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Should Nicole Gainey have been arrested for letting 7 year old son walk alone to the park?

Nicole Gainey
Did Nicole Gainey deserve to be arrested? How old is a child before it can be reasonably expected to be left out in public? What about if the child has a disability?

Nicole Gainey, 34 a Port St. Lucie, Florida mother has been charged with child neglect after letting her 7 year old son walk to a nearby park alone.

The mother’s arrest came after lifeguards saw her son Dominic walking past a pool on the way to the park, which is half a mile from his home.

Debra Harrell fired by McDonald’s after arrested for leaving daughter play alone in park

Upon questioning the boy, who has a learning disability, he ran toward the park, where officers picked him up and drove him home.

Nicole Gainey told she was shocked when officers turned up on her doorstep demanding to know why she allowed her son to go to the park unsupervised. The mother would reveal that Dominic would go to the park unsupervised once or twice a week.

The mother would reiterate that the park was about 10 minutes away and that she always sent Dominic off with a cell phone so that she can contact him or he can get in touch with her in case there’s a problem.

‘I honestly didn’t think I was doing anything wrong. I was letting him go play,’ she told WPTV. ‘I’m totally dumbfounded by this whole situation.’

Nicole Gainey
Nicole Gainey and Dominic

Police  retorted that there were ‘numerous sex offenders living in the vicinity’ – but Nicole Gainey countered that she felt her son was mature enough to walk to the park alone.

Pursuant to her arrest, the mother would be let out on the same day from St. Lucie County Jail after posting a $3,750 bond.

Added the dumbfounded mother: ‘My own bondsman said, “My parents would have been in jail every day”‘ if the same laws had been enforced.’

Attorney John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute, a Virginia-based civil liberties group representing Gainey, told his client is a good mother who is scared but ready to fight the charge.

That said an official from the Florida Department of Children and Families told the mother she could ‘expect the case to be dropped’.

Gainey said she will no longer let her son go to the park on his own because she is worried about being arrested again.

And then there were these comments on the web that made me wonder:

“The St. Lucie County State’s Attorney’s office says there is no law that specifies how old a child has to be before he or she can go somewhere unsupervised. It’s done on a case-by-case basis.” 

IOW, no law was broken; we just don’t like the way she’s parenting her child.

Excellent job officer. Ignore the haters. You did the right thing. You looked after the safety of a child. That is one the most important things in life. Im sure the circumstance made you obligated to make an arrest. Let the prosecutor and/or judge decide the rest. Whether or not people agree with the arrest , some things are certain. People cared enough to get involved to make sure nothing happened to that young boy. The police answered the called and this boy did not end up a victim. If you had taken no action and then in the future this boy was harmed, the same people would be asking “why didn’t the police do something the first time”. Good job.

There is no law, yet. If, God forbid, something had happened to the child then there would have been “Dominic’s Law” created. Now the mother will sue. I’m sorry, but the world isn’t what it was when I was seven and there is no way in hell that any seven year old in my family would be that fear away by himself. He had a phone… before he could call he would have been gone! 

I understand parents being advised not to do this by law enforcement.

I even get fines, or having social services notified just to make sure the environment is safe. I’m totally down with this being treated as a red-flag.

But arrested? Thrown in jail? How is that at all productive for anyone, ever? I didn’t think much could sound stupider to me than the war on drugs, but this is a war on permissive parents might just make the cut.

Nicole Gainey


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