I hate to see minorities enter the justice system just as much as the next socially-conscious Black person, but sometimes being locked up does in fact fit the crime. And when it comes to a Suffolk, VA, mother who was arrested for leaving her 8-year-old son alone Memorial Day weekend to fend for himself, that’s most certainly a fitting punishment. Or is it?
This past Saturday, 27-year-old Kionna Monet found herself facing charges of child neglect and child endangerment after her neighbor called the police upon discovering the young mother went out-of-state over Memorial Day weekend and left her 8-year-old at home with pizza, corn beef hash, and a cell phone with which he was instructed to call her every hour to check in. The neighbor became suspicious when she saw the boy outside playing and when he told her his mom wasn’t coming back until Monday, she proceeded to call the authorizes like any good neighbor would do, right? That was my initial reaction to the story as I thought, thank goodness that neighbor saw that little boy. However upon browsing the comments section of other sites reporting the story, it seems many feel the neighbor’s actions did more harm than good.
While Monet was able to get out of jail on bond Sunday morning, as of Wednesday when the story was last updated on Wavy.com, the mother’s son remains in Child Protective Services. And therein lies the problem for some, like this commenter on The Grio who remarked:
“Back in the day the neighbor would have taken the child in until the mom came home! Then cursed her @$$ out from head to toe for leaving that baby by himself and THREATENED to call the police if she EVER did it again! However, she is an ABSOLUTE NUT for leaving her child home BY HIMSELF!!!” Cosigning that sentiment, another person responded to that remark saying: “I agree that this should never have happened. The little boy was a well-adjusted and respectful child to this neighbor, but a good neighbor would have been interactive and not take pleasure in the downfall of this mother. Not knowing if it was an emergency or pleasure escapade, does retraining her to the privilege mean, having a child, or for living in your community, “I told you so? I reject irresponsible behavior but sometimes your back is against the wall and choices are made that you just have to pray that nothing happens. Things can happen to even responsible people at times.”
I’m all for giving the benefit of the doubt, but given the circumstances noted in this situation it hardly feels warranted. There is a huge difference between leaving your child alone for three hours in the case of an emergency and planning a weekend excursion that involves leaving your son behind. According to the neighbor, Monet’s son “said his mother had told him that she would spank him until he could not sit down if he told anybody.” That sounds more like a woman who knows she’s doing something wrong and doesn’t want to get into trouble for it than a mother caught between a rock and a hard place. Naturally, in cases like these one has to ask, where’s the father? And I think we can all assume the answer is not present. But you mean to tell me Monet didn’t have a mother, father, friend, cousin, sister, auntie, neighbor who could’ve taken her son in? The fact that that doesn’t seem to have been an option suggests she might have a bit of a habit of forsaking her parental duties and those around her weren’t interested in taking on the role of surrogate parent yet again.
But let’s remove all of these assumptions, as with the given facts there’s no way of telling what caused Monet to leave her son alone. Regardless of the reason this little boy was abandoned at home, why are we punishing the concerned neighbor? I, personally, wouldn’t feel comfortable taking a child in for the weekend and then returning him to a neglectful parent the following Monday as if all was good. Sure, the neighbor could have possibly called the mom on the supplied cell phone and asked some questions, but in instances like this I’m inclined to air on the side of caution and what’s best for the child rather than the mother. Nothing the neighbor said in her report suggests she took pride in getting this mother in legal trouble; however the fact that the child told her “my mom said I was old enough [to stay home alone] because I took Taekwondo” suggests this wasn’t the first time he was left alone and wouldn’t have been the last had this person not stepped in. Why are we not praising the neighbor for being an exception to this nasty attitude of “but that’s not my business” so many of us operate under when we witness blatant wrongdoing?
During the past year, we’ve seen several examples of the dangers of bystanders jumping to conclusions when it comes to parenting, like in the case of Shanesha Taylor who was arrested for leaving her kids in the car to attend a job interview. In light of the fact that, as of yet, no such details have come out in Monet’s case suggesting a similar issue, I’m inclined to believe her arrest serves as a much-needed hard lesson, and hopefully a wake-up call, rather than an overzealous chastisement. No one wants to see another child enter the system, particularly not a child of color, but no one seems to be acknowledging that there could’ve been a far worse outcome in this situation had the neighbor not stepped in. No one’s saying Monet should never have custody of her child again – at least not yet – but because of the severe neglectfulness of her actions, it’s unfathomable that she should get a pass from society or the legal system for what she did.