Home alone Parental neglect: It's startling, and criminal, when adults leave behind young children.

April 22, 1996

PARENTS SUPPOSEDLY know what is best for their children. But recent incidents locally, in which parents left young children unattended for long periods, suggest otherwise. Some adults, it seems, lack the basic common sense and decency to put their children's needs ahead of their own.

Larry Robinson, 46, of Southwest Baltimore was arrested and taken into custody by city police for an outstanding traffic violation a week ago. He neglected to tell the officer that he had left his 16-month-old son home alone. The child was found only after a neighbor flagged down a patrolman and told him that the toddler had been alone -- for at least 20 hours.

That same day, Aca Alexander Anderson, 47, and Teresa D. Clifford, 36, of Pasadena were arrested after police in Anne Arundel County discovered their two sons -- 7 years and 14 months old -- had been left alone while the parents went shopping. Again, it was a neighbor who notified the authorities.

Officers knocked several times on the front door and tried unsuccessfully to coax the 7-year-old to let them in. (The boy, apparently, has more sense than some adults.) After three hours of futilely combing area shopping centers, police eventually broke in through a window and found the infant crying in a crib and the other child sitting in darkness. When the parents came home after their five-hour shopping trip, they had the audacity to question the presence of police in their home.

Note that in neither case were these teen-age parents, but grown-ups who should have known better. Attending to chores with children along may be formidable. But common sense, not to mention Maryland law, dictates that parents or guardians get a relative, neighbor or sitter to tend to their children if they're going off without them. (Anyone under 8 years old must be left in the care of someone age 13 or older, the law says.)

Fortunately, no harm befell the children left behind last week. But there have been tragedies where unattended youths started fires or were maimed or killed by firearms.

Arresting parents may seem harsh. But after being fingerprinted and confined to a cell, even the most thoughtless parents might think twice about leaving their children home alone.

Pub Date: 4/22/96

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