A California mother says her children were taken from her and placed in foster care for months, all because of a perfectly ordinary toddler tantrum.

In an interview with Mom.me, the mother–who uses the pseudonym Mary for the story–said she was cooking dinner one night while her husband showered. Their two-year-old son was trying to take toys from his baby brother and causing a fuss. Mary told him not to take the baby’s toys. So the two-year-old threw a huge tantrum, as toddlers do.

Mary tried to calm the shrieking 2-year-old down, but he wasn’t having it. He was screaming and trying to hit her, so she told him he’d have to go in time out. She plopped him down on the patio next to an open window, where she could watch him and the baby while she finished dinner.

Mary says her son was never more than 12 inches away from her on the other side of the wall, and she could see and hear him through the window the whole time. She says there was a four-foot hedge between the patio and the sidewalk, and the house was in a gated community and she knew all their neighbors. She says he was perfectly safe.

Two hours later, after they’d finished dinner and the tantrum was all but forgotten, police showed up at the door to investigate her for child abuse and endangerment. Mary was charged with misdemeanor child neglect, and police took the children away. They put the two-year-old in foster care, and they actually misplaced the baby.

“No one knew where he was or what state he was in!” Mary told mom.me. “How could they do that to an infant?”

The baby was exclusively breastfed, and she wasn’t allowed to nurse him and nobody would pick up the milk she was pumping for him.

A family friend managed to get qualified to take care of the children so they wouldn’t have to be in foster care anymore, but still Mary and her husband were only allowed two supervised visits in a public place a week.

Mary and her husband had hired a lawyer, and they had statements from friends, family, and doctors. They submitted photos of the patio where the 2-year-old had been put in time out, to show that he was safe the whole time. They went to court-approved parenting classes and anger management. The kids were taken away in November, and they didn’t get them back until mid-January. Even then, it wasn’t over.

The charges were finally dropped.

About two months after the children were returned, the charges were dropped without trial.

“When this whole thing started, we kept on telling ourselves that we are glad there are good people protecting kids,” Mary said. “But the longer it dragged on, the more we resented that everyone wasted time while other kids were in real danger.”

Mary’s story is unbelievable. She says her child was not injured or hurt, he was just throwing a tantrum, like any two-year-old who has been told no. They did everything they could and spent thousands of dollars, but everything kept getting delayed or misplaced, and every delay meant their children were kept away for even longer.

(Image: iStockPhoto / BrianAJackson)