Laura knew she needed to go to the hospital, but she wasn’t going to leave the kids home alone for what likely would be days in the middle of a pandemic. Her elderly mom, who lived nearby, was always available to care for her grandchildren; but now, asking her to do so would be asking her to put her own life at risk. Laura decided she would bring the children with her to the hospital.

She told them to stuff their backpacks with books and games, picturing the possibility that she could wind up out of it, and she didn’t know how long they would be at the hospital. The only thing she could do for them, in that moment, was to make sure they could occupy their minds.

Within hours, the decision to keep the kids by her side would threaten to split the family further apart. If she couldn’t find someone to take them, she’d be told, the state of New Jersey would.