Here are the facts: Debra Harrell works at McDonald's in North Augusta, South Carolina. For most of the summer, her daughter had stayed there with her, playing on a laptop that Harrell had scrounged up the money to purchase. (McDonald's has free WiFi.) Sadly, the Harrell home was robbed and the laptop stolen, so the girl asked her mother if she could be dropped off at the park to play instead.
Harrell said yes. She gave her daughter a cell phone. The girl went to the park—a place so popular that at any given time there are about 40 kids frolicking—two days in a row. There were swings, a "splash pad," and shade. On her third day at the park, an adult asked the girl where her mother was. At work, the daughter replied.
The shocked adult called the cops. Authorities declared the girl "abandoned" and proceeded to arrest the mother.
Watch the news: It sounds like Debra Harrell committed a serious, unconscionable crime.
Jonathan Chait, who readily admits he is not subject to any of the same circumstances or trade-offs as 46-year-old Harrell, states, "Obviously, leaving a child unattended in a park is not an ideal child-care arrangement. It is, however, a perfectly sensible balancing of risks." Jamelle Bouie points out that in the absence of subsidized daycare, perhaps Harrell could have taken full-time care of her child by going on TANF, and wouldn't we like that? I used to play outside unsupervised all day long starting at the age of seven and I can't imagine my mom taking any of the heat that Harrell is taking now. [Reason]