Give Mass kids freedom to grow with pragmatic "abandonment" definition

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In Massachusetts a parent can be reported and prosecuted for leaving their child in a locked car for 90 seconds to run into a corner store to pick up milk.

The consequences for child "abandonment," per statute law in Mass, can include up to 2 years in prison. Yet "abandonment" is not clearly defined beyond leaving a child under the age of 10 unattended - with the law not providing guidance on appropriate circumstances or length of time.

It would be great if the court could be relied upon to provide common sense in such a situation. Unfortunately, there are many examples to the contrary. The following article notes punishment ranging from 100 hours of community service to placement of the children in foster care for 2 weeks.

I know I'm not the only parent who wants their child to have the same freedoms they did, including the ability to walk home from school, explore forests, and engage in innocent childhood mischief. I want to parent without fear that a 2-minute errand, with my children safe and secure, could result in harassment or prosecution - an experience undoubtedly more traumatic for the child than being left alone for a few moments to sing Raffi in the car.

This petition proposes amending the law with a definition of abandonment based on the following:

  • For infants under the age of 6, either: intentionally leaving an infant unsupervised in a public space without direct visibility and beyond a reasonable physical distance for intervening in the event of significant risk of serious injury to the infant; or intentionally leaving an infant in a locked, private space including a home or car, without means of identification and contacting of a caretaker (including, minimally, a phone number) and: in a condition of physical or emotional neglect, or without provision of basic needs, or for a duration of time beyond which the infant's physical and emotional needs and safety cannot be reasonably ensured. 
  • For children at least 6 years of age and younger than 10, intentionally leaving the child unsupervised without accurate awareness of the location of the parent and without means of immediate communication including, minimally, a phone number for the parent or their employer.
  • In the case of infants under 6 years of age, "supervision" includes the direct attendance of a child above the age of 10 and under the age of 18 with accurate awareness of the location of the parent or caretaker and with means of immediate communication including, minimally, a phone number for the parent/caretaker or their employer.


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