Mishka Peart was driving through a hectic intersection in Queens when she noticed a 6-year-old girl wandering alone. She clutched two bags filled with her clothes. A surgical mask covered her face when Peart pulled over to investigate. She was shocked to learn a mother had decided to abandon her daughter.
“I asked her where she was going and she said, ‘I don’t know.’ I said, ‘Where are your parents?’”
“I don’t know,” the girl answered, whose name was Emma. “They drove off and left me.”
This kind hero immediately brought Emma to school safety agents at Montbeller Park. They called the police who arrested Emma’s mother, Patrice Chambers, 29, and Chambers’ boyfriend, Mark Pamphile, 28, and charged them with child endangerment.
Mother Abandons Her Daughter on Street Corner
According to Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz, “This mother is alleged to have abandoned her terrified youngster on a street corner with her clothes in a plastic bag and no regard for the child’s safety or well-being. The defendant’s boyfriend allegedly participated in the crime and had complained about her ‘crying like a little b*tch.’” 
According to video evidence, the mother — and Pamphile — abandons her daughter at 11:30 a.m. They claimed that they had brought Emma to her father earlier that day, but he had refused to take her. This accusation was proven false.
“Are you crazy?” said her dad, Kermit Watson, 52. “That never happened.”
Pamphile had texted him to say he’ll bring over Emma, but they never arrived, and the door cam proved that. Watson added that he had barely seen Emma since four years ago when he and Chambers broke up.
Moreover, Chambers had previously called him and asked if he could take care of Emma. She claimed that the Suffolk County child welfare authorities were “harassing her.” Watson jumped at the opportunity, despite Chambers refusing to have his name on Emma’s birth certificate.
Watson testifies that Pamphile is extremely controlling. He had a child with Chambers and wanted her to distance herself from Emma and her oldest daughter, who lives with her own father. Pamphile allegedly had left voice messages threatening to abandon Emma if Watson doesn’t pay Chambers.
“He doesn’t want nobody around,” Watson said of Pamphile. “She doesn’t have a say.”
Similarly, Pamphile said, “These kids are a problem to me. This kid is her kid … This kid is not my kid, not my problem, not my responsibility.” 
“How Could a Mother Do That?”
Fortunately, Emma is now living with her relatives, but Peart could not understand how a mother could abandon her daughter. “I am just so confused as to how people can just leave their children on the street with garbage bags,” she said in a video she recorded after picking up Emma.
This incident has been especially trying for Peart, who has been struggling to have a child with her husband for two years. But she became Emma’s guardian angel that day when she decided to change her usual routine and ended up finding the little girl.
“I’m just happy that I’m the one who pulled up. When the detectives told me that it was within seconds of her being thrown out of the car, I was like — I was put there. I was meant to be there,” she said. 
Child Abandonment and Why It Happens
Most people balk at these kinds of stories and wonder how it’s possible for a mother to abandon her own daughter. According to Utah’s Division of Child and Family Services, the most common factors to child abandonment is:
- Poor parenting skills
- Lack of housing
- Substance abuse
- Lack of financial resources
In many cases, multiple reasons apply. For instance, people with limited finances tend to move often. “They don’t get settled in and they don’t create any community attachments. When they do need assistance, they don’t know where to go,” said Elaine Totten, a veteran DCFS supervisor, and on-call caseworker.
Additionally, the lack of a good support system can also cause abandonment as it makes the parents feel abandoned themselves. Similarly, shame could be a major factor, especially if the child is a result of sexual abuse or rape.
When people become aware of a situation in their family that could result in child abandonment, they tend to feel conflicted about reporting it.
“Some people say, ‘Should I report or should I help?’ It’s not mutually exclusive. You can report it to people who need to know while also offering help. You can do both of those things,” Totten said.
She emphasizes that it’s important to keep open lines of communication with family members in such circumstances. “If people are ostracized, all that’s left around them are the people who are drug users like they are,” Totten said. 
Of course, every case is different, but fortunately, there are resources to report to and help families in need. Check what kind of services your community offers to find the best way you can assist in such a situation.
- “6-year-old girl dumped on Queens street, mother, boyfriend charged.” ABC News. May 20, 2020
- “‘How does this happen?’ asks Queens woman after finding abandoned girl, 6, at busy Laurelton intersection.” NY Daily News. Thomas Tracy and Rocco Parascandola. May 19, 2020
- “Exclusive Video Shows 6-Year-Old Being Abandoned In Queens; Rescuer Says ‘She Could’ve Been Killed’.” CBS. May 19, 2020
- “Why would a parent abandon a child? A look at the problem and solutions.” Deseret. Marjorie Cortez. August 30, 2014