Police on Friday arrested the teenage mother of two children who were left alone at police stations in Charlotte the night before.
And as news of the abandonment spread, social services officials rallied to send a message to people struggling to care for their children: There’s help if you need it.
Nazarene Porter, 19, was charged with two counts of misdemeanor child abuse/neglect. Her bail information wasn’t immediately available.
But numerous new details of the case have emerged.
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Around 6:45 p.m. Thursday, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer heard a baby alone and crying in a car seat outside a police station on West Boulevard. Police investigators said they’re not sure how long the infant boy was alone on the busy street.
Three hours later, an unattended 2-year-old girl with a pink shirt and colorful beads in her hair was discovered at a bus stop outside the department’s uptown headquarters. Police said video cameras showed Porter leaving the child in the rain at the bus stop.
While alone, the child wandered into the roadway at least once, police said, as cars passed by. The child was ultimately found by a person who had just been released from nearby Mecklenburg jail. That person took the child into police headquarters.
The children were safe and in foster care late Friday, after a checkup at a local hospital found no health issues. Porter was arrested Friday evening, interviewed at police headquarters then booked into Mecklenburg jail.
Earlier Friday, Department of Social Services officials stressed that help exists for parents who feel unable to care for their children.
North Carolina has a safe surrender law, allowing a parent to leave an unharmed infant with health care workers, firefighters or other designated officials within seven days of the baby’s birth. The parents can’t be prosecuted in such situations and can remain anonymous.
Every state has some variation of the law, although time periods vary and some states restrict who can turn the child over to authorities.
In North Carolina, a child must be turned over to a responsible adult and cannot legally be left unattended, even at a safe surrender location.
But, surrendering children after that legally protected week is a more involved process, according to Charles Bradley, the director of DSS’ Youth & Family Services division. DSS treats such cases as an abuse, neglect or dependency investigation, which could mean a detailed look into a family’s problems, and would likely involve social workers and other authorities.
Still, DSS Director Peggy Eagan encouraged parents to call her agency if they don’t feel they can care for their children.
“The most important thing is that children can’t take care of themselves,” Eagan said. “So we have to challenge parents, and we have to challenge the community to reach out and help families that might be struggling. ... We do not want to encourage parents to say, ‘Wow, I’m just tired of my kid, I’m going to just leave him somewhere.’ That’s never acceptable.”
Cases like that are rare, Eagan said. Most abuse and neglect cases come to light after interventions by police, family members or educators.
“Although fortunately it doesn’t happen very often, sometimes the situations are tragic for the families as well as for the children,” Eagan said. As tragic as Thursday’s case is, she said, DSS has seen worse cases of abuse, neglect and even death from parents who never sought help.
“We can only guess at what’s going on in that parent’s life that moves them to the point where they have to abandon a child,” she said.
The Mecklenburg Department of Social Services says parents who need help caring for their children can call DSS at 704-336-2273. The hotline is active around the clock, 365 days a year.
Police are still investigating Thursday’s case and say anyone with information should call police at 704-432-TIPS (8477).