Debra Harrell is a victim of circumstance and under any other circumstances would be considered one of those “free range” parents many white people brag about being. But Harrell isn’t white, or middle-to-upper class.  Harrell’s version of  free range parenting wasn’t done because she’s one those parents who give their children freedom as a parenting ‘style, but because she couldn’t afford child care.

Earlier this month, Harrell was arrested and charged with unlawful conduct toward a child because she left her 9-year-old daughter in a park while she worked at a nearby McDonald’s in North Augusta, South Carolina.  Typically Harrell’s daughter would sit at the McDonald’s while she worked and played on a laptop, but once the laptop broke, she used the park as a way to keep her child occupied. The child played at the park with the other children for 2 days, until on third day a “concerned” park-goer, asked her child where her mother was. 

Harrell’s arrest has sparked outrage online, not only because of the lack of affordable childcare available, but because now Harrell’s daughter is in the custody of child services.

One woman heard about Harrell’s story and stepped up to start an online fundraising campaign. 

From YouCaring:

The fundraiser is intended to help Debra pay her legal fees and to help her get back on her feet after the loss of work that has surely resulted. All the money raised will go to Debra. I will be in touch with her via her lawyer very soon to figure out how to transfer the funds. Please give what you can to help!

As for me? I’m Clair. I’m a total stranger with little in common with Debra. I don’t have any kids and I’ve never had to rely on a low-wage job to make ends meet. I have a full-time job with benefits. I work hard, but I’ve never struggled, and I know how incredibly lucky and privileged I am for that. And I don’t believe it makes me a better or more worthy person than anyone else, whether they’re unemployed or working for minimum wage, trying to feed a family. I was moved by Debra’s story and by the response from both very liberal and conservative people that arresting Debra and taking her daughter away was not the right solution.

Claire Ryan, the creator of the YouCaring page, also disputed police reports that the McDonald’s was more than a mile away from the park. In actuality, it was a few thousand feet away.  In addition to the online fundraiser, a petition was created to have the charges filed against Harell dropped.

It’s a shame that one’s mother quest to provide for her family ended up with her being punished. And please, save the single mother bashing and black women bashing for your Facebook page. It’s not welcomed here.



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  • Lakitha Goss

    It’s a shame that this young woman is being penalized for being a working mom instead of one depending on welfare to support her child. Affordable, dependable childcare programs are seriously needed in this country. We can send money to other countries, but are unable to provide adequate childcare services to the working class of this country. SMDH.

  • Jay

    When I worked at a skating rink about a year or so ago parents would leave their children in the skating rink for hours on end. Some kids would be at the skating rink from 11 am to 11pm. No cops came to investigate. No “well meaning” adults addressed the issue. They were just came and there was no issue. However, most of the time these kids were white. Black parents often brought their kids there and stayed with them, unless it was Saturday night (7pm to 11pm). I just think that this shit is ridiculous. Help Debra find a job. Help her find adequate health care. Do not take away her child and her freedom! Whoever, called the police is a piece of shit. If you cared that much then you should have offered to help find and pay for babysitting for the little girl. I pray that Debra Harrell gets her daughter and her freedom back.