Shanesha Taylor of Scottsdale, Ariz. wanted to make a better life for herself and her two young children, and she got the opportunity in a call for a job interview last Thursday.
She went in for the interview, but with no one available to care for her children – ages two and six-months – allegedly she left them unattended in her SUV for over 30 minutes. A bystander heard the children’s cries, alerted the authorities, and Taylor was arrested on two counts of felony child abuse.
Desperation leading to poor decisions is almost a template for crime. A mother steals a loaf of bread. A man without transportation who cannot afford to miss a day of work runs out on a cab fare. Crimes such as these, not borne out of greed or malice but a lack of options, makes the perpetrators themselves play dual roles as victims and culprits. Questions about how we failed these people are as important as the details of the crimes committed.
Upon her arrest, Taylor reportedly told the officers that she was homeless. What were her options? Did she have family? Friends? Let’s say that she didn’t. Who could have taken on these children? Would a local day care center be willing watch her kids for free, while shouldering the insurance liability and running the risk of losing their license?
Could she have dropped her children off at a local police station for an hour? Not likely. Citizens are rallying around Taylor by setting up a fundraising page, but it may not be enough.
If the facts of this case and the mitigating circumstances prove true, then society failed Shanesha Taylor as much as she failed her children. To be clear, leaving an infant and a two-year-old in a car on an 80 degree day for any amount of time was unbelievably dangerous, and could have ended in an even worse tragedy.
As it stands, we now have a still jobless mother who could lose custody of her children, facing two felonies in Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s racist, unforgiving Maricopa County.
I hope Shanesha Taylor sees how close she came to losing her children. I hope she gets a second chance to do right by them. I hope that the prosecutors and judges show mercy. I hope that the lawmakers and officials who cut the budgets for childcare, healthcare, and job training, while looking down with contempt upon those citizens attempting to climb up from the lowest rungs of society see the true cost of their folly.