This piece, written by Rebecca Ruiz, is part of Mashable Spotlight, which presents in-depth looks at the people, concepts and issues shaping our digital world:
In 2011, Lilia Gonzalez* nearly lost her three young children. She considered herself a loving, attentive mother, but one day she made a seemingly harmless mistake that turned into a two-year battle to convince the state of Illinois that she hadn’t — and wouldn’t — maliciously neglect her children.
The ordeal began on a June morning when Gonzalez, then 36, awoke at 7:30 a.m., startled and groggy. Her 16-month-old son had been sick, and Gonzalez slept fitfully; her husband left earlier to start the first of his two jobs. Like most parents, Gonzalez’s mind immediately settled on the day’s many tasks, including taking the children to walk her four-year-old son to the bus stop. And that’s when the panic surged — she had overslept and the bus had already departed.
As her eight-year-old daughter dressed for school, Gonzalez and her son rushed down the stairs from their third-floor apartment in Schaumburg, Illinois, and looked for the bus. Seeing an empty street, Gonzalez quickly decided to drive the two miles to school.
When she returned home after a 20-minute absence, Gonzalez found her toddler son watching television in bed and her daughter ready to attend school. She regretted impulsively leaving them alone, but felt grateful nothing tragic had happened.
The next day, Gonzalez mentioned the incident to her therapist, a clinic student who helped treat her for depression. “I did something probably stupid,” Gonzalez recalls saying. Her therapist remained silent then, but a few hours later, Gonzalez’s phone rang.
“I talked to my supervisor,” her therapist said, “and I explained to her what you just told me, and we have to call [Department of Children and Family Services].” Gonzalez hadn’t heard of the child welfare agency, but was terrified.
That phone call marked the beginning of Gonzalez’s “nightmare.” With a single offhand comment, she found herself at the mercy of cultural, social and legal forces that increasingly define parenting as a superhuman feat of constant monitoring. Children, according to this perspective, are only ever truly safe from harm when at their parents’ side.
Click here to read the rest of Lilia's story on Mashable.