In this city where no one leaves anything on the sidewalk for fear it will get stolen, the relaxed parenting habits of Denmark are apparently unacceptable.
A Danish actress named Annette Sorensen found out just how unacceptable last Saturday when she parked her 14-month-old daughter, Liv, in a stroller outside the Dallas BBQ Restaurant in the East Village and went inside to have a margarita with the child’s father, an American from Brooklyn.
Such parking of a kid while parents schmooze is standard practice in Copenhagen, but it upset a vigilant New Yorker, who called 911. Police quickly came to the rescue, arresting the child’s parents, keeping them in jail for two nights and taking their daughter and placing her in the care of foster parents.
A family court judge Tuesday night ordered that the toddler be released to her mother this afternoon. The city’s Administration for Children’s Service will continue to monitor the child’s safety until the parents appear in court May 21 on charges of endangering the welfare of a child, a spokesman for the Office of Court Administration said.
“Please give me my baby!” Sorensen, 30, shouted in a Manhattan courtroom as she and the child’s father, Exavier Wardlaw, 49, were arraigned Monday. “I didn’t think twice about it. We do this in Denmark all the time.”
Sorensen had positioned the baby stroller just outside a plate-glass window of the restaurant in a chained-off area of outdoor tables and chairs. She and Wardlaw sat indoors a few feet from the child, said David Kirsch, a lawyer for Wardlaw.
Patrons had noticed that the child was crying and that she had been exposed for an hour to the cold without a jacket, said Maggie Lear, a spokesman for the Administration for Children’s Services.
“At least two patrons tried to involve the parents to get them to assist with the child and they refused,” Lear said.
Sorensen spent much of Tuesday at the Danish Consulate, where she tried to enlist the help of her government in getting custody of her child. Danish officials there expressed concern that the police had seized a Danish baby.
“A lot of people in Denmark park their child in a stroller outside while they are in for a short period. Nobody seems to have a problem with that in Denmark. It’s maybe a couple of misunderstandings. Miss Sorenson is not aware that you could be prosecuted for that kind of thing,” said Kim Christensen, a vice consul. Christensen said Danish officials worked with the prosecutor’s office and with the children’s services toward a speedy return of the child. He said, however, that they have received no assurances that charges against Sorensen will be dropped.