Mothers need more assistance from their government and communities, not jail time and court fees.
@anelehbakota/Twenty20

[Editor's note: we believe in supporting and uplifting mothers. For that reason, we are not naming or sharing arrest photographs of the mothers mentioned in this article.]

The recent arrest of an Ohio mom is sparking a much-needed national conversation about access to public assistance and community obligation to help families in need.

The Ohio mother is facing child endangerment charges after allegedly leaving her daughters, ages 10 and 2, alone in a hotel room while she worked at a nearby pizza shop.

The woman told police that she checked on her children every hour while away.

She was charged with child endangerment and has already been released after making bail.

Her family started a GoFundMe to help her raise money. Her situation clearly is resonating with people across the country; over $80,000 has been raised so far to help her with legal fees.


This woman's story is heartbreaking and sadly, not unique.

In 2014, an Arizona mother was arrested after she left her two children in a car while she attended a job interview. The Air Force veteran told police that she was jobless and without childcare. Prosecutors ultimately dismissed the charges against her and she regained custody of her children.

In 2015, a Texas mother was arrested after she left her children in a mall food court while she attended a job interview. The mother told police that she was never more than 30 feet away from her children and that they were always within her line of sight; she was still arrested.

These stories break our hearts. Yes, we know that young children should not be left alone. Affordable, accessible childcare is obviously the best choice. These mothers were put in impossible situations. They didn't have affordable, accessible childcare.

They had to choose between jobs that help put food in their kids' bellies and roofs over their heads and staying home with their children.

It's easy to say they should have canceled or rescheduled those interviews or shifts.

These mothers don't need easy advice from internet strangers.

They need help.

Real, tangible help from their communities and government.

We are failing mothers when we force them into impossible situations like these.

The United States is the only member country of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) without paid maternity leave.

1 in 4 American families is experiencing food insecurity. Parents are skipping meals to feed their children.

We're currently experiencing a childcare crisis, which has only worsened since the pandemic began.

Parents are struggling to afford the rising costs of reliable childcare.

The pandemic has forced many centers to close altogether or operate with reduced hours, class sizes, and staff.

Childcare workers, who are largely women and disproportionately women of color, are losing their jobs or working for inordinately low wages. As we've previously reported, we know that the people we trust to take care of our youngest children make less than an Amazon delivery driver, on average.

The Biden administration has offered proposals to help childcare centers stay open and families afford the rising costs of care. But those proposals are not law. And until they're signed, they're not helping anyone.

We need help.

The government assistance that parents do have access to is limited. Families who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) currently can't use those benefits to buy diapers. Why not? SNAP benefits are meant for necessities. Diapers are necessities.

A recent study found that parents are having a harder time finding dental care for their children during the pandemic. Who's having the hardest time? Families with government-provided Medicaid insurance. 15% of families who rely on Medicaid to help keep their kids healthy say they were unable to get a dentist appointment, compared to those with private insurance (4%) or no coverage (5%).

We need help.

In the case of that Ohio mother, she's receiving help from strangers around the world through her GoFundMe.

"This is a sad story. Arresting single parents in cases like this only furthers the goalpost for them," one donor wrote. "An arrest can mean a loss of job & income, court fees, time away from work and barriers for future employment. I hope this young lady is able to get on her feet and get housing for her and her children."

Another woman commiserated, "I had to leave my twin 10-year-olds and 1-year-old at home while I worked, too. Thankfully there was no law against it in my state (I checked). I was 1/4 mile away and they had a phone, but I hated every second of it. It's impossible to find good child care sometimes, people just don't show up when they've committed, they can't handle the kids, etc. My twins are 20 now, and thankfully everyone survived it."

"Praying for you, your children, and a fresh start. So many of us understand that you were doing what you had to, so that you could provide for your babies. We are behind you and support you," wrote another donor.

Thankfully, that Ohio mother is receiving help from strangers on GoFundMe. But even the CEO of the crowdfunding site says that GoFundMe wasn't created to replace the federal assistance that Americans deserve from our government.

"We are proud of the role that GoFundMe plays in connecting those in need with those who are ready to help. But our platform was never meant to be a source of support for basic needs, and it can never be a replacement for robust federal COVID-19 relief that is generous and targeted to help the millions of Americans who are struggling," wrote Tim Cadogan, CEO of GoFundMe.

It's time for lawmakers to provide us the assistance that we deserve.

Families need help. It's time for our government to step up and help these families, not arrest them.

Jamie Orsini is an Emmy Award-winning journalist, military spouse, and a mom to two busy toddlers. In her spare time, Jamie volunteers with the Solar System Ambassador program with NASA/JPL and reads anything she can get her hands on. She’s currently working on her first novel.

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