A South Carolina mother was arrested for "unlawful conduct" earlier this month after leaving her daughter in a park while working at a nearby McDonalds. Her child was subsequently placed in the care of the Department of Social Services.
North Augusta resident, Debra Harrell, reportedly began letting her 9-year-old play at the park alone after the laptop her daughter would amuse herself with in McDonalds while her mom was on shift was stolen from their home. But a parent who noticed Harrell's daughter at the park and asked the child where her mother was called the authorities after finding out Harrell was at work.
But while some have criticized the single mother's actions, others have offered sympathy for her and one woman is now trying to help. Clair Ryan, a stranger to the mother, has launched a crowdfunding campaign on YouCaring.com called “Support Debra Harrell.” She claims to have started it out of sympathy for Harrell’s situation, and the danger in its media coverage as “a message that as a working mom, all her efforts are just not good enough.”
“The unfortunate reality is that hard working Americans in low paying jobs can barely afford food and shelter let alone child care.”
New York magazine writer Jonathan Chait agreed. In his piece he called attention to the poor framing of local news coverage around Harrell's arrest, and noted how rare child abductions really are, although TV reports indicate otherwise. During an interview on HuffPost Live, Chait also discussed how Harrell's race also affects people's ability to empathize with her.
"The fact that the mother is a black woman with probably a low-income job at McDonald's probably made her and her child less sympathetic and less familiar, less understandable to the middle class and more white community around them," he said. "Which presented them as being criminals as opposed to a working family trying to make its way through a tough situation."
In her campaign, Ryan pleads that a single, working mother leaving her kid at a “busy” park about a five-minute walk from her job during daylight hours with a cell phone should not be considered child abandonment or neglect. She hopes the money raised will cover Harrell’s legal fees and help her get back on her feet and regain custody of her daughter.
Ryan could see the same success as the campaign for Shanesha Taylor, another single mother who was arrested for leaving her children in the car while she was at a job interview who received over $100,000 in donations.
Thus far Ryan has raised a total of $1,835 from 63 supporters, with 28 days left to reach the target $10,000.
For more information visit the Support Debra Harrell fundraiser page. Watch the local news clip below on Harrell's story.