McDonald’s Fires Mom Who Was Arrested For Letting 9-Year-Old Play In Park Alone

Debra Harrell CREDIT: YouCaring/Debra Harrell
Debra Harrell CREDIT: YouCaring/Debra Harrell

Debra Harrell, the mother who let her nine-year-old daughter play in a park while she worked her shifts at McDonald’s and was arrested after adults at the park called the police, has been terminated from that job, her lawyer confirmed for ThinkProgress.

While Robert Phillips, the attorney representing her pro bono at McGowan, Hood & Felder, said that she was released from jail the day after she was arrested on bond, he confirmed that she had been let go from her job. He didn’t have any information as to why. A spokesperson for McDonald’s declined to comment, saying it is inappropriate to discuss a human resources issue. She also said the company is cooperating with local police in their investigation of the situation.

The good news is that Harrell has been reunited with her daughter, as Phillips confirmed. But the case from the Department of Social Services is still ongoing. “Whenever there’s an allegation of a crime, and in this case the child is considered the victim even though she wasn’t harmed…allegedly perpetrated by a family member, DSS has a mandate to come in and remove the child from immediate harm,” he noted. “They were just doing what the law requires them to do.”

According to Reason, during her daughter’s summer vacation Harrell had her spend her days playing on a laptop at the McDonald’s where she worked. But their home was robbed and the laptop stolen, so her daughter asked to go to the park instead. She was allowed to do so twice, with a cell phone for emergencies.

As a mother working at McDonald’s, where employees report the average wage is under $8 an hour, Harrell may have had few childcare options. The cost of day camp is about $300 a week and childcare for a four-year-old can be as much as $12,000 a year. And help for people struggling to afford that cost has been declining, dropping by more than 30 percent in South Carolina in 2012.

Harrell now faces a tougher situation without employment. But a crowd funding site had raised nearly $24,000 to help her as of July 22.


According to an email from Harrell’s lawyer to the Washington Post, she is now scheduled to be back at her job with McDonalds full time after a “misunderstanding about her job.” McDonalds declined to comment but confirmed she hasn’t been terminated.