Parenting While Drunk

“The hell with the kid—SAVE THOSE DUCKS!!!”

We have enough laws; too many, in fact. This ridiculous incident reminded me of a question that has been bothering me for a long time, however.

In York County, Pennsylvania,  mother and wildlife-lover Justina Laniewski was taking care of her toddler.  She was also drunk as a skunk, and decided, in her wisdom, that a flock of wild ducks were endangered by the  swift currents of Codorus Creek, swollen by Hurricane Sandy. Ducks are water birds, swim well, have webbed feet and also can fly away in the presence of danger. They seldom, if ever, drown. Never mind all that: Justina—who has no wings or webbed feet, or a brain either, apparently–-jumped in to rescue them. Her toddler, left unattended on the shore, was about to toddle in after her mother, but was grabbed at the last second by a neighbor. Firefighters had to rescue Laniewski from the neck-high water, as the ducks, I presume, laughed their tail-feathers off.

This drunken fool was arrested, but the ridiculous incident raises the question of why society doesn’t make discouraging drinking while parenting as much of a priority as stopping drinking while operating a motor vehicle. Every now and then I read about a falling down drunk mother pushing a baby carriage into walls being arrested for child endangerment, but I would think enforcement would be tougher than that. The public service messages should be “If you’re parenting, don’t drink. If you drink, don’t have kids. Get a goldfish.” Presumably the reason we don’t see a concerted effort to enforce drunk parent laws is because it would be politically impossible. I also assume, however, that the number of infants, toddlers and older children killed by the negligence or reckless acts of drunken parents is disturbingly large.

Combine that with the fact that the number of ducks rescued from drowning by tipsy mothers is zero, and the balance clearly seems to favor  a policy of far less tolerance of  parents like Justina Laniewski.

Pointer: Fark

Facts: WGAL News

Graphic: welho

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at

9 thoughts on “Parenting While Drunk

  1. I’m a fan of fewer laws but harsher punishments for those laws.

    The question is: make it illegal to drink while having children? Or enforce child endangerment laws?

    By analogy. Here in Texas, in some municipalities, some are arguing to make illegal the use of a cell phone while driving..because it encourages reckless behavior.

    Wait. Don’t we already have laws governing driving recklessly? Let alone public endangerment.

    If a person is driving well and chatting on the phone, then they are not reckless.

    If a person is driving poorly and chatting on the phone… There already ordinances governing that.


    If a parent is drinking, and watching their kids well, are they morally wrong?

  2. What’s interesting about the comments to this video are the two camps children of drinking parents seem to fall into: those that see the video as representing their own experience and those who just saw their parents as being silly and having fun. Mean drunk or not, the parents were still putting their children at risk.

  3. I am always shocked by how reluctant DHS is to remove children from the custody of their mother, no matter how unfit she may be. I am part of a group trying to put together Thanksgiving baskets for the families of area children that are classified as homeless (meaning that they don’t have gas, electricity, or water). Many of these kids don’t have any underwear or socks and they routinely come to the social worker asking if she can give them clothing, food, toothbrushes, etc. The social worker assigned to the school (it is telling that our schools now each have a dedicated social worker) knows the names of all these kids. I want to know why they are still with their mothers (very few have intact families and the mother has sole or primary custody). Their mothers are getting food stamps and other services from DHS, but they obviously aren’t going to the kids (usually, they are selling these benefits to get drugs). Surely some of these kids have some relative who could give them a house over their head, clothing, and food? Of course, our DHS says their #1 goal is to keep or reunite mothers with their children. So much for the children.

    A related link, why were these children not with their father? Their mother has 2 DUI’s and no license. The father seems well-off enough to purchase an extra BMW.

  4. In the final analysis, there’s little you can do to keep an unrepentant fool from his folly. But if a series of incidents proves a pattern of dangerous misconduct by a parent with children, it’s time for action. As I’ve often said, the prime purpose of any adult is the protection, nurturement and moral guidance of children. When a parent is unable or unwilling to provide this- for whatever reason- then his children need to be with someone who can.

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