so far that has never happened.
I’ll leave them awake in the car too, giving them iPads to keep them busy while I’m gone.
My eldest is also great at entertaining his two younger siblings, and I can trust him to keep them occupied until I return.
I’ve always left them as babies outside the front door in their prams for over an hour at a time, too.
I check on them every 10 minutes or so from the front window of my house to see if there’s any movement or crying.
And now, if I pull into my drive and they’re still sleeping I’ll leave them in the car until they wake up. It’s no big deal.
I don’t worry about anything happening to them; it’s just so unlikely, and with the car locked, who’s really going to smash the windows in a public place where people are around all the time?
I feel it’s more dangerous taking three young children onto a petrol forecourt when all the cars are coming and going, than leaving them to go and pay.
I know there are some people who don’t agree with what I do. When I tell friends, they’re a bit shocked and say they could never just leave their kids in the car.
I left them in my local M&S car park just yesterday while they were sleeping and my mum and dad parked up next to them a few minutes later and saw a couple pointing and saying, “I can’t believe those kids have been just left in the car.”
But I trust my children and I know what’s best for them.”
Tyneisha Gilbert-Lindsay, 28, is a paediatric nurse from South East London and has two children – Amari aged 10 and an 18 month-old daughter, A’raiyah
Tyneisha says: “What that woman did in that car park in Saffron Walden was terrible and is total neglect. There is never an excuse to leave a child in a car unattended without any adults to look after them.
A baby or child cannot fend for themselves, and an hour is way too long to leave them – what on earth was that parent thinking? What exactly is fine about that? Even a few minutes is too long.
As a paediatric nurse working in A & E for four years, I see kids rushed in here in ambulances and know that bad things do and can happen.
If all parents saw what I’d seen they’d definitely take fewer risks with their kids.
What if a toddler was left unattended in a car and woke up and picked up an object and stuck it in their mouth? They could choke and die.
Or what if the child had an undiagnosed medical condition and had a seizure in the car or fainted and there’s no one there to call emergency services?
Or what if a toddler woke up and learnt how to open the door and just left the car and got lost? There are also many individuals walking our streets with mental health issues and what’s to stop someone seeing a child in a car, thinking of it as an opportunity and trying to snatch them?
It’s also risky for the parent to leave a child in the car because if your child cries and someone witnesses this, you, the parent, will be called into question and relevant health services will start getting involved.
There are so many reasons why leaving children unattended isn’t acceptable, and not only for practical safety issues but also for psychological reasons
If a child is left continuously by their parents to fend for themselves without adult supervision – in cars or on doorsteps in prams, how might this affect them psychologically long-term?
To me, these are risks parents should not be taking, ever.
I have never even left my 10-year-old son Amari on his own in the car – even for a few minutes. Waking him up when he’s asleep or postponing my dash to the shops till another time is much easier than putting him in harm’s way.”