Shanesha Taylor
Last week, Shanesha Taylor left her children, ages 2 and 6, in her Dodge Durango. The windows were cracked and the doors were locked when a passerby heard the baby crying from the backseat and reported the unsupervised little ones to the authorities. When Taylor returned, the police were waiting for her in the parking lot of the office complex she left her truck in.

She explained that she had been on a job interview and didn’t have anyone to watch her kids while she was there. The 35-year-old was arrested, charged with child abuse, and photographed in what may be the most heartbreaking mugshot I’ve seen in years.

That might seem like a tidy instance of realized justice. But if you’ve ever been in a bind—because of single motherhood, extreme brokeness, or lack of general support—you can empathize. You should empathize. Taylor and her children are homeless. A job is the catalyst to changing their circumstances, but she didn’t have childcare because she doesn’t have the job she needs to afford it. It’s an ethical catch 22.

If you’ve never suffered a life-altering hardship, congratulations. It must be an honor seemingly handed down from on high to have dodged the innumerable blindsides that are the unforeseen companions to living. That’s not me being factitious unless, of course, you’re judging her.

The effects of homelessness are far-reaching socially and culturally, but the immediate impact on families, particularly children, are deeper, more personal. The fact that parents have to make decisions like this, whether they leave them alone at home or in a locked car in a parking lot, is telling. There are organizations working on grassroots and community levels to offer support, but often, there aren’t enough resources to go around and even their best intentions leave people who need help out.

There’s also the issue of pride that—despite the availability of outside help—shrouds the need for help in secrecy. But the community is reaching out to her. A fundraiser is picking up the tab for her $9,000 bond and the movement to help her, which now stands in excess of $29,000, is blowing up thanks to Twitter and social media do-gooders. (Donations are still being accepted if you feel so led, and I kinda hope you do.)

One thing is certain: no parent should be forced to make the decision between their children’s safety and a job they need to take care of them.

Do you think Taylor should be charged with felony child abuse?