Arizona Mom Threatened With Prison, Placed on Secret Blacklist For Letting Kids Play At the Park

It was a little more than a year ago—right before Thanksgiving, as COVID-19 raged—that Jessica committed her crime: She let her 7-year-old son and his friend, age 5, play at the park while she went to buy a turkey.

She was charged with criminal offenses and placed on Arizona’s Central Registry for 25 years. This secret blacklist functions in a similar way to that of the sex-offender registry, but it is not as easily accessible.

Was that the day you were there?

The pandemic made it difficult for the children to visit the grocery store. Jessica was not keen on letting them. According to her, the market wanted anyone not required to visit the grocery store to stay outside. This article is pseudonymized “Jessica” to protect her identity. Reason She reviewed all documents (including police reports) that supported her claim.

Instead, she dropped the kids off at a park five blocks from the grocery—a park she had played in as a girl. One of her friends was teaching tai Chi at the park. Another acquaintance was out with her dog. Jessica warned the boys to stay in the area, and they ran off to grab the turkey.

The tai-chi teacher came in and told Jessica about the police talking to her children while she was shopping at the store. Both women ran back to the park where cops informed them she was in violation of the law.

Jessica later recalled that the police actually made an astonishing assertion. “One of them told me that any child up to 18 years old must always be accompanied by a guardian in public places.”

Although this is not true, she was eventually charged criminally with contributing to delinquency. Each charge carried the possibility of six months in jail. The state threatened Jessica with a one-year ban on supervising her child for any reason, including for not being able to supervise her child for enough time.

The state threatened Jessica with a one-year ban on supervising her child as punishment for apparently not being able to supervise her child properly for a brief time.

Jessica—whose day job is running a cleaning service staffed by refugees—hired a lawyer. His explanation was that losing at trial would have far-reaching consequences. He offered to take a parenting course in exchange for the dismissal of the criminal case.

Jessica agreed to the request and registered for the class. It had nothing to do parenting. People came for many different reasons. One woman had shaken her cellphone at a police officer, while another had pulled hair in a salon.

The teacher said, “Everyone’s here today because we don’t understand how to deal with police,” she says. The teacher then taught them how to maintain calm and diffuse situations.

The criminal charges against her were dropped after she completed the class. The criminal charges against her were dropped after she passed the class. Arizona’s Department of Child Safety (DCS), was still investigating.

DCS wrote seven months later, in a letter, that Jessica put her son “at unreasonable danger of harm for injury, abduction, harm from another person, exposure to drug and death”.

Jessica looked through the archives looking for stories of abductions or murders at the park, but could not find any. However, Jessica’s name was added to the Central Registry for Child Abusers. It will remain there for 25 years, unless she requests that the verdict be overturned. It is scheduled for next year. Jessica cannot volunteer at her son’s school while Jessica remains on this list.

Diane Redleaf is the author of They took the kids last night: What the Child Protection System does to familiesLet Grow legal consultant. Stories like Jessica are all too frequent in America. In many states, 25-year registrations are common. Moreover, guilty findings are commonly issued by caseworkers—that is, without a trial—and hearings to contest those findings are often delayed.

New York reduced its registration length last year from 25 to 8 years. That’s still too long, even for someone who bought a turkey for their children and then played in the park happily.

“Vague child neglect laws—open to the interpretation of any cop or caseworker—set up parents for no-win parenting choices,” says Redleaf. Registers are going to continue to attract loving, protective, thoughtful parents without having clearer laws to limit the likelihood of neglect.

Another way to put it: Child neglect means that you neglect your children, and not when they are allowed outside in the middle of a pandemic or running for their lives.