Saturday, May 15, 2010
Strangers took care of baby while father's addiction took hold of him
Cheryl Collins has seen a lot in her years at the St. Regis Hotel. Nothing prepared her for the discovery of a nine-month-old baby abandoned in a room, left behind by a father who valued alcohol more than the life of his child.
"When I first saw her, I really misjudged her age," says Collins, the hotel manager. "I thought she was younger. But she was crawling around. That's terrible. The fact that she rolled off the bed and crawled around the room... I hate to think what could have happened."
On Thursday, the child's father was sentenced to 10 months in jail after pleading guilty to a charge of failing to provide the necessities of life. He has been in custody for three months. With a double-time credit of six months, he's only got another four months to go.
Staff at the St. Regis called Child and Family Services and the police when they discovered the baby. A guest heard frantic crying and alerted the front desk.
Her father, before he got blotto and forgot he had a child, gathered the bedding into a makeshift crib. It was a poor substitute for a real baby bed and no match for a child who could crawl.
A bottle of formula that had turned a pale green was found in the room.
The father was missing for an estimated 16 hours. He says he went outside for a smoke, ran into someone who gave him a drink and somehow ended up in the North End, drinking until he passed out.
His excuse in court?
"I didn't have a father figure to teach me right from wrong," he told the judge. "I get stressed and frustrated and I give up. I should have stayed with my daughter at all times."
Cry me a freaking river.
The guest who called the front desk saved her. By the time hotel staff were notified, the child's diaper was overflowing. She had a severe rash. She had fallen off the bed and crawled her way to the door.
When security arrived to open the door, the female guest scooped up the wailing baby.
She changed her with a diaper found in the room. Staff took the rancid bottle, sterilized it and gave the child fresh milk.
The strangers acted in place of the parent she didn't have.
"There were a bunch of staff who were holding her, giving her a bottle," says Collins.
The child quickly needed another diaper change. A female employee took care of that, using a diaper the hotel keeps in its emergency stash.
A staff member in the gift shop took a turn holding the baby, followed by a waitress and then a female cook.
They cradled and coddled the wee one until the authorities arrived.
The dad showed up shortly after that, having belatedly remembered where he was staying and that he had a baby with him.
"I was sitting in the gift shop, he walked in, the police and family services walked him back out," says a doorman.
Cheryl Collins has two adult children and she's fostering a four-year-old nephew. She is still bewildered by the father's actions.
"He didn't beat her but he sure neglected her," she says. "You just can't imagine. They're just so helpless. To not change their diaper, to leave them, you just can't understand why anything would be more important than your baby."
Most of us can't understand why anyone would choose to drink until they pass out. We can't understand why a parent would make a choice -- and it is a choice -- between caring for a vulnerable child and giving in to one more drink and all the drinks that came after.
The dad says he didn't have a father figure himself? Tough. Even someone raised by wolves would know you don't leave a baby alone in a hotel room, not for 10 minutes and not for 16 hours. This man doesn't deserve to raise children. He's got another four months to think about that.
Let's hope that's enough time.
This father clearly cared enough for his daughter to take her from Thompson to Winnipeg for a doctor's appointment. Unfortunately, his addiction got the better of him. Four months in prison, sitting in a cell, is not going to reform this father's behaviour or his thinking. Prison is a negative environment which fails at encouraging or facilitating rehabilitation or reform. This man is not a danger to society and should therefore, not be in prison. He's there for too short a time to even enroll in any programs that may help him. He should have been given only 3 years of probation, with substance abuse programs and parenting programs. This man needs help, not prison time. Being overly punitive will offer no solutions and is simply revenge. Alcohol abuse is a symptom of deeper issues within a person's life and we need to address those.
I dont understand how jail will help this man at all. It also doesn't help the child. This man should have his child returned to him, once he improves himself and gets his life in order. Judges need to consider the least restrictive options for sentences and prison will not accomplish anything for this man. A community sanction would accomplish more, as it offers more effective substance abuse programs. Prisons are the schools of crime and being in prison could cause him to be a better criminal, risk of being victimized and it drains resources for someone who doesn't need to be there.