my coworker left her baby in the car while she worked, ads that want a “bubbly personality,” and more

It’s four answers to four questions. Here we go…

1. My coworker left her baby in the car while she worked

I work in a reception/secretarial position in a busy office setting. Typically there are 2-4 of us sitting in a row working together to check clients in. My shift was a midday one, and one of the other receptionists, “Cora,” left as I arrived. As soon as Cora was gone and we had a small lull in clients, the other two receptionists who had been there with her this morning started gossiping about how Cora had left her four-month old in the car during her whole four-hour shift because her child care fell through! She left the car running for air flow and temperature control, and she apparently felt this was safe enough since our desks faces large picture windows and she parked right up front where she could “keep an eye on the baby.”

I’m so horrified, not only at Cora’s lack of judgment, but also my other coworkers’. If I had been there, there’s no way I wouldn’t have said something, and I did end up calling our manager (who is usually at a different site) to inform him of this.

Now I’m wondering if I should call child services or something or just leave it to my manager to address as he sees fit. He made no indication of how he’ll handle this, but for the record he’s a very reasonable guy and he was equally appalled, so I’m confident he’ll do … something.

I know child services can mean a whole terrible can of worms, and Cora must already be struggling if she thought this was her best option, but holy cow. That baby could have been screaming for hours, or suffocated from positional asphyxia, or any other number of horrible things. Cora doesn’t have any family around to help and the child’s father is absentee. I feel like there are no good options but I am genuinely concerned for this child’s wellbeing.

Oh no. This sounds like an act of desperation from someone who couldn’t afford to miss work … but you’re right that it could have ended in tragedy.

Do you have the kind of relationship with Cora where you could try to get a sense of how she’s doing and what’s going on first? Can you talk with your boss to advocate for any support your employer can help provide? Can you help connect Cora with resources that could help if a similar situation arises again? (For example, a local social services agency like Catholic Charities might be able to help, and some areas have charity day nurseries that can help in emergencies.) As someone now involved in the child welfare system as a foster parent, I am hesitant to tell you to contact child services if there are any other ways to help Cora and her baby; the foster care system often makes things worse rather than better for kids. There are times when a call to child services can’t be avoided and this might be one of them, but I’d encourage you to talk with her first and get a better understanding of the situation before making that call. (And yes, a good child services person would be more equipped than you are to assess the situation themselves and figure out what interventions would truly help. Unfortunately that’s not always how it goes in reality … and statistically it’s even less likely to if Cora is poor or not white.)

2. Can I help a junior colleague without overstepping?

I’m a professional at a smallish firm (25 employees). I’m not a partner, and I have no control over hiring.

We hired a new receptionist a few months ago. She seems very bright. She’s indicated to me that she’s interested in doing more tasks. Because of the pandemic, our receptionist job is a little slow; the office is just not really bustling, with so many people working remotely, and I am worried she will leave because she’s bored.

Another person at the office does admin type tasks — not really a true office manager, a junior role. The tasks could probably be done at the reception desk, like making sure supplies are ordered, light scheduling, sending out bills once a month (not the accounting part — literally just sending), etc. That person just gave notice. I am worried that my firm will hire someone new for that role who will be a disaster. (The person who just gave notice was a bit of a disaster.) I’m not particularly confident in my firm’s ability to judge talent. We seem to hire whoever happens to apply for admin roles so that we don’t have to deal with interviewing multiple people, and you can imagine how that works out.

I really want to pull the receptionist decide, and say, “Look — there’s an opportunity for you here, if you’re interested in a bigger role. Why don’t you go to the hiring partner, and say, ‘I’d like to take on some of the tasks of the office admin role. I’m organized, dependable, and bright, and I’d like to take on X, Y, and Z. (And, oh, you should also pay me more for taking on a bigger role.)’”

Ideally, I would just be able to go to the hiring partner myself and suggest this, but based on past experiences, that would probably fall on deaf ears. (Yes, that is a bigger separate problem for another day.) Would I be overstepping to put the idea in the receptionist’s head? I have had minimal interaction with her, and she does not report to me. Part of me fears I should just keep my mouth shut and stay out of it because it’s not my business and hiring is not my role. But the other part of me says I absolutely would have killed for someone to clue me in to an opportunity like this when I was starting out. (And, selfishly, I would like someone to be in the office admin role who is actually capable of doing it.)

It’s not overstepping. Talk to her! It would be overstepping if she didn’t sound interested and you kept pushing it, or if you arranged it behind her back without seeing if she were even interested. But it’s not overstepping to tell her about an opportunity and encourage her to pursue it if it appeals to her. This is the kind of support that can really help a junior person’s career — do it!

3. Job ads that want a “bubbly personality”

Should the term “bubbly personality” really be in a job ad? Does it ever get used in ads that aren’t for roles that tend to be dominated by women?

I am a nurse looking for a new role and I see this phrase frequently used, particularly in roles for smaller practices and clinics, often those requiring a more customer service type of role (e.g., cometic surgery, ophthalmics, etc.). It seems a very gendered term (though of course there are men out there with “bubbly personalities”) but I could never see it being used for, say, a civil engineer or a lawyer. What’s wrong with “personable” or “good customer service”? Is this my issue with how I perceive this phrase or does this phrase not belong in a professional job ad?

Yeah, it’s a highly gendered word that’s nearly exclusively applied to women and, as such, shouldn’t end up in job ads. There are lots of alternatives that would be better choices, like warm, friendly, engaging, enthusiastic, or customer-focused.

4. New job’s health insurance wouldn’t start for two months

I have been searching for a new job for about a year, and after a few disappointments, I have been told to expect an offer from a company’s HR soon! I am not 100% sure if I will take the role, and part of that is due to what HR told me in my screener about benefits. They said that health insurance coverage starts after two months of employment. I have a chronic illness that is in remission due to having adequate health coverage for my expensive medication. Is this the kind of thing that employers will negotiate? Having no insurance is a non-starter for me, but a screening interview didn’t feel like the moment to start that conversation.

You can certainly ask. They might be rigid about it or they might not — but if they are, you might be to negotiate for them to cover the costs of an interim plan that you’d set up yourself for those two months — which could be COBRA coverage from your old job, a marketplace plan, or a short-term policy. (Short-term policies aren’t always great so look carefully at what you’re buying if you go that route.)

You also don’t need to mention having a chronic illness; it’s enough to simply say, “I’m not comfortable being without any health insurance for two months, so in order to accept the offer I’d need X.” (Because most people wouldn’t — and shouldn’t! — be comfortable with that. I don’t know what employers who do this are thinking; it’s profoundly crappy.)

{ 1,078 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    For letter #1, please focus on advice to the letter-writer rather than debating the choices you believe Cora should or shouldn’t have made.

  2. Artemesia*

    #1. This would so totally blow someone’s life up who is already hanging by her fingernails that I’d be looking for another solution. Maybe talk with her and let her know it cannot happen again and why it is so dangerous. Those 53 dead immigrants were in an air conditioned truck – but the AC stopped working.

    And it would be really noble to try to help her identify some emergency baby sitting services she could use — COVID has made everything crazy though and nurseries that were once available may not be so anymore. Tough tough situation.

    1. Wendy*

      I’d also want to get some more clarification before freaking out. Yes, obviously her choice was not the best solution – but if she had (for example) a baby monitor in the car and a direct line of sight to her baby, this doesn’t seem any different to me than leaving her kid in a closed office within earshot – also not ideal, but she’d be able to see and hear if there were any issues. I could see that being a “least bad option” kind of thing, especially if she’s stressed out and didn’t have time to plan anything else.

      1. PollyQ*

        The difference is that a room in an office isn’t a target for theft the way a car is and isn’t prone to have its internal temperature shoot up in a short amount of time if the AC cuts out. Yes, maybe constant oversight would mitigate that well enough, and in fact, the baby was fine, but it’s not at all a comparable level of risk.

        1. Snarkaeologist*

          It happened recently with a man and his elderly mother who were homeless. The mother stayed in the car while the son worked, but she died because the ac went out while she was sleeping. I think people underestimate how quickly a hot car can turn into a death trap.

          1. quill*

            Yeah. The AC only does so much and it relies on the car having gas. And infants especially are fragile in terms of temperature to begin with.

          2. Anona*

            Yes. The answer is disturbing to me as are many of the comments. The actual victim is THE BABY. Not the mother.

            And btw, FOSTER PARENTS are mandated reporters.

            1. Raising A Legal Issue*

              When I lived in California some 25+ years ago, ALL ADULTS were legally required to report possible abuse cases—and yes, that included ‘edge’ cases where you weren’t sure if it constituted child abuse. I’d recommend OP check state law; s/he may not have any legal choice but to report.

              1. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

                I am in California and this is not the case. Only certain roles/jobs are mandated reporters. We don’t know if OP is in one of them. I am, however I do not work with children so I don’t remember the details of if I suspect abuse but it’s not directly of children I *work with* [which wouldn’t apply in this specific situation], if the mandate applies. Bleargh. All that aside, even if the OP is not a mandated reporter, OP needs to decide if they are reporting it to CPS or not. Obviously one feels for Cora being in a safe spot. HOWEVER one possible outcome of *not* reporting this to CPS, but rather just letting her manager talk to her, is that next time Cora will just leave the baby at home alone. This situation is bad and without more information, my inclination would be to report.

                1. Raising A Legal Issue*

                  Thanks for the update; I had wondered if they changed the law. My director at the time told me CPS was being overwhelmed with calls from the general public reporting issues that didn’t require CPS intervention (including the situation I was required to report- which is why I remember all this.)

                  I’d still recommend the OP check local laws, just in case.

                2. What She Said*

                  PollyQ: I would interpret that to mean that the responsibility is not limited to children you work with, but I’m no kind of expert.

                  The responsibility lies within the scope of the work, only. Been a mandated reporter in my job for over 20 years. Have made some reports myself.

                  Also, OP cannot file a CPS report on this incident. She did not witness it. You can’t report based on second hand information. The person witnessing, in this case the co-workers, are ones who can report it.

                3. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

                  @WhatSheSaid, that’s not true at least in California. You can report secondhand information and CPS will respond. (I have done so based on something my child heard at school from another child.)

              1. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

                Literally not. We have no idea of the backstory of what led Cora to do this. All we know is a baby left unattended in a car for 4 hours.

                1. Erica*

                  I don’t need to know any details to know that every mother in America who isn’t seriously rich is a victim of our country’s awful head-in-the-sand, you-figure-it-out attitude toward child care.

                  That doesn’t mean Cora made the right choice. As you say, we don’t know her story. But I have a hard time picturing this happening in, say, France.

            2. Etti*

              I know foster care is not ideal but this parent abandoned her baby for 4 hours. Without citing all the scary scenarios, the poor thing should have been fed. Foster care might not be ideal, but to claim they would be worse than this parent is ridiculous.

              1. Leenie*

                How do you know the baby wasn’t fed for four hours? I’m not arguing that this was a safe situation for the baby. But it seems more likely than not that the mother ran out to the parking lot periodically.

              2. Coffee Nut*

                So what should she have done? Lost her job? Become homeless? Sleeping under a bridge is safer? Baby starving is safer? Why do we immediately jump to judging the mother and not the fact that we’re the only “developed” nation where this happens?

      2. Heat Wave*

        If the car runs out of gas, or the a/c stops for any reason it is a lot different. I am in Texas where the highs have been over 100 for the last month. If the baby is sleeping and Cora is busy at work, a baby monitor will not alert any one in time. There is no way to make a dangerous idea like this less dangerous.

        1. Anona*

          That baby would have died if the air conditioning went out. Babies under a year are not supposed to be in car seats more than two hours straight because of positional asphyxiation. Personally I would have called the cops that day. If Mom thinks this is OK it may not even be the first time. It is child neglect pure and simple to leave an infant alone for four hours. It does not matter if you can see the car.

          At the very least I’d tell this mother that it’s very dangerous and if you see it happens again you are calling the cops.

          The BABY is what is important here. It’s illegal to leave a baby in a car. It’s illegal to leave a baby alone for hours. These laws were made to prevent things like this. It’s wrong to focus more on the welfare of the mother, instead of the actual infant who was intentionally left IN A CAR, tied down, for four hours. And who knows if it’s the first time. I’m literally shocked. Lucky for this mom, this did not become another horrific news story. SMDH.

          1. Ellie*

            You’re correct. It’s a horrible situation for everyone involved, one that I cannot imagine going through myself, but the welfare of the baby has got to come first. I’m a mandated reporter, and if I found out about what had happened after the fact I’d be on the portal to ChildLine in a heartbeat. It’s literally abuse. As heartbreaking as the reasons likely are behind it, abuse for children cannot be tolerated. I’ve read this site for years and this is the first time I strongly disagree with the advice given by Alison. The foster care system can absolutely be a nightmare, but 1) the goal of CPS is not to jump to immediately taking kids away and 2) it’s also a nightmare to imagining this continuing. If I was OP, I’d report to child protective services immediately.

            1. jasmine*

              If mom’s only other option was to leave the baby at home alone, this isn’t abuse anymore than someone not being able to afford food for their kids is child neglect.

              Yes the welfare of the baby is important, but the point about Alison’s comment on the foster system is that being in the foster system is immensely harmful to the child. There’s a real concern about the harm it would do to the baby. In some cases the foster care system is the better of two evils and children should be taken away. But I’m not sure why OP should assume this is one of those cases before even talking to her coworker and potentially seeing if coworker can/will find alternatives if she’s given some options.

            2. jasmine*

              If the coworker’s only other option was to leave the baby home alone, this isn’t child abuse anymore than someone not being able to afford to feed their kids is neglect.

              Of course the welfare of the child is important, but the point of Alison’s comment about foster care is that the foster care system can be harmful to the child. There are cases where taking kids away is the better of two evils. But why should OP assume that before she’s even talked to her coworker or potentially seen if her coworker does something different if given other options.

              1. jadaessencemall*

                This is a heartbreaking circumstance and we can assume that the parent felt there were no other options. I agree that the OP should start by approaching their employer about instating some reasonable measures for last minute issues like this. I can only guess that sick days, PTO, flex hours, etc weren’t an option for this parent since she resorted to leaving an infant unattended in a car on a day hot enough to necessitate AC.
                I’ll say as someone who works within the foster system, it is possible to alert child protective services of this instance without directly and immediately incurring the risk of child removal. In my experience, it takes between two and four documented and corroborated CPS reports for a child to be removed and placed in foster care. Of course, this may vary by jurisdiction (and race and class certainly influence these decisions) but in my experience, the first step CPS would take–if they deem any action necessary–is opening a case and perhaps assigning a case planner to check-in on the child’ safety on a monthly basis and offer resources.
                I will also offer that in addition to my experience with child welfare, my cousin’s infant of a similar age recently died when my cousin left the child while she worked. It is heart-wrenching and can occur even in a short time, even not in a car/car seat, even if there are no other options, even if it is the first time the child was left.

                1. Sandgroper*

                  I’m not sure about in America, but in Australia this would result on criminal charges. Which would then necessitate more child care demands and time off work (for a person who cannot afford it clearly). It would also result in a quick deep dive into the child and families circumstances and may result in supervision orders (but unlikely to result in removal of the child quickly, unless there’s other high risk issues happening and no resolution via a supervision plan).

                  While avoiding dobbing some one in for more harm is not ideal, I’d personally prefer a small chat with the staff member first. But now that the OP has alerted their manager I’d leave this be this time, but if it happens again I’d a) bring the baby in from the car with the parent on the next occasion, and b) have a long cup of tea with the parent and say “hrm, this isn’t working, I remember this being a problem in July, so I wrote up a list of options, but I’m sure you have others too, but here it is just in case, because this really isn’t cricket I’m sorry to say and I’d hate to see you separated from your baby”… but ringing CPS straight up now might be premature. If this is a first time parent, in desperate straits, then some gentle nudging and a recommendation to attend a parenting or baby class is probably wise. But never, ever, let them leave the baby in the car on your time again – bring that baby in, over and over and over if you have to.

          2. Starbuck*

            I wouldn’t call the cops, but manager/supervisor should have been told so that she could be sent home immediately.

            1. Princesss Sparklepony*

              Or let her bring the baby inside and then send her home early. Sometimes there is overlap in shifts or non busy times where they can get by short handed. With the caveat that she needs to find emergency daycare in future.

              The other workers knew the situation, I’m surprised someone didn’t think about a short term one time solution.

      3. Random Internet Stranger*

        In addition to the other risks mentioned (car running out of gas, AC issue, car theft), it isn’t safe to leave a baby in a car seat for that long period. Positional asphyxiation is a risk. If the baby were, say, in a nearby office, presumably they could have been on a safe sleep surface (Pack and Play, bassinet, etc.).

        What I am confused about though is she must have needed to attend to the baby during that time? At four months, babies have longer awake times in which they need interaction… and food. My 4.5 month old baby wouldn’t sleep for four hours during the day and not need me!

        1. Observer*

          What I am confused about though is she must have needed to attend to the baby during that time? At four months, babies have longer awake times in which they need interaction… and food. My 4.5 month old baby wouldn’t sleep for four hours during the day and not need me!

          That’s a really, really good point. If Cora was able to stay in the office all that time without going out once, that’s a really bad sign. 4.5 months and she didn’t need to eat once? Is the baby being fed?

        2. Just Another Zebra*

          I had the same thought – diaper changes, feeding times, crying because their foot is itchy… babies that young really do need constant supervision. It sounds like Cora is in an impossibly tough situation, but this wasn’t the answer.

      4. Lilo*

        My sister has to go to homicide scenes as part of her job. She says the very, very worst one she ever went to was a baby left in a hot car. She was absolutely haunted.

        There are absolutely stories about desperate parents trying this and getting it wrong and the kids dying.

        This absolutely 100% cannot happen again. I know calling CPS seems like bringing down the hammer, but she just cannot have this as a solution. And if she or anyone else does this again, no, they need to leave immediately and/or the cops need to be called. This is something that is immediately and horrifically dangerous. There is absolutely no margin for error whatsoever, this can kill a child within minutes.

        1. darcy*

          calling the police also seems to come with a high chance of the child and/or parent being killed within minutes.

            1. Rosie*

              I suppose it really depends but I think that the possibility is something certain populations are right to be considering in today’s climate ‍♀️

              1. Observer*

                The risk is real, but way over-stated.

                But that’s why the OP should call CPS. No, they are not great. But if you want to talk about “least bad option”, this is it.

                1. Coffee Nut*

                  You have no idea what CPS involvement is like. I’m so saddened at the number of commenters on her jumping on to judging the mother and calling CPS as the first option. We as a society would rather have someone’s baby ripped away from them and thrown into the foster system, possibly traumatized for life, than offer help to the mother. I honestly am near tears that this is America today.

            2. pancakes*

              I think it is helpful for people who are inclined to be quick to get police involved that the stakes can be life or death, depending on the context and the individuals involved. No one is helped by pretending that shouldn’t ever be part of the thought process. When a baby is in immediate danger, obviously that is going to tilt the scale towards immediate intervention. When the danger is in the past and remains very upsetting to people, maybe that tilts the scale in the other direction, towards a conversation without authorities first.

              1. Observer*

                True. But the suggestion was not to call the cops NOW, but *if it happens again* – while the kid is in the car.

                1. pancakes*

                  Not only do many people in the comments want the cops and/or CPS called now, they think of themselves as more caring than anyone else around for that.

            3. Broadway Duchess*

              “Oh, come on.” is glib and unhelpful.
              “This isn’t true or helpful” is dismissive amd unhelpful.

              Unfortunately, for a lot of people this is true and is something to consider before immediately calling the police, especially if the intervention is meant to help the infant.

              1. Criminologist*

                It’s something to keep in mind before calling the police, but the risk of anyone being killed by police in a situation like this is astronomically low.

                1. French Army Syphilis Epidemic 1495*

                  The risk of being killed by police is only astronomically low if all people involved are white, cis, have absolutely nothing anywhere near them that could be interpreted as a weapon, and have no barriers to compliance like mental illness, intellectual/developmental disability, intoxication, or high emotion.

                  Calling the police is always a gamble of where you’re going to land on the spectrum of police response, with “the police don’t care and never show up” at one end and “the police kill three people and somebody’s dog” on the other.

                2. Parakeet*

                  There’s also a lot of risks that are less low, like Cora or someone else being brutalized by the cops, or ending up with inflated charges, or losing housing (either due to a conviction, or to not being able to make rent because she’s in jail). None of which help the baby, either. People tend to focus on murders by cops for obvious reasons, but there’s a lot of other awful less-lethal things cops do to people (and before anyone gets on my case about overstating risk, I will say that I have personal experience with some of those things).

          1. EPLawyer*

            But if the kid is left in the car there is a STRONG possibility that some passerby might see the child in the car, not realize the car is running and Mom is in the line of sight, so they call the cops. So there is a risk of cops being called anyway.

            Childcare is nuts and with no family support Mom is in a tight situation. But it will only get worse if this goes on because at some point someone will call the cops or CPS. I would say, if the office isn’t busy and there is a quiet safe back room that could be used. If Mom starts having a lot of “emergencies” then the boss can talk to her about how this is supposed to be a rare thing, not a regular thing.

            1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

              Tbh someone might also try to open the car or break the window thinking that the baby was left accidentally and is in danger.

          2. Public Safety Executive*

            I understand that may be your perception and lived opinion, but your view is inaccurate in this specific context.

            In encounters such as the one described, the primary goal is ensuring the physical safety of the child. The caregiver who left them in that position, is the person who is endangering the child, not the police.

            Speaking as a 22+ year public safety professional with a decade plus in law enforcement in a past life.

          3. Temperance*

            Don’t discourage people from calling the police when they see babies left in cars, FFS. The baby is more likely to die from an issue with being left unsupervised in a car in the summer.

            Encourage better policing. Don’t discourage people from reporting crimes and dangerous situations. That will get people killed and will lead to children in unsafe situations.

            1. metadata minion*

              In this case it seems like a particular overreaction since you do actually know whose baby it is and can just talk to them. Calling the police will almost certainly not help either the adult or child except in the most immediate of terms.

              Yes, if you see a baby in an unknown car, you don’t really have any other choice. But here, you have options.

              1. MCMonkeyBean*

                ^Big yes to this. Sometimes a cop might *need* to be called just because they can get into the car. There are other, better options in this particular case.

              2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

                Yes, this. In the moment insist that the parent/guardian get the child out of the car immediately. Escalate it to the police if, for some reason, that doesn’t work. But there is the possibility of calling a non-emergency agency to report it if it KEEPS happening. If she’s doing it at work, she might also be doing it at the grocery store or out shopping…she just needs to know that it’s not okay ever.

              3. Anona*

                I’ve seen unconscious babies due to extreme parental neglect like this. Or drowning. If a parent does this ONCE it’s likely they have done it before or will do it again. I’m kind of sick that the mom in this scenario is getting a pass and being put ahead of the BABY. As someone who has dealt in person with this, NO parental excuse is enough. I’m very worried about this baby. I can’t even read anymore. I’m a mandated reporter and this is highly reportable.

                1. Nameless in Customer Service*

                  I don’t think people are giving her a pass, they’re including in their analysis how desperate someone might have to be to pull a stunt like this. Your framing, quite sensibly influenced by your professional experience, is baby vs parent, but I think we should at least take a look at the possibility that helping the mother will help the baby, before we bring in the literal big guns. And by a “look” I mean something potentially as brief as a 30 second conversation with Cora to determine if she’s willing to accept help or determined to risk her child’s life for convenience.

              4. Raising A Legal Issue*

                When I lived in California some 25+ years ago, ALL ADULTS were legally required to report possible abuse cases, even if you weren’t sure it was abuse. Child Services would make that determination, not you. You had to report what you believed to be one-time incidents, even when you learned about them after-the-fact. You had NO discretion.

                OP needs to check state law; s/he may be legally required to report ASAP.

            2. Rolly*

              Maybe don’t discourage people from calling for help (EMS or even the fire department) but police are about crime. Is the issue stopping a crime or helping someone? Those may overlap but they are not the same.

              911 may not help – they may send police. I get it. But thinking “police” means people are thinking “crime.”

              Heck, if it was hot out and I saw a baby suffering I’d start yelling around for other people (partially to cover my ass) then take action myself – try to open a door or break a window – before calling police. YMMV. Especially if the child was of Black.

              Oh, and on this: “people get completely shamed and cancelled now for calling the police ”
              Really? Have you ever seen anyone “cancelled” for that that did not legit *deserve* it? I sure haven’t.

              1. Richard Hershberger*

                Breaking a car window is surprisingly difficult. I know this from personal experience, from the time I got caught in an unexpected snow storm in northern Arizona, got out of the car to put chains on the tires, and locked myself out. I eventually concluded that breaking a window was least bad option. I didn’t want to break the windshield, for obvious reasons, so I took a rock to a rear side window. It would quite a lot of pounding to do the job. There are tools to do this more efficiently, but they aren’t the sort of thing ordinary people happen to have on their persons. And on a city street, there may not be any handy rocks available.

                1. Unaccountably*

                  Also, I think those tools are made to let you get out, not in, so you keep them in your car. So then you’re stuck staring through the window in frustration at your keys *and* your window-breaking tool.

              2. Observer*

                try to open a door or break a window – before calling police. YMMV. Especially if the child was of Black.

                Please don’t even try that. Unless the door is unlocked, it’s not as easy as the movies make it seem. And it’s also risky for the kid, since when these windows break they tend to shatter. Flying glass is not exactly the safest thing you can subject an infant to.

                1. Lilo*

                  Yes, please please leave this to the experts who have the tools and knowledge to not harm the child in the car.

              3. Anona*

                It’s a CRIME. And you better believe that if EMS or Fire gets a call of unattended infant in car, dispatch is sending a cop as well.

              4. Cat Lover*

                Yeah… this is TRAINWRECK advice. Call the fire department to open windows with proper tools.

                1. Rolly*

                  Oh I’m not saying I’d succeed (I’ve broken into one car successful though, and pretty fast; not through the windows).

                  Sure, FD. Not cops as a first step. Not police.

                2. Don P.*

                  Note that the fire department and the police department are both at 911, and the dispatcher will decide who comes, not you.

                3. pancakes*

                  Thank you Don, I don’t know why anyone with a current emergency would be looking for the local fire department’s number instead of calling 911! It’s the dispatcher who will decide who to send to an emergency, and even for them likely by protocol rather than discretion.

                4. Deborah*

                  Here in Phoenix if you call 911 you get the police AND the fire department AND an ambulance. Even for something really clear like an urgent medical transport from a doctor’s office to the hospital.

            1. Nephron*

              Police in the United States have tear gassed babies, at protests and in homes, and have shot them. I know of one case of a flash bang ending up in a baby crib when they did a no-knock warrant on a house based on an anonymous tip. Cops also throw people around when they are holding kids a lot.

              There are unfortunately a number of situations where things could escalate from a mother panicking either holding the kid or coming out when they tried to break into the vehicle to retrieve the kid.

            2. Coffee Nut*

              You’re advocating for the state to come rip a screaming 4 month old baby from her sobbing mothers arms for the crime of POVERTY. Sit with that image and that thought for awhile.

        2. EventPlannerGal*

          Yes. I read an article, I think on HuffPo, years ago on infant deaths in hot cars. There are parts of it that I have not been able to get out of my head since. It is one of the most profoundly disturbing, hideous manners of death that I can imagine, and the parents were all absolutely destroyed.

          I don’t know what the right answer is in this situation, but leaving an infant in a car for hours while you are working is not at all the same as them being in the next room. It’s not a ‘least bad option’, it’s not an option at all.

          1. RetailEscapee*

            I believe the Washington post story on this is why I started subscribing to the Washington post.

              1. LB*

                Absolutely was about to recommend this. It’s a soul-wrenching read but so urgent for people to know – both about the horrifying realities of how hot cars function for kids and pets, and the wrongly punitive consequences in some places for people when it’s a genuine mistake. (And the fact that car companies created a safety system to help prevent this, but didn’t make it standard because they couldn’t see a profit from it.)

                This article should be required reading before people weigh in on the issue. It’s stuck with me vividly.

                1. Flossie Bobbsey*

                  Same here. I read it when it was published and have never forgotten the details. I’m not up for rereading it now, but anyone who hasn’t read it really should read it before weighing to discourage the OP from intervening. Cora’s choice was horrifying, but (in my personal obligation) OP has a moral obligation to look out for the victim (the baby) if no other adult appears to be.

              2. EmmaPoet*

                I read it when it came out eight years ago. I can still remember certain passages. It made that much of a mark on my memory, after reading thousands and thousands of other articles and books since then.

            1. anne of mean gables*

              Yes, Gene Weingarten. That story will haunt me until I die. But, that story has also really informed my approach to parenting and managing risk.

              1. Lilo*

                They also left out some of the harder details. It is very very much not a good way to die.

                In the scene my sister was at, the parent kept begging the police to kill him. It was an accidental situation and that’s how horrific it was. And remember my sister regularly is at scenes of shootings and stabbings. This was the bad one.

                I’m sharing these details because I want people to understand what an incredibly dangerous and horrific situation this is and why, while you can have compassion for Cora, this absolutely is an emergency, call 911, report it, stop it at all costs thing. It’s absolutely deadly.

                1. Zweisatz*

                  If Cora is right there, there is no need to call the police. You talk to Cora, who has a car key and is like 20 meters away from the car to come get the child so you can figure something out while the child is safe.

                2. Just Another Techie*

                  I agree if you see a child unattended in a car and don’t know where the parent it, it is 100% a “call 911” emergency. However, this is after the fact. LW didn’t know the child was in the car until after the child had been safely retrieved. It is better to work with Mom to prevent this from happening again than to wait for another dangerous situation to present itself. (Now if LW had been one of the two colleagues who knew and did nothing but gossip, that’s a whole other kettle of fish)

                3. pancakes*

                  Is it an ongoing emergency right now? Whether the baby is or is not presently in the car needs to be a crucial question to answer in making a decision on that.

                4. Bunny Girl*

                  I saw a lot of awful things working in a veterinary ER, but yeah; the worst thing I ever saw was a dog who died after being left in a hot car. It will never leave me.

                  I hope this situation can be dealt with in a compassionate way.

                5. Rolly*

                  “I agree if you see a child unattended in a car and don’t know where the parent it, it is 100% a “call 911” emergency.”

                  What? So in cold weather, when traveling with my child, if I stop to get gas and go into the gas station, I’ve got to take him with me?

                  And what if the windows are open and it’s cool out? Is that still a 911 call? JFC I don’t want cops called on us like that. Thanks for making my life more scary.

                  Or is your advice to other people to at least start running around, such as going into the store, for the person to find me. That’s more reasonable, though if everyone did that I’d have strangers looking for me all the time.

                6. Lilo*

                  Yes, you have to take your kid in with you in all those situations. Yes you can (and should) get the police called on you for doing that.

                7. On Fire*

                  Wasn’t there an incident just recently that a man accidentally left his child in a car and then went home and killed himself when he discovered what he had done?

                8. Observer*

                  For all the people saying “Don’t call 911 after the fact.” You’re missing the point.

                  There are two points here:

                  1. Some people are saying to not call 911 EVEN at the time. And that just unacceptable unless there is SOMEONE with a key that can and will take the baby out of the car. Of course, if a parent or other caretaker is there, insist that they have to take the baby out of the car or you will call the police. If the person takes the baby out, well and good. Mission accomplished. But if there is no caretaker present or the caretaker refuses? CALL THE POLICE.

                  2. After the fact, you have to call CPS. The Mother just put the baby at very real risk, including the risk of a very difficult death. You can (and should!) have as much sympathy as you can muster for the mother, but this CANNOT be allowed to happen again! It’s all good and fine to say “talk to the mom” but that’s not going to have any teeth. And when you are talking about such a risk you need to have something that has enforcement power.

                9. Unaccountably*

                  @Rolly: Yes, if you have a small child who cannot get out of the car by themselves, you must take them into the gas station with you. If this is too much trouble for you, don’t drive with your small child in the car.

                10. pancakes*

                  On Fire, there are many terribly tragic stories on this topic. What exactly is it you want people to take away from that particularly tragic one today?

                  I have basically the same question for those of you alluding to similar incidents. There have apparently been 11 so far this summer. They are indeed all tragic, I can’t imagine the pain of the parents and others in the community, but gesturing at them does not reveal a map to how to respond to the letter. People are speaking as if they do, though.

                11. pancakes*

                  Observer,

                  1) Surely it’s best to respond directly to those people on that point, and

                  2) that isn’t in fact the sole option here. Everyone agrees this needs to never happen again. Your opinion that the only way to accomplish that is through the use of local authorities is just that, an opinion, and execution of it as advice, even if everyone agreed, would depend on many factors, including the rules and practices local authorities operate under. They don’t simply do whatever people request of them. A number of people here are talking about CPS as if it’s customer service for reports of bad parenting.

                12. Tricksie*

                  Lilo, I’m not sure if your sister lives in the same place I do, but this happened to my friend and his child. My friend was also begging the police to kill him. It was absolutely the most horrible tragedy I’ve had close experience with. Beyond words.

                13. Sad Desk Salad*

                  In response to “do I really have to take my kid inside with me?” I get where you’re coming from, but recently in a city near mine, a gentleman was delivering for DoorDash and had his infant with him–his childcare for the day had fallen through–and thought it would be fine to leave his car running and the infant inside while he ran the order up to the doorstep. In the few seconds that took, someone stole the car with the infant inside. When the thief realized what he’d done, he dropped the car off at a fire station (I believe) and ran off, parent and child were reunited, and there was no harm done. But think how differently that could have turned out! Parent was in eyeshot of the car, delivery took less than a minute, and in that short time, his child was inadvertently kidnapped.

                  It’s an extreme case, sure, but do you really want to risk it?

                14. Rolly*

                  “Yes, if you have a small child who cannot get out of the car by themselves, you must take them into the gas station with you. If this is too much trouble for you, don’t drive with your small child in the car.”

                  Oh bullshit. A kid in a locked car when it’s 40F out for a few minutes is not in danger. Heck, I’m more scared walking my kid through parking lots they way people drive.

                15. Flossie Bobbsey*

                  @ Rolly, there was an article a few years back by a woman whose life was nearly ruined because a stranger called the authorities after observing her leave her child in the car for a few minutes to drop off library books (or something equally quick). It was unrelated to whether the child was hot or cold in the car.

                  I read that article and the WaPo article linked above well before I was a parent, but I never forgot them. I can definitively say that I have never, ever have left my children in the car for any reason while I went into a shop or gas station or did some other quick errand. I may have to change my plan or my routine if bringing them inside proves to be inconvenient; the answer for me is never to leave them in the car while I dash inside somewhere.

                  Personally I would be more worried about the consequences to leaving them behind (both for their health and safety and my freedom) than I would be of a minor inconvenience of bringing them into a shop or deciding to do the errand a different time when they weren’t with me.

                16. GlitterIsEverything*

                  Rolly (and those replying to Rolly): spend a few minutes on the Free Range Parenting site. The statistics show that there is significantly more risk to a child walking through a parking lot than there is leaving a child in a car while running in to pay for gas.

                  Parenting, like life, is a series of calculated risks. With rare exception, we’re all doing the very best we can, and a little grace and support go a whole heck of a lot further than judgement and punishment.

              2. Jack Russell Terrier*

                I was thinking of the story when I read the Headline. He won a Pulitzer for it (he has two).

                It’s such an important PSA and so bravely and beautifully written.

                There are alarms that will warn you you’ve left your child in it’s car seat. We have the technology. Why risk it?

            2. EventPlannerGal*

              I just checked and that’s the one I’m thinking of. An absolutely haunting article.

          2. Admiral Thrawn Is Always Blue*

            Here in Tallahassee, FL, a baby just died a few days ago from being left in a car during her mother’s entire shift. At a hospice no less. She didn’t realize the baby was back there. I am very sympathetic to the mom’s financial plight but this simply can never be the answer.

            1. This-is-a-name-I-guess*

              That was a little different. She *forgot* she had the baby in the car. It’s an absolute tragedy, but it’s not intentional. That could happen to any new parent.

              1. Richard Hershberger*

                Forgetting the kid was there was my great fear. I tend to go on autopilot on routine tasks. The fear was that I would have the kid in the car for a non-routine reason in an otherwise routine situation. They both managed to survive into their teens, so far.

                1. Sasha*

                  I kept mine in the front seat for that reason (airbag off, obviously). No chance of forgetting him when he’s right next to me.

                2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

                  My car yells at me to check the back seat when I turn the engine off, if and only if the back doors were opened since the car was turned on. It’s a brilliant innovation – it prompts a reflex to check over your shoulder – but I do get a slight chill thinking about why it was added.

                3. Ann*

                  The article upthread talks a lot about what can happen when parents are on autopilot, especially if there’s a change in their routine. It’s horrifying. Like, don’t read it at work, because you will be traumatized. I’ve been catching myself doing this autopilot thing ever since I read it, and every morning after I drop off the kids, I try to recall what I said to them at dropoff. Just to be sure…

                4. KoiFeeder*

                  I did that on purpose to my dad once when he had a business trip (fifth grade was a bad time for me). He got all the way to the airport. Scared him to death because the only reason he caught me was because I popped my head out from the backseat and asked if I could come with him.

          3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            Maybe I missed it but did ANYONE in the know try to talk to Cora at the time? I’m side eyeing those coworkers because were I in their shoes, I’d talk to Cora right then and help her come up with a fix tor that day (e.g. empty conference room, storage room, nursing room, bathroom, office filing cabinet drawer – my crib when my mom was in grad school). I mean, I might just be her peer or not her boss, but this could be a “save a kid from dying” moment, so hierarchy be damned.

            Once immediate danger was settled, I’d ask her what happened. If it was a one off (e.g. 5 minutes before shift sitter got in car accident), we have a not great but doable solution for the rare issue. If it looks like a more permanent thing I’d suggest what I know since I work in a social services adjacent field so have a pretty good idea of the landscape and offer to help if she likes. Kid shows up in the car again after that, though, I’m going to 1) ask Cora WTF; and 2) ask around about how to approach the situation from said social services contacts

            1. Amy*

              Definitely. I would have been begging to bring that baby into the office. So much safer.

              1. Books and Cooks*

                Me, too. Begging her to bring the baby in, and promising to call anyone and everyone I knew who might be willing to take the occasional babysitting shift, especially for free or for a very low charge (i.e. “If you’ll bring me some McDonald’s at the end of your shift so I don’t have to worry about cooking, I’ll watch the baby,” that sort of thing). And urging her to speak to our manager/speaking to her myself (in a general way, not like dropping Cora in it) about potentially allowing the baby in the office regularly on a certain schedule, or something like that. (Obviously that depends on what type of office it is, and what type of manager she has.)

                Personally, I love babies/little ones. I used to watch my neighbor’s little ones all the time (still do occasionally; I’m their Tia), and would be absolutely delighted to help someone out in this situation. A few women I know have had babies in the last couple of years, and I’ve always made a point of telling them that if they ever get stuck on a sitter, please call me (and/or my teenage daughters). I think most people meeting me wouldn’t assume this about me, and I bet I’m not the only woman in the world who feels this way–and if nothing else, we have to stick together and help other women out in situations like these, imo.

                So please, OP, talk to Cora first, of course, but if she seems open to it, start asking around! You never know who might be willing to sit for a few hours, or who might have an office with a great daycare they can use on occasion, or might have a family member or friend who can help out. The important thing is for Cora to not feel alone or like she has no other options, and especially to make sure she never leaves that baby in the car again!

            2. Observer*

              I’m side eyeing those coworkers because were I in their shoes, I’d talk to Cora right then and help her come up with a fix tor that day

              100%

              And this is one of the reasons why I actually have a lot of compassion for Cora. This is a place with apparently scary attitudes. So it’s less surprising that she felt the pressure to do this.

              This is especially mind boggling because we’re talking about a 4 month old. They generally are not all that disruptive. (And if this was a baby who would have been disruptive, that means a baby who needed attention was left in a car for 4.5 without any attention!)

              OP, I don’t know how much political capital you have. But if you can move your office to a bit more understanding any compassion for parents that would be a good thing.

              PS for all the people who are going to say “Why should parents get a free ride” I have a LOT of answers. But I’ll just point out that being compassionate to parents is more compatible with being compassionate in general, than being ok with the risk to an infant is. Because to be ok with that requires either zero compassion or zero understanding of basic human needs.

              1. Iris Eyes*

                This is definite culture check at work moment. Why did she feel so unempowered to take off? Non-existent PTO? Getting hassled every time you try to take off a shift last minute? Census so low that there’s no room for even one person to be missing?

                Yes parents should have their childcare needs as together as they can but most are doing good to have one backup plan. Especially if there are issues with postpartum anxiety which can often manifest as an unwillingness to leave a child with others, so a drop in daycare isn’t on the table as an option. I mean there are just as many horror stories of kids being abused, injured, or dying in daycare facilities as there are in hot cars. (Yes, statistically the risk is different but humans aren’t great at statistical analysis, especially when anxiety is in the drivers seat with sleep deprivation as a copilot)

                The saying rightly is that “it takes a village to raise a child” and an employer is always a part of that village.

                1. Dona Florinda*

                  +1000.

                  Cora is obviously wrong, but a lot people failed them if her she thought only option was to leave her baby in the car.

            3. Just Me*

              I was wondering this, too. I feel like this is one of those rare instances where an employee would go to their manager and say, “I’m really concerned for my colleague Cora because her childcare fell through and she is doing her best to watch her baby and do her work. She’s doing her best to be an attentive employee and I don’t want her to get into trouble, but do you think we can find a solution for her and the baby right now?”

            4. Not So NewReader*

              Agreeing with you DGA.
              It’s one of those things where I would make an executive decision and apologize later.
              Get the kiddo inside the building asap.

              IF I had a jerk of a boss who complained, I would point out that newspaper headlines for a story about a baby dying in our parking lot would look verrry bad for the company and the boss themselves could end up in hot water. (This is how things go in some work environments.)

              But I have worked several places where a cohort could sneak in a baby and the boss would never know or find out much, much later.

            5. Elizabeth West*

              I was thinking this. Any job I get would likely not involve babysitting, but if a Cora in my office were really this desperate, I’d totally watch an infant for an hour if she had to take a meeting. The alternative is untenable.

              Surely someone would know of a resource for her. I really want an update on this letter.

            6. Parakeet*

              Yes, this seems like a good approach to me, focused on interventions that will actually help both the parent and the baby. And the baby in this case isn’t old enough to be mobile, so it’s not like there’s a risk of them crawling or walking into something hazardous in the office.

            7. Horrified*

              Yes yes yes to this. OP said something along the lines of, “I don’t know who to be more upset with, Cora, or my coworkers.” Be more upset with your coworkers! Cora is clearly not thinking straight. We don’t know why, but we can imagine: maybe she’s sleep-deprived, maybe she has postpartum depression or no family nearby or she’s exhausted or hormonal or has no PTO or all of the above. But the coworkers… ? What on earth!!

              An unattended infant is an emergency. Period. Always. The concept that she was ‘keeping an eye on the baby’ doesn’t even make sense. How? Babies under 1 year are by law in car seats rear facing. So if she parked her car engine-in first, she can’t see the baby. If she parks the car trunk in, I also don’t see how she could see the baby over the back seat. Even if you have a tiny mirror, there’s just NO WAY to see the baby through that tiny baby in the mirror reflection from 20 feet away through a rearview or windshield. It’s. Just. Not. Possible.

              If you showed up to work with your spouse having a stroke or heart attack and said, “Well, I’m just going to leave them in the car for my shift and then go to the ER,” what would coworkers do? If you someone’s ex showed up at your office with a restraining order, would you just let them walk right in? These are emergencies! Hopefully you would take some kind of action to assist the person(s) experiencing the EMERGENCY.

              As a mother who accidentally locked my keys in my car on a hot day, this whole letter gives me a panic attack. I had already set my bag/purse/phone in the front seat and had accidentally dropped my keys into the car seat as I set her seat onto the base. I shut the door and went to open mine, and in that split second, my daughter hit the button and locked the car. It was a hot day and an immediate nightmare.

              I had to leave my car unattended to run as fast as humanly possible to the nearest building, which thankfully was open and had a phone. I cried–“I’ve accidentally locked my baby in my car!” and they IMMEDIATELY called 911. The 911 attendant took the appropriate steps to call the fire department who came with tools and eventually helped break the window to get her out. But it was a harrowing 20 minutes while she screamed at the top of her lungs and got extremely overheated. I still shiver to think what I would have done were I not in a place where another person was nearby to call 911. Another 10 minutes could have killed her, literally.

              I completely changed my habits in terms of how I hold my keys and do everything in my power to never be in this situation again. Choosing it voluntarily… Allowing your coworker to choose it voluntarily… I just… I’m speechless. This letter reminds me of the worst boss of the year–that principal who refused to call 911 because it would ‘look bad to the parents’ or some nonsense like that.

              My advice to the OP is to get a new job because I wouldn’t want to work with people who hesitate to call 911 or who for the love of God hesitate to bring a newborn into the office until a better situation can be found!

              1. Books and Cooks*

                Thank goodness you were able to get someone to call, fast, and your daughter was okay!! This was one of my biggest nightmares when my girls were little. To this day, the second I step out of the car I put my keys in my pocket or loop the ring around my finger, and check 2x to make sure I have them before I close any door of the car (even after I’ve opened and closed several, like putting groceries in or something).

                I genuinely cannot imagine just going about my work like it’s NBD, knowing that my coworker’s baby was sitting in a car outside. And I’m one of those moms who felt fine about leaving the baby locked in the car at a shaded, visible pump to run in and pay for my gas [if there was a line I went back to the car to wait], or spending a few minutes sitting on the back porch if she was napping, or whatever.

                I’m surprised no one has mentioned (that I’ve seen yet, at least) that even with the AC on, even if the AC somehow kept the temperature in every bit of that car’s interior at 74 degrees or something, that poor baby might have been in direct sunlight for the entire time. How could multiple adults just ignore that??

              2. Observer*

                Allowing your coworker to choose it voluntarily… I just… I’m speechless.

                Yes. I really, really cannot wrap my head around it. I just… Can’t.

                This letter reminds me of the worst boss of the year–that principal who refused to call 911 because it would ‘look bad to the parents’ or some nonsense like that.

                I hadn’t thought of that one, but you are right.

          4. Etti*

            She should have taken the baby to the office with her. The OP says their manager is good. If a baby can supposedly be ok for 4 hours work would not be disrupted.

        3. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

          No I agree. Just wringing your hands and trying to come up with ways to help her out of fear that the baby will be taken away is misguided in my view. CPS absolutely needs to know. This was wildly irresponsible on the part of everyone who knew about it and didn’t do anything, and wildly irresponsible on Cara’s part. Of course I sympathize that she was in a tough position but the solution to that cannot be to put your child in a potentially fatal position.

          1. Perfectly Particular*

            I completely disagree here. If the mom was partying, gambling, etc. like so many of these stories we hear, then yes, CPS is the only option. But Cora was just trying to work, and destroying both her and her baby’s lives for a 1-time poor decision that luckily ended without consequences is excessive. The key is to make sure it never happens again, by helping her find resources. Emergency backup care, a college student with a flexible schedule, a grandma who loves babies…. whatever. No way would I trust CPS to act in the best interests of Mom and Baby.

            1. Sloanicota*

              Yes, from what I’ve read now, I would no longer call CPS on parents that cared and were trying to do a good job even if they seemed a bit inept – I would only call them on deliberately physically abusive parents (I’m not a mandated reporter and seemingly neither is OP). CPS seems to have basically criminalized poverty, and taking children from loving homes to places where they face very uncertain safety is only going to traumatize them. The families need support. It’s like calling the police on someone who’s mentally ill.

              1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

                I don’t think leaving a young baby unattended in a car is “a bit inept”.

                1. Books and Cooks*

                  No, but she tried to do everything she could to mitigate the danger, and no parent is perfect. My older daughter once managed to almost choke on a dime while I was right there in the room, doing some tidying. When I was pregnant with #2, I had to call poison control because I was putting a load in the wash, and Older went into my room, found my berry-flavored Tums, and helped herself (FYI, Tums are NOT potentially poisonous; there is no LD50 for them, and she was totally fine). Younger once picked up a half-empty beer bottle from the night before and took a big swig of it before I took it from her. Things happen with babies and little ones. Yes, what happened in this case was beyond any of those, but the fact remains that we’re all just doing the best we can. Cora chose a bad solution in this case, but we don’t have any evidence that she does this regularly or anything, or is generally a neglectful parent.

                  I understand where you’re coming from, absolutely, and my first instinct was the same as yours–this is shockingly bad. But after that first reaction passed, I just need more “evidence” before I’d think CPS needs to be called. As others have said, offer solutions, and then if it happens again–if we now know that Cora, despite being informed of the dangers and having alternatives, is still doing this, then perhaps someone needs to intervene because it’s clear she’s not putting the child’s safety first and thus is potentially making other dangerous decisions. But offer that help first. No one should be judged on a single action taken in an emergency; let he who is without sin cast the first stone, etc.

                2. Observer*

                  @Books and Cooks, No, but she tried to do everything she could to mitigate the danger, and no parent is perfect.

                  This is waaaay beyond “not perfect”. And “everything she could” doesn’t come close to actually bringing the risk down to a reasonable level.

                  We talk a LOT around here about how “intent is not as important as impact”. Why is is that when we are talking about the LIFE of a child that somehow goes out the window?

                  Cora chose a bad solution in this case,

                  This was not just a “bad” solution. It was a life threatening one!

                3. EmRo*

                  @Books and Cooks The situations you shared regarding your children are completely different than Cora’s in that she made a deliberate decision to leave her baby in the car. That is very different than the situations you described that occurred when your attention was elsewhere momentarily. But Cora didn’t accidentally leave her infant in a car during summer, she chose to. Regardless of how desperate or how few choices she felt she had, that shows very impaired judgement on her part. It is entirely possible that lack of judgement is affecting other parenting choices as well. Or maybe it is a one time thing — we don’t know. But we do know this one choice and it is definitely a red flag. While CPS varies wildly from state to state and even area to area, that is the best resource to evaluate what is happening in the home and connect Cora to social services that can hopefully make her a stronger parent. In many places, they will not take children away unless there is a pattern of neglect/abuse and/or the child’s life is in danger. Many, many times children are not taken away and then we hear horrible stories later about what was actually happening in the home. Of course there are stories to the contrary. But I do believe this was a serious enough breach of judgement that it is bears investigation by a professional to evaluate the bigger picture beyond this one incident. And even if you never see evidence of neglect in that way again, it does not mean it is not happening. To put another way, what if you pull Cora aside and say that can not happen again, this was so dangerous, how can I help? And next time Cora leaves the baby at home so no one at work finds out? At some point the baby’s welfare has to come before the mother’s feelings and this incident for me—and I think a lot of others—tips the scales in that direction.

                4. jasmine*

                  The ideal situation is that Cora doesn’t leave the baby in the car again. Which is why talking to her is the best first step.

                  I understand where some of y’all are coming from but I feel there’s a lack of awareness on the extremely negative impacts of the foster care system on children, and the screw ups of the CPS. I know enough folks (not parents who were being investigated btw) who work closely with the CPS and there are definitely significant problems in that organization. I’m on mobile so I won’t get into it here.

                  I’m not saying that you should never call the CPS, there are absolutely situations that warrant it. But if you don’t believe you should be cautious in doing so, then you’re being naive.

              2. Observer*

                I would no longer call CPS on parents that cared and were trying to do a good job even if they seemed a bit inept – I would only call them on deliberately physically abusive parents

                Except that those are not the only two types of situations.

                What happened here is one of those “in between” situations. The mom here was NOT just “a bit inept”. She was risking the child’s life!

            2. yala*

              It’s so frustrating that CPS doesn’t include preventative aid like providing childcare and resources for underprivileged parents. It would cheaper and less traumatic for so many families in the long run.

              Part of my is baffled that she even thought this was a good idea, but all the (not really sufficient) precautions she took indicate that she was trying her best to make a bad thing work in a situation where she felt she had absolutely NO aid. She didn’t even feel that she could call and ask if she could bring the kid into the office.

              I’m glad OP didn’t call CPS, but appalled that the other coworkers knew it was happening and didn’t say anything.

              1. pancakes*

                Some areas do have that. I’ll link to some examples in mine. Maybe the phrasing on those pages will be helpful to people looking for something similar local to them.

            3. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

              A baby died at a restaurant down the street from my parents in exactly this kind of circumstance. It wasn’t even a hot day. The mother didn’t have child care and her job was threatened if she didn’t come to work.

              In this case, mom is not acting in the best interests of herself or the baby. CPS is not a malicious force trying to destroy lives, but in serious circumstances like this they should be alerted. It was a one time poor decision, but lots of things that have serious consequences are. That shouldn’t mean that nothing is done and the most appropriate people to handle it are the professionals.

              1. What even*

                “Not acting the in the best interests of herself or the baby”? I don’t think I agree here. You have a women between a rock and hard place, and you are criticizing her for preferring the rock. You know what is dangerous for a baby? Homelessness. I had a client the other day telling me that she lost a $22/hour job because her childcare fell through one day. Now her kids can’t eat, and she has moved back in with her unmedicated, bipolar Aunt rather than live out of her car with a 9yo and an 18mo.

                Put yourself in the woman’s shoes. Sure, with the baby in the car, something bad might happen. But maybe the situation with work was, if she doesn’t come in and work, something bad will happen. It isn’t unreasonable to understand how a mother could make the not-quite-conscious decision of choosing a MIGHT be bad situation of a WILL be bad situation.

                Honestly, OP should go to her boss and ask the question of, “What are we doing as a company that has put one of our employees/coworkers into this position?”

                1. Observer*

                  “Not acting the in the best interests of herself or the baby”? I don’t think I agree here.

                  If you mean that this was an understatement, I agree with you. If you mean that this was remotely ok, then, NO. I get that Mom was in a bad place. But putting a child’s life in danger CANNOT be considered in their “best interests”

                  Honestly, OP should go to her boss and ask the question of, “What are we doing as a company that has put one of our employees/coworkers into this position?”

                  I agree. Cora made a terrible choice, no excuses. But why did she think she needed to do that? How did her coworkers go along with it?! (I’m actually quite angry at them.)

                2. What even*

                  Replying to Observer…

                  Cora didn’t make a terrible choice. She had a terrible choice.

                3. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

                  Honestly this is insane. Leaving a 4 month old baby unattended in a car while you go to work is incredibly reckless. Your life will get a whole lot worse if you kill your child.

              2. Not So NewReader*

                Sadly, until companies get away from that old mindset of “want the job or NO?”, we will continue to see many instances like this one here and a variety of other problems. The concept of the disposable employee creates many issues.

          2. Just Another Techie*

            Did you know CPS *charges* parents child support for time the child is in foster care? Did you know CPS pays foster parents hundred of dollars a month and also provides free babysitting (“respite”) for foster parents, but does not offer any of those resources to the bio parents of children they take? Did you know the number one reason children are removed from homes is “neglect” which is nearly always due to lack of childcare because of poverty, and adding yet another financial burden on increases the length of time children are away from their parents?
            https://www.npr.org/2021/12/27/1049811327/states-send-kids-to-foster-care-and-their-parents-the-bill-often-one-too-big-to-

            I agree, Cora cannot leave the child in the car alone again. It’s entirely too risky. But this can and should be solved with mutual aid, not by calling in the cops

            1. Observer*

              Not all CPS does that. And the Feds have finally changed the regulations so that they don’t have to do that anymore. Most of the CPS agencies have been begging to be able to stop doing this where Federal funds are involved because it actually costs them more money to try to “recoup” expenses than it costs to serve these kids.

          3. Zweisatz*

            The foster system can very well be a “potential fatal situation”. Years of that.

            So why not talk to the parent who is available and likely wants the best for her kid, but just didn’t have all the information (and was probably also not thinking creatively as you’re likely to do when you’re stressed because you need to be at work and childcare fell through)?

            It seems quite counter-intuitive to punish her and a child for something that can be prevented going forward by helping her troubleshoot.

            1. lilsheba*

              she still should have known it was a bad idea to LEAVE the child alone in a car! That should be a given! IF she can’t figure that out then CPS needs to be involved.

              1. Wendy Darling*

                I would guess she did know it was a bad idea, but felt it was perhaps a better idea than losing her job and then losing her housing, healthcare, and ability to buy food for her child.

            2. EmRo*

              It is not a given that the baby will be taken away. While every state is different there is a process that must be followed before a parent loses custody. I have known if horrific cases where the children stayed with the parent and it ended in tragedy. We don’t actually know if this was a one time thing or an indication of a larger pattern.

          4. BL73*

            I absolutely would call CPS. This may not be a one-off situation and CPS is best equipped to investigate and educate.

          5. Etti*

            ‘This was wildly irresponsible on the part of everyone who knew about it’.

            This is an excellent point. I would have gone to the car, taken the baby out and looked after it. If the parent had a problem they can deal with CPS.

            1. Books and Cooks*

              Yes, I cannot get over the idea that several adults knew there was a baby in a car outside and did nothing. I might say now, after the fact, that I would want more information or to think about it and/or talk to Cora about it before deciding to call CPS, but there is no way on earth I wouldn’t have been out there grabbing that baby and bringing her/him inside, or calling 911 if Cora et al refused to do so, if I had learned about it while it was happening. If Cora is worried about losing her job and ability to put food on the table and that’s why she did what she did, fine; they can fire *me* for bringing the baby inside, instead.

              1. etti*

                What is even more sickening is that they loved the gossip the second she left, but did not feel any need to intervene!

      5. si*

        No, no, no, no, no, no. Babies and small children die horribly in hot cars. This cannot be done. Ever.

      6. WellRed*

        Pretty sure it’s legal to stick the kid in an office, but not the car. She’s lucky a customer didn’t report it.

        1. Susie*

          I agree. I’m surprised that no passerby saw and called in. I live in metro-Atlanta and the Cooper Harris hot car death still haunts me. Although that seemed to be intentional, it could happen by accident.

          I’m sure Cora was desperate, but this is not an acceptable solution.

        2. WillowSunstar*

          Yes, the office would have been a better option. The car could have gotten stolen with the baby inside and possibly the baby seriously injured or killed by the thief. Not to mention a customer, she’s lucky a coworker didn’t say anything to the boss. Although if people were gossiping all day about it, it’s quite possible a manager overheard anyway.

          1. Etti*

            Everyone knows about the Madeline McCann case. There are countless more on top of that. It is extremely rare for people to go into a house and kidnap a child. What is much more common is an opportunistic crime. Anyone could have seen the baby was locked in the car and kidnapped it.

        3. kittycontractor*

          Seriously. I’m absolutely shocked as passerby didn’t call 911. People can flame me all they want, if I saw a baby locked in a car, even if it’s running, and no one around, I’d 100% call the cops. Beyond something happening with the baby, a running car (so keys in it), is just waiting to be stolen. A halfway decent car thief could pop that lock and be out of there before the mom could get out the door even if she’s staring at the car and never blinking.

          1. pancakes*

            Not every parking area has a lot of foot traffic. There are blocks in NYC where cafes and retail stores tend not to last due to lack of foot traffic and this is a big, busy city.

            1. kittycontractor*

              Listen I live in the country so I get that. Obviously I’m only shocked that no one called is based on the passerby actually being their to see it.

            2. Etti*

              That makes it even worse as the opportunity for a crime without being spotted is much higher.

              1. pancakes*

                Makes what even worse? My point was that the existence of passers-by isn’t a guarantee. It isn’t additional information about the letter, which I don’t have. A number of people seem stunned that no one called the police at the time, and I think it’s quite possible no one passed by the car close enough to notice a baby in it, depending of course on where it was parked. I do not see a point in trying to quantify whether leaving the baby in the car was better or worse based on where the car was parked.

          2. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

            Me too. I’m utterly appalled at the number of people saying that CPS or emergency services shouldn’t be alerted.

            1. top five???*

              The people saying that are saying it from the perspective of people who know the parent is right there. She could be offered the resources of being able to bring the baby in, or be send home but still paid for the day. If what she needs is resources and perhaps also education, having the cops break her car open to get the baby out and getting CPS involved is unlikely to actually help. Few are saying that if you see a baby in a car and don’t have a better, faster way of getting the baby out of the car, you shouldn’t call 911.

              1. Books and Cooks*

                Yes, I’d absolutely call the police in that situation, no question. The difference here is that it’s not happening in the moment, and we know the mother’s situation and are trying to prevent it happening again.

              2. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

                I would have helped Cora find child care alternatives, or offered to cover her shift, or even babysat for her myself.

              3. EmRo*

                But no one who works there is trained to evaluate if the mom needs more resources and education, nor to provide those to her, or if this is symptomatic of a bigger issue. I wouldn’t want to decide oh, she just made a bad choice based on this one decision, and then it turns out she was neglecting the baby in other ways too.

              4. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

                The parent was not “right there” if this scenario actually played out in the manner described.

            2. Jora Malli*

              A child I love dearly came into my life because of the foster system. He had been in some pretty terrible situations before being adopted and even though he’s in his 20s now, he’s still dealing with some pretty severe trauma. Living through the foster system caused him irreparable harm.

              Cora’s baby is alive, and OP has the opportunity to help them stay that way by working with their boss to come up with an alternate plan. If that alternate plan works out and Cora is able to support her baby and OP doesn’t see any more egregious harms taking place, then CPS can stay out of it. If OP can prevent Cora’s baby from the long term harm and trauma that can come from the foster system, they should.

              1. Seashell*

                What happened to him before the foster care system? It typically takes a lot to remove a child and sever parental rights.

              2. EmRo*

                And trauma also comes from parents who are abusive and neglectful. There is no guarantee this baby avoids that if CPS is not called. And no guarantee that CPS will revoke her custody.

            3. Nameless in Customer Service*

              Just because people disagree that invoking the authorities is always the perfect solution doesn’t mean people are cheering for the death of a baby.

      7. Johanna Cabal*

        It can be easy to get distracted even with the car in her line of sight. At a previous job, receptionists were often pulled in to help with tasks like prepping badges for a conference, basic copyediting, etc. It’s very easy to get absorbed into a task like that.

      8. EventPlannerGal*

        “a direct line of sight to her baby”

        Next time you’re walking through a car park or down the street, take a look at a car 10-15 feet away from you. Tell me whether you can see into the back of that car well enough to be able to tell what the breathing of a small infant sitting in that car looks like. Now imagine doing that through another reflective surface while also trying to check in clients and deal with ringing phones.

        I appreciate that what’s done is done and in this case the baby was okay, but I really don’t think it’s okay to minimise this as a “not ideal” situation, if only for the sake of anyone else reading these comments who might consider doing something like this as a last resort. It’s not “not ideal”, it is incredibly dangerous.

        1. Observer*

          Next time you’re walking through a car park or down the street, take a look at a car 10-15 feet away from you. Tell me whether you can see into the back of that car well enough to be able to tell what the breathing of a small infant sitting in that car looks like. Now imagine doing that through another reflective surface while also trying to check in clients and deal with ringing phones.

          Exactly. There is no way the mom could see the kid. Nor was she in a position to actually do something if a thief decided to take the car.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Dogs probably make out better because they can pop their heads up and get over to a window so people see the head and see it moving around. I went into a store. When I came out, I followed two women going the same way as me. My dog was in my car. I heard their remarks to each other- they were commenting about my dog being left unattended in the car.
          They both exclaimed in surprise when my husband peered over the seat to greet me. I had left the dog with my husband. My husband slouched down in the seat to rest for a minute. Passersby could not see my husband in the driver’s seat but they could see my dog moving around.

          No, you can’t see everything or everyone that is in a car while casually walking by the car.

      9. Observer*

        but if she had (for example) a baby monitor in the car and a direct line of sight to her baby, this doesn’t seem any different to me than leaving her kid in a closed office within earshot

        Based on what the OP writes, no baby monitor. And unless the windows were totally open, you really can’t see what’s going on in the car. And if the windows were totally open, that’s another whole set of risks.

        I understand why she might have seen it as the “least bad option”. But it’s still an option that did put the baby at risk.

        1. Etti*

          I have no idea why she didn’t take the baby into the office with her. That is the only option.

      10. LilPinkSock*

        It’s very, very different. No one is going to roll up and steal an office. Quiet rooms don’t have engine trouble or run out of gas.

      11. lilsheba*

        I completely disagree. There was absolutely NOTHING preventing someone from jumping in that car and driving away with the kid! It is MUCH safer to have the baby in the building with her, I don’t care what kind of business it is. I would call authorities because any mother should know better than that.

      12. TiredAmoeba*

        A young child sitting in a car seat for hours has its own hazards. Parents are often advised not to leave very young children sleeping in car seats because if their head falls forward it can restrict breathing and in those early months, they don’t have the neck muscle strength to move their heads so they can breathe. So the baby could literally choke to death.

    2. John Smith*

      It’s a bit of a jump to assume Cora’s status. Maybe she is desperate. It could be that she’s just feckless. Or sadistic/uncaring/poorly educated/insert any adjective of choice here. In any case, Alison’s advice is spot on, especially on the foster care system.

      1. John Smith*

        Just want to add after reading another post: if this was a dog instead of a baby, you can bet the police would have been called, the window broken and the dog rescued (at least in the UK).

        1. Mid*

          Except to get the dog back is usually one trip to animal control (and the window wouldn’t have been broken if the car was running and the dog wasn’t in distress.) If CPS removes a child, it’s usually multiple court dates and meetings and classes, that usually pose a significant financial and time burden. I worked with a family where the main income provider couldn’t get her child returned because she couldn’t take the time off of work and all her appointments were during work hours. She literally didn’t have paid time off, so every hour she didn’t work, she didn’t get paid. Her child was removed because a utility was temporarily cut off because she couldn’t pay the bill because she was attending meetings for her child’s school instead of working. This might just be my locality, and obviously it’s just one family situation. But don’t you ever compare a pet to a child, or the amount of work that goes into reunification of a child with their family and the immense burden that puts on the family.

            1. Lilo*

              CPS isn’t some blanket child removing agency. At least in the jurisdiction I worked in (I worked for two judges, one on a family law calendar), they made referrals and got parents connected with programs. There are definitely reasons to critique CPS, but they often get kids out of very dangerous situations.

            2. chewingle*

              They definitely do. Running water and electricity are the big ones in many jurisdictions.

            3. EPLawyer*

              In some cases they do. Depends on the family — as Alison said nonwhite you are more likely to have an adverse interaction with CPS.

              You absolutely do not want CPS involvement if it can be avoided. The amount of time spent trying to sort it out compared to the resource they will give you — plus if there is ANY issue later they can hold it against you — is really a last resort.

              1. Observer*

                as Alison said nonwhite you are more likely to have an adverse interaction with CPS.

                I’m very well aware of it – in NYC of all places, if you are an identifiable Orthodox Jew, CPS is going to react very differently than with a white mother. Nevertheless, when a parent put a child at direct immediate risk, you simply cannot just wave that away.

            4. Seeking second childhood*

              Not one bill– it was the last chance one that prevented the entire utility from being cut off. A house without water means no flush toilets*. In some places a house without electricity means no water from a well. Temperature control can also be an issue depending on the region.
              *As opposed to places with unsafe drinking water where you can at least flush the toilet even if you have to bring in bottled water.

            5. Just Another Techie*

              I am a foster parent. I have cared for children who were removed because utilities got cut off. It’s called “unfit for human habitation” if electricity/gas is off or water isn’t running, and thus counts as “neglect”. It absolutely happens.

          1. Peachtree*

            I don’t think that the person was comparing the pet to the child negatively … they were saying that in the UK, where I am, we have a low tolerance for leaving pets in cars. Which is comparable to this situation, where a child has been left in a car. Why is leaving the child more acceptable than the pet?

            1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

              It’s not that that leaving a child in a car is more acceptable than leaving a dog; it’s that, in the US at least, leaving a child in a car is so much more likely to be an act of desperation where there were no *good* options. If Cora’s dog care had fallen through, the correct choice is to leave the dog at home while she works, or if that’s not an option leave the dog at a friend’s house, or if things are really dire there are some dog boarding options for people experiencing short-term homelessness. None of that is an option for an infant. The safer choice was for Cora to not work if she had no childcare for the day, but that most likely means not getting paid and possibly also losing her job – which may mean losing her housing, her health insurance, etc.

              1. Sasha*

                Leaving a four month old baby at home unattended would have been safer than leaving them in a locked car. That is the point.

                1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

                  That’s not correct, though. Leaving a four month old baby home unattended for four+ hours is less safe than what’s described here. Maybe if you assume Cora didn’t feed/change/interact with the baby at all during her shift, but that’s not evident here. And depending on state, it may be legal to leave the kid in the car, but not at home (or vice versa, for other states).
                  They’re both potentially fatal bad choices. Arguably bringing the baby in the car is less total unsupervised time and has more room for risk reduction.

          2. Sloanicota*

            I was also just reading about the compensation for foster parents (well deserved, I’m not claiming it’s not) – if that money were … given to the parents who were struggling to pay for bills or childcare, the family would be able to stay together. But we as a society would rather pay a stranger to step in than “reward” someone who is poor.

            1. Just Another Techie*

              I get a little over a thousand dollars a month for each foster child. Plus free museum passes, free babysitting if my husband and I want a date night, and free ongoing parenting classes and seminars. Also occasional special events like a whale watching cruises, pizza and movie night, baseball games, etc. It’s both obscene how many resources are given to foster parents and devastating that the system as a whole is underfunded, because quarterly outings cost less than adequately staffing DCS with enough caseworkers and other support staff to help get children’s first families back on their feet and keep families together.

              1. Helen J*

                I did a sort of intern position with the county DFACS service the summer before I was senior to see if that was something I was interested in doing for a career. Some of the stuff they did made me think they whole system needs to scrapped and redone with people who have gone through this.

                For example, a woman had been laid off from her job and her husband was recovering from a horrific car wreck. She asked for temporary help for her family until she could get another job because unemployment was not enough (she had 3 kids). At that time (1994), she was asked property she owned. A car and a house (house was mortgage payments). They told her that she would need to sell her car and use the profits from that and try to sell the house and use any proceeds from that before they could help her. They gave her a list of food pantries and charity organizations. It was ludicrous. If she had been able to get SNAP benefits, Medicaid for her kids and maybe some type of check to pay for non food items, she could have made it through until she got another job. I sometimes still wonder about how it turned out for her.

                1. Observer*

                  That’s really unhelpful. Yes, that was the system then, but it HAS changed.

                  I’m not saying that the current system is good – it’s NOT. But now, the rules are different. They do NOT want people to sell their homes as it means that they then have to find housing for people. And the law was finally changed – they don’t count your house when looking at assets for most programs today.

              2. Sloanicota*

                This really shows how we divide folks into “good people” who deserve free things – generous foster parents! – and “bad people” who we treat with suspicion and disdain – struggling parents who have failed to keep the utilities on. Particularly, I assume, when the latter is a member of a minority group.

                1. bryeny*

                  Actually I think the benefits and perks for foster parents are meant (and sold to budgetary authorities, including legislatures) as incentives. Foster parenting is hard and some agencies have trouble recruiting enough of them. The respite care etc. make recruiting and retention a little easier.

                  The decision wasn’t “should we give this money to struggling families, to foster parents, or divide it among them?” After decades of trying to get better resources for struggling families AND foster parents, the question was “how do we make foster parenting easier without spending a ton of money?”

                  The result makes us look very bad as a society, I agree.

              3. yala*

                wtf.

                how in the world are those resources available but NOT for the biological families of kids?

                Obscene really is the word for it.

              4. This-is-a-name-I-guess*

                In our state, foster parents get all these benefits, but foster-to-adopt parents didn’t until recently. Foster-to-adopt parents of older kids do get some payments now, but not as much as foster parents. It’s kind of wild. All the kids in foster-to-adopt have either lost their parents or their parents are in prison or their parents lost parental rights (after considerable opportunities). They live in permanent foster homes waiting to be adopted. It’s really messed up that we pay people to foster other people’s kids while they are going through a hard time, but then we don’t pay parents who want to give these kids stability when their parents cannot care for them.

            2. Beka Cooper*

              I know, it’s so weird. I have thought this about child care assistance…so if my income was low enough to qualify for child care assistance from my county, they’ll give me money to pay for someone else to care for my child so I can go work my crappy low-wage job. Included in this, they are paying for all of the administrative employees who have to process child care assistance applications, determine who’s eligible, work with child care providers to get them taking assistance, etc. Likely if I’m qualifying for assistance I’m probably also getting food stamps. It’s such a tangled up mess, when they literally could just give money to poor and/or single parents to take care of their own children. But yep, can’t reward someone who is poor for “being lazy” and “having too many children to game the welfare system.”

              1. This-is-a-name-I-guess*

                Childcare Assistance funds usually come from federal dollars, which come with ridiculous strings. Federal welfare funds have tons of horrible red tape and stipulations about worthiness. Thanks Clinton! Thanks conservative a*sholes from terrible states!

              2. Books and Cooks*

                You are completely right about the ridiculousness of giving you money to pay a stranger to watch your child do you can go work a crappy low-wage job, instead of giving you that money to stay home and raise your child yourself. I find that infuriating, and always have.

                But the issue isn’t really “can’t reward someone who is poor for ‘being lazy,'” at least not in the main or even in large part. It’s about equality of the sexes and eliminating traditional roles. Look at the current debate over childcare wrt maternity leave etc. The big thing today’s feminists and “pro-woman” politicians call for is to make it so women do NOT take care of their own children; the demand is always to provide free childcare, so mothers can go back to work more easily. The only people suggesting that perhaps a better solution would be to offer more/better tax breaks and/or policies so that women can more easily take care of their children *without* having to jump back into the workplace are those “conservative a**holes.” President Obama outright stated that we need free daycare/childcare because without it women might stay home with their kids, and “we don’t want them to do that,” which echoes comments made by women like Simone de Beauvoir (iirc), who said the goal was to “take away” the option for women to stay home with their children, because “if the choice exists, too many of them will make that choice.”

                There certainly are people out there, in government and in the private sector, who imply (or outright say) that women are “lazy” for wanting to stay home with their children, and that they shouldn’t be “rewarded” for doing so, either with actual funds being provided or with, say, tax breaks for families with a nonworking spouse. As a stay-home/work-from-home mom & writer, I have been on the receiving end of a number of those types of comments and attitudes. But those comments and attitudes aren’t necessarily coming from the people one might expect, and it isn’t necessarily about “punishing” poor mothers. It’s about creating government jobs, about eliminating traditional gender roles, about increasing taxes and tax revenue, and generally remaking society. As you pointed out, the current system creates a whole lot of government positions, which can be used to justify tax hikes, which will result in more people having to enter/re-enter the workforce to pay those taxes and thus more need for those childcare and childcare-administrating positions, and so on. (Just like the current calls for “student loan forgiveness” do nothing to address the actual issue–the ridiculously inflated costs of a college education and the ridiculous demands for college diplomas for jobs that do not really require them in any way–but instead allow for the creation of government jobs to process those forgiveness applications and distribute the funds, jobs which will likely “require” diplomas and funds which will come, again, from increased taxes, a large chunk of which will be paid by people whose student loans were *not* forgiven or who never had them/went to college to begin with. I digress.)

                Personally I find it all to be somewhere between disturbing and infuriating, but that’s just me.

          3. Artemesia*

            And this is the country that wants to force women to have babies they can’t afford and right now seems to be moving to attack birth control. We have virtually no safety net for women in this situation. In France there is an inexpensive day care in every neighborhood; in the US if you don’t have grandma and a low paying job what are you supposed to do?

            1. Books and Cooks*

              The House just passed a law to “protect birth control access,” but whether it will pass the Senate and become law is questionable, due to the writing of the actual law. The issue is not birth control itself; the issue is whether things like Plan B are contraceptives or abortifacients, and some people have an issue with the latter. Afaik no one is trying to actually outlaw contraceptives; a few years ago there was a bill in the House that would have made contraceptive pills available OTC without a prescription, but that was shot down by the opposing party.

              The point is, until our representatives decide to take this seriously and stop trying to play some performative game with women’s rights (like writing bills they claim will simply “codify Roe v. Wade into law” but which actually make abortion legal through the ninth month of pregnancy nationwide with no restrictions, overruling any state laws voters chose to put into place–in other words, a bill which they know will not pass but which allow them to point fingers and play games, because they apparently feel that’s more important than actually accomplishing something), nothing will happen–which is why it’s important to be aware of what actually is and is not happening, and why, so we can focus our efforts accordingly.

              (Sorry, I don’t mean to lecture you.)

              1. EmRo*

                Justice Clarence Thomas literally stated in his solo assent in overturning Roe that SCOTUS should revisit (and presumedly overturn) Griswold—the Supreme Court case that guarantees the right to contraception. While right now debate is centering on abortifacients as you stated, many, many people are concerned about the future of contraception access for this reason.

                1. Books and Cooks*

                  The point is that the Court cannot create laws out of thin air. Our representatives *can.* That’s their job. They should be doing it, and we should be making them do it, instead of letting them get away with wasting taxpayers’ time and money with finger-pointing publicity stunt bills they know don’t have a chance at passing. Our “representatives” had fifty years to create a federal law or Constitutional Amendment guaranteeing at least some form of abortion rights, but they didn’t bother to do so. Instead they chose to rely on a Court ruling that a number of legal scholars on both sides of the issue felt had a very unstable basis and warned for years could be overturned; they paid lip service to women and women’s rights in order to get elected but, once they reached the Capitol, decided they’d rather focus on voting themselves raises, seducing interns, and making sure there was enough pork to go around. I’m just a lot more concerned about what *they* are and are not doing, or are and are not going to do, than I am with one Justice making a comment that the rest of the Justices specifically stated they disagreed with, did not intend to follow, and were not referencing in their ruling. And it makes me angry that so many reps are happy to beat a drum about that one comment in order to fill their donation coffers and win votes, rather than making that comment even more irrelevant than it already is by actually taking some action, that’s all.

              2. pancakes*

                I think it’s a mistake to think that what you’re seeing from representatives is failure to take this seriously. What you’re seeing is their own politics in action. For the most part it isn’t that they haven’t seriously considered the consequences of their own politics; it’s that theirs aren’t necessarily actually closely aligned with yours, or with the politics of a majority of their constituents. For an example, please have a look at recent reporting on the prospective appointment of former Kentucky state solicitor general Chad Meredith to the federal judiciary.

              3. Starbuck*

                ” Afaik no one is trying to actually outlaw contraceptives;”

                Maybe not de jure (yet) but in practice absolutely, they’re trying as hard as they can. Hence all the loopholes for employers who “morally object” to paying for birth control via health insurance.

          4. Migraine Month*

            In the US, the number one reason a child is taken away from their parent(s) by CPS is poverty-related unsafe home or poverty-related neglect. Then they *charge the impoverished parent* to have the child stay elsewhere.

            Imagine having to pay for the privilege of having your child taken away.

            1. Sloanicota*

              While they find money to pay *someone else,* a stranger, to care for them! That’s the part that slays me.

          5. Sandgroper*

            Another vote for ‘don’t ever compare a pet to a child’.

            Pets generally have a much shorter lifespan (except turtles!), become day to day independent in toiletting, self regulation and management far faster than humans (within a couple of months they can be left at home, weeks even, days for some!), and while we love them deeply and have life long joyful memories after they pass, they cannot, will not, must not ever replace human children in our lives. You’d never parade a 10yr old kid on a lead down the street (hopefully!) and you’d never feed them the same meal every day for years on end either. We treat animals (that we love) and children differently because they are not the same.

            The protection of children from abuse, neglect (wilful or accidental) etc is wildly different to the protection of animals. While animals should have more protections, often the protections of children do not go far enough (as evidenced by the 6yr old who died in SA this week past, with siblings in dire straits too).

        2. chewingle*

          I’m not sure the comparison here is the same, since dogs are self-sufficient enough to be left home alone, unlike a 4-month-old, so there is no circumstance where she could reasonably find it necessary to take her dog to work. We don’t know Cora’s circumstances or what made her feel desperate enough to throw out all good judgment, which is what Alison and Artemesia is getting at when they suggest OP talk to Cora and find out more about her situation and help come up with a better emergency solution. (And none of it would apply to a dog, so immediately calling someone wouldn’t be in debate here.)

          It IS surprising that no passersby called anyone, though. Cora got very lucky here.

      2. TiredAmoeba*

        Contrary to popular belief, removing a child from a home is a last resort. Social workers will often try to help the parent find services to help them with whatever the issue is, with the over arching goal being the well-being and safety of the child. Maybe helping Cora find reliable, affordable childcare is how they would help here, not just default to taking the baby away.

    3. Bilateralrope*

      Another possibility is someone notices that the car is running, the keys are in the ignition and the doors are unlocked. So they decide to steal the car.

      They don’t notice the baby until later.

      1. Caitlin*

        This happened in my city the other month – the mother had popped into a shop for barely 2 minutes, and an opportunistic thief had stolen the car without noticing their was a baby in it. It was everywhere on the news, and luckily the baby was found safe (if frightened) a few hours later, and the thief was caught too.

        1. Turtlewings*

          In my best friend’s state, there was a very similar incident. The child was a little boy, roughly four years old iirc. That one ended devastatingly, as the car thieves panicked and killed the little boy.

    4. Teacher*

      I think it’s important to focus on advice for the LW instead of litigating the choices Cora should or should not have made. I really hope for at least this one question that the commenters really don’t go down that path into a spiral. Saying that Cora is being neglectful and to immediately call CFS is not helpful advice and I’m glad Alison mentioned that in this particular case it would be more harm than good.

      I agree with you Artmensia that LW should talk to Cora. I’m a preschool teacher and trust me when I say there is no such thing as emergency childcare services and right now families are making the best choices they can, most times regardless of socio economic backgrounds. Tough situations are the real “new normal.”

        1. Teacher*

          Thank you! I don’t normally comment but after seeing some of the comments below and knowing firsthand what the reality is I had to.

      1. Allonge*

        Thank you – it helps precisely nobody to make a list of all the scenarios this could have gone very wrong here. OP is obviously aware! Judging Cora here helps nobody.

        In practical terms, OP, I agree with Alison that talking to Cora would be the first step. Maybe your manager could clarify if there is a back office or some place in the building that could be used for emergencies instead of a car?

      2. Artemesia*

        Yes. I am sure you are right. That was another day. There used to be drop in services but even gyms don’t have them anymore. You can’t leave a kid in a car; it would be better if the office allowed babies in the office in extreme situations . It is just so hard. And there are so few resources.

      3. Mary*

        I have a lot of sympathy for Cora and if the LW would like to help perhaps advocate in her workplace that staff have sufficient leave that they can take 4 hours paid leave without notice if their child care falls through.

        I also wonder if the culture of the company is such that Cora could not bring her baby into work with her without reprisal and if this is them company culture what can the lw do to change this culture even within the reception team and the manager?

        1. Thegreatprevaricator*

          Yes this. My company (admittedly UK, public sector adjacent, largeish employer) has family/dependents leave on top of annual and sick leave. We also have flexible hybrid working, which doesn’t sound like it would work for this role but sets a workplace culture of trusting employees to handle this kind of issue and giving the agency to respond if something like this occurs. Forget that at 4 months Cora would still be on full paid parental leave if she so wished. Cora is a symptom not the problem, and I’d start by talking to her but also consider if you’re able to escalate and advocate so that this doesn’t happen again.

          1. So they all cheap-ass rolled over and out fell out*

            On the rare occasion my day care has fallen through, I have been privileged to be able to work remotely (even in The Before Times) or take the day off. I even had one employer where it was explicitly in the employee handbook that you could take sick time (vs. vacation) if your childcare fell through, up to 5 days per year. So this is absolutely a problem the employer could help solve if they wanted to (and become aware of it) but don’t want to allow babies (and older kids) in the office.

            1. Just Another Zebra*

              One of the greatest perks of my company is that we can bring kids of “self-occupying age” to the office on emergency basis. If our kid is sick (or out waiting on a COVID test) we can work remote, which was never an option before. It has been lifesaving for the few of us who have kids. So yes, if it’s a viable option for employers I think some accommodations are worth it.

        2. Michelle Smith*

          I don’t think changing the culture makes sense. How are you going to be a receptionist checking in clients and getting their information over the cries and screams of your baby? It just doesn’t make sense. I get allowing moms with offices to bring their babies in, but at the front desk it just doesn’t seem logistically smart.

          1. londonedit*

            I think the point is that if the company culture is such that Cora would rather leave her baby unattended in a car for several hours rather than admitting to her boss that she’s had a childcare emergency and needs to take a sick day or whatever, that’s something that absolutely needs to be changed.

          2. Broadway Duchess*

            Depends on the baby. For some infants, during a four hour shift with maybe a 15 minute break? This would have been totally doable with my son. He was a very chill baby who only cried when his diaper needed to be changed. I could’ve left him with a baby monitor in another room with periodic checks for a few hours. My daughter… not so much.

          3. Just Me*

            I would also add that it depends on the business. I agree that in many office settings it doesn’t make sense (and I personally would avoid it if I could) but I have also been to more casual offices/workplaces where this has happened (vet’s offices, hair salons, etc.) I once worked in an office where the employer would be 100% okay with their client-facing staff doing this. I……found it to be odd and did not take my employer up on the offer when she gave me the option, but I do think that OP could do some of their own digging to see what the employer may be willing to be flexible on and pass that along to Cora.

          4. Observer*

            I don’t think changing the culture makes sense. How are you going to be a receptionist checking in clients and getting their information over the cries and screams of your baby?

            You’re making a lot of assumptions – a lot of 4 month old babies are not “crying and screaming”.

            I can think of a lot of potential solutions here, if someone who was there had taken some time to think this through. Not ideal, perhaps, but still viable! And a WHOLE lot more safe than leaving the kid in the car.

        3. Observer*

          I also wonder if the culture of the company is such that Cora could not bring her baby into work with her without reprisal and if this is them company culture what can the lw do to change this culture even within the reception team and the manager?

          That’s a really, really good question. Because the others KNEW about this.

          OP, I think it’s worth re-visiting that conversation with your manager. Because whatever you decide about calling CPS, you know that there is something very wrong with your office culture. If there is anything you can do to change that, it would be a benefit to everyone, not just Cora.

          1. Books and Cooks*

            Yes. I cannot imagine knowing that one of my co-workers had left her baby in her car–even if there was somehow no danger from that–and not trying myself to figure out a way to bring the baby inside, or find someone trustworthy to take the baby for the mother’s shift, or take up a collection to pay for a sitter, or…just something. How do you just shrug and say, “Well, that’s her problem,” when a baby is in potential danger, or how do you work at a place that is so rigid that this situation happens because everyone is terrified to try to find a better solution, and not feel that something is very wrong there and needs to change?

          2. maggie moo*

            Exactly! I would have told my coworker to strap that baby on and come on in. The boss wasn’t there, clearly, there wasn’t much foot traffic either since no passerby called for help, and patients or clients would have walked right by that front window as well. Push come to shove I’ll log off and watch the baby for Cora’s shift. No way a healthy work environment with decent people knowingly lets this happen.

      4. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

        Tough situations are the new normal, sure – but Cora is demonstrably not making the best choices she can. That is what OP needs to focus the conversation on; “this was a bad decision because of how risky it was. You got lucky, and here are better options.”

        1. Werrr*

          I think the problem here is we all agree it was a terrible choice, but there aren’t a lot of options. The alternative is missing work. Which I would do, but also, I can afford. What could Cora do? And how could OP help them? That’s the issue here.

          1. Loulou*

            There actually was someone up thread who said they didn’t see why this was worse than leaving the kid in an office!! So I don’t think everyone is quite on the same page about this.

              1. Just Another Zebra*

                The office also cannot be stolen from the parking lot. The office can’t be involved in an accident. The office doesn’t force baby to stay buckled into an unsafe position for 4 hours, with no food or diaper changes.

                1. quill*

                  I know this is a very serious topic but also I kind of want to see a scenario where a whole office was stolen from a parking lot.

          2. Cthulhu's Librarian*

            Tried bringing the child in and seeing if anyone cared? Chances are good that at a large company with a busy reception area, it would be disruptive to the child, and maybe she’d get sent home, but it would still have been a better idea.

            Tried to trade shifts with a coworker. OP1 might be in a good position to say “hey, if this comes up again, I’ll trade with you”.

            We don’t know enough about the specific location and Cora’s situation for me to offer better suggestions than those – I recognize that. But the answer can not be “leave the baby in the car” anymore than the answer to “how should I get home after going to the bar?” can be “Drive Drunk” or the answer to “How do I meet bills?” be “embezzle from my employer”.

            1. Kelly L.*

              Yeah, I really don’t get why no one in this situation said “Hey, why don’t you bring the kid inside” and figured it out from there.

              1. Unaccountably*

                This is exactly what should have happened. Whether you ask the mother to or call the police/CPS/whoever, the immediate goal has to be to get the child out of the car and into the office. *Then* you worry about what else you’re going to do once the baby’s safe.

                OP, what kind of time off do you get? Does Cora understand your company’s time-off and benefits policy? Ask and be sure; if she doesn’t, help her understand them. If she does and she’s just afraid of being fired, is that fear reasonable? If so, raise it with an executive, without naming names if possible – that’s an issue for your company to deal with before someone’s kid dies in their car and the negative publicity has them selling their company for $15 on Craigslist. If it’s not, then talk about community services.

              2. Nameless in Customer Service*

                I have to agree. I would have volunteered to help in a hot second — I have held babies for coworkers for up to a half hour. That’s not four hours, but I’d far rather answer a phone with a baby on my hip than have the baby in a car. I’ve done it in my personal life, I could manage it at work in an emergency.

      5. Cranky lady*

        “I’m a preschool teacher and trust me when I say there is no such thing as emergency childcare services and right now families are making the best choices they can, most times regardless of socio economic backgrounds.”

        An acquaintance recently shared that she is terrified of losing her well-paying, director level job because her child keeps being sent home for COVID exposures. Even though she works from home, she can’t work and watch the child at the same time because of his special needs.

        If the OP has any pull, please advocate for emergency childcare policies or benefits. That could be extra time off, on-site childcare, a million options so that no one feels like they have to make this choice.

    5. Cambridge Comma*

      I would worry that talking to her would lead to her keeping the baby in the car in a way that the coworkers won’t detect, so further away, with fewer checks. My advice to the LW is that you probably don’t feel qualified to take the decision yourself — I certainly wouldn’t — so perhaps there are advice lines you can call anonymously? Even if the coworker is in a difficult position, the judgement she has made here has crossed a line, even if nothing happened.

    6. independent agency fed*

      Depending on what state you live in, as an adult, you may also be a mandatory reporter by law, end stop. In some states, you can be charged with failure to report if it comes out later that you failed to do so.

        1. Paris Geller*

          Texas, for one. Not sure about others, but I know about that one because I live in Texas.

      1. Observer*

        Depending on what state you live in, as an adult, you may also be a mandatory reporter by law, end stop. In some states, you can be charged with failure to report if it comes out later that you failed to do so.

        I’m pretty sure that you are incorrect here. The OP is not a childcare provider, nor do they work for one.

        If there actually ARE states that actually mandate any adult to report any child endangerment they see, please state which ones they are rather than making scary generalizations. Especially since you are almost certainly wrong.

        1. LilPinkSock*

          Tennessee is one. According to that state’s DCS, “any person with reasonable cause to believe a child is being abused or neglected must, under the law, immediately report to the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services or to local law enforcement”.

        2. Wren Song*

          I know that Indiana, Wyoming, New Jersey, Texas, Idaho, and Utah all have black letter laws that require all adults to report reasonable suspicion of child abuse neglect, or abandonment. Other states like Oregon have codified very extensive lists of professions that go far beyond just child care providers. Many other state legislatures have been debating similar laws, so it is absolutely possible that there are others I am currently unaware of. Any many citizens of those states are absolutely unaware of those laws in their states.

        3. Just Another Zebra*

          According to childwelfare.gov, the following 18 states any person who suspects child abuse or neglect is required to report:

          Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Indiana, New Jersey, and Wyoming.

    7. JSPA*

      Leaving the car running means the baby is breathing those fumes, too, unless it was a spectacularly windy day.

      1. NewJobGuy*

        Doubtful, but it is cruel to a four-month-old to have no human contact for four hours.

        1. pancakes*

          Views on that are going to vary by culture to some extent, and I don’t think that should be the emphasis over safety. In some cultures, for example in Scandinavian countries, it is considered healthy to basically air out a baby, leaving the stroller outside a restaurant or cafe or whatnot, even in the winter. Yes, women have been prosecuted for that in places where it’s not a tradition. I think that’s best avoided for everyone involved, when possible. Start with the assumption, unless there is a strong reason not to, that this woman does not want to be cruel to her baby.

          1. NewJobGuy*

            Outside on a busy street – the baby knows there are people around. Inside a car alone, the baby knows they’re alone. It’s absolutely cruel to the child and I won’t back down from that. I’m not saying the mother wants to be cruel to the child, but the situation is cruel.

            1. pancakes*

              I have never seen regulations pinned on the baby knowledge science you seem to be relying on, and I am not particularly interested in discussing the boundaries of baby knowledge today. To be clear I’m not asking you to back down at all! Your views aren’t threatened by me seemingly not sharing them, or not wanting to discuss them.

        2. Observer*

          I’m not a fan, but I don’t think that this is a fair assessment. Whatever you may think, it doesn’t endanger the child’s life. Calling CPS for anything less is the real cruelty- CPS messes to often that I would never take that risk.

      2. pancakes*

        An EPA assessment of the baby’s air quality shouldn’t be the main concern here. That is possibly a concern, but it’s not likely a primary one for someone struggling to find any child care at all, to take air quality into account to that degree. If the car has a leak in the cooling system or something else going on, that’s a separate issue in itself, and possibly dangerous for everyone around, not just the baby.

    8. Aster*

      Before talking to Cora, is it possible check with your manager about emergency options like allowing her to bring her baby with her into the office??

      1. Pdweasel*

        That was my thought, too. As a forensic pathologist, I can say firsthand that leaving a kid unattended in a potentially hot car—especially an infant who can’t advocate for themself or get themself out of a dangerous situation in the way that, say, an 8-year-old could—is a tragedy waiting to happen. It’s an awful way to die and an all-around Very Bad Idea. If the AC cuts out, the car runs out of gas, the car gets stolen…big yikes.

        The simplest and safest in-the-moment solution would appear to be allowing Cora to bring the baby into the office. If I were her manager or coworker, I would tell her that—please, for the love of all things good & holy, if you’re in this situation again just bring the bub inside with you & we’ll figure something out.

    9. Lily*

      Maybe advocate at work for some kind of emergency child care option in situations like this, e.g. like an on-site childcare or an arrangement with the child care next door or whatever. Even a blanket “bring them in and we’ll find a solution” would be better than nothing.

      1. Snow Globe*

        I was thinking this. I know it’s always said around here that a baby doesn’t belong in the office all day (and I agree), but between that alternative and leaving the baby in the car, obviously in the office is better! Bring the child inside, then figure out what to do.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I was gonna say, it sounds like she didn’t even ASK anyone about bringing the baby into the office in an emergency situation. For all we know, her manager would have had no issue with it.

          1. pancakes*

            Yes, same. I am not a fan of the “call the cops now that this is in the past and talk it all over later” approach.

        2. Observer*

          I was thinking this. I know it’s always said around here that a baby doesn’t belong in the office all day (and I agree), but between that alternative and leaving the baby in the car, obviously in the office is better! Bring the child inside, then figure out what to do.

          Perfectly said!

      2. WellRed*

        Sure but you’re advocating for something very unlikely. The child care next door ( even if it exists it’s probably full and barely staffed to be legal). In house child care? I doubt that’ll happen.

        1. Nikkole*

          a receptionist wouldn’t have the kind of pull. They would probably rather get rid of the receptionist and the mother before doing something like that.

        2. Lily*

          It’s something that some big workplaces like hospitals (mostly places where people work in shifts) have. Maybe the OPs workplace isn’t one of them. Still, “we have 5 emergency coupons for the nearby childcare” isn’t wildly out there for a benefit. The receptionist doesn’t need to be the one suggesting it.

    10. pancakes*

      “Maybe talk with her and let her know it cannot happen again and why it is so dangerous.” Yes. If the people in her day-to-day life — and specifically, people who know enough about her to know that she “doesn’t have any family around to help and the child’s father is absentee” — are unable or unwilling to talk to her about basic baby safety, who should? Yes, there are times when a dangerous situation calls for the intervention of authorities, but this particular dangerous situation isn’t ongoing, the baby is not apparently still in that car. Going to child services without talking to her first seems like skipping an important opportunity to talk to her.

      1. quill*

        Yeah. Nobody has a baby and immediately knows how to keep the baby safe – even parents that have a lot of time and resources can easily miss things. Cora needs to know why this was such a risk for the baby.

    11. SMH*

      I’m just going to throw this out there: depending on the state, the LW may be a mandated reporter, in which case she is required by law to make a report. For example, in my state, EVEROYONE is a mandated reporter, but certain professions (Doctors, teachers, etc)can lose their license or face charges for not making a report.

      1. Observer*

        The OP is not a mandated reporter – no one in those fields is left in any doubt about it.

        As for the rest? The OP didn’t see it, so it would be hard for anyone to make a case that they have a LEGAL obligation. Also, from the legal POV, it would be very hard to make the case that they should know that not only are they required to report, but that they are required to report even if they have reason to believe that it won’t happen again.

        I happen to think that the OP should call CPS, but please don’t scare people into making decisions like this. The risk to the OP here is minimal and they should make the decision based on what they conclude is most likely to be the safest for the kid not a theoretical possibility.

        Those laws are not intended for situations like thins, but for situations where people had knowledge of ongoing abuse and did nothing.

        PS, Even mandated reporters often get away with not reporting. What makes you think that anyone is going to take the resources to figure out if the OP might have known enough to report?

      2. Just Another Zebra*

        I also live in a mandatory report state. There are 18 states that classify anyone who suspects abuse or neglect as a mandatory reporter. So it isn’t actually that uncommon. Leaving an infant in a car for 4 hours warrants a report to CPS.

    12. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Alison’s answer and this comment are unbelievable. You know who else’s life could get blown up? That of the 4-month-old infant who was left in a vehicle for 4 hours alone. The LW should have called 911 and should do so if they learn again that the child is in the car alone. This is an immediate emergency.

      You can’t leave a 4-month-old infant alone, unattended, period.

      1. Unaccountably*

        If it’s an immediate emergency – which I agree, it was – the obvious immediate solution is not to call 911 and hope the AC doesn’t go out before the police get there. It’s to tell the mother to go bring the child inside, immediately.

        It’s the child’s endangered life that’s the emergency. Punishing the mother can wait until the baby’s safe.

      2. Observer*

        The LW should have called 911 and should do so if they learn again that the child is in the car alone. This is an immediate emergency.

        Nope. The OP found out about it after the fact. 911 is useless (or worse) in that case.

        If it happens again while the OP is around, the FIRST thing they should to is to insist that mom brings the baby in. Only call 911 if Mom refuses.

        1. Glomarization, Esq.*

          The co-workers, then, should have called 911.

          I feel like I’m taking crazy pills. An office full of people who couldn’t figure out that a 4-month-old infant wasn’t safe sitting in a car by itself for 4 hours.

          1. Observer*

            <I.The co-workers, then, should have called 911.

            No. They should have brought the baby in!

            I feel like I’m taking crazy pills. An office full of people who couldn’t figure out that a 4-month-old infant wasn’t safe sitting in a car by itself for 4 hours.

            Not just you. I just can’t figure out what is wrong with these people!

      3. Nameless in Customer Service*

        Can we even try to find out if Cora is helpable first, person to person? Being put in foster care is not necessarily a perfect salvation

        1. EmRo*

          But again, placing a call to CPS does not necessarily equal foster care. Otherwise any stranger off the street could call and make accusations and your child would be taken away. Typically CPS has 24 hours (may vary) to make contact with the family to begin investigate a complaint. Depending on the type of complaint and the initial interview they may drop it, they may investigate further or they may come up with a plan right away for the family to follow. But it is not a certainty that the child will be taken.

    13. Rain's Small Hands*

      I am driven to add historical context because, well….

      Back in the good old days when women didn’t work….women worked. Poor women worked. Women of color worked, and immigrants worked. And childcare – good childcare – was not accessible to these women. If you didn’t have a relative or neighbor who wasn’t working (and when you are poor, everyone who can work does work) you didn’t have childcare. Women would tie their young children to the kitchen table with a rope and go to work for the day. Because the other option was starving. These were the circumstances that lead to people like Jane Addams starting the social services movement. It was less a driver for the labor movement – which was more centered on the needs of working class men – but if working class men could get paid a decent wage their wives might be able to stay at home with kids – at least until the kids could be self sufficient (which was a much younger age than we’d find remotely appropriate now). Some women were lucky enough to have a neighbor who didn’t work – usually because she couldn’t work – who would watch the kids. Now a woman who can’t work because she is nearly blind, or disabled with arthritis, or drunk isn’t the best childcare – especially for a toddler (and she honestly probably used rope as well, it wasn’t an uncommon means to care for children in the late 19th and early to mid 20th century), but its better than a 12 hour day where you leave your toddler tied to the table with some water. Standards changed with child labor laws and in particular with WWII, where WE needed the women in the workforce, women who were middle class enough to be able to expect that their children wouldn’t be raised by rope. After WWII we needed those women out of the workforce – and removing childcare was a way to do it.

      I’m saying this because the only long term solution is political pressure to actually have good affordable daycare options in this country that are not staffed by women who have a passion for the work, so why pay them a living wage. (note deep sarcasm). That isn’t a short term solution and the baby will likely be an adult before it happens.

      1. Nameless in Customer Service*

        Well said. The base of these issues is a lack of societal support that will not be fixed by all the punitive actions society can produce.

      2. WillowSunstar*

        We also need people in positions of power at companies to allow people paid time off in emergency child care situations so things like this don’t happen. Children’s lives shouldn’t have to be risked because they won’t pay PTO.

    14. Ann*

      Since the boss is aware, he could be part of the solution. Maybe it’s a good idea to bring up letting Cora bring baby into the office if there’s a child care emergency, or letting her take time off on short notice. CPS is a punishment for someone who’s already in a tight spot, not a solution. This family needs solutions. “We’ll be watching you and will take your child if you screw up again” doesn’t help that much.
      It’s horrifying that she thought leaving the baby in the car is OK, and of course it’s a good idea to have two or three backups for child care, but realistically, even with family support having multiple backups is hard because most people have their own lives and may not be sitting at home waiting for you to call them for emergency child care. Sometimes there’s just no one to watch the child except their mom, and there has to be a way for her to do that without losing her job.
      And yes, someone should absolutely, 200%, talk to her ASAP about what a dangerous decision that was and how it could have gone wrong.

    15. Here we go again*

      I’ve had to let my step daughter be dropped off at my work (retail) while I closed down. About 20-30 minutes and She was an early teen. She could’ve sat in the car while I did this but it’s not worth the risk. So she was playing on her phone with me in a locked store while I did paper work. If it’s not unsafe like working with chemicals or a hot kitchen please just bring the kid inside.

    16. GlitterIsEverything*

      What I’m not seeing in these comments is any understanding of exactly how desperate Cora must have been to make the decision she did.

      I was a suddenly single mom when my kids were little. I literally had to find child care overnight for two toddlers. The sheer terror involved is something that can’t fully be grasped unless you’ve been in it. The worst part is that, when you’re in the middle of it, you can’t see solutions *because* the situation is dire.

      LW#1, I cannot encourage you enough to talk to Cora, ask her what child care options she has currently, and work with her to think about other options. Hopefully your boss can offer her emergency shelter for the baby should she have another child care emergency (far more common now, by the way, thanks to daycare closures for COVID exposures or cases). Maybe this is an opportunity to talk to your boss yourself, and suggest some child care networking inside your office – some of your staff may have teen family members or friends who would be interested in being backup for situations like this during the summer. Or maybe someone has a great child care provider they’re willing to share information for. Or someone has a stay at home family member with an infant or toddler who might be willing to take the baby in on an as needed basis. Or, or, or…. Brainstorming can come up with a lot of really creative solutions.

      We’ve all heard “it takes a village.” This is what that means. The more people (not necessarily authorities) who get involved in helping Cora, the less desperate and alone she will feel, and she’ll see better options when emergencies happen.

      1. Nameless in Customer Service*

        I was going to write this comment but your version is better, not least because of your direct experience. I’ve had friends who were in your situation and I am very glad you and your children survived.

      2. EmRo*

        I can absolutely appreciate Cora’s desperation and terror. But, from the sounds of it, she did not even try to call her boss to work out a solution when there truly was no one else to watch her baby. Everyone is assuming it is a one off situation made out of desperation but there is also the possibility that there is a pattern of neglect or that it continues as the baby grows up. So often people look the other way, or assume the best intentions by a parent who makes a gross error like this, or thinks it isn’t their business or that CPS will make it worse and so many kids grow up in neglectful and/or abusive situations as a result. The very best outcome here is that it was a desperate decision made just once, but we don’t know that is true.

        1. Attractive Nuisance*

          +1. I never like the idea of “let’s not report, just this once.” That’s how people get away with things for years – because everyone thinks they’re the one person giving this person a second chance. And as much as I want to see Cora as someone who made one mistake and just needs some support from her employer and coworkers, that’s hard to reconcile with what happened here. She had a childcare emergency – which is a thing that happens to all parents at some point – and her response was to put her child in a very dangerous situation. I can’t see Cora as an ok parent who just needs an extra babysitter. There’s some serious dysfunction here, and I think it’s way above LW’s pay grade to address.

          1. Ayla*

            I am relieved to see this perspective. My siblings and I (frankly, miraculously) all survived, but between one disinterested parent and one severely depressed one, we spent a lot of time in danger and all ended up with physical and/or mental damage from neglect. We were left alone often, in cars and at home; at 3 I would regularly wander the streets by myself, my brother kept lighting fires in the garage at 6, we were often sent to school sick or injured, but because everybody only saw one or two incidents, nobody ever stepped in. I was a teenager before relatives started comparing n9tes and realized something was seriously wrong, and by then a lot of damage had already been done.

            Unless OP has the time to follow Cora around 24/7 and investigate whether her child is otherwise safe and cared for, it might be a good idea to bring in someone who can. Just in case.

      3. Big Bank*

        I absolutely get that she was desperate, but I’m at a loss as to why that desperation didn’t lend to sitting the baby at her desk. Inside. That’s not a great solution, but in an emergency it’s the one you lean on here versus leaving your kid in the car!!!! I have a dog and when it’s hot, we leave the car/ac running to grab food at a Sheetz or use the restroom. For those 5 minutes, I fret. About my dog. Who poops outside and can be left unsupervised for hours at home. I just can’t even get to a place where I replicate that with a baby, and certainly not over four hours!

        She needs to be set down to discuss emergency options with her manager. And told, in very clear terms, the car is not an option. I’m on the fence on whether CPS is needed now, but if she tries it after a conversation or pushes back that it was totally fine what she did, then you absolutely call.

      4. Observer*

        What I’m not seeing in these comments is any understanding of exactly how desperate Cora must have been to make the decision she did.

        Oh, we get it. But there is still a limit.

        Did you hear about the legislator who said that she would shoot her grand-kids to protect them? She had to try to “explain” that one away because she rightly got enormous pushback. Like how does a sentence like that come out of a sane person’s mouth? But the thing is that what Cora did is not all THAT far from that. Not *the same* because Cora didn’t actually harm the kid. But she did put the kid at significant risk. Presumably in the name of protecting the child.

    17. CPS is no bueno*

      from a former foster parent. You are doing the kid no favors by reporting child abuse. Help the mom. She’s trying. My mom would leave me in the car with the windows down when I was a toddler to run into the grocery store real quick in the early 80’s. Was that child abuse? No, she didn’t know of another option. And I’m fine. If you could help find the mom emergency child care then you might just solve all the problems.

    18. Coffee Nut*

      The staggering amount of commenters here advocating that the BEST solution is to call the state to rip a four month old baby from her mother’s sobbing, screaming arms for the crime of POVERTY is astonishing. I was recently in this position as a manager – I quietly paid my employee while helping her navigate the very complex and slow subsidized childcare system. Also this country is extremely messed up.

    19. LittleMarshmallow*

      I really hope the manager verifies if this even actually happened. The overheard word of a couple of office gossips that didn’t seem to think it was concerning enough to do anything about in the moment seems highly suspect to me. Not necessarily good enough reason to elevate this to CPS yet.

      I agree OP could talk to Cora to get a feel for what’s going on but it seems like a bit assumption that this even happened at all to the degree that the two busybodies were saying.

      1. Agent Diane*

        I was scanning the comments to see if anyone else had mentioned this. Right now, OP only has hearsay this happened. From two colleagues who…did nothing. For four hours.

        If there were three people on shift at reception, they could very easily all have taken staggered “comfort breaks” where they were really minding the baby. They didn’t.

        I’d have talked to Cara before talking to the manager to check if it were true. And to see if there are ways to help. If she really felt leaving a baby in a car was less risky than bringing them inside, why is that? Fear of being fired and losing the income? What does that say about her perception of the organisations culture that she didn’t feel she could do it, or ask to do it? Or call in to miss a shift?

        Since you have raised it with the manager, please talk to Cara as a concerned friend, not a colleague. And please go into the conversation with “I heard this happened…” and not “This happened…”.

        And please update us.

    20. Iheoma*

      As a person who worked in Child Welfare in Illinois for 3 years, let me tell you what happens when you call DCFS. First, a DCP ( a trained investigator) goes onsite to the family’s home to make an inquiry and observe the child and parent(s). If the child is in immediate danger. They are taken into state custody. If not, DCFS will open a case against the family and monitor them. The monitoring can last for months or years depending on what was observed. Reporting what you overheard about Cora will not address what actually happen ( or what you heard happened) but will open her family’s life for scrutiny about how she’s parenting overall. If that’s what you really to do, then move forward. If not, then consider if that call is worth it. On another note, what kind of people talk about a child being left in a car for 4 hrs but do nothing to help the child or her mother? Was there no option for her to be brought inside? That says a lot about the company and the gossiping colleagues

    21. Person of Interest*

      As someone who works in the child welfare space, I’d recommend seeing if your state has Family Resource Centers to refer Cora to, which are meant to be a one-stop shop for help with all kinds of family stabilization issues including finding child care options. They are often part of your state child welfare system but are a step less severe than filing an report, which as others have said can be way more harmful to the family.

  3. Aphrodite*

    #3. Those roles that use “bubbly personality” will never get “de-gendered” as no male is likely to apply for them. It’s sexist language intended to maintain the status quo. And it will.

    1. CCCP*

      Add to the idea that working women need to be ‘pleasing’ to others in such a way… *roll eyes*

    2. Artemesia*

      NOt just gendered. Grossly sexist. Women are playthings, are not serious, must be cute and pleasing to men. As a never bubbly personality who finds bubbly women annoying, this one will never not grate.

      1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        Yeah, “bubbly personality” is not just pleasant or polite, it’s requiring a performance that is above and beyond what’s necessary.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Yes. It requires a performance of a ultra-feminine people-pleasing stereotype. It’s a gross requirement – sexist and demeaning.

          “Bubbly” makes my teeth itch.

      2. Seeking second childhood*

        I can get pretty darned bubbly in social situations, but I grate on my OWN nerves if I catch myself doing it at work.
        Let’s hope this one falls out of circulation quickly.

      3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        I have had people describe me as “bubbly” and it always takes me aback because I really am not and I never can figure out why. I asked once and got, “You are generally in an [outwardly] good mood and keep everything upbeat during crises and stress”. Still don’t think that is bubbly

        1. Allonge*

          Which is reason 73468 why this is a wrong word to use in a job ad: wtf does it even mean? Especially referring to ‘personality’.

        2. Solidarity*

          If you presented as a man, you’d be told that you had an outgoing, dynamic personality.

          This is fully gendered bullshit.

          1. Girasol*

            I worked at a recruiter’s where the boss was never one to set morals above a paying placement. A hiring manager could call and say “I’ll only accept a woman” and job description would say, “perky,” which meant “don’t sent this guy a man or we’ll lose the account!” Conversely, “I don’t hire women” was coded as “must do heavy lifting.” It might be a file clerk who would never lift anything bigger than an overstuffed file folder, but there it was. We knew better than to send a strong woman because lifting was not the point. Occasionally we got a job description that said “perky. See Lee for details,” which meant that the hirer had specified details about the woman’s hair color and/or body measurements which had to be whispered and not be written down. I didn’t last long there but it was surely an education.

            1. TuxedoCat*

              “don’t sent this guy a man or we’ll lose the account!”

              Great, an assignment that would be terrible for the “lucky” woman who landed it, too, because keeping this guy’s account requires him being sent women to seduce in the office.

      4. LilPinkSock*

        It’s annoying to be friendly and high-energy? Maybe we have different definitions of the word.

            1. pancakes*

              I am not sure how you’re reading it as being about one in particular. I made a point of saying “women” rather than “woman” because it’s a generalization. It isn’t meant to apply to every single one. If I wanted to convey that I would’ve made a point of saying “all” or “every” or something along those lines. (That would of course be ridiculous).

        1. Rain's Small Hands*

          Often, yes. As someone who has spent a lot of time with “challenging” mental health is is often annoying to have someone around who is friendly and high energy. My problem, not yours. But sparkle isn’t something that is easily tolerated coming from others in all moods (and isn’t to be demanded of your coworkers).

          1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

            Yea it is tiring to deal with high energy people but mostly because everyone thinks that’s the right way to be so everyone is struggling to fake it.

          2. Ginger Dynamo*

            I find it helps to remember that those people often aren’t trying to sparkle or bubble *at* you. If they are, as if to teach you how or demand it of you, that’s a different story of course. But if they’re just going about their day with a positive attitude and a polite manner, I don’t think the annoyance is exactly fair. (And I say this as someone who gets annoyed by over-bubbly presentation. Usually my annoyance is because I can either tell it’s not genuine, or someone is being patronizing *while being bubbly*. The bubbliness itself is less annoying than the insincerity.)

            1. Please Mark This Confidential and Leave It Lying Around*

              I absolutely weaponized my good cheer at a colleague who was making life difficult for me. I caught on to how she could not deal with my chipperness at 9am and I sparkled ruthlessly. Years later, she’d moved on to another company and ugh! my department had to work with her! I braced myself for her revenge but all she remembered was that I was “really nice!” Eee!

              So no, I wasn’t trying to “teach” her anything but yeah: grumps use grumpiness to intimidate, sparklers can sparkle you into a heap of ash.

        2. Observer*

          It’s annoying to be friendly and high-energy?

          In some situations, YES. Not the friendly part, but the “high energy”. If I’m coming into a ophthalmologist’s office, I’m probably having headaches, problems seeing, or something else problematic going on. I really, really am not interested in a “high energy” interaction.

          Friendly? Yes. Empathetic? Would be nice. Efficient? PLEASE, YES!

          The rest? No.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            This. I do not want to be bubbled at in the doctors office. Calm, efficient and professional? Yes. Bubbly and bouncy like a champion cheerleader on uppers? No thanks.

      5. Ginger Dynamo*

        I get more annoyed by the personal expectation to be bubbly than by bubbly people themselves nowadays. That’s partially because I had to unlearn a lot of internalized sexism that taught me to find bubbly girls and women annoying because I hated the stereotype that I had to be bubbly too in order to be appropriately feminine. Disliking bubbly women because you don’t like the stereotype was like passing the situational blame for sexist expectations onto other women as though it’s their fault, in my case. It didn’t address the root of the problem, which was that a bubbly personality should not be required of girls and women for them to be accepted in social and professional spaces, even while some women do express that energy naturally.

    3. Riley and Jonesy*

      Ugh, and another word that is highly gendered is ‘feisty’. I was called that the other day when I was debating something with a client. It just sounds so limp and irritable rather than what I was hoping to convey which was taking a strong line of advice to my client.
      I’m pretty sure no man has ever been called bubbly or feisty. Except Graham Norton.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          I dunno I’ve been called feisty and I’m not short. Well not in height. I can be short in speech when I’m trying hard to filter my thoughts.

        2. Zephy*

          Yeah, “feisty” has a connotation of both “small” and “aggressive, but not an actual threat.” “Feist” is an archaic word for a small dog, like a rat terrier/dachshund/similar little dog bred for pest control. The etymology probably doesn’t support the extension of “noun for small dog that kills rats > adjective describing such dogs + noun denoting breeding female canines > extension of meaning to human females, derogatory = ‘feisty’ as a way to call a woman both nonthreatening and a b*tch at the same time,” but I would bet the venn diagram of people who use both of those words to describe women is a circle (or two circles with VERY slim margins that don’t overlap).

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Yep, I learned this one from Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ book The Yearling,. Jody’s father Penny bests Lem Forrester in a barter by skillfully snowing him into swapping an ineffectual feist for a really nice hunting rifle.

            It’s not an appropriate term to use in reference to a woman, especially at work.

      1. Seeking second childhood*

        I’ll add Agent Zed (Rip Torn) in Men in Black II, but that was spoken by sarcastic super-villain possibly tired of hearing the word about herself.

      2. lyonite*

        “Whip-smart” is the one that makes me irrationally angry. I mostly see it in book descriptions, always about a female character (because who would be surprised that a man is smart?) and it pretty much invariably leads me to put the book down.

    4. Irish Teacher*

      There’s also something childish about it. When I hear “bubbly personality,” I think of a teenage girl or recent college grad, who is very enthusiastic, but perhaps a little naive or childish. Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t imagine thinking of a woman in her 40s or 50s with a professional job as being “bubbly” at work. It conjures up a picture of a college student covering reception as a summer job and really enthusiastic about getting some work experience.

      Again, it may be just me, but it sort of conjures up a picture that buys into the idea that women are sweet and innocent and “nice” and not REAL professionals.

      1. Rain's Small Hands*

        You have never had “that” dental hygienist? A woman in her 40s for whom this is the perfect job because she gets to do an eight hour long monolog with her bubbly personality going overboard (and you get to hear about her cats, how anyone can talk about their cats for eight hours a day five days a week is beyond me – I like cats, I have three, but I’d run out of things to say after about five minutes).

        1. RussianInTexas*

          I have! I have one in my dentist’s office, and the receptionists tried to schedule my next appointment on the day I did not request because “you can have Fran again”, and I insisted it was ok I did not see Fran again.

      2. Weaponized Pumpkin*

        It can happen — I’ve been told at work that i have a bubbly personality and I’m a middle-aged consultant. I am quick to laugh and smile, can put off a lot of high energy, and tend to be quite expressive. One thing I like about being on video is I can see when I need tone it down because being too enthusiastic is “not professional”. Which, honestly, I think is kind of bullshit but I know I have to play the game in some environments.

    5. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      I’ve been described as ‘bubbly’ a few times and I’ve always hated it because I feel as though it often carries the connotation that I’m very enthusiastic, responsive and friendly — but then doesn’t offer credit for those qualities but positions them as attributes I only have because I’m too stupid, naive or uncomplicated to act any differently.

    6. This-is-a-name-I-guess*

      *gay* men will apply for those jobs. Which is further evidence that homophobia and sexism are two sides of the same coin.

      1. Rain's Small Hands*

        A friend of mine who does social justice work says “all the discrimination starts with misogyny, its the original sin of ‘some people are worth more than others'”

    7. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I find that “bubbly” is used to mean “female: fat but cheerful and pleasant” with all the unpleasantness that implies on every level. UK, so this may be dialect.

      1. Ginger Dynamo*

        I think there is some dialectical difference here, yes. Is the US, “bubbly” is often associated with the same contexts where you might use “ditzy,” without the obvious slant of intentional negative connotation. It’s associated with being naive or even childish, uncomplicated, and sometimes also young.

        1. Here we go again*

          Unless this position is for a cheerleader I don’t think bubbly is a trait that needs to be in a job description.

        2. Kal*

          Yeah, I’m in Canada, and for me the cliche “bubbly” person if I were to imagine it would be a skinny, white teenage girl who is fairly naive and energetic, and acts like everything is always happy, often even in situations where it isn’t appropriate. (Think Amanda Seyfried’s role in Mean Girls).

          The term brings so much cultural baggage with it, and it really shouldn’t ever be applied to jobs.

    8. Sparkles McFadden*

      During the interview for a post-retirement job, I was was told that the position required me to be “Happy and perky.” This was repeated three times during the interview: “We only want upbeat people. Can you be happy and perky every day?” I replied “I can be professional with bonus features of biting sarcasm and sardonic wit.” They ignored that completely and were somehow confused when I pulled myself out of the running.

      1. English Rose*

        What a fabulous response you made, @Sparkles. I wish I could think of things like this in the moment.

      2. DJ Abbott*

        Haha, they didn’t understand it. :D
        I’ve known a few people who ignore anything they don’t understand.

    9. English Rose*

      I’m a recruiter. I would NEVER use a phrase like that in a job ad, it’s grossly sexist.

      Interestingly though I have noticed this phrase crop up more and more recently in women’s (always women) descriptions of themselves in cover letters. “I’d be a great fit for this job because I have a bubbly personality…” I’m tempted to devise a standard email response pointing them to Alison’s site!

    10. NeedsMoreCookies*

      I’m left wondering if the bubbles they’re really searching for are located halfway between the neck and the navel, if you catch my drift.

  4. Heidi*

    Asking people to go without health insurance during a pandemic seems extra wrong to me. That would be good enough of a reason to ask without getting into the chronic illness. What’s the point of withholding that 2 months? Do they not want to do all the paperwork in case an employee quits in that period?

    1. learnedthehardway*

      It’s partly to make sure the employee works out before the company goes to the expense of having them on their insurance policy. It’s also partly the insurance company wanting to delay having to pay out insurance coverage as long as possible, and (possibly) also to prevent people from taking jobs just to get the insurance coverage and then quitting in short order (that seems like a lot of effort to me, but insurance companies really don’t like to pay out if they don’t have to).

      It is pretty standard in negotiations to request that the benefits waiting period be waived. I would definitely suggest asking. Whether it is possible or not would depend on the company’s and the insurance firm’s policies.

      1. MSWIntern*

        I work in healthcare. Every single one of my jobs had a waiting period where you had to work full time anywhere from a month to ninety days. I won’t even talk about the high-end retirement facility where I worked PRN (or per-diem, basically a substitute nurse) for a year before being offered a full time job. Then they screwed up my paperwork, which delayed me getting health insurance until I was working there full-time for six months.

        I am finishing up my MSW and am interviewing for a Case Management job in a hospital. This hospital offers health benefits on day one of employment. I really hope I get this job. I interviewed with the manager and even shadowed a potential colleague for two hours. I have a phone interview with HR this afternoon.

        But, yes, for me, health insurance always had a waiting period.

        1. Brooklyn*

          If anyone that follows this blog needed more of a reason to support single payer Healthcare, read this comment a few more times. A healthcare professional could not receive medical care FOR A YEAR AND A HALF while working in the field. This is abhorrent. It’s heartbreaking. The next time any feels guilty for not working overtime or for quitting and leaving the company in a bad spot, remember that if they could get away with it, most companies would do exactly this. This is the system we live in.

          1. MSWIntern*

            I’m definitely in favor of single payer healthcare. And that retirement facility’s mismanagement is what I think of when people squawk about the wait-times for single-payer. I actually wrote a very thorough research paper for school about why US needs Medicare for All. I talked about the real cause of long wait times, which basically boils down to lack of healthcare providers, regardless of payer source. I talked about how people still avoid purchasing health insurance due to cost, even with the ACA. I discussed how people with health insurance are more likely to access preventive care, helping them to lose weight and catching and turning the tide of prediabetes. I talked about how populations more prone to obesity and diabetes (low income minorities) are less likely to be insured and that these risk factors have been shown to lead to worse outcomes with COVID. I even cited research showing that having had Covid causes changes in your body that makes it more likely that you will develop diabetes. I talked a lot about how lack of adequate insurance leads to poor diabetes care and rationing insulin, leading to more uncomfortable and expensive complications like kidney failure (which could potentially require dialysis for the rest of a person’s life). I also cited research showing that, in the coming years, obese will be the most common weight category for low-income minority women. It had a lot of good information. I wrote it months ago, so I may be hazy on the specific details, but I can always dig it up if anyone is interested in reading it.

            1. Migraine Month*

              I find it interesting to get all the way to the end of the reasoning about the long wait times.

              “I don’t want single payer.”
              Why? “Because there are really long wait times for operations.”
              Why? “Because more people are getting healthcare, and those with more serious conditions are scheduled first.”
              Why? “Because without those operations, they would become much sicker and possibly die.”
              Why? “Because they can’t afford life-saving healthcare under the current system.”

              Yet very few people are willing to come straight out and say, “I’m fine with poor people dying just so I can get my non-emergency knee replacement surgery done earlier.”

            2. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

              I’d love to read it. I can get it to someone who can get it in front of Bernie Sanders and other Progressives.

      2. firestarter11*

        I can’t believe I’ve never heard of this, and that it’s so common! Without insurance in the US, everyone is just one bad accident away from lifelong debt, and that’s not even factoring in chronic illness.

        I had to go a few months without health insurance when I turned 26 because I was a grad student making $9,600 a year, Medicaid denied me (for no reason), and I wasn’t making enough to get a Marketplace/Obamacare plan. It’s such a scary experience! I was so careful driving during that time….

      3. HoundMom*

        It is not legal to change the waiting period for one person. It violates ERISA. If you change the waiting period for one person, you must do it for ALL people. If you don’t, the company and all plan participants lose the tax favored status of the benefits.

        The way around this is to ask the employer to pay for COBRA from the prior company. That happens pretty frequently.

    2. JSPA*

      My answer to, “I don’t know what employers who do this are thinking” is that they can weed out people with (expensive) existing conditions without, yknow, doing the explicitly illegal thing of, actively discriminating against people with existing conditions.

      1. anne of mean gables*

        Yup. My husband is in a similar situation as the OP – his (very effective) medication to manage a chronic, invisible autoimmune disorder would wipe out his salary without insurance. Luckily we are married and I have a very stable job with very good health insurance – otherwise his career (biotech startups) would be totally untenable for him. I am appalled that other commenters are saying this is relatively normal in their fields – chronic conditions aside, what about car accidents?

        1. Sotired*

          Car accidents — you can generally get paid under your or the other drivers auto insurance

          1. Clobberin' Time*

            IF your insurance is sufficient, IF the other driver is not uninsured or underinsured, and IF your insurance company does what it’s supposed to do, instead of delaying and dragging out payment to maximize the float time on whatever it invested your premiums in.

        2. Antilles*

          For the answer of “what about car accidents”, there’s basically three options:
          1.) Join your spouse’s policy temporarily as a “qualifying event” until your coverage kicks in.
          2.) Buy your own short-term policy, which is typically quite expensive.
          3.) Roll the dice and pray hard that nothing happens in the next X months before the insurance kicks in.

          I don’t have any statistics here, but I’m guessing that #3 is far and away the most common option.

          1. Antilles*

            As Sotired noted, for car accidents in particular, auto insurance probably covers it.
            So feel free to imagine the “car accidents” is more of a general term about completely unexpected medical conditions – sudden heart attack, a nasty flu, a broken bone from a fall, etc.

            1. JSPA*

              In plenty / most / maybe all? states, you’re not required to have car insurance that covers you (only the other person)…and I’ve never been hit except by people who were driving (illegally) without that minimum insurance.

          2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            I’ve always done #3 and hoped that it worked out. Mr. Gumption and I aren’t married so #1 isn’t an option and probably isn’t for many couples. What if the spouse doesn’t have health insurance either?

          3. Curmudgeon in California*

            Yep. I did #3 a lot when I was younger and unmarried. I simply couldn’t afford to buy my own insurance and had to wait fort my employer’s plan to kick in. If I was a temp, there was no insurance. ACA plans may be expensive, but at least you get one that actually covers stuff. Before the ACA individual plans were nearly impossible to find, didn’t cover much, and were too expensive for a young working person to even consider affording.

        3. Agile Phalanges*

          I have a chronic condition AND am accident-prone (I have a horse and fall off every few months, once got an ambulance ride, ER visit, CT scan, and concussion diagnosis while I was uninsured). So when I quit my job with insurance for another where it didn’t start for 90 days, I went on the healthcare exchange and insured myself for those months. I’ve also had a job that didn’t have ANY insurance, though, so I guess I’m used to it…

        4. EmmaPoet*

          I’m on surgery number 6 in the last 15 months, with at least two more to go. If I didn’t have my (really good) insurance through my govt job, I’d be bankrupt and possibly dead at this point.

      2. Inigo Montoya.*

        It is often a requirement from the insurance provider. They either require it or it costs the company less if there is a waiting period. I have had a waiting period at most of my private sector jobs, except for the ones at very large organizations. It is not necessarily “what is the employer thinking” because if they are a small org, they may not have a choice.

        1. Texan In Exile*

          Interesting. I worked for a health insurance company for five years and we never required a waiting period. It was completely the client’s choice. Clients who chose it did so because they had high-turnover jobs. This was back when everything was done on paper.

          But it was rare to have a waiting period – most companies had first-day coverage. (And we required employers to pay 100% of the employee premium, too.)(I miss those days.)

          Companies that chose it now? I would be surprised if the insurer is requiring it. I see it more as a meanness, because it’s very easy to enroll or disenroll someone from the plan now.

          1. Texan In Exile*

            And reading the comments from HR people, I see that this actually is a health insurance company thing now in some cases. So evil is everywhere.

    3. JustSomeone*

      Is this not standard? I’ve worked at 5 different organizations in my career, and all but one have had a 3-ish month period before benefits kick in. The only exception was not in the private sector.

      1. NewJobGuy*

        I just started a new private sector job at a ~50,000 person company and health insurance kicks in day 1.

      2. Shiba Dad*

        My experience has been similar.

        For example, I started my current job a few years ago (pre pandemic) and I had to work a full calendar month before I was on the companies insurance. I started in the first week of November. My insurance started January 1st. I had to go the COBRA route in the interim. This is a Fortune 500 company. I don’t know if this policy has changed since I started.

        I have heard of companies starting people on their insurance on day 1 but i have not experienced it myself.

        1. Smitty*

          I had the same experience at my most recent employer. I started in the first week of September. I had to work a full calendar month and then coverage began the 1st of the month after that. As a result my coverage started on 1 November.

          It’s rough because paying out-of-pocket for coverage during that time (through COBRA) is not inexpensive for an individual.

        2. Anya Last Nerve*

          This has been my experience at the 2 extremely large (over 100k employees) companies I have worked at too.

        3. Elizabeth West*

          I have not either. Exjob: one month until full benefits, including health insurance. Every other job: 90 days (that’s three months), or no insurance at all.

      3. Ela*

        Same. And as a result, my chronic illness got baaaaaad and I had to do a lot of expensive & time consuming care once I did have insurance. My manager is still kicking himself over this, years later, because it cost the company a lot more than continuous coverage would.

      4. Hannah Lee*

        It’s been typical for me too. And it’s typically done at the plan level, so it wasn’t possible to single out one employee for a different eligibility date.

        What I have seen is employees either using COBRA to keep prior coverage or getting on an exchange plan for a few months. Where the employer might be flexible is in reimbursing the employee for a portion of that cost during the 3 months. (whatever amount they contribute to premiums in their group plan) I’ve seen that negotiated a few times.

      5. As per Elaine*

        While I’ve had a waiting period for stuff like getting on the 401(k) plan, I’ve always had healthcare coverage effective day 1.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          These days most companies offer day one health coverage. It used to be many had ridiculous waiting periods, and I was uncovered a lot because of it.

      6. AdequateArchaeologist*

        Of my last three companies only one delayed health insurance. Funnily enough it was the one with the best benefits/premiums!

      7. kittycontractor*

        I don’t think I’ve ever worked a job where health care starts on Day 1 so I always just ran with COBRA from the previous job until the new one kicks in.

      8. Just Another Techie*

        I have never had a benefits waiting period — always full insurance, sick days, 401k matching, etc, on day 1 (although the 401k matching did have a vesting schedule)

      9. ThatGirl*

        In my first jobs out of college there was a short waiting period, but in the last ten years both my husband and I have been covered on day one of new jobs.

      10. Paris Geller*

        Yeah, any job I’ve ever had (in the public sector) or that my husband has had (private sector) has had a waiting period. The waiting period varies, but there’s always one. My current job had the shortest waiting period–30 days.

        1. Is it Friday? YAY!*

          I have a relative that just started working for our state government, and not only is there no waiting period, medical and dental coverage are free. It may be rare but it does exist.

          1. Paris Geller*

            Oh, it definitely happens–my dad spent most of his life working for (a different) municipal government that had no waiting period, paid 100% of their health insurance premiums, and free dental coverage. I believe vision was the only one not completely covered. It’s rare though–I don’t know of anyone else who has had that experience!

      11. Miette*

        Not standard in my experience. This has never been the case in the FTE jobs I’ve held.

      12. This-is-a-name-I-guess*

        Two nonprofit jobs, neither had great healthcare coverage.

        Current job: health insurance starts immediately.

        Previous job: health insurance starts on the first day of the first full month. This is partially because people are covered by their old insurance for the full month they leave. They would cover a month of COBRA or waive the waiting period if someone was unemployed previously and needs healthcare, especially if they start early in the month.

      13. kiki*

        All but one of the companies I’ve worked for had healthcare coverage starting day 1. I think there were some benefits with a delay (I think some specific vision and dental stuff?), but my actual health coverage started on day 1 everywhere but one company, which was very small. The small company’s insurance situation was a sticking point with hiring– I know several candidates explicitly called that out when they received their offer. I don’t know exactly why the small company had the delay and why they wouldn’t change it since it led to multiple promising candidates rejecting their offer, but the small company’s current employees were mostly in situations where they didn’t mind a gap in coverage, so the company was not very diverse.

      14. All Het Up About It*

        I’ve had a waiting period at most of my jobs if not all, but as I recall, it was 30 days or less for all of them. And when I was transferring straight from a job, that wasn’t a problem because we paid our health insurance a month in Advance, so I was covered by old job until new job kicked in.

        BUT – hard agree that gaps in health insurance are awful and yes, just another argument your heath insurance shouldn’t be tied to your job.

      15. RussianInTexas*

        Same, between a full calendar month to 90 days.
        The last job had 90 days of probation first and THEN you had 90 days before the insurance.

      16. firestarter11*

        I’ve honestly never heard of this! I am so glad it hasn’t happened to me. Do you just cancel all the medical appointments you had scheduled until the new insurance kicks in and hope nothing bad happens??

      17. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Not that I can recall, at least not in the past 22 years in my experience. I never even heard of a waiting period, at least not in my recent memory. I wouldn’t have been able to take a job like that before, when my kids were young, and won’t be able to now, when I’m older and have more health issues.

        I’ve worked at a place that did not offer any dental insurance, period. My current job offered no PTO in the first six months and one week in the second six. IOW, I’ve seen some bad benefit packages. But I don’t remember seeing or hearing about a waiting period on health insurance. That’s just scary. What do people do for these 3 months? COBRA is expensive. Is it possible to get a marketplace policy on short notice and just for the three months?

        At least we’re hopefully no longer in the olden days, when, if you had a gap in insurance coverage and also had preexisting conditions, you couldn’t get back on an insurance plan after. (Happened to a coworker’s wife back in the 90s. He got insurance from our employer, she was denied.)

    4. Snow Globe*

      It may just be bureaucracy, at least partially. When I started at my current job, you could sign up for health insurance right away, but they wouldn’t start taking deductions for it until the next pay period after you start – unless the next pay period was within a few days then the next pay period after that, and then you wouldn’t actually be on the insurance until the 1st of the month after the first deduction. Or something like that.

    5. Governmint Condition*

      In my state, which is one of the bluest, we have to wait SIX months for health insurance to kick in. I can only assume that somewhere along he line, they had a pattern of ghosting from people who only wanted the insurance and hardly bothered to show up for work.

    6. Susie*

      At my current company, it’s 30 days before medical coverage becomes effective. At some manufacturing facilities, it used to be 90 days, but I think they have changed that due to the pandemic. My husband’s vision coverage doesn’t kick in until after 6 months.

    7. straws*

      It’s awful, but sometimes it’s not the company’s decision. We tried to change ours to start on the first day of employment, but the plans that we are on wouldn’t allow it. We had to go with the 1st of the month based on start date. If the person starts on the 1st, they get immediate coverage, if they start on the 2nd, they have to wait until the 1st of next month. Makes zero sense to me, but as a tiny company we get very limited options. We also are definitely not allowed to make exceptions to the waiting period – everyone is treated the same and that’s that.

      1. Shoney Honey*

        Seconding this! I am in HR for a small company (just less than 50 people) and our plans don’t allow coverage to start the first day of employment and they enforce a 30-day wait. The effective date for coverage depends on the start date, similar to the comment above, but there’s 30 days added in, so it’s 30 days from the first of the month after their start date. So if I had someone starting today (7/21), for example, their coverage would not be effective until September 1st. I can’t stand it but we are not given a choice in the matter.

    8. Artemesia*

      COBRA while hideously expensive (although free if you don’t use it during a two month transition) is the solution if the job is sufficiently desirable, but two months is a long time; most places it is a month. The biggest risk would be if there was a major health crisis during this time and they couldn’t take the new job.

      I knew someone years ago who got a catastrophic diagnosis during the period between leaving one job and starting the next. He could not proceed but was lucky to get his old job to take him back so he had insurance during serious treatment. That was an unusual bit of luck.

    9. pancakes*

      “Asking people to go without health insurance during a pandemic seems extra wrong to me.”

      I was hoping people were thinking hard about that the last time we were deciding on whether the best the US can aim for is “affordable healthcare” (i.e., some people will not be able to afford it and they’ll just have to go without) but the rhetoric around affordability remains nearly as normalized as it ever was, more than two years in to a worldwide pandemic.

    10. RG*

      I used to do benefits administration in two different states for a small company and we did not have access to any plans without a waiting period. Literally was not an option for us. The minimum was first of the month after your start date (i.e., if you started on the 15th, you had to wait until the first of the month. If you started on the 31st, your health insurance kicked in the next day). I would not be surprised if this varied by state.

      I think it’s tempting to imagine employers are making conscious choices about these things, but the health insurance company sets these rules.

      Tips: try to negotiate COBRA cost coverage (which should be close to what they’re paying for your monthly insurance anyway) or a signing bonus to cover that cost. Many employers are able to do that. It’ll be post-tax, but it’s better than nothing!

  5. Pennyworth*

    Luckily the baby came to no harm, but in Cora’s shoes I would have taken it into the office and put it under my desk. Unless she was leaving it to scream in the car it sounds like a good sleeper. Then I would have rung a babysitting service (or even a temp agency) to see if they could find someone to sit in the car with the baby for the rest of the shift.

    1. Tinkerbell*

      A babysitting service where I live would easily cost 2x a secretary’s hourly pay or more, even if someone was available on short notice (and I’d not count on that, in this day and age).

    2. Budgie Buddy*

      Yes, of Cora’s limited options bringing the baby into the office seems much better than leaving the baby in the still-running car. (Was the key in the ignition? Did she run a killer gas bill? What were the chances of someone driving off in her car with her infant before Cora could hang up the phone and sprint out to the sidewalk. YIKES)

      Unless… “better” for Cora means strictly not getting caught m, rather than completing her shift with baby still alive and well. But if that’s the case why did she tell the other receptionists??? Did she assume they wouldn’t “snitch?” This is BONKERS.

      1. grubsinmygarden*

        We can only infer what Cora’s dialogue with the other receptionists was like.

        And one inference, mine, is that it’s possible that Cora told them about the baby in the car hoping they’d help her accommodate an alternative solution in the office. Or maybe offer to cover for her so she can take frequent breaks.

        1. Observer*

          Yes, I was thinking about that. And it makes me very, very sad. And mad. Because if that’s what happened, WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?!

      2. Here we go again*

        Did anyone hear of the car jacking with the toddler inside and the thief pulled over and dropped the toddler off on the side of the freeway!? This was a last month down shouts.
        Thank God for the Good Samaritan who pulled over and made sure the kid was safe and called the police. That thief should be charged with kid napping and attempted homicide on top of car jacking. Poor kid could’ve been ran over or even died of heat stroke, not to mention being kidnapped.

    3. Workerbee*

      If Cora could have gotten a babysitter in the first place, then there would have been no need to bring the baby to work. It does sound far more like an act of desperation. The gossipy co-workers could have turned their energy into helping her find a better solution, since they knew about it and were still talking about it afterward.

      1. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

        That’s what gets me! We have allowed one of our groomers (I work at a dog daycare) to bring her kids to work with her when she had no other options; one of the managers just tucked them into her office away from the dogs and kept an eye on them for her. Nobody had a problem with it.

        Same happened for a dog handler on a Sunday; they were tucked into the break room with snacks for the shift and nobody batted an eye.

    4. Ruby*

      I continue to be amazed at commenters on this site who think childcare can be just ordered like a pizza. That’s not how this works.

      1. Artemesia*

        Even for people of means childcare is extremely difficult. My toddler grandson’s day care was closed for a long time during COVID (and imagine the impact on employees there) and then when it re-opened could only take half the number of kids it had previously — and of course, has again closed now and then when a COVID case occurred and when kids have COVID in their family, they were not allowed back until quarantined and then tested.

        Child care has always been hard, but now it is hideously difficult.

    5. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      When I was a kid and my care fell through back in the 70s, my mom used to pull out her bottom filing cabinet drawer, empty it, stick me in it, and pray like hell I wasn’t going to make noise. When she had classes to teach (MBA program lecturer), she just brought me to class and stuck my stroller next to the podium and once again prayed like hell that I didn’t act up. Apparently her boss didn’t care as long as work was done

      1. Here we go again*

        When my mom did taxes and I had a snow day I had to go to work with her and put hundreds of stickers on Manila folders that said 1993.

    6. CoveredinBees*

      No. She would not be able to get someone same day, let alone in timely enough manner to get to work on time. Especially someone who can look after such a young kid. You also pay a premium for using those services on top of regular babysitting rates. Where I am, that’s $20+ per hour. Additionally, the companies often do a limited screening and you can choose to pay for a more extensive background check, which takes time and more money.

  6. Anon for this*

    As a medical professional, I highly disagree with the advice on #1. This was not only neglect, but could have easily ended with the death of this child. Keep in mind the heat index is over 100 degrees right now in many parts of the US:

    1. The baby could have slid down and suffocated
    2. The AC could have stopped or not kept up and caused the baby to die of dehydration/overheating
    3. The baby would have needed a diaper change in 4 hours
    4. The baby would have needed fed in 4 hours
    5. The baby could have been crying and was not being interacted with

    This should be reported to CPS. Your coworkers also should have insisted on bringing in the baby as soon as they became aware. I know people can be overwhelmed but what other times is this parent putting the baby at risk?

    1. Missb*

      I agree. I’m a mandatory reporter so there is no wiggle room for me. If I came across this situation, I’d be reporting it. That baby deserves to live.

      Sorry, I don’t have much concern to how much it could blow up her life. You don’t leave a baby alone in a car for multiple hours on purpose.

      1. Esmeralda Fitzmonster*

        I understand your point, but putting a desperate mother in an even more desperate situation increases the danger for the baby.

        1. Avocadon’t*

          Well, if the baby DIES because it was left alone in a car for hours in the middle of summer, nothing else matters. I’m horrified beyond horrified at the responses I’m reading here. Why do these commenters have so much compassion for the woman and so little for a completely helpless, dependent infant? I’m very sorry for the mom if she’s in such dire straits, but the number one thing increasing danger for this baby right now is the situation at hand. It has to be taken VERY seriously and addressed.

          1. Just Another Techie*

            I don’t think anyone here lacks compassion for the baby. The difference of opinion is how to best keep the baby safe. I, and other commenters, are arguing that helping mom will *also* help baby. Every single commenter has been very clear that the mom cannot ever leave her child in the car for an entire shift ever again. It’s a little dishonest to insinuate that anyone here thinks what the mother did was okay.

            1. pancakes*

              Yes, thank you. Really not a fan of attempts to disguise that with extremely emotive language.

          2. YetAnotherAnalyst*

            Because unless you’re advocating for the infant to go to foster care over this specific incident, the infant’s well-being is inseparable from the mother’s well-being. Compassion for Cora *is* compassion for her baby.

            1. Avocadon’t*

              Not if people are firmly advocating against even considering an action step that might protect the child because it might not be good for Cora. That is actively undermine the child’s interest in favor of the parent’s and we should not be acting like it’s fine and dandy. If a child is danger, someone needs to act, and a colleague having a conversation with the adult in question is highly unlikely to be the only puzzle piece needed. I’m horrified by so many of you here.

              1. Anonomouse*

                I think most of the commenters not advocating for calling CPS are looking at it from the perspective of (in many parts of the US) CPS has been shown to disproportionately take children from poor/non white parents and put them into a foster care situation that is overwhelmed/not well monitored/ potentially more hazardous than the described situation. I don’t think anyone is saying that this was OK but instead that involving CPS no matter the intent, may not help

              2. ThursdaysGeek*

                The child is not currently in danger. That’s the point. The idea is how to make sure this never happens again, but at this point, what is past is past, and the child survived. It’s horrifying thinking about what could happen – we all accept that! But it didn’t, so at this point, helping the parent is also helping the child. Ripping the child away at this point is NOT going to make things better, unless Cora is an unfit parent. It’s not clear whether she is unfit or stressed, sleep-deprived, and trying to figure out options and made a horrible choice that worked out this time.

                The fact that the others were gossiping instead of telling that they’d helped watch the baby in the office indicates that bringing the baby inside wasn’t an option either. It’s hard to make good decisions when homelessness can be staring you in the face. So the question was how to help her make better decisions so this never happens again.

                1. Avocadon’t*

                  If the child is currently under the care of someone who would knowingly leave them in a car for hours and surrounded by other adults who won’t take actions, then the child is in danger.

                2. firestarter11*

                  The fact that an adult woman thought it was okay to leave a child in the car for 4 hours is absolutely mind-blowing to me…. Granted, I don’t know her. Maybe it’s true that all she needs is someone to educate her on the dangers of leaving a child in the car. But I would be terrified that she would just hide the fact that her kid is in the car going forward, if she already showed such astounding lack of judgment.

                  I’m glad I’m not in LW’s position, but I would call CPS. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if a baby died over my inaction.

            2. EmRo*

              It feels like whack-a-mole to say this, but yet again one phone to CPS is not synonymous with foster care. There is a process to the remove the child and it is an absolute last resort. You would be amazed at the situations children are NOT placed in foster care.

              1. Wintermute*

                I wasn’t going to weigh in on this but… I had to agree with you.

                CPS fails far more often to remove children from very dangerous homes because they are set up to view it as a last resort than they remove children from ‘safe’ homes. It takes a LOT to get a removal order, I’ve seen children left in literal crack houses because there was food in the kitchen and the utilities were on and sure, there were drugs but they were out of reach of the child and sure, there were sketchy people coming and going at all hours but that isn’t enough.

                That is far more typical than a removal.

                Also important to keep in mind is that accepting what parents who have children remove tell other people and tell the media about the situation is believing a very unreliable narrator. Every parent who has a child removed spins it as a horror story of out-of-control government, but CPS often can’t tell their side of the story because of the parent’s privacy or it’s an ongoing investigation. It’s the same as believing someone when they tell you how they were fired “for no reason”, that’s probably not true.

          3. Accounting Gal*

            I agree 100%, I am absolutely horrified by the majority of responses to this post. This could have EASILY ended with this child dying, and at the very least implies she is comfortable with a shocking level of neglect and endangerment. I have an infant child and this chilled me to think of all these people that knew that baby was in the car and did nothing. The compassion here needs to be for the defenseless baby who is being neglected and put in immediate physical danger over that of a mother who has choices (none may be good, but they are still choices). Like YIKES.

            1. Accounting Gal*

              Also to add: I volunteered as a Guardian ad Litem for years so am very familiar with DHHS and the foster care system, and still this does not change the fact that this needs to be reported ASAP.

          4. Cold comfort*

            Don’t worry. If Cora had been asking to take an extra break to mind her baby, or for leave to find a babysitter, the commentariat would be shrieking in unison about how parents get the royal treatment at work about everything.

            1. Big Bank*

              That is unkind. Childless workers ask for the same flexibility that parents get to handle their also very legitimate emergencies, not to eliminate the grace that parents get.

              1. childless not heartless*

                Thank you for saying this… I have never seen a comment here advocating fewer benefits for parents, ever, and only people wanting them for themselves when they are asking to care for elderly parents, pets, etc.

                I have canceled my own doctors appointments so that people can take their kids to the doctor instead…. I’m just asking to be treated kindly the one time I have to take my cat to the emergency vet (it was treated like an imposition).

              2. Former Young Lady*

                This, thanks. Non-parents are not ticking time bombs of bitter jealousy. We’re just working our butts off, like everybody else.

          5. EmRo*

            I think the commenters are failing to understand the severity of what Cora did not only that it placed her baby in danger but that the line of thinking that led to this decision (and did not even involve asking her boss if there was a solution to make up hours or just this once bring the baby inside the office) may very well indicate a much more serious issue with her parenting and with the baby’s safety. Commenters are assuming this was just a one time desperate decision and since it ended up ok this time it’s just a matter of helping her find babysitters for next time. Hopefully that IS true. But OP is in no way trained to determine that nor offer any further type of support if necessary. The impaired decision making that led to this decision may very well be a danger to the baby. People have horror stories of CPS and foster care, particularly amongst non white families. I do not want to discount those stories in any way. However, my experience is the opposite, situations CPS failed to act that ended in tragedy, or the child(ren) were raised in neglect and abuse. I also know first hand of many situations where CPS was never involved and children experienced abuse. There are no easy answers when it comes these situations. But what happened here was NOT no harm, no foul, let’s move on. It was child endangerment. Full stop. Child endangerment should be reported. No excuses. The endangerment has to outweigh the other factors. That is why certain commenters like myself, and Avocadon’t are so astounded by so many of the other commenter’s reactions. It is not from a desire to punish or judge Cora. It is not about a lack of empathy for what may have led to Cora’s actions. It is not about not wanting to help Cora. It absolutely is about the baby’s safety and well being and prioritizing that above all other factors.

            1. firestarter11*

              Yes, you articulated what I was trying to say! This showed an astounding lack of judgement. It’s not like she had called OP to switch shifts, tried to bring the baby inside, called her manager to ask off or ask permission to bring the baby, or done any number of reasonable things.

              The fact that she thought this was fine makes me fear that she would just hide the fact that her baby is in the car next time, making the situation even more dangerous.

    2. Nursey Nurse*

      I agree. OP is presumably not a social worker, and she’s not equipped to handle all of the issues involved here. I understand that the child protection system isn’t perfect by any stretch, and that in some cases it does make situations worse. However, I find it really alarming that Cora was a) willing to leave her infant in a car for four hours and b) so unconcerned about doing so that she openly told her coworkers about it. This suggests to me that this might not have been a one-time lapse in judgment but rather a genuine lack of recognition of the potentially fatal consequences of her behavior. Cora’s family needs a risk assessment and referral to services, and I think that would best be done by a professional rather than a well-meaning but untrained coworker.

      1. Widget*

        “so unconcerned about doing so that she openly told her coworkers about it”

        This is presuming a state of mind without any evidence to support it. It could just as easily be the opposite: Cora telling her coworkers that her baby is in the car so that they’ll understand why she may need to quickly step away from the desk and run out to her car.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          And perhaps hoping they’d suggest bringing the child in. But they didn’t. So that wasn’t an option either.

    3. Cambridge Comma*

      I suspect many of the comments are from people who don’t know in detail what a four month old baby needs to be safe.

      1. Nursey Nurse*

        They also don’t seem to understand that CPS isn’t generally going to yank a baby out of their home due to one incident like this. I’m sure the people advising the OP not to call CPS mean well, but I don’t think they understand what actually happens in a CPS case.

        1. Mid*

          What actually happens in a CPS case varies wildly based on jurisdiction, race, class, and a lot of other factors.

          1. Anon for this*

            I’m frankly amazed that anyone here thinks that calling CPS would help. I work in a job where you have frequently to work with our version of CPS (European country), and in the many cases where the parents were outright dangerous I’ve never seen them do anything besides “go visit the family once a month”. They’ve send children back to theit parents with the whole pediatric hospital begging them to not give the children to those parents. 6 weeks later, one of the children is dying in the same hospital due to blunt force by the father. They’ve sent children back to the parents with documented violence (parents using a heavy metal object to beat up the children). It’s within their paperwork. It’s documented by a doctor. Child sent back. They remove one child after a documented, “the police comes and intervenes” case of violence. The four other younger children (also daughters, in the case of that kind of violence sadly relevant) are still with the same parents.

            If this was a case of an intentionally dangerous and violent parent, the CPS would likely do no good at all (and later be shocked that the child is dead). Sorry I might be a bit bitter but there’s a reason for it. And yes I’ll call them if I need to (hoping they do their job this time) but “I’ve called CPS, now the danger is banned” is… not how it works.

            1. Anon for this*

              That doesn’t mean that Cora needs the baby removed or that the baby needs to be removed from her! Cora needs a better paying job with more human coworkers and managers and friends etc who are able to care for the baby if she needs help. And a less stressful life so the next time she will be able to think “wait, no, that’s completely unsafe, I won’t leave my baby in a car”

            2. Irish Teacher*

              I think that the situation you describe probably WOULD help in Cora’s case though, since if they were visiting the family once a month, she could ask their advice about services available if she is in such a situation again, availability of low cost childcare, etc. I don’t think this is similar to the cases you describe because it is likely that what Cora needs is advice and possibly financial support rather than having her child taken away from her.

              The ideal result here would be for CPS to call, ask her about what happened and possibly tell her “we can arrange for your baby to get a free/subsidised childcare place. Fill in these forms” or “you are eligible for x payment to help cover childcare. Fill in this form.”

              The situations you are talking about are appalling and it sounds like they were really badly handled, but this one sounds like a much easier “fix” for social services than those.

        2. Bagpuss*

          I wouldn’t assume that telling her coworkers means she was unconcerned. I would have thought it’s more likely she was worried and distracted and told them for that reason, and perhaps if she was taking more/ longer breaks in order to check on the baby.
          Of course it wasn’t a safe thing to do but I don’t think you can assume that she was blasé about it

        3. mom of 2*

          A lot of things can happen once CPS is involved. I’ve seen CPS do lots of things they are not “supposed” to do. Never to families with money though, isn’t that interesting.

          1. Fuzzyfuzz*

            Upper middle class friends of mine had to go through multiple hoops with CPS when a medical professional erroneously reported a skin condition their child had as being an STD (it was not even close). It happens.

          2. KoiFeeder*

            Someone in one of my autism advocacy groups has discussed their school calling CPS and basically accusing her father of incest in retaliation for the father expecting them to actually honor her IEP. Why does she know that? Because CPS talked to her dad and told him that. Including that someone from the school reported it.

            Fortunately, this was a case where nothing was going on and the worker was basically warning her father that the school was not on his side. And honestly, this was probably not the first time the school had pulled a move like this. But if something really had been wrong? Things could have gone very, very badly.

        4. Nursey Nurse*

          Yes, I’m aware that risks vary, and that there are issues with the child protection system. But I think the small possibility of the child being removed from their home following a single report of neglect (and it is a small possibility, no matter how many anecdotes people have heard from their cousins or seen on the news) is outweighed by the very real possibility that Cora might do something like this again, and that the outcome for her baby might not be so good next time.

          I understand that people will disagree with me, and that’s fine. But I didn’t want the comments section to turn into one loud scream of “Never CPS!” We don’t know the situation here, and it’s possible that a call to CPS might be in the best interests of this baby. Frankly, I think all the advice that OP is getting to give Cora a stern lecture and offer to babysit sometimes is both naive and dangerous.

          I’m going to leave this here now.

          1. yala*

            You really think it’s a small possibility that they’d remove a child from a home in this instance, especially if the mother in question is in a situation where this was her best option? (implying poor, limited resources, etc)

            1. firestarter11*

              I’ve witnessed a child coming to school with a black eye after being beaten in the head with a baseball bat. She was not removed from the home. Her parents who beat her with the baseball bat were not white or wealthy.

              I know it depends on where you are, but in my experience, children are not easily removed from abusive or neglectful homes.

        5. Nursey Nurse*

          Actually, because data is important, I looked this up. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services publishes a child maltreatment report. The report includes statistics related to child protection reports of harm and their dispositions. According to the 2020 report, there were 3,925,000 reports made to CPS regarding 7,065,000 children. Of those 7 million kids, 173,079 were put into foster care.

          This means that .02% of children who were the subject of reports of harm were put into foster care. So is there a risk? Yes. Is it a small risk? Also yes.

          1. Lilo*

            I worked in the family court system and I’ve seen really bad cases where the kids weren’t removed.

            You can’t leave children in a potential harm situation because “what if they get removed”. Kids die that way.

            1. AcademiaNut*

              Whatever its flaws, CPS is who you need to call if a child is being neglected or abused, and a baby being left for hours in a carseat in a car (in summer!) is neglect, regardless of the motivations or situation of the mother. This is a situation where things can go bad really fast, and if they go bad, a kid is dead.

              1. Allonge*

                CPS or 911 is who OP should have called if they witnessed this in person (likely after they talked to Cora who refused to do anything in the moment, because otherwise at least 911 is not needed).

                The immediate danger is now not there; so OP can at least consider some alternatives, e.g. talking to Cora to make sure she knows this is a bad idea and why, their manager or, I assume, calling CPS for advice without naming names first? I don’t know if that is a thing but it sounds like it should be. The point is that all these can be done parallel to each other.

          2. Irish Teacher*

            Yeah, I’m not American so don’t know anything about child services there, but I do think that advice online often seems to assume “reporting to child services” = “telling child services to remove the child there and then and they have no other choice other than to do so.” I cannot imagine that being the case in many places, given that keeping children in foster care is expensive. A lot of people don’t even seem to be aware that child services have options beyond “place the child in foster care” and “ignore the referral.”

            Again, I don’t know enough about services where the LW lives, to know whether phoning child services is likely to get her support in finding free or cheap childcare or whether it is going to be more adversarial. And I definitely defer to Alison who has experience with child services, when I don’t.

            But it is a pattern I see, sometimes for pretty minor things or things that probably have an innocent explanation but should possibly be investigated in case, an assumption that calling = children automatically end up in foster care.

          3. Curious*

            Umm, while I agree that data is important, the numbers that you cite yield 2.4% put into foster care.

            On the other hand, if Cora’s situation is so desperate that she truly has no choice but to leave a 4 month old in a car, then, regardless of the societal failings that may have caused that situation, maybe that is what needs to happen. I don’t see OP successfully acting as Cora’s savior.

            1. Nursey Nurse*

              You are 100% correct, I made a math error! I’d edit my post, but that’s not an option.

          4. JJ*

            Social worker here. While the overall statistics are low for children being removed, the child in question is an infant. In the case of a 4 month old, CPS will react much faster and more strongly compared to a call concerning a 10 year old, who can independently unbuckle a seat belt and open car doors. Infant being taken away from mom in this case is much more likely, and I’ve seen it happen.

            Speaking of kids in cars–also consider child safety locks! Even older kids can get stuck in cars when they can’t open the doors from inside. Teach kids to climb up front and open the front door or honk the horn. Don’t leave them in the car to begin with, preferably, but there are all too many heartbreaking stories of unintended consequences.

            Apologies for long comment–I see many families involved with CPS in some form, and it is such a crapshoot whether the worker you get is helpful or not. Everyone commenting here agrees that baby and mom need help. Reporting to CPS is not the end all be all to helping this family, and not reporting is not the same as doing nothing. Actual, helpful resources will address the core needs of the family, not penalize or place further burden on mom for decisions borne from desperation and limited options.

        6. Ann*

          Really? A friend grew up in foster care, and her baby was taken over much less than that. She came under tremendous pressure to give him up for adoption. She could not get him back for two months – a nursing infant, mind you. Her crime was leaving her foster home to live with extended family. That’s all. This was considered “unsafe” and they knew she had no money for lawyers to prove that this is nonsense. All she could do was keep showing up to appointments and hoping for the best. You’re probably going to say that of course there had to be a bigger reason, maybe she was an addict, maybe someone else in the family had a criminal record? Nope. She got her baby back eventually, after CPS could not substantiate what risk she’s supposedly subjecting him to. But first they put her through that horror.

          1. EmRo*

            Maybe living with her extended family WAS dangerous in that situation though. After all, there is a reason she was placed in foster care instead of with extended family in the first place. CPS may be privy to what was happening in the extended family that wasn’t common knowledge.

            1. Ann*

              No. These were not the same people that caused her to end up in foster care. But if course, here it is – the entirely unsurprising “she probably did deserve it” comment.

              1. EmRo*

                I think there has been a misunderstanding here. I get that the extended family is not the original cause of the issue, but I am asking why she was not placed with the extended family and instead placed in foster care. I have no idea what you mean by I think she deserves it.

        7. Accounting Gal*

          Agreed! Worked within the foster care system for years and generally it takes a HIGH level of abuse or neglect to remove a child from the home, I think many of these commenters would be shocked. I worked with parents who literally tried to kill their children, left them with sexual predators, etc. and the children were still not removed. It is a last resort and even then the primary goal is always reunification with the parent AFTER the parent is provided with state funded resources for learning how to be a better parent/finding legal gainful employment/etc.

    4. Cheezmouser*

      I understand all of this as a mom of two small children, but I also can’t help think that this isn’t out of ignorance or malice but rather desperation. If I was hanging on by my fingernails and my options were a) leave child in car where I could see them while I work, b) bring child into office with me and risk getting fired, or c) take the day off and lose the money I desperately need for food or housing, then option A can seem like the least bad option. It’s no secret that many positions don’t pay a living wage, childcare is expensive and not always available, and not everyone has PTO. I’m pretty sure no parent WANTS to leave their child in a car for hours. But what else are you supposed to do if you have no childcare but need to work?

      1. Cheezmouser*

        My point is, instead of condemning Cora for her choice, we need to offer real solutions

        1. Nursey Nurse*

          I’m not condemning Cora for her choice. The choice has been made and the situation is in the past. I am saying that based on this choice Cora obviously needs help keeping her baby safe, and that a stern talking-to from OP and the phone number for a local daycare aren’t adequate solutions.

          1. Lilo*

            The problem is you can’t be looking at long term solution when you’re in the middle of an immediate danger situations. When someone’s hanging off a cliff by their fingernails, the immediate response can’t be “we need to install a fence there”. Installing a fence might be a good idea, by you have to get the person dangling off the cliff out of danger first.

            It is in no way exaggerating to say this is an immediate danger situation. If this happens again, the office needs to understand that it can’t continue for a second longer. Helping Cora long term is important but in the moment you can’t let the dangerous situation just play out. You have to call 911.

            1. Nursey Nurse*

              I agree, but the question to Alison wasn’t what to do in the moment (OP was pretty clear she’d intervene) but what to do now.

              1. Lilo*

                Telling the staff they need to call 911 in the future is a start. If this situation plays out again, for Cora or anyone else, someone has to know they need to act in the moment.

                1. AAA*

                  If you make this the workplace policy, isn’t Cora just going to leave the baby somewhere that she can’t even see it next time and not tell anyone?

                2. AAA*

                  In the short-term, though, seems like the compassionate thing that OP could actually do is advocate, with her coworkers, for Cora to be allowed to bring the baby inside for her shift if it’s a true emergency situation….or if there’s any WFM flexibility for these jobs at all, this is the time to figure that out.

      2. Mid*

        This. If the LW wants to help Cora, they should advocate for childcare stipends for all employees with dependents, offer to cover for Cora’s shifts if they’re available, make sure their employer is offering generous PTO and flexibility for parents who are faced with the childcare crisis (because it is absolutely a crisis, there literally isn’t enough childcare available and people are desperate and stuck in terrible lose-lose situations that are completely out of their control), advocate for her employer to allow children to be in the office when there are no other options, volunteer to babysit, research childcare options in their area that could support Cora, or any of the other 175 options that don’t attack Cora and her family and potentially cost her her livelihood.

        1. Anon for this*

          Helping Cora is a nice sentiment, but the priority here is ensuring the safety of the child, and none of your suggestions realistically addresses that.

          1. Despachito*

            I disagree – helping Cora will definitely ensure the safety of the child, because she would no longer have to leave it in her car.

            If Cora is a moderately decent person and did it out of desperation, what point would there be to get her in even more trouble by reporting her to childcare services (which, as Alison suggested, may cause her problems instead of being helpful)?

            I think the humane thing would be to offer some help to Cora (after discussing it with the manager). Is there a spare room where Cora could put her child in, and monitor it? It is not ideal but still better than the car. Could the coworkers collect some money for Cora to pay childcare if her problem is money?

            1. NewJobGuy*

              These are solutions for the next Cora. The baby could literally die tomorrow. And, physical harm aside, this is cruel to the child.

              1. Nameless in Customer Service*

                No one’s arguing in favor of leaving the baby in the car. *shudders* “Helping Cora” is not the same as excusing/approving of leaving the baby in the car. However, helping Cora may help prevent her from doing something so dangerous and desperate ever again, and involving CPS may actually not be helpful, depending on many factors including demographics and luck. It’s more complicated than “punish Cora, rescue the baby.”

          2. mom of 2*

            Helping Cora is helping the baby. Removal can cause lifelong trauma. People shouldn’t end up with CPS cases because they can’t find child care or afford to lose their jobs.

          3. Allonge*

            ?

            Why does offering to babysit or finding out if the employer could offer a room to put the child in not ensure the safety of the child?

          4. bamcheeks*

            You cannot treat the safety and wellbeing of a baby as something separate from the safety, wellbeing and security of their caregiver. That attitude is exactly why society *cannot* guarantee the safety and wellbeing of babies.

            1. yala*

              For real tho. This feels kinda like how we get the whole “domestic supply of infants” mindset.

          5. hbc*

            So…what is your suggestion for ensuring the safety of the child? Dozens of comments are here saying that CPS won’t remove the child, and it’s not like knowing they’ll show up at her house next month will make a cheap babysitter magically appear next week when her usual caregiver cancels.

            “Tell the authorities” is usually an option that makes us feel better but often doesn’t survive any scrutiny regarding outcomes.

            1. yala*

              For real. If CPS is called, I’m not sure what they would do to HELP this situation, especially after the fact?

              Heck, why even call 911 or CPS in the situation itself if Cora is right there and you could just tell her “go get the kid now, and we’ll figure something out, but get that kid out of the car NOW.”

              1. bamcheeks*

                I mean, what they should be able to do is make an assessment — why did Cora make this decision, what resources were available to her, is she aware of them all, is there more stuff they can hook her up to now they know she’s struggling, etc etc. Whether or not they can and will do those things depends on tons of stuff like the quality of the local services, the levels of funding and how stretched they are, plus all of Cora’s demographic information and how she presents on any given day. But there are tons of things CPS *should* be able to do in this situation that aren’t simply separating her from her mother.

                1. Ann*

                  And there’s no guarantee that they *will* do something constructive, because yes, quality of local services can be pretty horrifying.

          6. Mid*

            They absolutely do address that, because they create an environment where someone isn’t forced into dangerous situations out of desperation. And Cora is likely scared to speak up, because she probably can’t risk losing her job.

        2. Beebee*

          But LW may not have the power or ability to do any of this. And these things would take time to achieve which may be too late to help Cora and her kid

          1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

            Getting approval for Cora (or any other employees) to bring a baby into the office during a childcare emergency would take less time than a CPS investigation, if their boss is even a little bit reasonable.

            1. Temperance*

              OP is a receptionist. Do you really think that a receptionist has the political capital and pull to make massive, systemic changes like that?

              1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

                It’s really not a massive systemic change to say “yeah, your kid can stay in here as long as they’re not disturbing things”! In a small office (medical, dental, car repair, real estate, etc) that’s not going to be an unreasonable ask. And even in a large office with elaborate corporate bureaucracy, like the place I’m working now, it probably wouldn’t have to go past her grandboss for approval.

          2. Mid*

            True, but she can work with a group of her coworkers and advocate for everyone, as opposed to expecting the person that is struggling to make things work risk their position to ask for these changes. If OP really wants to help Cora and cares about children, then they can advocate for changes that help everyone. Because I highly doubt that Cora is the only one in the office struggling with childcare issues.

        3. Nikkole*

          LW is a receptionist in an office. they would not have any control over childcare stipends or PTO or anything else. I’m guessing she is likely in the same kind of position as Cora.

          At some point CORA needs to bear some responsibility. If LW can advocate for these policies, why can’t Cora? if LW can research childcare options, can’t Cora do the same?

          LW is not the one that left a baby in the car. it’s not up to her to work these things out for Cora. Yes, she should have told Cora to take the baby out of the car and bring them inside but to assume it’s her job to manage Cora’s life is ridiculous.

          1. Allonge*

            LW was the one who wrote in for advice / ideas on what they could do though. Obviously they cannot implement everything that is suggested here, but we are talking to them, not Cora here.

          2. bamcheeks*

            It is Good to advocate for things you don’t personally need yourself. You’re at less risk that in itself is a power they don’t have.

          3. Unaccountably*

            It is the work of *everyone* in a society to make sure children are safe and those in need have resources. Everyone.

            If you won’t do that work for other people, don’t complain when no one is willing to do it for you.

        4. Here we go again*

          Cora seems really like a young mom and more afraid of the consequences of loosing her job than the consequences of loosing her baby. I really empathize with her. Someone needs to tell her “there is not one single job on the planet worth putting your baby in danger. Jobs come and go your child is forever and more important. Sometimes it’s better to take the write up or loose the job for calling out.”

          1. Ann*

            What will happen to her and her baby if she does lose her job? At the moment, NYC has 100,000 homeless children. If you lose your job and you have no safety net (and it looks like Cora doesn’t), no one will spend that much effort helping you out. The best you can hope for is a spot at a homeless shelter, if your town has one.

            1. Here we go again*

              Anything is better than being dead. Everyone who worked there should’ve told her to bring the baby inside right now! It’s the humane thing to do.

    5. Julia*

      Maybe the advice could be combined. If LW talks to Cora and Cora immediately dissolves in tears of guilt and makes an actionable, credible plan to ensure this will never happen again, perhaps CPS doesn’t need to be called. If any other possible outcome happens, CPS.

      It’s just that… CPS kind of sucks. Those workers are trying their best and they’re heroes for going into that line of work but it is incredibly under-resourced and Alison’s right that there are systemic problems around race and class. At the same time, if this happened again and I had not gone to CPS I would find it hard to forgive myself.

    6. JSPA*

      I read it as, she sat a sidewalk-and-desk distance away from the baby, looking directly at the baby, through a giant window. There are cities where this is very possible. It’s still a dangerous choice (because of heat, car fumes etc)… but if she had been 20 feet away from the baby at home, something going wrong would likely have gone un-noticed for as long or longer. We don’t send in CPS if we find out that someone rich took a long bath 4 rooms away from where their baby was sleeping in a car seat. (Which, to be clear, is also a risk.)

      1. Mid*

        Exactly. I’m very well versed in infant safety, and while this wasn’t the most safe option, it’s not the most dangerous thing people likely do with their infants on any given day.

        1. Anon for this*

          The temperature and carbon monoxide factors alone absolutely make this situation potentially deadly for an infant.

          1. pancakes*

            Carbon monoxide is hugely dangerous when there’s a leak. Let’s back up a moment and discuss when or where it was a factor here? The fact that it theoretically may have been does not mean the baby is presently in danger of carbon monoxide exposure.

          2. Mid*

            And there’s a risk of carbon monoxide at home, as well as temperature issues. My apartment building doesn’t have AC and has south facing windows, it can easily get over 100*F in my apartment. I’ve lived in buildings that didn’t have carbon monoxide alarms (which is illegal, but good luck getting a slumlord to enforce that.) Places can have gas leaks. Kids can fall off a couch. SIDS is a thing too. There are so many risks and dangers every day, and again, no one is saying that people should leave their children in a car, but given all the other possibilities, we need to stop acting like this was the same as dropping the car seat in the middle of the freeway and hoping for the best. Cora made the best decision out of numerous terrible options, and the child is okay. What do you suggest is a better solution here?

        2. JSPA*

          I’d say it is indeed more dangerous by some factor (exact details depend on what her ability was, to monitor the a/c, whether the car has holes that allow fumes in, what sort of lock / fob etc) than what most people do in a day, or a week. But less dangerous than leaving a baby in a non-a/c car out of sight, to nip in to the store for milk and eggs. If I understand her level of “eyes on” correctly, this was an inadequately supervised baby, not an unsupervised baby.

          If the system in the state asks questions and provides training and support, it’s the right answer. If it’s a state with a broken system, where kids get yanked for 3 or 6 months pending any support or investigation, and also a state that has problems with abuse in care… you have to be looking at present harm or a pattern of neglect. Now, thus could be part of a pattern of neglect. But ending up fired and homeless? That’s also a risk to the baby.

          1. Cambridge Comma*

            It’s not safe for the baby to be in a car seat that long, even if the car seat were inside an air conditioned building. I don’t know how Cora would be able to distinguish between positional asphyxiation and sleep without being in the car.

            1. C*

              Yeah, positional asphyxiation really does look exactly like sleep. It’s why they tell you to never leave a sleeping baby in a carseat, swing, or any other similar device. Leaving a baby in a swing while you take a bath would be just as dangerous. Just having a baby’s head droop forward for a few minutes will do it.

              Plus the air conditioning can break even if the car’s still running, and she wouldn’t be able to see that from her desk, either. Car running =/= air working properly.

              1. bamcheeks*

                At four months I’d only just grown out of having complete panics that the baby wasn’t breathing and stopping the car to check.

              2. hbc*

                Maybe that advice is given out, but almost everyone I know had those removable bassinet-style car seats that strapped into strollers so you didn’t have to disturb the sleeping kid. I would have been looked at like a crazy person if I insisted that they remove their child or check on breathing every five minutes.

              3. doreen*

                And positional asphyxiation has become such a well-known event * that people I know with babies don’t even let them sleep in the car while driving unless there is an adult actually in the back seat. Best case scenario is that Cora is unaware of a risk that she really should know about.

                * I don’t remember hearing about it when my kids were infants 30+ years ago, but I’ve heard plenty in the past few years.

                1. Unaccountably*

                  As someone who has sat in traffic with an infant in the car, I’m gonna have to say that the people you know are, well, fudging a little bit. When babies are exhausted, they cry. When they’re exhausted and pissed off, as most of us are when woken out of a sound sleep for no reason, they scream. Loudly.

                  Don’t get me wrong, I too was going to do All The Things Right before I had kids because I knew absolutely everything about raising them and what to do in every situation. Then I had them and life became a much more complicated place, and then I had to do a lot of nodding and smiling when people with no kids talked about not letting your child sleep on the commute home and checking their breathing every five minutes.

                2. Doreen*

                  They aren’t fudging , actually. They schedule things so that the kid will be awake during the commute and short drives or both parents are in the car for longer trips, one driving and the other in the backseat. I’m not sure I would do it, but my daughter and my nieces and nephew do.

                3. JSPA*

                  You’re talking about two parent families with support networks; the question posits a single mother without family in the area, and possibly no support network. So it’s not, “what’s the best one could theoretically do,” but “what’s within reasonable bounds, beyond which the state must step in?”

                  We all agree this wasn’t a good solution. The question is whether OP must directly point child protective services at the situation, as the best, most effective way to make sure the kid is safer, rather than less safe.

                  And the answer is still, “it really depends, and it depends in ways that will likely become clear when the boss talks to the employee mom.”

            2. JSPA*

              OK, I’ve never driven 6 hours with a baby, but I’ve certainly driven 6 hours at a stretch, and have (equally) known babies to sleep for 6 hours.

              When people drive 6 hours with a sleeping baby, are they supposed to stop the car to check? Wake the baby up? Or what? Listening for baby breathing seems unlikely to be effective, if there’s any road noise.

        3. Lilo*

          It actually probably is.

          I have to tell you if I saw a baby left in a car by itself, I’m going to immediately call 911. A car can heat up to deadly temperatures within minutes on a sunny 70 degree day. With the 100+ degree weather?

          I think it needs to be clear that employees call 911 for any baby left in a car.

          A baby left in a car is absolutely an immediate emergency situation and should be treated as such. Does it sucks for Cora? Sure. But the immediate danger to the baby is the emergency situation that has to be resolved asap. You can’t let a potentially deadly situation just play out because of some vague fear of CPS. That’s how kids die.

            1. CheesePlease*

              wow you’re making a lot of assumptions about Cora. I don’t think it’s charitable to discuss the reliability of her car or other aspects of her life.

              1. pancakes*

                Good opportunity to inject unnecessary drama / a hinge to catastrophize on, though. Maybe she was sipping from a bottle of gin as well? (Yes I am being sarcastic!)

          1. bamcheeks*

            Actually yes, this is something else that LW could speak to her manage about. It’s pretty normal for frontline reception staff to have some kind of first-aid, first line-response, how-to-escalate Situations training. It would be worth management making sure all staff are aware that a baby (or a pet, but especially a baby!) left in a car is ABSOLUTELY a situation that needs to resolved immediately or escalated. Alongside figuring why Cora made that decision and what support she needs from her employer, emphasising just how serious that situation was and that everyone has a responsibility to AC t immediately is really important. Cora needs to hear that too.

          2. un-pleased*

            Seriously. I would also consider that a bystander might see the baby there and break a window to get the baby out because they just see a baby left alone in a parked car, engine running or no. It doesn’t matter whether desperation or any other reason is why the baby is in the car if the baby comes to harm.

            (It’s also weird to me that people buy this is the first and only time she has done this. Perhaps it really was the first time she did it at work but I’d be curious whether she also does it other places.)

            1. Mid*

              I wouldn’t assume she did it in other places, given that you can bring a baby in pretty much everywhere except some workplaces. I’ve seen babies at bars, medical offices, tattoo shops, and literally everywhere else that people spend time, because they don’t risk being fired for bringing their child inside during their shift.

        4. Temperance*

          Babies aren’t supposed to be kept in a car seat for hours and hours. Positional asphyxia is a real thing.

      2. Snoozing not schmoozing*

        The chance of a car sideswiping your house vs. your car and hurting or killing your child makes it a huge difference. The chance of someone stealing your car vs. invading your house and taking the child makes a huge difference.

        1. Just Another Techie*

          The chances of baby dying from positional asphyxiation in an unattended baby rocker or swing are exactly the same as the risk of positional asphyxiation in a car though.

          1. Everything Bagel*

            Do people typically leave 4 month old babies in swings for 4 hours? Having your kid in a room in a swing where you can easily walk over and physically check on them and reposition them is different than looking through windows at the child sitting in a car seat.

      3. Nursey Nurse*

        I think this is a little disingenuous. If you’re 20 feet away from your baby at home, you can hear them if they cry or become distressed. You can check on them frequently. Depending on the layout of your home, they might even be in line of sight. The likelihood that Cora would have been able to clearly see her child from 20 feet away through two glass windows is very low unless she has X-ray vision, and the likelihood she would have been able to hear her distressed child over the sounds of her engine running and other ambient noise are even lower.

      4. bamcheeks*

        I’m sure this varies baby to baby, but being 20 feet away from a four-month old baby for four hours (when you are awake) and not going to them, touching them, checking them, etc would also be a fairly alarming, to be honest. I mean, yes, babies sleep a lot, and occasionally they sleep for a long time, but 2.5 hours would be a long nap for most 4mos and simply … not checking them or going within 20 feet of them for 4 hours would be pretty extraordinary in most homes, I think.

        1. Lilo*

          Just leaving an infant without checking their diaper that long can cause harm (a baby can rash up in minutes from some poops, diaper rash when bad can lead to open sores and infections). This is a pretty clear case of neglect.

        2. CheesePlease*

          I also think it’s unfair to assume Cora didn’t go and check on her baby. The OP wasn’t there for Cora’s shift, only overheard gossip afterwards. Perhaps Cora took a 15min bathroom break every hour to feed and change and hold her baby. Perhaps she had set up a baby monitor. Maybe coworkers covered for her during a 30 min lull in clients. Neglect would have been to leave the baby at her house alone until she got home from work. This is a very risky and dangerous choice, but not neglectful if she felt she had no other options.

          1. bamcheeks*

            I don’t think it’s “unfair” so much as that doesn’t make it safe? Whatever the gaps between checking up on the baby are– 20 minutes, 45 minutes, 60 minutes, the full two hours– they’re all quite long enough for a baby to overheat or asphyxiate in a carseat. This isn’t to assume the worst of Cora, it’s just there is no amount of anxiety or regular checking on the baby that makes this a safe situation.

            1. Mid*

              Right, but then those time periods are also long enough for something to happen at home if the parent is sleeping, showering, cooking, listening to music, doing laundry, etc.

              1. bamcheeks*

                I mean, this is super dependent on lots of things, but I never really did leave my kids for longer than 20 minutes in the house? Even now they’re 7 and 4 then 20 minutes is about the longest I’d leave them without checking on them if I couldn’t hear them playing. They were in the room whenever I was cooking, doing laundry etc.

              2. JustEm*

                When my baby was four months old showers were 2-3 minutes with the baby in a bassinet/pack n play in the bathroom with me or in adjoining room. She was never left alone for any significant length of time – really no time at all. Also a carseat is WAY more dangerous than the floor or bassinet due to risk of positional asphyxia, and a car can overheat and kill a baby in minutes if the AC cuts out – not true of a house or apartment.

          2. E*

            Honestly it would be safer to leave a baby in a crib at home alone than strapped in a carseat in a car alone for 4 hours. Still very bad!!! But you are WAY underplaying how dangerous this choice was.

            1. CheesePlease*

              I am a mother to a young infant. I am well aware of how dangerous hot cars can be, and understand the risks of asphyxiation. I’m just saying that the speculation by many in the comments section) that the baby was left alone, unfed, unchanged and unmonitored for all 4 hours is uncharitable to Cora as a mother. That being said, I don’t think anyone should ever do this!! I don’t think babies should be in a car alone for more than a few minutes (ex: unloading groceries at home). I just think we shouldn’t assume the worst from Cora, given that OP only overheard gossip about the situation and couldn’t confirm anything themselves.

            1. socks*

              It’s unfair because someone making a bad choice in a bad situation doesn’t make them a mustache-twirling villain.

              The situation was unsafe regardless of how often Cora checked on the baby, so it’s honestly really weird how much focus there’s been on the baby hypothetically having been ignored for four hours straight. It just comes off like people need to believe Cora is a cold and unfeeling monster because the alternative (a loving parent can be put in a situation where leaving their child in a car feels like the least bad option) is really, really sad.

              1. Nameless in Customer Service*

                It just comes off like people need to believe Cora is a cold and unfeeling monster because the alternative (a loving parent can be put in a situation where leaving their child in a car feels like the least bad option) is really, really sad.

                Well said. Also, that anyone with sympathy for her must also not care about babies, to judge by the “commenters here would be shocked by…” type comments.

                Babies are so advocatable-for, for good reason, but that doesn’t have to mean that anyone has to be a demon here.

                1. EmRo*

                  I think that 2 things can be true (or three or four). Cora is almost certainly not an unfeeling monster. She may be in a desperate situation. And she endangered her baby.

                2. socks*

                  @EmRo (ran out of nesting), I don’t think we actually disagree here? My point is that a lot of people seem to be saying (1) Cora endangered her baby and therefore (2) she MUST also have ignored the baby for four hours straight, even though (2) isn’t in the letter. The second part is the only thing I’m objecting to.

      5. Heat Wave*

        Most babies this age will be in the back seat and rear-facing. Realistically, how much of the baby is she going to see?

    7. doreen*

      I worked for CPS and I would definitely be reporting this. CPS is not perfect – but as a general rule they try to avoid foster care placement if for no other reason than the expense. And that means they have access to “preventive” services which can include childcare. There are many situations where I think people call CPS when they shouldn’t – but this isn’t a ten year old walking home from school.

      Cora does a poor job of assessing risks and the fact that she told her coworkers means that she believed the co-workers would be okay with it. She might not have been unconcerned exactly, but she either thought her coworkers would not call the police or CPS or it never even occurred to her that someone might call , which means on some level she thought this was acceptable . And that means it most likely wasn’t a one-time incident – it may not be something she plans to do again but she will consider it an option if she finds herself in the situation again. Or she actually might do it all the time – if she left the baby in the car while she works a four hour shift , maybe she leaves the baby home alone while she runs to the supermarket for an hour.

      1. Gyne*

        100% agree with this. It’s not just the initial decision but the way the decision was relayed to colleagues. I’m honestly alarmed no one else in the office, in the moment, didn’t tell Cora to GO GET THE BABY RIGHT NOW and bring her inside.

        Also, speaking from a medical person’s perspective, referring to CPS is not something done secretly behind someone’s back. You involve them in the process and tell them what you are concerned about, tell them you are going to call CPS and why. OP should have an in person talk with Cora about WTAF happened that day and if a call to CPS is in order (from the information in the letter I absolutely think it is), make the call with her there.

      1. yala*

        If she’s right there, why call 911 instead of just…telling her to take the child out?

      2. straws*

        I can’t believe none of her coworkers just told her to bring the baby inside. That would have stopped all of this. A baby’s life is definitely worth an ask for forgiveness rather than permission situation. Bring the baby in, loop in the boss, discuss options. Cora made a poor initial decision out of desperation, but any of her coworkers that knew could have put a stop to it (either via my method above or calling 911 or CPS). Instead they just let it happen and GOSSIPED about it after the fact?? That’s not really much better, and possibly worse from certain angles.

    8. Mockingjay*

      This should have been handled with two steps. First, make Cora bring the baby inside the office. Immediately. Talk to Cora, find out what’s going on, offer Cora the suggestions in Alison’s advice for immediate assistance. Then decide whether a call to CPS is warranted.

      Second, put in place long-term policies to assist parents and caregivers. Telework, flex schedule, extra paid days off, a stipend for emergency child sitter service…

      Note: I understand that OP was extraordinarily flustered, but don’t ever wait to call a manager, police, or CPS. Above all, get the baby to safety. Then deal with Cora and the authorities.

      1. Guin*

        It is impossible for a receptionist to telework. The nature of the job is to be on-site greeting people, handling mail, and answering the phone. Cora’s not a software engineer who can code at home.

      2. Books and Cooks*

        I completely agree re steps, but if I understand correctly, OP didn’t know about this until the situation had ended; the baby was no longer in the car. Doesn’t excuse the coworkers just letting this happen, but it does mean the OP wasn’t flustered and didn’t know what to do at the time so just went along with leaving the baby in the car. She’s found out about it now, after the fact, and is asking what she should do in the aftermath.

    9. HannahS*

      Adding my voice to the doctors, nurses, social workers, and paramedics saying that a report to CPS is warranted. I’m sorry OP. It sucks; it feels awful. The reality is, most calls to CPS are for people like Cora–good people who love their children, but are not able (for a variety of reasons) to make safe choices. You cannot solve the multifactorial issues around what led Cora to make a very dangerous choice for her infant. Nothing short of sweeping social change will do that. But CPS can protect the child while providing Cora with resources that you don’t have access to, to ensure that this child is safe.

      CPS is not perfect, but the likelihood of them sweeping in and apprehending her child is low. Calling CPS is not a referendum on Cora’s worth as a person, her intentions, or her love of her children. It expresses that right now, Cora isn’t able to provide safety to her infant. That’s the unfortunate reality.

    10. Parakeet*

      It seems worth noting that we don’t know when this letter was sent, and therefore we don’t know whether it was during the current heat wave. Doesn’t make it safe or okay if it was during some slightly cooler time, but I’ve seen a few people mention the current heat wave as a factor in their thinking when it may not have been a factor in the situation.

    11. River Song*

      I agree. One thing to realize is calling child protective services does not immediately equate child removal. In my state, the first step is *supportive* wrap around services to evaluate what is needed to support a family to keep a child in a home, since this state and many states’ prioritize reunification. However even if not, this was a hugely dangerous move that even (and especially) if out of desperation, rises to the threshold of professional involvement.

    12. Risha*

      I was looking for a comment like this. As an RN (and a mandated reporter), I really disagree with the advice. Many parents are single parents with no help and leaving your small baby in the car is inexcusable. I was a single mom for years with absolutely no help from the dad, no child support, nothing. And I still managed to not leave my baby in the car. If I saw that, I would have called CPS so fast. They don’t just take your kids away on the first call like so many people think. Removing children from the parents is a last resort usually.

      If this baby would have died, then everyone would have been saying why didn’t OP call CPS. I really can’t believe so many people (Allison included) care more for the mom than this poor baby. This baby who can’t tell you if he’s too hot or thirsty or uncomfortable sitting in the carseat for hours. It’s time we stop making excuses for poor parenting decisions and call out bad parenting. We can still help a single parent and not be ok with them leaving their baby in the car all day. Who cares if this woman’s life is blown up? Imagine how that poor baby felt all day. Millions of single parents all over don’t have any help and don’t leave their babies in a car.

      Honestly, I believe if it were a dog left in the car all day, there would have been much more anger at this coworker.

      OP, please call CPS. If this coworker is bold enough to leave her baby in the car at work, where all of you can see, imagine what she does when no one is looking. Let’s protect children instead of adults who make these crappy decicions.

  7. Whynotnow*

    #2 I’ve been the recipient of such advice and it turned out amazing for me (until the company lost its mind, but that happens). In my case, a coworker not in my department, recommended that I apply for some positions that were just coming open. Not only did I learn about the job earlier than I might have, but it gave me confidence through the application and interview process.

    1. Smithy*

      I will add that what is really good about this advice is that someone junior may have been the recipient of bad or irrelevant advice from friends/family (i.e. don’t ask for a promotion/new duties until X amount of time on a new job) or otherwise think such opportunities are not a possibility. And in smaller employers, knowing how best to seek advancement might just not be obvious for someone newer to the work world, and this is so valuable.

      I will also say, that on the flip side – I knew a new role was opening where I worked that I was interested in. When I asked about it, I did ask what level of seniority they envisioned it being and got the clear message that it was for someone far more senior than me (and given they hired someone with decades more experience – they lived up to that). While it was genuinely helpful advice in managing expectations around that position, the fact that it was never paired with any advice around how I might advance ultimately led me to the understanding that I had to leave for any growth.

      If this receptionist is under the belief that this position is the *only* role for her at this firm, then it will do more to crystalize the belief that she puts xyz time and then moves on. Having someone show how the job can become more can come from anywhere.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      It sounds like OP2 is envisioning the receptionist taking over some admin duties while maintaining the current reception role and job title. You bring up a good point, that maybe the receptionist could apply for the admin role, so (if she gets the job) she will have a new job title/duties/pay. Presumably, the company would then need to hire an external person to fill the receptionist role.

      I think applying to the admin position could be a good way to go, if it fits with the receptionist’s career plan. One thing OP2 should check before she mentions it as an option is if the company has any policies about applying for internal roles. I’ve worked at a few places where you have to work in the role you were hired for for a year or two before you’re eligible to apply for internal roles, and OP2’s company may have a similar policy.

    3. OP2*

      “it gave me confidence through the application and interview process”
      This is such a good point. Totally what I would hope for in this situation.

    4. Sandgroper*

      There’s a direct benefit for the company here too beyond wages for another person.

      They can then hire a junior receptionist, or part time one, that can cover for absences and gradually upskill into the rule for the future.

      It’s rare for a receptionist to stay a receptionist forever. But right now, while you reception isn’t busy, you can create a pathway out of reception into other clerical roles in the company, reducing training and upskilling costs. The long term benefits of this idea means you’ll have a natural flow of company tested and knowledgeable receptionist-general admin – specialist admin pathways who are reliable, and people who apply for the entry level role of receptionist might well not quit and leave after a year or two in boredom. This is very ‘normal’ in Australia, and probably much of the world!

  8. Always Happy*

    For LW #4… do what I did when I knew I was going to have a lapse in coverage… I placed a 90 day order with my mail order pharmacy. Also, received 3 months only billed for 2!

    1. rudster*

      I went on an FSA binge – meds, glasses, pharmacy supplies… It was the start of the year and at the exit interview my HR person basically told me that I had been credited with my entire annual FSA contribution upfront, and while officially she had to discourage me from spending more than I had put in for year to date, unofficially if I wanted to spend it all in the next few days there was nothing the company would or could do to stop me or claw it back.

      1. Constance Lloyd*

        Legally, you are entitled to use the full amount of your flex account on day 1 and leave on day 2 of the plan year! Your employer cannot request that money back or deduct it from your final paycheck. Alternately, if you leave money unused in your FSA, you just lose it. But be careful, a lot of things are only eligible with a doctor’s note (like massages and otc medications) and other things aren’t eligible at all (like electric toothbrushes, mouthwash, etc) and if you use it for ineligible items, they CAN demand that money back. (Note this is the general you, not rudster specifically!)

        1. Katiekins*

          Check your paperwork first—my FSA agreement stipulates that my employer can take the money out of my last paycheck pre-tax and if that amount isn’t enough, I must reimburse them for the remaining balance with after-tax dollars.

          1. HoundMom*

            That sounds odd. FSAs regs say that the employer must be at risk for loss of dollars if someone utilizes the funds before they are collected from the employee. On the flip side, funds not used by employees are forfeited back to employers.

            1. Katiekins*

              I’d like to learn more about this–can you cite your source for the FSA regs about the employer being at risk for lost dollars?

      2. OrdinaryJoe*

        Yep! That’s what I’d recommend, too. Stock up on needed drugs, have a check up, etc. My company does the same thing – no insurance for 60 days and many friends’ places have no insurance for the first few weeks at least … moving paperwork through and getting stuff approved, I guess. COBRA can always be picked up if there’s an issue within that 60 day window. Not great, not perfect, but I wouldn’t turn down a great job over this situation.