Shanesha Taylor, the Arizona mom who made national news after leaving her children in a car during a job interview, pled guilty to one count of child abuse on Monday. Taylor’s plea is just the latest development in a yearlong ordeal that reignited the debate about access to affordable childcare for low-income parents.
Taylor was arrested last March after authorities found her 2-year-old and six-month-old sons in the hot car. Initially, she was charged with two counts of felony child abuse and lost custody of her children. When a picture of Taylor’s tearful mug shot went viral, support poured in from all over the country and an online fundraising campaign brought in more than $115,000 in donations.
After her story spread across the country, things began to turn around for Taylor. She regained custody of her children in August and Maricopa County District Attorney Bill Montgomery recommended her case for “deferred prosecution” that could have meant the child abuse charges would be dropped if she met certain criteria. At the time, Taylor was ordered to attend between 26 and 52 weeks of parenting classes, as well as set up a trust fund for her children with the donations she received. Unfortunately, prosecutors claim Taylor failed to meet the requirements and she was re-arrested.
On Monday, Taylor entered a guilty plea to one count of felony child abuse, but will avoid jail time. Instead, the agreement stipulates she will be sentenced to 10 years probation, undergo parenting classes, and pay restitution. She will retain custody of her children.
Taylor’s case shined a light on the need for more affordable childcare options. During an appearance on the Today Show, Taylor said she left her two young sons in the car during her job interview “in a moment of desperation” after her babysitter canceled. Although extreme, Taylor’s struggle to secure affordable childcare isn’t unique.
For many parents, childcare is their biggest household expense. According to the Huffington Post, in many states, the average cost of care for two kids exceeds the fulltime salary earned by a minimum wage worker, making childcare unaffordable. While some states offer free and low-cost options, these choices are often limited and unavailable for those who need it.
While Taylor’s ordeal is coming to an end, her case is a reminder that so many parents do not have the support they need to survive. During his State of the Union speech in January, President Obama announced a plan to triple the childcare tax credit that would give parents even more assistance with paying for the costly expense. Unfortunately, lawmakers haven’t acted on the president’s plan and, with such a divided Congress, its highly unlikely it will get passed any time soon.