There are so many Debra Harrells in the world. Imagine how many parents would be in jail right now if they had no other choice but to leave their child unattended while they went to work. Harrell, like many people in the United States, faced a difficult decision every day when she went to work. At times, she brought her daughter with her to sit at the McDonald's where she worked in a North Augusta, S.C., neighborhood, because she couldn't afford day care.
With laptop in hand, the 9-year-old girl kept busy while her mother attempted to provide for her family. But once that laptop broke, Harrell had a tough decision to make, and she did what she felt was right.
To keep her daughter occupied while she worked, she allowed her child to play at a park, a couple of thousand feet away. Equipped with a cellphone, the child busied herself with the other children who played also. That was until someone noticed the child alone. Instead of taking the child to the McDonald’s, the person called the cops. Police say Harrell's daughter told a witness that her mother would drop her off all the time to play at the park while she was at work. Harrell was arrested and charged with unlawful conduct toward a child. Currently, the child is in the custody of the Department of Social Services.
In an effort to help Harrell, a stranger has started a YouCaring campaign. Clair Ryan writes on the site:
The fundraiser is intended to help Debra pay her legal fees and to help her get back on her feet after the loss of work that has surely resulted. All the money raised will go to Debra. I will be in touch with her via her lawyer very soon to figure out how to transfer the funds. Please give what you can to help!
As for me? I'm Clair. I'm a total stranger with little in common with Debra. I don't have any kids and I've never had to rely on a low-wage job to make ends meet. I have a full-time job with benefits. I work hard, but I've never struggled, and I know how incredibly lucky and privileged I am for that. And I don't believe it makes me a better or more worthy person than anyone else, whether they're unemployed or working for minimum wage, trying to feed a family. I was moved by Debra's story and by the response from both very liberal and conservative people that arresting Debra and taking her daughter away was not the right solution.
Ryan also established that contrary to a news report, the McDonald’s where Harrell worked wasn’t a mile away from the park, but just a few thousand feet.
It’s sad that one mother who was doing what she could to support her family, is now facing more heartache.
Yesha Callahan is editor of The Grapevine and a staff writer at The Root. Follow her on Twitter.