A woman whose foster child was removed from her
home after a carjacking incident will not be prosecuted, her lawyer
said last week.

The charge was to be formally dropped
at a hearing in district court Feb. 4, Cathi Compton said. Conditions
attach: Ashley Moore will have to participate in whatever training or
counseling the Department of Human Services may require so she can
continue to foster Kaiden Greer, 18 months.

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DHS will not comment on the case.

Moore, 38, left Kaiden in her 2004 Land
Rover in the driveway of the Children’s House Montessori School at 4023
Lee Ave. as she dashed in to pick up her daughter, Cheyenne, at 5 p.m.
Jan. 12. She left the car in park but running; while inside the school,
someone — school employees said they thought it was a man — stole the
car, driving south on Elm Street. The school’s driveway runs through
the middle of its property, behind a main building that fronts Lee
Avenue and smaller buildings in the backyard.

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The car was found an hour and a half
later abandoned in the 100 block of Beechwood, according to police,
with Kaiden inside. He was unharmed. Police quickly arrested Moore on
the charge of child endangerment and DHS removed Kaiden — who has lived
with Moore since birth — from her custody. Moore’s daughter was not
removed from the home, Compton said. No arrest has been made in the
carjacking.

It is illegal to leave a car unattended with the engine running on public or private streets, including driveways.

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The case got considerable attention from the television media and was hotly debated on the Times’
Arkansas Blog. Pulaski County Prosecutor Larry Jegley’s office got
several calls from people who didn’t want to see Moore punished,
including one from a legislator. Callers to Gov. Mike Beebe’s office
expressed what spokesman Matt DeCample characterized as “passionate
thoughts” over DHS’ decision to take the child. Compton received “at
least 50 letters” from fellow Montessori parents attesting to the
woman’s character and parenting skills. The writers “not only talk at
real length about what a loving, caring parent she is, but how they’ve
all done that,” left kids in their cars, she said.

Letter writers to the Arkansas Times
also took up Moore’s cause. Lisa Hall, who knows Moore through her own
children, sounded a common theme: “How many parents have run in to pay
for gas, returned the grocery cart, or dropped off the cleaning?” she
asked. “Isn’t having your child kidnapped enough of a consequence? We
have all learned from her mistake.

“Ashley was charged with felony
endangerment of a child and has never been allowed to see Kaiden
again. She has been told that she will most likely lose custody of both
children. This is a ridiculous overreaction. Laws are not black and
white. Unnecessarily removing children from a loving environment is
abusive. These are the decisions that discourage good individuals from
becoming foster parents and bring a deep sadness to us all.

“As the adoptive mother of three
children, I am outraged by this action. No one, parent or child,
genetic, fostered or adopted, should ever lose their family due to this
type of incident. It implies that those making decisions regarding our
foster children have lost touch with common sense and compassion. Who
benefits from this type of action?  The children? The citizens of
Arkansas? The mother?”

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Melissa Cable, another writer, charged
that news outlets “totally blew this out of proportion. The car was not
parked on the street, it was parked in the line where all the parents
stop (in the courtyard) to leave their cars to run in to retrieve their
child (children). … My point is we all make mistakes or have a lack on
judgment at one time or another. Normally, it doesn’t have the
consequence this one had, but to remove her child (and possibly
children) is a horrendous mistake on the part of the state of Arkansas.”

Jegley said he was frankly surprised at
how many people told him they’d also left their children in cars and
wondered how they would have felt if the carjacking had ended in
tragedy. He said he informed callers that he would enforce the law with
consistency, but hoped for a “less draconian” resolution to the case.

Moore took custody of Cheyenne, who is
her great-niece, in 2005, when the girl was 11 months old. She later
got permanent custody. It was at the request of DHS that Moore took in
Kaiden, who is biracial, when he was less than 24 hours old. His
mother, like Cheyenne’s, was a drug user. Kaiden’s mother’s parental
rights have been terminated, and Moore wants to adopt him.

DHS spokesman Julie Munsell said that
any foster parent who pleads guilty to or is convicted of child
endangerment may not continue to foster.

Police spokesman Lt. Terry Hastings
said the last carjacking involving a child he could recall occurred in
2006, when someone stole a van from a newspaper delivery person on her
route. The thief was near Lonoke when he realized there was a child in
the van, Hastings said, and he abandoned the vehicle in a driveway. The
owner of the van was not charged, Hastings said, because “she had not
cleared the vehicle but a few feet.”