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Mom Arrested for Letting 4-Year-Old Play Outside Alone

The Short of It

A California mom who let her 4-year-old son play alone on a playground just 120 feet away from her front door could wind up in jail.

The Lowdown

Sonya Hendren is proud of her free-range parenting style and wasn't worried when she let her 4-year-old son, Tomahawk, play by himself on the playground inside her gated apartment complex.

Unfortunately, her neighbor Sonja Horrell felt differently.

"He was outside and [she] called the cops on us," Hendren told CBS 8.

Hendren was then arrested for felony child neglect and endangerment. The charges have since been reduced to misdemeanors, but she is hoping to get them dropped completely.

"We have a CPS (Child Protective Service) case now, and every time he's not in my visual sight we're in violation," she said.

Horrell says she didn't mean the family any harm, but she and her daughter were worried because Tomahawk was left unattended.

"I thought she would just get a warning ... and she wouldn't let them be out alone again," she told CBS 8.

Hendren, meanwhile, remains a stalwart free-range parent and prides herself on being Tomahawk's mother.

"I do everything for him," she said. "I breast fed for 28 months. I cloth diapered and, you know, obviously avoided helicopter parenting. I'm doing everything."

The Upshot

It's an interesting case. Because on one hand, 4 years old does seem young for a child to be left alone. But on the other, he was just 120 feet away and inside a gated community. Sadly, this entire situation could have been avoided if Horrell had simply approached Hendren and voiced her concerns before contacting CPS.

Now, if she's found gulity, Hendren could face 6 months in jail with 3 years of probation. She was reportedly offered an alternative deal of 30 days in jail and 1 year of probation but turned it down. According to her attorney Alin Cintean, if the prosecution decides to proceed with the charges, they will have to prove that Hendren willfully placed Tomahawk in danger.

"If this had happened 20 years ago, we wouldn't be here. There wouldn't be a criminal case filed," Cintean said.

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