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A Florida mom was arrested on charges of child neglect after she permitted her 7-year-old son to go and play alone at a park in an incident that has sparked a heated debate on social media.
The woman felt he was “old enough” to handle such a responsibility safely, but the Port St. Lucie police disagreed.
The mother, Nicole Gainey, said she was “totally dumbfounded” by her arrest and the backlash she endured over allowing Dominic to walk from their house to nearby Sportsman’s Park. Social media posters did not hesitate to weigh in on the discussion. Some supported her decision to allow her son to walk to the park alone, while others felt children’s services should have become involved and that police were correct.
She faces a third-degree criminal felony charge and up to five years in jail.
“Honestly didn’t think I was doing anything wrong,” Gainey told a local TV station. “I was letting him go play. My own bondsman said my parents would have been in jail every day. He [the police officer] just basically kept going over that there’s pedophiles and this and that and basically the park wasn’t safe and he shouldn’t be there alone.”
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Sportsman’s Park is about a half mile from the home, and it usually takes him about 10 to 15 minutes to walk there. When the child passed the public pool along the way, an adult at the facility asked him where his mother was.
“They asked me a couple questions and I got scared so I ran off to the park and they called the cops,” the little boy told local reporters.
Dominic was playing at the park when a police officer approached him and asked where he lived. When the Port St. Lucia law enforcement officer and the 7-year-old boy arrived at the address, Nicole was arrested and charged with child neglect. The Florida police officer noted in his report that the boy was playing at the park without supervision and added that “numerous sex offenders reside in the vicinity.”
The boy takes his cell phone with him and the mom calls to check on him while he is at the park, she said.
The Rutherford Institute has stepped in to defend the Florida mom, noting in a news release that “there is no law specifying how old a child has to be before he or she can go somewhere unsupervised.”
“What this incident and others like it taking place across the country make clear is that the theater of the absurd that passes for life in the American police state grows more tragic and incomprehensible by the day,” said Rutherford President John W. Whitehead. “While we all want to ensure that our young people are safe and protected, the government cannot usurp a parent’s right to determine what is appropriate for their children. Unless we put a stop to this ‘government-knows-best’ nanny state mindset now, we may soon find that we have no rights whatsoever in a society that is increasingly bureaucratic, legalistic, politically correct, self-righteous and unconcerned about individual rights.”
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The Port St. Lucie County prosecuting attorney’s office acknowledged there is no law which states specifically how old a child has to be before going somewhere alone and remaining unsupervised, and that a decision to step in during such scenarios is conducted on a case-by-case basis.
The mom was held at the police station for seven hours on a $4,000 bond. Dominic was permitted to remain in the care of the woman’s boyfriend instead of being placed in the foster care system.
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