Father of five arrested for leaving kids unattended while at work
On August 15, Victor Alonzo King of Raleigh, North Carolina was arrested and accused of child abuse. His offense? Allegedly leaving his five children under the age of eight unattended while he went to work. King’s employer says he left the children with a neighbor, who then left them alone, according to ABC 13. In court on Wednesday, King begged the judge to let him out so he could keep his job.
“Two weeks ago my wife was diagnosed with stage four cancer,” King said. “And I’m practically like her only way to pay for all of her medical bills. So I was wondering if I could get out early and I can still work so I won’t lose my job so I can still pay for her medical expenses.”
Instead, the judge set his bond at $25,000, after learning of a 2011 charge against King for child cruelty. Word of his case quickly spread, in part thanks to an online fundraising page set up by a local teacher that raised $1,300 in the first few hours. By Friday, King had been bailed out by a complete stranger, and returned to work.
“When I saw that he was just a working dad trying to take care of his family and had trouble with his kids it really broke my heart,” the teacher, Rikki Hilliard, told Eyewitness News.
Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman did not respond to a request for comment on King’s incarceration and the charges against him.
King is not the first parent to face criminal charges while trying to balance work and childcare. Debra Harrell, a South Carolina mom, was arrested and charged with child neglect in 2014 for letting her nine-year-old play at a park without her supervision while she worked her job at McDonald’s. Harrell was held in jail for 17 days.
There is a terrible irony in jailing a parent who struggles to find childcare. If Harrell and King struggled to find supervision for their kids while at work, who’s going to do it while they’re in jail? Detaining a parent ultimately harms the children the court alleges to protect. In both of these cases, poverty and a shortage of childcare options play a key role. But the response of law enforcement and prosecutors who pursue charges against these parents, who are trying to earn money to support the very children they’re allegedly neglecting, appear to disregard those circumstances entirely.
There are other incidents involving the criminalization of overwhelmingly harmless parenting choices. In Connecticut, a mother was charged after briefly leaving her daughter in the car while she went into a store. The child had asked to stay behind while her mom went in, and according to police, was responsive and not in any distress when they arrived on the scene. In Ohio, Jeffrey Williamson was arrested in front of his family in 2014 for child endangerment after his son skipped out on church and was found playing in the neighborhood unsupervised, four blocks from his home. And then there’s Kelly Williams-Bolar, who was arrested and jailed after lying about her address so she could send her kids to a better school.
While real instances of child neglect and endangerment should be taken seriously, unnecessarily involving the criminal justice system can create devastating results for families. For parents like King and Harrell, who are the only breadwinners in the household, the loss of a job while incarcerated has a harmful ripple effect.
As The New York Times recently reported, low-income parents, particularly mothers of color, disproportionately face the removal of their children from their homes. The aggressive pursuit of child endangerment cases tears families apart, and creates lasting consequences for children who are placed in foster care.
King’s attorney did not respond to a request for comment.