ANew York, Danish Values Fuel Baby Imbroglio

NEW YORK -- A family court judge ruled that a 14-month-old baby should be returned to her parents, who were arrested for leaving the infant in a carriage outside a Manhattan restaurant while they dined.

The child's mother, Annette Sorensen, comes from Denmark, where it is not unusual for parents to leave children unattended while they shop or dine.

But that's unheard of in New York, where people chain up outdoor garbage cans and flower pots to prevent theft.

"I wouldn't leave a dog outside a restaurant in New York," said Leah Wells as she played with her 20-month-old son in a playground near the Dallas BBQ cafe, where the incident began Saturday.

The baby was put in foster care during the three days her parents were jailed. Judge Sheldon Rand ruled late Tuesday that the child should be returned Wednesday, said Maggie Lear, a spokeswoman for the Administration for Children's Services.

Lear said Tuesday that the agency will pay regular visits to the home, and family court will consider the case again May 21 and decide whether monitoring should continue.

Sorensen, an actress visiting New York for a month, left 14-month-old Liv in a stroller on the sidewalk next to the restaurant's plate glass window, amid outdoor tables and chairs. She went inside with the baby's father, Exavier Wardlaw, a movie production assistant who lives in New York, and sat three tables from the window, 2 meters away.

Waiters and customers suggested she bring the baby inside. "We offered to give them a big table or put the stroller back here," said waiter Peter Plano. "But she said the baby was fine."

Then a concerned customer called police. Officers charged both parents with endangering the welfare of a child. The father was also charged with disorderly conduct.

A judge would decide what happens next in Manhattan Criminal Court on Monday.

Sorensen was at the Danish Consulate on Tuesday and refused interviews.

"We're trying to help her obtain legal counsel and find out what this case is really about," said consulate spokesman Kim Christiansen.

He said a Dane would find it strange that "you could actually be charged here with leaving your child outside a place very near where you could see what was going on."

Indeed, parents in Denmark were astonished. "Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Denmark is a safer place to live in than New York," said Tue Hoejbjerg, who left his son on a Copenhagen sidewalk for a dozen minutes as he ate in a fast food restaurant.