JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A 29-year-old mother was arrested Thursday night after she left her two children at home alone while she went to work at a McDonald's fast-food restaurant 26 miles away, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said.
Khrystyna McKenzie is charged with child neglect.
Officers went to the home at Sundance Point Apartments after receiving an unverified 911 call.
A 7-year-old who answered the door told police that she and her sibling were home alone while their mother was at work. The girl also said they are told to put themselves to bed before their mother gets home from work, according to the police report.
A neighbor told police that she suspected the children had been left home alone before.
The Department of Children and Families was notified.
Owner of child care center offers to help mother
After learning of the mother's arrest, the owner of a child care center stepped in and turned something negative into something positive.
“My heart went out to her because she wasn’t out partying, shopping or hanging out. She was out trying to make a living for her and her children. So the first thing that came to mind is, 'I have the services that she needs. Why not help her until she’s able to do better for her and her kids?'" Leslie Singleton, the owner of On Our Way Learning Center, told News4Jax on Monday.
So Singleton contacted McKenzie on social media and offered to help her.
“She was very thankful. She seems like a very sweet woman. She says she’s doing her best to get back on her feet and her job is working with her to accommodate her schedule," Singleton said.
Singleton said McKenzie doesn’t have family members who can watch her children at night. She added that McKenzie’s case is very typical of a lot of struggling single parents who are faced with making difficult decisions.
“So many people go through it and they don’t have many options. If more people stepped up and reached out and said, 'I’m here for you. I can help you,'" Singleton said. "I think women would have better chances of having a good life."
News4Jax was scheduled to meet with McKenzie, but she later said she would rather not say anything until after her case is adjudicated in court.