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Swedish Mom Investigated For Leaving Baby Outside Restaurant For 10 Minutes

By Danielle Sullivan |

child welfare laws, swedish mom leaves baby outside restaurant, child abduction, parental supervision, child neglect

Would you leave your baby outside a restaurant alone?

You might recall that back in 1997, a Danish mom was arrested in New York City for leaving her baby in a stroller outside a restaurant while she went inside to have a drink. She claimed false arrest and received over $60,000 in damages. Fast forward 14 years and the same thing happened again in Amherst, Massachusetts.

A mom left a baby outside in a stroller while she went in the Bueno Y Sano eatery to order food, and police were called to the scene. While this woman (whose name has been withheld) was not arrested, Amherst police contacted the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families to file a report of potential abuse or neglect.

Reuters reports that the woman said she “found nothing wrong with the situation” and that it was common in Sweden to leave young children alone outside a restaurant.

The big question looms, who was right? The mom or the police?

I find myself understanding both sides to a certain degree. This mom grew up under the common practice of leaving babies outside in Sweden. While that sounds strange to most of us, it’s completely normal to her. I wonder what it must be like to live in a society so trusting that moms don’t worry about anything happening to their baby outside in the street alone.

But on the other hand, she’s not in Sweden, so she must abide by U.S. customs if she doesn’t want to cause a stir. It’s odd to find a baby on the streets here alone. Naturally, concerned onlookers would call authorities. The police didn’t arrest her (but could have). They left it to the social child welfare agencies to further investigate when they realized it wasn’t a criminal situation.

This case was probably handled in the best way it could have been. One shouldn’t assume that their own customs are practiced in other countries. Of course, it’s possible that she forgot or didn’t even know it would be problematic here.

Was this a case of bad parenting? Or merely a cultural difference? Should one just assume their own cultural ways when in another country? And would you ever leave your baby outside a restaurant alone?

Ever wonder about How They Do Parenting in Japan?

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About Danielle Sullivan


Danielle Sullivan

Danielle Sullivan writes for Babble Pets. She is also an award-winning parenting writer, who authors a monthly column for NY Parenting and ASPCA Parents blog. You can read more of her work at her blog,Some Puppy To Love. Read bio and latest posts → Read Danielle's latest posts →

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13 thoughts on “Swedish Mom Investigated For Leaving Baby Outside Restaurant For 10 Minutes

  1. Little Frogs says:

    Sounds like the police were pretty reasonable. I hope DCF is just as reasonable, check her out and offer her a bit of counseling on safety here in the U.S. and what is and is not safe. Nothing else is needed if all is as reported.

  2. grace says:

    I find it disheartening that everyone assumes that leaving your child outside a restaurant in the U.S. is not safe. I realize our culture is different, but do we truly believe that in the ten minutes she was in the restaurant a kidnapper who was looking for the perfect opportunity to snatch a child just happened to walk by and find the easy target? Maybe we need to change, not her.

  3. Gretchen Powers says:

    I think it’s a cultural difference, but “when in Rome” you know? Personally, I don’t “get” this…and it’s not even that someone is going to come snatch the baby, it’s just like, you don’t leave your baby laying around. Is it so hard to bring it in?

  4. Lorraine says:

    When I was a baby, my mom would leave me in my pram lined up outside the grocery store with all the other babies while all the moms shopped. I live in Canada.

  5. Katja says:

    I grew up in Finland and it is very common in Scandinavia to leave your baby in a stroller in the front of a store, restaurant, post office, you name it. Or let the baby sleep in the stroller outside when you are in, even if you live in an apartment building, townhouse etc. Parents also let their kids to go to public restrooms alone, and walk to school alone starting from 1st grade. It was a huge cultural shock to move to the US and be in a culture where it’s common sense not to trust anyone and believe that danger can happen at any place at anytime. However, I think you have to live like Romans do – and adjust to the culture where you live, even though I agree with Grace.

  6. mrg says:

    I like Grace’s comment- “maybe we need to change and not her”.
    I definitely do not think that this woman should be treated as a criminal, and I see nothing wrong with what she did.

  7. Gretchen Powers says:

    I don’t think it’s bad that they do this in Scandinavian countries or anything, and I have heard of this being done. I do think it’s different to let an older child go to the bathroom or walk to school by themselves than it would be to leave your baby outside. America is a different place. I don’t want to say it’s not safe, but just…different…? Personally, I like to keep close tabs on a living creature under my care who is not able to walk or talk or anything at all yet.

  8. Taz says:

    this isn’t strange in eastern europe either, at least it wasn’t in the 80′s and early 90′s. it would really make grocery shopping a lot easier! when people move to america they should be given a pamphlet to let them know about this- i mean it’s not like anyone puts up signs!

  9. Andrea says:

    As long as the mother was within earshot and could respond if her baby became upset, I see no problem with this. It would bother me enormously to see a distressed baby left alone.

  10. Jona Steenbrink says:

    Whether it’s reasonable or not is more or less beside the point. It’s different. The thing that *really* blows my mind is why the busybody who saw the child in the stroller outside the restaurant didn’t go inside and check if the child belonged to anybody before calling the police.
    It’s this kind of misguided, holier-than-thou, righteous indignation that makes being a parent in this country so very difficult. How about a little solidarity, people? Really? If you saw a child lying in a stroller outside a restaurant would your first thought be “abandoned” or would it be “let me check inside the restaurant before I call the police”. Perspective and solidarity. It’s Amherst for goodness sake.

  11. Jaime H says:

    I totally agree Jona – that was my first thought. If I saw a baby in this situation I would just stick around for a minute and keep an eye on it. If no one returned I would then check inside the restaurant. Why is the first action to call the police?

  12. Kristi Pelletier says:

    I grew up in a quiet little town in Canada. My parents drilled it into me from a very young age that NO WHERE is completely safe. My grade 1 teacher was found raped and murdered in a ditch in the tiny little town of Tapleytown, no bigger than 1,000 people. I will never leave either of my children alone anywhere. Sick people don’t necessarily live crime ridden cities like Toronto, Detroit, or Los Angelos. And yes, sometimes, sick people do stand back and watch for the perfect opportunity to kidnap a baby or child. And it can happen ANYWHERE in the world. It is sad that we can’t trust society like we could 100 years ago, but I think more crime happened than we realized, because we didn’t have the News on television or the internet to tell us what’s happening outside our own community. Better safe than sorry. The woman should have brought the baby in with her or not gone in at all. They should have a list of safety regulations for you to study and write a test on when you immigrate or visit a new country. If you don’t abide by the regulations, there will be severe consequences.

  13. Jeff Requier says:

    Swedens crime rate has been rising since they started keeping track of Reported crimes in 1950. Leaving your baby on the street in Sweden is no different then doing the same thing in an American city.
    I work as a Security guard at a Museum and a native woman who was acting like she was high, left her baby Inside the museum restaurant to smoke outside and she came close to losing her baby to Child Protective Services. Your baby or your toddler STAYS by your side at All times. You dont get to play dumb

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