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.