Parents do the best they can to look after their kids, but now and then, something falls through the cracks. While no one is perfect, where do we draw the line between an innocent mistake and negligence?
When a single mother, Melissa Henderson, moved to a new town in Georgia, USA, she had no idea what she would face, completely unaware of the cruelty and injustice coming her way.
A loving mother, Henderson, chose to move to this idyllic-looking town because she thought it was the perfect place to raise her children.
A HARD DECISION
When COVID-19 hit in 2020, the then-41-year-old Henderson was falling on hard times financially. On top of this, the daycare centers were closed.
This combination meant the working mom of five children had a lot on her plate, all while facing the fears associated with a deadly pandemic.
The fact that the daycare centers were closed and she had to go to work put the mom in a difficult position. This left her with no choice but to leave her then-14-year-old daughter Linley to look after the four other kids while working as an administrator at a health spa.
The teen was doing her schoolwork from home and didn't notice that her then-4-year-old brother had disappeared. He had walked over to a neighbor's house without a shirt on, where his friend stayed.
After about 15 minutes, however, she realized her brother was gone and managed to find him at the neighbor's place. One would think this would be the end of a rather uninteresting story, but the mother of the boy's friend decided to dial 911.
MORE SERIOUS THAN SHE THOUGHT
After a heavy day of work, the exhausted mom arrived home and was utterly taken aback when she saw two police cars in the driveway.
They relayed to her what had happened but left soon after. Once again, this appeared to be the end of the debacle, but this was miles away from the truth.
A fortnight later, Henderson was informed that there was a warrant for her arrest. Of course, she wanted to arrange for a babysitter before handing herself in. But, she was stopped in her tracks.
Before she could make sure someone could look after her kids, five police cars stopped in front of her house. They handcuffed her in front of her children. The cops then transported her to Union County Jail, putting her in a jail cell. She remembered:
"I almost don't have words for how low it made me feel..to truly feel in the bottom of my heart that, if I'm anything, it's a good mother... To be stripped of that to the point where you are handcuffed in front of them."
The mom was charged with criminally reckless conduct. This charge meant that if she were found guilty, she would have to pay a fine of $1000 and spend up to a whole year behind bars.
Henderson said she could not understand why she was being treated as if she had committed a heinous crime. In her own words:
"I was being treated like an actual criminal.
The whole time I remember thinking, 'This isn't right; I don't belong here.' I was mortified that that was the situation I was thrown into."
She said she remembered: "...curling up in a ball in the corner and just wanting to hide." Her ex-husband managed to bail her out. But, this case was just the beginning of a drawn-out saga that continues today.
THE ALLEGED REASONS BEHIND IT ALL
The officer who arrested her said that her son could have run into danger. He claimed the boy could have been kidnapped or bitten by a poisonous snake.
Another one of the arguments is that the teenage daughter has ADHD, which is considered a learning disability, and so is allegedly unfit to look after her younger siblings.
THE COMMUNITY TO THE RESCUE
However, many people have banded around her throughout the case providing financial assistance through a GoFundMe page.
This is to help the mom, whose financial status has been under stress since the case began. So far, it has raised $22,000.
More than that, people have been offering her emotional support, including within the comment section of the GoFundMe page. One individual wrote:
"Old, white men [who don't have a clue] still make the rules in this country without providing the support needed, and it disgusts me! Good luck, Melissa and babies."
Many others also wished her luck and said she had a beautiful family. Many supporters said they were sorry she had to go through this.
She is also receiving support from her lawyer Mr. David DeLugas, who focuses on cases where parents are charged without any real grounds.
The attorney has claimed that the accusations were unconstitutional according to the Georgia Supreme Court in 1997. This states that it is not legally viable to charge a mom or dad for what could be considered everyday parenting.
STILL ON EDGE
While more than enough support is coming her way, Henderson most likely remains nervous about her and her kids' futures.
The mom will also probably never recover from the trauma she has endured, especially on the night of her arrest. How do you feel about the legal system's treatment of this mother?
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