The mother of the toddler who was found on Larchmont Blvd. early Tuesday morning has been found and arrested, according to an update issued Wednesday evening by LAPD.
“The Missing Person, Targie Alexandre, was located when she went to her workplace where she was taken into custody. Targie Alexandre is 24 years old, a resident of Los Angeles, and was booked under the felony charge of Penal Code §273(a)(a) – Child Endangerment and bail set at $105,000,” according to an update posted yesterday. Police are still investigating why the child was left.
This incident was an unusual occurrence on Larchmont Blvd., but the story of a mother being arrested and separated from her child is all too familiar to Judy Vaughn, founder of Alexandria House, a women’s shelter supported by many local residents. While she cannot speak to the circumstances of this situation and never condones leaving a child, Vaughn has experience with women who have been arrested, and then their children taken away, in some cases adopted out without their consent.
“Tragically, we see this all the time with women of color. It simply doesn’t happen to white women,” explained Vaughn. Alexandria House is part of Give Us Back Our Children, a coalition of groups working to raise awareness of the obstacles women in poverty face in trying to reunite with their children. It can take months to get a child back, and all the time the mother is not informed about where her child is, said Vaughn.
The Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) moves quickly to remove children from low-income families, which can have a lasting impact on the children and parents, when there is research shows that children fare better when they are with their parents, who are given support to improve parenting skills and job prospects, added Vaughn.
Alexandria House shared a video with us featuring Lenore, a former employee and resident of Alexandria who agreed to speak out about her situation. Lenore was 42 when she was arrested after leaving her sleeping toddler in her car when she went into a grocery store where she frequently shopped, to pick up food for her son. She parked as close as she could to the store and came out after 12 minutes to check on her son, who was still sleeping. She went back into the store to pay for the items, and returned 13 minutes later to be confronted by store security staff, who called the police after they reprimanded her for being a bad mother.
Mortified and scared, she apologized profusely and started to leave. But by then police arrived and stopped her from leaving. Paramedics examined the baby and empathized, saying every parent has done something like this with a sleeping child – run inside quickly, and run back out – and thankfully her baby was fine. But police at the scene decided the child should be taken to the hospital for further examination and arrested Lenore. They kept her from seeing her son, even though she was nursing and the baby was right across the hall from her.
Fortunately, Lenore had a strong community of support and knew how to wage the battle to get her son back. Fighting in criminal court and family court, she was able to get her son back after two months, a miraculously short time, one social worker told her at the time, saying it usually takes at least six months.
Now, two years later, Lenore has been able to satisfy all the court’s requirements of parenting classes and therapy, so she got her record expunged. Her story had a happy ending because she had support from lots of people, including Vaughn, and she was a professional who had the skills to get her son back and resume her life. She cautioned against making a judgment in the Larchmont situation without knowing all the facts.
“What happened to this mother is a tragic situation for the child and the mother,” observed Sidney Ross-Risden, an activist who is working to end the forced and unjust separation of children from their families, and a member of the Give Us Back Our Children. A 2021 report revealed that approximately 58 percent of all Black children in LA County will live through a child maltreatment investigation before they reach the age of 18, explained Ross-Risden.
“I don’t know the details of this situation, but I would ask, ‘What does this mother need and what can we do to get this family back together?’ We know that in most cases, children do better when they are with their mother or family. It’s not 100 percent, but usually that’s the case.”
“We should be doing what’s best for the children and removing children isn’t always in their best interests,” said Ross-Risden. Keeping families together is more cost-effective and better for everyone, added Vaughn.
Give Us Back Our Children is a national multiracial network of organizations, mothers, grandmothers, and supporters demanding an end to the forced and unjust separation of children from their mothers and other primary caregivers by the child welfare system.
Give Us Back Our Children includes Alexandria House, A New Way of Life Reentry Project, DCFS/DHS Give Us Back Our Children, Every Mother is a Working Mother Network, Mothers Outreach Network, National Welfare Rights Union, SWEPT: Social Workers Ending Poverty Together. GUBOC is coordinated by the Global Women’s Strike & Women of Color/GWS and is part of the international Support Not Separation network. They can be reached by email at [email protected].