June 6, 2020

Winnipeg
13° C, Light rain

Full Forecast

Help us deliver reliable news during this pandemic.

We are working tirelessly to bring you trusted information about COVID-19. Support our efforts by subscribing today.

No Thanks Subscribe

Already a subscriber?

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

City parent defended by 'worst mom'

Abandonment case continues

'Worst mom' Lenore Skenazy is a New York-based writer who founded the Free-Range Kids movement.

POSTMEDIA NEWS FILES

'Worst mom' Lenore Skenazy is a New York-based writer who founded the Free-Range Kids movement.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/1/2015 (1963 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Was a Winnipeg mom wrong to leave her six-year-old son home alone for 90 minutes?

Or are police and justice officials acting like helicopter parents?

Either way, America's worst mom is on her side.

New York City resident Lenore Skenazy says the Winnipeg mom -- who left her son alone in a locked bungalow on a summer afternoon with the TV on and food and water with him -- should not have been charged with child abandonment.

Skenazy said, at most, the mother should have been told "don't do it again."

"Just because something makes you feel uncomfortable or self-righteous doesn't make it dangerous," Skenazy said during a phone interview Tuesday.

"This mother loves her child more than anyone. She knows her child better than the judge, lawyers and police.

"Every parent makes decisions that other parents don't agree with."

Skenazy knows what it's like to be accused of bad parenting.

She made international headlines in 2008 and was dubbed America's worst mom after she gave subway fare to her nine-year-old son so he could fulfil his request of finding his way home by himself.

Since then, Skenazy has written the book Free-Range Kids, is the host of the TV show World's Worst Mom, and has been interviewed by media outlets from around the world. She said free-range kids are treated as smart people who don't need to be watched constantly.

Earlier this week, a Winnipeg mother was on trial after pleading not guilty to child abandonment.

Provincial court Judge Margaret Wiebe was told the woman left her child alone at home for 90 minutes so she could run some errands.

Court was told the child's father -- the parents are separated -- spotted the mom driving alone on Pembina Highway and phoned the home. When the child said he was alone, the dad called police.

The Crown called it abandonment and argued there were numerous ways the child could have been injured or worse while alone, including turning on the stove, choking on food or falling out of a window.

"Just because nothing bad happened, that's not the test," Crown attorney Nancy Fazenda said.

Michael Law, the woman's lawyer, said there was no evidence of potential harm brought forward and said people who had been convicted of the offence in the past had left their children in vehicles during hot summer or cold winter days, or with weapons.

"It must be more than purely speculative," he said.

Skenazy said she doesn't understand why the mother has not seen her son since she was arrested 18 months ago. Law would only say Child and Family Services is involved in the case.

"That's horrific," she said. "How's that in the best interests of the child?"

Skenazy said the court case is one more example of how North American society is too protective of children.

"I was walking to school as a kindergartner. Now you can't ever walk to school when you are 10," she said.

"What we have done is massively underestimate our children and massively overestimate the danger."

Arthur Schafer, a University of Manitoba professor and the director of the U of M Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics, said whatever happens to the Winnipeg woman will be at the discretion of the court and will take into consideration whether harm was intended or negligently risked through her actions and what, if any, punishment there should be.

"The defence that nothing bad came of it, if the child had come to harm, it would have been worse," Schafer said. "Imagine two parents who leave their kids for the same length of time in a locked house in similar circumstances and one house burns down and the other doesn't or in one, the child manages to fall out of a window to its death and the other that doesn't happen. But they could equally have happened so both can be very serious."

If the woman was convicted, Schafer said he would expect any punishment would take into account that the woman hasn't seen her child in 18 months.

"It seems unlikely they'd need to imprison her or fine her heavily. The fact that she has suffered greatly, she's lost custody of her child, she's been stigmatized, she's been charged, even if she's not convicted, might be viewed by the court as sufficient punishment. Or not."

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason
Reporter

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

Read full biography

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.

To those who have made donations, thank you.

To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.

The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.

After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.

If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.

We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.

History

Updated on Wednesday, January 21, 2015 at 8:08 AM CST: Replaces photo

The Free Press would like to thank our readers for their patience while comments were not available on our site. We're continuing to work with our commenting software provider on issues with the platform. In the meantime, if you're not able to see comments after logging in to our site, please try refreshing the page.

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

By submitting your comment, you agree to abide by our Community Standards and Moderation Policy. These guidelines were revised effective February 27, 2019. Have a question about our comment forum? Check our frequently asked questions.

Advertisement

Advertise With Us