A Case of Child Abuse Part 1

by Darlene Barriere
(Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada)

I'm still shaking. I just witnessed a case of child abuse, child neglect to be exact.

I was jogging down one of the streets in my neighbourhood when I saw what appeared to be a small child in the back of a 4-door sedan. It must be a doll, I thought to myself. Two of the four doors on the passenger side facing the house were wide open. Perhaps someone was unloading groceries, possibly other children; but the solid-wood front door of the two-storey house was closed tight. There was a high-pitched barking of a dog coming from the car. As I neared the car, I saw movement in the backseat. A toddler, a little boy, restrained in a car seat, had turned his head to watch me jog by.

I jogged passed the house to see if someone was at the side. Other than me, there was no one in the vicinity. I jogged back up toward the car to see if someone had fallen, either on the blacktop of the driveway or in the car itself. After all, who would leave a toddler alone in the back seat of a car, completely unattended?

The sharp, rapid barking continued. A sense of foreboding gripped me as I approached the sedan. The first thing that came into view was a doggie cage the size of an electric skillet, placed on the floor of the backseat area. I peered around, into the open backseat. The toddler eyed me curiously. Other than this little guy, there wasn't a soul in sight.

I looked toward the house. There were no windows on the driveway level. The shrill barking continued. Still no one appeared. I stepped toward the house and rang the doorbell. A young girl of about 9 or 10, wearing a flowered summer dress opened the door. "Is your mother home?" I asked, unsure if my heart-pounding was a result of aerobics or anxiety.

"No . . ." the girl replied just as an overly tanned woman, possibly in her late fifties, maybe early to mid sixties appeared.

"Did you know that there's a child unattended in the backseat of that car," I said, trying to stay calm as I pointed toward the sedan.

"I'm right here," she said apathetically. Another two children appeared from the house as the woman stepped forward.

I was stunned. "Lady, are you out of your mind!" I replied. "I could easily have taken that child. Anyone could have come along and stolen that child."

"No way," she said, even more indifferently than before. "The dog would have alerted me."

I was dumbfounded. The dog had been barking for a full two minutes, maybe longer. "Lady, I'm reporting you!" I finally said.

My Comments: This woman's blasé response raised the red flags for me. I couldn't help wonder if she'd left a child unattended on a regular basis.

Parents need to be vigilant to ensure the safety of a child in daycare. Prevent Child Abuse: Tips to Help Keep Your Child Safe in Daycare on this site provides 4 tips for parents. Also on this site, A Case of Child Neglect Part 2 details what happened when I made the report.

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A Case of Child Neglect Part 2

by Darlene Barriere
(Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada)

What does Aboriginal status have to do with child abuse?

Last week I reported witnessing a case of child neglect after I discovered a caregiver had left a toddler unattended in the backseat of a car. I was flabbergasted when the intake worker at child protective services asked me, and I quote: "By any chance, was the family Aboriginal?"

What the devil would that have to do with any of this, I asked myself, especially since his tone sounded more judgmental than inquisitive. But I kept a civil tongue and answered no to his question, then explained that the woman could not have been the child's mother because she was too old. A grandmother perhaps, but more than likely a caregiver since she had at least 3 other children in her care who appeared to be the same age; maybe 9 or 10 years old.

"Were any of the children dark-skinned?" he wanted to know.

What was the man driving at? His focus seemed to be more on the racial background of the children involved than on the fact that a toddler restrained in a car seat had been left alone for God knows how long.

The more questions I answered, the more I questioned. Was this man racist or in some way biased? Or was he doing his job? If the children had been Aboriginal, would the case be handled differently than if the children were Caucasian? Would caseworkers bring down more severe consequences on Aboriginal families? Less severe consequences?

As we neared the end of our interview, the intake worker asked if I could provide any additional information that would assist them in indentifying the children.

For goodness sake, not only had I given him all the pertinent details, including the dialogue I'd had with the woman, I had given him the address of where the woman lived! What more did he need to conduct an investigation.

The child was not in imminent danger, I'll concede that; but never-the-less, a caregiver had been neglectful. And that neglect could have resulted in the child's abduction. The Aboriginal status of those children had no bearing on this act of neglect. I can only hope that as a result of my report, a proper investigation will be conducted.

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