CPS was contacted recently about four children that were found alone and allegedly dehydrated in an overheated Detroit home. The story, which made media headlines, paints a picture of child abandonment and neglect, but that is often not a complete picture.
According to Detroit Police, officers were summoned to a house on Faust Avenue after a property manager found four children that had been left unattended in the house. The children, a 1-year-old girl and three boys, aged 6, 2 and 4-months, were said to be dehydrated, and trapped inside the home on a day that was very hot and humid. The temperature on that day was in the 90s, and if the house wasn’t cooled by air conditioning, or through drafts from open windows and fans, it would have been quite warm inside.
Medics at the scene checked the children and determined that they were not harmed. But before the children were able to be transported to the Children’s Hospital, where they were to be checked by a doctor, their mother came home. The mother, a 22-year-old woman, allegedly provided officers with conflicting stories about where she was during the time her children were alone. According to numerous media sources, the mother was at a hair appointment at the time, but this information hasn’t been verified.
Police records reveal that the mother was issued a misdemeanor ticket for leaving her children alone for an undetermined period of time. She will have to appear in court, where a Judge will determine whether or not the charge is valid. If it is, the mother will either be offered a plea bargain, or she will be go to trial, risking a conviction and up to one year in jail.
Neighbors claimed the abandoned children were soiled, hungry and too hot.
According to neighbors that were interviewed by the media, the children were hungry, overheated and wearing soiled diapers when officers arrived at the home. They were transported to hospital where doctors conducted physical evaluations. It was determined that they had no injuries of any kind, and were only suffering from “mild dehydration.”
While dehydration can be very serious when left unchecked, and is a major cause of death in children, “mild dehydration” is of very little concern unless it continues unchecked. According to the Merck Manual, which is a comprehensive medical resources for both professionals and consumers, mild dehydration results in “slightly dry buccal mucous membranes, increased thirst, slightly decreased urine output.” It is treated by drinking fluids.
Child Protective Services took the children from their mother’s custody and placed them in the care of a maternal relative. They have also opened an investigation into the situation, which could mean months of court-mandated parenting classes, possible “drop tests,” and months of being apart from her children. Children who were not harmed in any way, showed no signs of abuse according to doctors, and belonged to a mother who had no history of CPS interactions.
While we do not advocate for leaving young children unattended, especially in situations where one or more of those children are infants, this appears to be a clear case of CPS interference. The children were not harmed in any way, and showed no signs of prior abuse. While this young mother may benefit from some assistance and parenting classes, perhaps losing her children to CPS was a bit harsh under the circumstances. We only hope that with appropriate safeguards in place, she is able to get them back soon.