Indian Americans Reena Bana and Shanna Poteet have proposed a law that would make it a felony to leave a child alone at home.
The law will be known as “Sherin’s Law,” named after the Indian American toddler, Sherin Mathews, who died last year, after she choked on her milk while being forced to drink it and was left in a culvert by her adoptive father.
“With Sherin, we draw the line. It’s enough. It’s time to make a change,” Bana, an advocate for missing or abused children and domestic issues, told PTI.
“No children under 9 or 10 years old need to be left unaccompanied at home,” Poteet, an activist and advocate, told PTI.
According to PTI, Bilal Khaleeq, an attorney who practices family and criminal law, has been helping Bana and Poteet in their quest to make these changes in the Texas state laws and they both hope to get help from Child Protective Services in Texas, to push for the reform.
“The Texas books don’t have a minimum age for a child to be left alone,” Khaleeq told PTI adding that the current law really leaves it to the parent’s discretion whether a child is mature enough to be left alone with ages nine, 10, 11 and even 12, as the minimum age requirements for the law.
“We still have some meetings with representatives to find out what the best age for that is,” Poteet added.
The proposed law would also make it a felony for not reporting a missing child within a few hours, Bana told PTI adding that there are laws from other states in the country which address the crime, like Caylee’s Law in Florida which “makes it a felony for a parent or legal guardian to fail to report a missing child, in cases where the parent knew or should have known that the child was possibly in danger.”
“There may be some overlap in laws like with current endangerment and abandonment changes but the proposed ‘Sherin’s Law’ would make it more black and white. That could be a law that requires a parent to take some responsibility, especially if they have something to do with that child being missing,” Khaleeq added.
According to PTI, Wesley Mathews, 37, was previously charged with injury to a child, a first-degree felony punishable with a maximum 99 years in prison however, earlier this month a grand jury indicted him for capital murder for which he could face the death penalty, while Sini Mathews, 35, faced one count of abandoning a child, a punishment that ranges from two to 20 years in prison with a fine of up to $10,000.
Authorities have not yet said what happened to Sherin and only court documents allege that Wesley “caused his daughter’s death using a deadly weapon ‘by a manner and means unknown to the grand jury,’ though an autopsy report shows that she died of “homicidal violence.”