On February 12 2021, local news organization WFMJ shared a Facebook post reporting on the arrest of 24-year-old Shaina Bell of Liberty Township; Bell allegedly left her two-year-old child in the care of her ten-year-old while working a shift at a nearby pizza place:
Initial Local Reporting
According to a February 12 2021 report, Bell was charged with two counts of “child endangering” following her arrest the day before:
Acting on a tip, officers found a 10-year-old girl and her two-year-old sister in a room at the Motel Six after 6 p.m.
The older child said that her mother was at work and expected her to be back by 10 p.m.
The mom, 24-year-old Shaina Bell, who was found working at a pizza shop, told officers that she usually has someone check in on her children every hour while she is at work.
Social Media Discourse and Editorials
A number of social media posts about Bell’s arrest prompted several discussions, with readers largely sympathetic to Bell’s plight:
24 year old Ohio woman arrested for leaving her 10yr old & 2yr old daughters in the motel while she works in pizza shop. Says she usually has someone check in on her children every hour while she is at work. pic.twitter.com/l5hV7oqtCh
— Saycheese TV 👄🧀 (@SaycheeseDGTL) February 14, 2021
Readers were able to glean a significant amount from the few details provided. Bell and her children were assumed to lack a permanent address (as the arrest occurred at a Motel 6), and commenters deeply sympathized with her efforts to maintain employment under the circumstances.
Not long after the story was initially reported, it spread to forums and generated significant amounts of discussion. On February 15 2021, Lenore Skenazy — a long-time advocate for the normalization of children’s independence — published an editorial about the controversial arrest (titled “Mom Who Left Kids, 10 and 2, Alone at Motel While She Worked Her Evening Shift at a Pizza Shop is Jailed. Great.”) It was prefaced:
TREATING DESPERATION AND POVERTY AS CRIMES MAKES LIFE BETTER FOR NO ONE.
After reiterating details reported by local news outlets, Skenazy referenced a GoFundMe campaign and reasoned:
A mom already stressed — now this
Now look: It’s certainly not ideal for a mom to have to work at night while her 10-year-old babysits her little sister. But the facts—the motel room—seem to suggest that the family is under serious financial strain, yes? And when that is the case, and there is a pandemic, and you are a mom trying to earn a living, it does not make your kids better off if you are under arrest, or in a cell, or possibly now contending with custody lawyers and the courts to get back on your feet.
We don’t know any more details about the case. A GoFundMe for the family was started and then stopped. The comments section on the local news story is rife with folks trying to figure out her relationship to the kids’ dad and his family. But having the police and probably child protection authorities in the middle of this family’s drama—all because mom had to go to work an evening shift—is not going to make life easier for the kids or teach them any lessons we would want them to know.
There is an Active GoFundMe
Skenazy made mention of a “GoFundMe for the family” which was “started and then stopped.”
A February 12 2021 GoFundMe campaigncampaign (“Fundraiser for the children of Shaina Bell”) raised a little over $7,000 before it was halted; a February 16 2021 message from the organizer indicated that all contributions would be returned, per Bell’s wishes:
Thank you to everyone who kindly took a chance help, it’s so great to see so many people willing to reach out to help, even complete strangers. Without going into much detail, as you know based on the updates, circumstances changed and I decided to change the nature of the fundraiser. After doing this, Shaina asked that I shut down the gofundme and refund everyone’s money. I’m pleased to inform those of you who donated that gofundme will be issuing refunds after this third and final update has been posted. I believe, based on what I have read, that you should see your refunds in 3-7 business days.
Courtney Hatton, the woman who started that particular campaign and said “Anything donated will go to Shaina and her kids,” changed course in an update and indicated the funds raised would not be going to assist Bell:
Without going into too much detail I feel that the money donated will be best used to help provide for the children. Due to the fact that I am amending the fundraiser, I fully understand if anyone that has donated would like to request a refund. At this point, any and all donations will be put towards clothing and necessities for the children.
In a comment on that post, Bell explained that particular campaign was not established for her benefit, and noted in a separate comment that GoFundMe had not responded to her requests to suspend it:
Nah the family that has [my] kids just trying to get it for themselves i wont see a cent of that money while im struggling to get a house and a car so me and my kids can be cool they gone riding off that money like im cool man I wasnt asking for the help so im good they tried make it seem oike i dont do shit my kids and the money wouldn’t go towards my kids but thats all i do is take care of my kids like literally since the day I had my daughter at 14 years old i have been there taking care of my kids im in a rough position right now so the kids are with their dad and havent been for long and so like im cool ima get my kids back and im going to continue to grind and work hard for mine like I been doing without the handouts and the stress of people trying to bring me down[.]
A subsequent GoFundMe campaign started on February 15 2021 (“Help Shaina Bell Rebuild her Children’s Life”) and organized by Danielle Hosey raised more than $57,000 in one day:
My name is Danielle Hosey and I was notified that there are people in the community that would like to send assistance to my daughter and her children. This fund was set-up specifically for Shaina and her children and for anyone interested in assisting the family at this time.
Shaina is a single mother of three young children. She works hard and she loves her family very much. On Thursday February 11, 2021 Shaina was arrested at her job and taken to jail for leaving two of her children (ages 10 and 2) alone in their hotel room while she went to work. She was released the next day but found herself in the need of immediate housing.
This campaign was created to help Shaina and her children raise the money they need in order to secure permanent and safe housing. Everything raised will go directly to establishing a safe and permanent home for Shaina, Faith, Jai’Sean and Jade.
We understand that everyone has a story and we are grateful that you are listening to ours. From the bottom of our hearts we not only appreciate the financial contributions, but also the outpouring of support in the form of kind words and understanding.
On February 14 2021, Bell herself endorsed the second GoFundMe in a Facebook post:
Comments on Bell’s share of that campaign were extremely supportive:
Got you, and i’m bringing the ATL. Baby girl help is on the way!!!
Hold ya head up!! We ALL are SUPPORTING you!! From one SINGLE MOM to another!! Beautiful children
I’m over joyed and happy that people are helping you out. Buy your forever home!!!! Pickup a trade and live healthy as well as whole. Plant your seed and don’t look back!!! Praying for you and your kids. You got this!!!
Some of the comments suggested that despite Bell sharing the campaign from her own account, a number of people wished to donate but feared the campaign was the initial, suspended one. The one shared initiated by Hosey on February 14 2021 was shared on Bell’s page and validated by her comments.
News of Bell’s February 11 2021 arrest in Liberty Township, Ohio for working without childcare began spreading on February 13 2021. An initial GoFundMe started by uninvolved third party Courtney Hatton was suspended at Bell’s repeated request, and a GoFundMe campaign started by Hosey on February 15 2021 was authenticated by Bell. Misinformation advanced by the unauthorized GoFundMe led to confusion, but as of February 16 2021, an active campaign validated by Bell was collecting donations to assist the young mother and her small children. Across social media, comments on posts about Bell’s arrest were largely supportive of her and critical of the system under which she was charged.