Case of baby left in NYC in 1997 still resonates
New York — A Danish mother whose 1997 arrest for leaving her baby outside a New York eatery sparked an international debate about parenting styles says she still feels she was unjustly vilified.
“(My) case that happened 20 years ago is even more relevant today,” Anette Sorensen told the New York Post for a story published Saturday. She said American parents “live in fear,” and she still wants “to show it’s possible to live another way.”
Then an actress in her 30s, Sorensen parked her 14-month-old daughter in a stroller outside a barbecue restaurant in Manhattan’s East Village neighborhood while she and the baby’s father, a New York-based playwright, had margaritas inside on a chilly May evening. Sorensen said she repeatedly checked on the blanket-covered baby during the hour they were at the restaurant before a patron summoned police.
The parents were arrested on child-endangerment charges that were eventually dropped. Child welfare authorities briefly took charge of the girl.
“I don’t think there’s any greater punishment than to have your child taken away from you,” Sorensen told the Post.
The episode sparked outrage from New York, where residents were astounded at the idea of parents depositing a child alone on a sidewalk, to Denmark, where residents were equally stunned by the notion of being arrested for leaving a child unattended for a spell while shopping or dining.
Sorensen filed a $20 million false-arrest lawsuit against the city. A jury in 1999 awarded her $66,000, rejecting many of her claims but agreeing that she should not have been strip-searched, among other findings.
Sorensen, who now lives in Hamburg, Germany, is trying to raise money online to get an English translation of a novel she wrote based on her 1997 experience.
“I always had a big longing for an apology,” she says in a fundraising video that also features her now 21-year-old daughter. “I probably never will get this apology.”