Train Wreck of a System

April 8, 2006

Edit: Just for a quick intro, I’m twenty-eight and married, and, contrary to popular convention, am getting less conservative as I have children and grow older. I’m proud to be a second-generation San Franciscan, and to be raising a 6-year old girl and an 11-month-old boy here. (They won’t price me out of SF, even if we have to rent a cardboard box in the Trader Joe’s parking lot!) We’re a biracial family, which I don’t find that interesting in the Bay Area but everyone else seems to. Well, enough about us.

Yesterday, April 6, Katrina Hatton was sentenced to four years probation for felony child endangerment when a two-year-old boy under her care was killed by a train. She had never actually met the boy’s mother; the child had been passed to her from another young mother who was supposed to be babysitting him, but who had to take a drug test to regain custody of her own children. Katrina was on her way to a job interview at McDonalds, taking the boy, his brother, and her three-month-old baby with her. The boy’s mother was at a job orientation for Toys R Us.
I came to this story pretty late, and I may have missed a lot of the “debate” sparked by the accident that many papers covering the sentencing alluded to, but I’m fairly certain said debate involved some tongue clicking about young moms in the society and the lack of social services to support them, without anyone in authority making a commitment to change the situation. The idea of allocating funds to add a safe railroad crossing to the area where the little boy was killed was thrown around, but I don’t think anything has been finalized (or will be).

All three young women were dealing with child issues, whether they involved custody (Hatton had lost custody of an older child, as well), child care, or finding work that paid enough for them to take care of their babies. All three were “in the system.” I’ve been asking myself why I can’t stop thinking about this story. Is it that “the system” failed little Alexander, or Katrina, or everyone?Or is it that there is no support system for poor, young moms in our society? That every time the subject comes up, the debate is forcibly hijacked by people who feel that the real issue is young women having sex out of wedlock? I’m not saying that prevention should not be taught, but no amount of abstinence training (Katrina Hatton was a ninth-grade dropout from Georgia) could have prevented this accident. Affordable child care and competent job training might have.