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Florida Parents Charged with Neglect for Soap Punishment

An 8-year-old Florida girl's bad word had severe consequences for all involved, Palm Bay police said.

According to investigative reports, the girl's mother, 32-year-old Adriyanna Herdener, deferred punishment to her live-in boyfriend, 41-year-old Wilfredo Rivera. After all, he was the father of their 18-month-old daughter and, as Herdener told police, "the head of the household."

What happened next went from simple punishment to what police call a crime and saw both adults lose custody of their children.

Herdener told police that Rivera grabbed a bar of Irish Spring soap and told the girl to not just wash her mouth out with it, but to eat it.

It is a ramped-up version of an old-fashioned punishment many of today's adults endured as children - and one experts say just doesn't work anymore, if it ever did.

"I think what parents have to keep in mind is that, when a child does anything, discipline is a chance to teach," said Ginny Gleason, a Brevard (Fla.) Public Schools parent involvement resource teacher.

Herdener told police she stood by and watched as her asthmatic daughter chewed on the green bar with white swirls for more than 10 minutes, crying. The girl began foaming at the mouth.

Like many soaps on the market today, Irish Spring contains anti-bacterial ingredients, which experts say is great for killing germs, but poisonous if ingested.

Palm Bay police spokeswoman Yvonne Martinez said the girl threw up after eating half the soap bar and begged through tears to rinse her mouth out.

"He laughed at her," Martinez said. "And then the mother made her clean up the vomit."

As the girl slipped into anaphylactic shock, her lips, mouth and throat began to swell. Police said she was in danger of suffocating.

Herdener told Rivera to take the girl to the hospital because she "didn't want to deal with" officials from the Department of Children and Family Services, according to police reports .

When Rivera arrived at Palm Bay Hospital, he explained to medical staff what had happened. But when he realized they were calling the police, he grabbed the girl and bolted from the emergency room - heading back to the couple's duplex, investigators said.

After Rivera carried the girl back into the house near midnight, Herdener told police she gave her daughter Benadryl and put her to bed.

Police arrived at the house to find the girl in bed, wheezing.

"It could have turned life-threatening if we hadn't gotten there when we did," Martinez said. "The parents were more concerned about avoiding police interaction."

Martinez said the soap punishment rose to the level of a crime because of the malicious torture involved and the protection and help the mother failed to provide to her child. She said other old-fashioned punishments, such as spanking with a switch or belt, can also become crimes.

"Parents have been arrested for using the belt when it leaves welts," Martinez said.

Herdener and Rivera are charged with neglect of a child and child abuse and face a November court hearing.

The 8-year-old girl and her 18-month-old half-sister are in foster care.

6 Responses »

  1. I used to make my kids taste the soap never eat it..however, I disagree with the author of this article...My children never swore or used inappropriate words, and remembered when they were 8 or 9yrs old why....I saw many parents who never did anything and their children to this day still have "POTTY" mouths and it makes them most offensive in any social situation.

    The step dad really went too far but he originally had the correct idea...too bad he didn't know when to stop...!! And it is hard to believe that the mother stood by and did nothing...!

    • You children never swore around you, but I'd put money down that they swore when you weren't around. When were your children little, back in the 60s or 70s? Move out of the dark ages Grandmama! In this day and age, kids hear swearing EVERYWHERE! It is part of our culture now, unfortunately, and noone can get away from it! You should use other forms of discipline to teach good manners. And that's what refraining from swearing is...good manners. My kids are 11, 12 and 17, and if they say crap or something mild, it's nothing to punish them for. They hear a lot worse everyday. Find another way, use examples, extra chores, something relevant to the infraction. Punishment and discipline are two different things. You punish a criminal, you discipline a child.

      • Let's face it....kids are alot more disrespectful then they have ever been. Some things you can let slide, somethings you can you use simple discipline....but there is a difference between a spanking and abuse. It seems to me that you didn't learn the value of "respecting your elders". You should've gotten your behind spanked more often! What that couple did was gravely wrong..and apparently should not have ever become parents. But instead you insist on attacking an old fashioned grandmother, rather than the parents who commited this haneous crime. Parents are afraid to discipline their children because they know who to call when they don't get their way.

  2. May I REMIND you of the children who burned the little boy, because he told on them for stealing his fathers bicycle. Kids rule parents,,,,parents dont rule children. They do not fear committing crimes, because we dont take them becoming adults seriously enough. We allow entities to run our lives....com!munities just turn there heads....and then when something bad happens, we hang our heads in shame because families do not help other families. You can't wait for children to become adults, when they become adults. Wake up America!

  3. Modern Mom,

    I can just imagine what you allow your kids to get away with! You have already given them the excuse to swear.......Kids should take responsibility for their own actions, not look to the excuses of the parents. I dont care if my kids cuss, if they obey two rules...

    1. Do not swear around adults
    2. Do not swear around small children

    It is called self-respect

  4. What the boyfriend did was uncalled for.
    Several people abused my sons. I left my ex-husband for it. If I knew then what I know know I would have turned them in. They ran away the next time & the next time I was not told about, until they were grown. They were in their teens, the last time & I helped them get away.