The Arizona mom arrested after leaving her kids in a hot car while she went on a job interview said she's "extremely grateful" for a second chance, a week after reaching a deal with prosecutors that would drop criminal charges against her.
"Not many people get the opportunity that I have, so I'm grateful," Shanesha Taylor, 35, told ABC News today.
The mom left her two young sons, 2 years and 6 months old, alone in her SUV with the fan on and the windows rolled down in March during her interview in Scottsdale for a job Taylor says the family desperately needed. Taylor told police she was homeless at the time and hadn't been able to find a babysitter for the boys.
Taylor couldn't say if she would do it again.
"That's a difficult decision because I was basically choosing between caring for my children or providing for my children. That's something people face every day," she said.
Taylor didn't get the job she was seeking, but her plight prompted an outpouring of support and financial donations from strangers that totaled $114,000.
Taylor and her attorney Benjamin Taylor (the two are not related) reached an agreement with Maricopa County Bill Montgomery's office last Friday that will allow her to avoid prosecution if she meets several conditions.
"She will take 26 weeks of parenting classes and set up a trust fund for her children," Benjamin Taylor said. "That's the main agreement. Once everything is completed, which it will be, then they will officially dismiss the case."
The attorney's office confirmed that those conditions are part of the deal, but elaborated that Taylor must take a minimum of 26 weeks of parenting classes. It could be up to 52 weeks, they said, determined by a judge based on a report from the adult probation department.
The next hurdle is getting her kids back, who are under supervision of Child Protective Services, according to her attorney, who is working pro bono. They have a court date in late August.
Taylor currently has weekend visitation rights to see her three children, the two sons and a 9-year-old daughter who was in school on the day of her arrest. She remembers that day as a nightmare.
"It was a good moment when I walked out of the interview and once I saw the police, and the scene, it was devastating," Taylor said. "My mind went from, I had just secured what I needed to to take care of my family, to oh my gosh, what's going to happen to my family?"
Bystanders had reported seeing the kids left in the car, police said.
One witness said the youngest boy was crying and sweating. Temperatures in the SUV had exceeded 100 degrees.
Taylor said she thought they would be OK, and had no other choice.
"It was a moment of trying to do the right thing," she said. "I previously scheduled care that didn't come through, so I had to make a spur of the moment decision. I had to make a decision based out of desperation."
She and her children had been living in her car and bouncing between relatives' homes while she searched for work. The spiral into homelessness started in 2008 when she quit her job as a mortgage loan officer to mourn after her grandmother died, thinking it would be a temporary break. But she was never able to get back on her feet, unable to find work that paid enough and eventually downgrading from her house to an apartment, and then to a cheap motel she rented by the week.
Eventually, she was collecting food stamps and crashing with her parents.
Her story -- and her tearful mugshot -- garnered sympathy from supporters who raised more than $114,000 for Taylor's family. Taylor said she's using the money to rent a house in Phoenix and start trust funds for her kids, per the attorney's deal.
Her sons are too young to grasp why their mom is gone, but her 9-year-old daughter understands, Taylor said.
"It's a difficult balance trying to explain to her that sometimes people do things wrong, and sometimes they have to go to jail," she said. "But at the same time, she knows my intentions and how I am as a mother. She knows I do my best."
Taylor hopes her case sheds light on other parents who struggle to find work and provide for their kids.
"Parents have to make decisions: Do I keep this job, or do I get rid of this job because I can't afford daycare?" she said. "People are struggling."
Soon Taylor will begin looking for work again -- perhaps something in finance or administration -- but she's also interested in starting a nonprofit for parents like her.
"People need that one place they can go to receive help," she said. "Right now, they don't know where to go."
But for now, Taylor is just grateful to avoid being tried on felony abuse charges.
"I was given a second chance and my children were given a future," she said.