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Child Alone in a Parked Car: Is This Child Abuse?

Child Alone in a Parked Car: Is This Child Abuse?

A sleeping 12-month-old child was spotted alone in a parked car by a passerby. The passerby observed the situation for a period of time, only to see that no one returned for the child. The passerby then called 911 for help after an undetermined length of time.

The police and emergency service workers arrived at the scene within 3 to 5 minutes of the 911 call. They were able to open the car and retrieve the child without incident. The temperature that day was 85 oF.  The car was parked in the shade with one window open about one inch. The police report stated that the car was “very hot,” but no temperature was recorded in the report.

Approximately 30 minutes after the 911 call was placed, the child's 19-year-old mother returned and saw that her child had been removed from the car by the police and that they were waiting to speak to her. She told the police that she had been taking a final examination for her class at the community college. She thought that she would only be gone for 30 to 40 minutes and that no harm would come to the napping child in this quiet residential neighborhood.

The child arrived in the emergency department 16 minutes after the 911 call. The child's temperature was 101 oF; the heart rate was 145 beats/min while resting. The child was described as easily consoled. No bruises or other physical injury were noted on physical examination.

Is this abuse, an accident-- or just poor parenting? Click here for discussion.


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