Mum investigated for child trafficking after Twitter joke

“3-year-old for sale.”
“3-year-old for sale.” Photo: Shutterstock

If I had a dollar for every time I've joked about selling off my children, I wouldn't need to sell off my children. (Although I'm still open to all reasonable offers.)

But when US mum Alex McDaniel recently joked about selling her three-year-old son on Twitter, she had no idea of the trouble that would ensue when someone didn't quite get the joke.

The journalist from Mississippi was having a particularly challenging parenting day with potty training, and wrote on Twitter, "3-year-old for sale. $12 or best offer."

Seems harmless, right?

But that innocent joke led her to become the subject of a human trafficking investigation.

"This time last week, I was the subject of a human trafficking investigation. There's no punchline. This was real life," she wrote on Facebook. "The saga began when a caseworker and supervisor from Child Protection Services dropped by my office with a Lafayette County sheriff's deputy. You know, a typical Monday afternoon.

"They told me an anonymous male tipster called Mississippi's child abuse hotline days earlier to report me for attempting to sell my 3-year-old son, citing a history of mental illness that probably drove me to do it.

"Beyond notifying me of the charges, they said I'd have to take my son out of school so they could see him and talk to him that day, presumably protocol to ensure children aren't in immediate danger. So I went to his preschool, pulled my son out of a deep sleep during naptime, and did everything in my power not to cry in front of him on the drive back to my office."

Alex says what followed was "the most hellish week of my life", while she tried to clear her name, and a case worker came to her house to interview her son.

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Alex has kept her sense of humour about the incident, saying she was amazing that anyone would think she'd sell her son…for only $12.

But she was also angry about the misuse of important resources that are there to protect children in real danger.

"CPS has a hard job, both in the nature of what they do and the day-to-day demands of handling each case. Everyone has a job to do, and I don't blame them for doing what they felt they had to do in this case.

"Time and resources that should have been spent on children and families who genuinely need it were instead dedicated to a tweet, and all because someone out there probably got bent out of shape that I don't see the world the way he does."