There are a young husband and wife who are British doctors. The wife is a GP, the husband is a cardiologist. They have three children. The twins are two years old and their older daughter, Madeleine, was three when the family went on a beach vacation to Portugal a couple of weeks ago.
The parents left their three sleeping toddlers in their ground-floor resort apartment and went to dinner at the restaurant next door. The parents decided against a babysitter for their three children. The children could have been taken to a drop-in service or an individual could have come to their room. Either service was free. The parents were only going next door, after all, and could take turns leaving their dinner to check on the children periodically. They faithfully checked on the children every half hour, according to a family friend.
At her 10:00 p.m. check, however, the mother discovered that the eldest child was gone. A bedroom window was open. The three year old girl had vanished at night in a foreign country. A guest at the resort said, “The parents left the door ajar so they could keep going over and looking at [the children].” A second family friend remarked that the medical couple “are fantastic parents and could see the bedroom from the hotel restaurant.”
Fantastic parents? Do fantastic parents leave toddlers alone in a different building for half an hour at a time? Do fantastic parents leave their tiny children in a hotel room with the door ajar? Do fantastic parents ignore their children’s security so they can enjoy a meal?
I realize that the focus needs to be on finding this little girl. After nearly 20 years working in the field of child abuse and neglect, however, I cannot believe that the two year old twins have not been removed from their parents’ custody yet. These parents have demonstrated their unfitness to have the care of children with very public repercussions.
Parents who disregard the safety of their children deserve to lose them. Period.
Someone on another site I frequent was commenting on this situation and brought up the question of class. A poor or working class (blue collar) family would have had criminal charges brought and the other children removed for fear of additional harm. Because these were middle class, more affluent people, they were free to criticize the efforts of the Portuguese law enforcement officials who unsuccessfully searched for the child.
Regardless of socioeconomic status, these children were toddlers left alone. Protection of children is common sense, not a class issue. It infuriates me that money and status protect negligence of this nature.
Had the children been alone and asleep when a fire broke out, would have been criminal charges brought against the parents for their deaths? It only takes a moment for a child to be electrocuted, to drown, to be burned, to fall and be seriously injured.
Someone in that other forum pointed out that even if the parents had been in the apartment, a kidnapper could have broken in and taken the little girl. This fact is no excuse. Presumably had the parents been there, the door would not have been ajar and the cries of the child as she was being abducted could have been heard. Their very presence would have been a deterrent to this unthinkable act.
The cold, hard fact is that these parents, who probably see abused and neglected children in their medical practices, neglected to supervise their children adequately.
I am concerned for the missing girl. I am just as concerned for her younger siblings who are still in the custody and care of these thoughtless parents. My concern is for the children. I have very little sympathy for the mother and father, whose selfish, lazy decision not to get a free babysitter increased the likelihood that something of this nature would happen.
Have these parents been punished enough for their negligence? I would say they’ve been punished in the most horrific, unforgettable manner possible. When and if their daughter’s abused corpse if located, they will never be able to forgive themselves.
Nevertheless, the notion that their socioeconomic status protects them from the legal repercussions a less affluent couple would face is wrong. Either this couple needs to be prosecuted, or the less affluent parents who allow something like this to happen should not be. Our society needs to choose.