Kids playing in the park alone

GARNER, Iowa – A situation in South Carolina is attracting a lot of national attention.  A mother was recently arrested, spent time in jail and temporarily lost custody of her daughter.  Now, she faces 10 years in prison, if convicted.  It’s all because Debra Harrell dropped her 9 year old daughter off at a neighborhood park last month, while she went to work.  South Carolina authorities say she broke a state law, but this story has people questioning if what the mother did, was really wrong.

Diana Ausborn from Garner says, you can’t deny that times have changed when it comes to kids, rules, and playing outside.

“It’s changed a lot, because back when we were kids, we never heard of all this stuff happening like what’s going on today,” said Ausborn.

Ausborn says her kids probably won’t be going to the park, unsupervised, anytime soon.  At least until they get a little older.

“Probably 15, I’m probably stricter than most others,” said Ausborn.

Other parents have a different opinion.  Cody Ferris from Garner lives across the street from a park where his 11 year old likes to play.  Ferris feels like he, and other neighbors do a great job of watching out for kids in the area, even if their parents aren’t there.

“I would say that they’re pretty well supervised.  Everybody is always watching out over there. There are usually people outside,” said Ferris.

Chief Tom Kozisek, with the Garner Police Department, says either way, if an officer sees a child at the park, they’ll stop and chat.

“Sometimes we’ll stop, and ask where their parents are.  A lot of times that’s the beauty of a small town.  You know a lot of the little kids, and you know where they live, who their parents are,” said Kozisek.

Kozisek says he feels it’s up to the parents when they feel comfortable letting their child play outside unsupervised.

“It’s nice for us to see the little kids being supervised a lot of times, but that’s not what necessarily happens.  We do know a lot of the little kids that are in the park are close neighbors.”

“Crazy stuff is going on in the world today, and it just takes one bad person to come up and coax them to go with them or something. Then we’ll have another missing child,” said Ausborn.

Kozisek says, they have at times, found little kids unsupervised to the point that they were concerned, so they took them home.  He says they’ll usually talk to the parents about the safety risk.  If the situation warrants it, they might also contact DHS.

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