While Sarah Haines went to Idaho to get married last summer, she left her 12-year-old daughter home alone in New Jersey for a week. This past week she was sentenced to three years of probation after pleading guilty to child neglect. That's it?!
Apparently there was a friend who was supposed to look in on her, but that got messed up somehow, so the girl was left to fend for herself. She said she had plenty of food and water, but -- and this is the part that broke my heart -- she was scared to take a shower because the front door didn't lock. Was she even able to sleep?
There are 12-year-olds I would trust watching my children, and when I was 12, I babysat for families all the time, even at night. But there's not a 12-year-old I've ever met who should be asked to take care of themselves for a week, no matter how mature they seem. Who knows what could happen?
Fortunately nothing did, but all the what ifs make it hard to stomach the fact that the girl is currently living with her mother, who has since had a baby. So now there are two children in her questionable care. My first reaction was outrage over such a small nod to what she did to this girl and what could have happened. Just probation? But after looking at the facts, I think the court did well here ... or as well as they could.
Haines was originally charged with second-degree child endangerment that could have landed her 10 years in prison. But really, who is that going to help? The children would likely be placed in foster care and endure who knows what kind of hardships that life offers at times.
The court seems confident Haines has learned from her mistakes. The judge said she's following the rules set for her by the Division of Youth and Family Services and is "over-cautious" about the children's care when she's away now. I hope so.
As hard as it is to give parents second chances when they make BIG mistakes with their children, there are times we have to do so. Time will tell if she's really changed or just playing by the rules to get by. I hope for her children's sake it's the former because next time, none of them may get so lucky.
Do you think probation is a strong enough punishment for this mother who left her 12-year-old home for a week?
Image via Barefoot in Florida/Flickr