A North Carolina woman accused earlier this month of abandoning her children on the side of a road told a news station she did so out of exhaustion and frustration.
Jennifer Jean Westfall, 38, of Fuquay-Varina, is charged with two misdemeanor counts of child abuse, according to ABC 11 in Raleigh. She was arrested at her home Monday.
Cary police officers allege that a woman dropping her child off at Reedy Creek Elementary School in Cary Oct. 2 saw Westfall leave her 9-year-old daughter and 19-month-old son on the side of Reedy Creek Road. An arrest warrant obtained by the news station indicated that Westfall left the children “and drove off at a high rate of speed.”
The woman who found the children told investigators she picked them up and took them to the school, where administrators alerted their school resource officer and Child Protective Services.
Westfall admitted in an interview with ABC 11 that she left her children, but said she did so on the school’s campus and left only after seeing a woman take them by the hand.
“I know what I did was wrong, but you know, I’ve always fought for my kids my whole life,” a tearful Westfall told the news station before breaking down.
Watch Westfall’s interview with ABC 11 below.
“I was so tired of doing this by myself,” she said, according to the station. “I have the strength to do what I need to do but I don’t have the skills to make the income that I need to take care of my family, and nobody will hire me. I’ve been around everywhere.
“And with these charges I just don’t see how I’m ever getting my kids back.”
Westfall said she thought she was legally abandoning the children because she saw someone take them safely into the school. North Carolina law only allows infants a few days old to be legally left with another adult, however.
According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, the state’s Safe Surrender Law allows a parent to surrender a newborn up to 7 days old to a responsible adult without providing a name or other information. The DHHS recommends providing health and family history information, however, so the baby’s adoptive family will have those details.
North Carolina’s law is different from those in some states, which designate places where a baby may be surrendered. Officials say the Safe Surrender Law is designed to ensure the child ends up safe.
“North Carolina’s law is different because it designates people, not places,” the DHHS website says. “Safe Surrender is not abandoning a baby on a doorstep. You must hand baby over to a person.”
The best options for abandoning an infant are to leave the child with a health care provider, a police officer, a social services worker, an EMT or another “trusted, responsible adult who understands the best interests of the child,” the website states.
Westfall’s children are safe and in foster care, the news station reported.