Mom Arrested for Letting Her 13-y.o. Babysit Siblings

Hi Folks! “Mom Arrested for for Age-Old Parenting Practice” is how I would headline this case going down in New Canaan, CT, right now. But the actual article begins, “A 39-year-old woman was arrested for leaving her children at home unattended, police said.”

Are children “unattended” if there are four siblings and one of them is 13? (And another is 10?) I’d say that’s the very definition of  “attended.” What happened in this particular case is that the 4-year-old sibling some how got out of the house and ventured across the street. Whereupon a “good” Samaritan called the police. To me that is the very definition of a “bad” Samaritan — someone immediately involving the police and dragging the family into the “justice” system, instead of trying to walk the kid back to her house.

The “negligent” mom was at church and had left maybe an hour before the official babysitter was due to arrive. For this wildly unacceptable belief in her kids (and neighbors) she was charged with “risk of injury to a minor.”

What about the risk to my head from banging it against the wall? Will no one speak for the parents? – L

137 Responses

  1. This is just so INSANE!

  2. I realize it was a “different era” (1986) but I was 10 the first time I babysat, and the baby was 1. Yes, I was in a hotel during a convention, and my parents and her parents were in the same hotel on a different floor, but i was responsible for this baby until they got back. No one thought it was weird or not okay.

  3. I wonder if there’s an ordinance there about the legal age for babysitters/staying alone is. Where I live, it’s 12, and that’s pretty common for other ordinances I’ve heard about. It would be interesting if there was actually an ordinance/law on the books saying that this practice is totally fine…

  4. Why is this an issue? When I was in middle school all the girls I knew babysat; even for, gasp, 2 or three kids at a time. The comments in the article stating that a 13 year old may be left home alone but cannot watch other kids is just plain ludicrous. I can’t handle this…. ugh.

  5. I couldn’t agree with you more. Where did society’s need to rat out their neighbours to the police and/or Children’s Aid for what used to be common practices come from? When I was 13 years old, I watched my younger siblings from time to time. For that matter, I was hired by neighbours to watch their children, sometimes until well after midnight. At what point did that become neglectful on the part of parents? What age is the cut-off?

  6. Wow. It sucks that the 4yo wandered off, but I don’t see how this is criminal behavior. My oldest two have been babysitting their younger siblings since they were 13 and 12. Before that, my friend’s daughter babysat (and she was 14 or 15). It’s really not a big deal. They take turns watching the 3yo, and the other kids pretty much take care of themselves.

    In fact, when I go out and people ask who is watching the kids (because people are always shocked that a mom of 7 is ever able to leave the house, LOL!), I tell them that my oldest two babysit, and no one has EVER been shocked or concerned about this arrangement.

  7. Growing up in the 50s and 60s, I started babysitting for my brothers and for neighbors by age 12. That was the usual age.

  8. blueridgebadger, are you SURE that is the law in your area? I’m only asking because a lot of people seem to think that is the law here, when in actuality there is no such law where I live. In fact, a friend of mine was told by CPS that it was illegal to allow a 12yo to play outside alone, and that’s not true either.

  9. I was 12 yrs old when my first sister was born. Within 4 days mom left for work in the evening and I was in charge. My mother and step father were both second shift.

    I was feeling a little put upon and nervous but over the next 6 years (and two more sisters) I have some of the best memories and sibling closeness.

    Along with 40 being the new thirty, I believe 20 has become the new 10 and the law now considers anyone under 10 should be treated as an infant.

  10. Everytime I hear about some “law” about babysitting age, the law doesn’t actually exist. Ridiculous. Kids wander off. Be a good neighbor and help out and get the kid back.

  11. Our favorite babysitter is 13. But sometimes she can’t sit because she’s busy watching her 3 younger siblings. It’s really quite ridiculous that this woman was arrested. Thank goodness for Lenore’s movement to bring some sense into the parenting world.

  12. Here’s the fact: There is no actual law in that community prohibiting a 13-year-old acting as a babysitter. Because there was no law, the mother did not break a law.

  13. Unfortunately when I was young, a 13 year old neighbor girl got pregnant and had the baby. Her mother didn’t get in trouble, not one bit of trouble, as she should have. If you can get pregnant then maybe its time to have a little bit of responsibility, maybe watching your younger sibilings will work as birth control.


  15. When I was a Junior Girl Scout back in the late 70’s, I took a Red Cross babysitting course in which we were told it was fine to babysit during the day when you are 10, and at night when you are 11. I remember being only a year or two older than a kid I babysat for–he was the most-mature 9 year old I ever met. I even remember asking the parents why they bothered to have a sitter.

    I wonder if any documentation from that course exists today? There were definitely handouts and I think a printed booklet. I’d love to see a copy of that today. It might be an eye opener.

  16. Um… husband and I have plans for a date to a movie tonight, leaving my 13 year old to babysit the 3 year old (the 10 year old has his own plans). Hope my “wild” night of watching MIB 3 and eating popcorn doesn’t end with me in jail!

  17. The Redcross course is offered for ages 11-15.

  18. It seems like everyone is trying to catch someone else for doing something “wrong”. More than likely, the self righteous Samaritan was probably babysitting before she was thirteen, just like I was. It is unfortunate the four year old escaped, but probably would have on mom or dad’s watch too. That’s what four year olds try to do. The family has my sympathies for the media attention.

  19. Let’s see, at 13 I was babysitting four kids every weekday during the summer and school breaks for six hour shifts. My 11 year old friend would meet us all at the park with the kid she was babysitting. All five of the children being watched by us were the children of police officers.

  20. I just found the current Red Cross Babysitter’s Guide online–for kids 11-15. It looks like a terrific resource for parents looking to increase their kids independence. It goes over everything from preventative safety, to simple first-aid and what to do in emergencies, feeding and bathing young kids, how to be a leader, and much more.

    Also, one of the first pages has an ad for Red Cross *lifeguard* training for 11+ kids as well!

  21. I wonder what would have happened if the police had knocked on the door and adult would have been home. Would they have been arrested on the spot?

    Hasn’t this happened to all of us at one time or another — a small child slips away while you are unaware. It happens to parents and to baby sitters alike.

    i shudder to think at the consequences of having this classified as a crime.

  22. This is just so wrong.
    My kids are almost 12, 10, 9, 6 and almost 2. The older 4 regularly stay home by themselves. No one is “babysitting” anyone else. They’re all just at home (hopefully behaving). The other day I contemplated leaving the baby with them for an hour while I walked to the store. They watch him all the time while I’m in another room or out doing yard work. They take him to the park alone and they’re very good with him. I don’t see why the almost 12yo and 10 1/2yo can’t be responsible for him for an hour (the 10yo is the one that takes him to the park most of the time).

    I remember reading there was a minimum age for babysitting but can’t remember if it was 11 or 12. I know the local Boys & Girls Club offers the babysitting course for kids 11-15.

    What always gets me about these cases is the commentors that scream a 11/12/13 year old can’t handle/be responsible for younger kids or being alone or whatever. I think what they mean to say is THEIR kid couldn’t handle it and then they transfer that on to every other kid in the world. Because my almost 12yo is perfectly capable of watching her almost 2yo brother probably for more than an hour (he adores her). So could the 10yo. The 9yo is a little flighty so I don’t really like to leave her completely alone but she’s fine with siblings (she has stayed by herself before, though). And the 6yo only gets to stay if she’s with her siblings and I think they can all behave. If she’s been getting on their nerves I know the second I leave it will be a madhouse so then she comes with me.

    I suppose if you’ve treated your child like he’s incompetent for all 13 years of his life then he won’t be able to handle staying alone or babysitting because he wouldn’t know what to do without mom right there. My kids have been encouraged to be independent and self-reliant for the last how ever many years and… they are.

    And the neighbor should have been more neighborly and walked the kid back to his house and find out what was going on. I can’t stand the current trend of trying to get your neighbors into trouble. When did tattling to the police become the thing to do?

    Yet another teachable moment for the 4yo (not to wander off) and the 13yo (better keep a better eye on the little ones) gone to waste because the only lesson they’ll learn is that they did nothing wrong and mom is to blame. Better lock her up before those kids learn they can be responsible on their own.

  23. I did that same age 10/11 Red Cross class when I was that age and could not have been more proud of the trust placed in me – or in the cash I earned. I can’t decide if I’m more saddened, horrified, or terrified by the idea that a 13 year old is viewed as not old enough or responsible enough to watch his own siblings. What kind of world are we going to have when all these kids are the grownups, never having known an ounce of responsibility or accountability?!?

  24. You know the more I am thinking about this the more I wonder….Did the neighbor KNOW the mother was gone. I mean, why would she call the police instead of walking the child home. Makes you wonder if there was an ulterior motive there, to get the mother in trouble

  25. Have you read that comment thread? One person on it who replies over and over must be the self-appointed leader of the non-Free Range movement. Absolutely crazy. I also babysat three children when I was 13. One a baby, one a 4 year old and one a 9 year old who was himself free range enough that I barely saw him when I was there! : )

  26. Some four-year-olds walk to KG. Good thing the neighbors don’t call the police every time.

    So disheartening. Punishing a mom for going to church. Maybe she was praying for patience in dealing with her four-year-old.

  27. Ann said: “When I was a Junior Girl Scout back in the late 70′s, I took a Red Cross babysitting course in which we were told it was fine to babysit during the day when you are 10, and at night when you are 11.”

    This is something I find interesting. I actually let my kids babysit at night (even late at night) before I let them babysit during the day. It seems counter-intuitive, but at night little kids go to sleep and you don’t have to do anything for them. At night no one is going out to play, coming in and out of the house, so less chance of a small child escaping. (I make my kids stay in the house and lock the door every time they babysit, because otherwise my 3yo would try to escape. But I feel guilty about it during the day when they could be outside playing with their friends.) Also, break-ins are more common during the day when fewer people are home (though any burglar with half a brain would pass on my houseful of screaming kids and barking dogs), and at night there are more other adults home in the neighborhood in case the kids run into trouble. House fires are more common in the evening, but that’s because of people cooking dinner, so it’s really more common “when people are cooking” than anything else.

    I really can’t think of anything that would make babysitting harder or more dangerous at night than during the day.

  28. Melissa, it looks like the self-appointed Decider of All Things Parental is getting taken to task by a few of the commenters.

  29. I must say there are some people out there who will call CPS / police over having a difference in parenting philosopy with a neighbor. I am on a forum where certain people post frequently about the “horrible” things they see other parents do to/with their kids. And they are almost relieved when the behavior crosses the “I get to call CPS” line. They must live in some scary neighborhoods because I almost never see parenting that makes me sincerely worried for the child.

    My grandma told me that when she was little, the moms who didn’t like their neighbors would go in the backyard and moon each other. I’m not sure which is worse. Actually, yes I am. (In case you’re wondering, my neighbors are cool and have not been mooned so far.)

  30. Sorry, meant to say AMEN at the end of my last comment but the two and a half year old was trying to escape out the back door to “care for” his plants.

  31. Ann, thanks for linking to the Babysitter’s Training Handbook! I’m definitely going to pass that along to my kids! The “bathing small children” part makes me LOL, though, because it reminds me of the first time my oldest daughter bathed a baby. She was 7, and I guess her little sister had to be about 20 months at the time. I was in the hospital, and she told the babysitter, “Mommy ALWAYS lets me give her a bath!” (I had actually NEVER let her do it. Don’t know where she got this idea.) The sitter believed her, I guess because he knows that I encourage my kids to be independent and responsible and help around the house. I guess I should be proud that he thought she was capable enough to do it, LOL!

  32. My daughter took babysitting classes from the YMCA at age 10 and would babysit kids on our street after hours when I was at home (so she had help right there). After the first couple of times she was good to go and loved it. By the time she was 15, she’d saved enough money to buy her own car.

  33. I agree that it’s nuts to arrest parents for leaving a 13-yo to babysit (I admit, I live in a neighboring town & almost left my 11 yo in charge of my 7 yo for 1.5 hrs last night, but my bro-in-law showed up as I was leaving). However, if one reads the comments, this may not be quite so black & white. The article indeed makes it sound ridiculous, but if you read through all of the comments, the neighbor who called the police explains that they live on a lake, the child has wandered over several times & the parents have not made any apparent effort to stop the child, so this time she called the police because she had true concerns for the child that had nothing to do with being left with siblings. Perhaps not the best way to deal with it, and no doubt an incomplete news report (thus feeding the safety insanity), but for once this may be a case where a neighbor had actual real concerns about a child’s safety, has tried to help previously, and this time felt they had to take more serious action.

  34. Jenn, said: “You know the more I am thinking about this the more I wonder….Did the neighbor KNOW the mother was gone. I mean, why would she call the police instead of walking the child home. Makes you wonder if there was an ulterior motive there, to get the mother in trouble”

    I had the cops called on me when my 3yo escaped the house, even though I was home. Admittedly, he was wearing nothing but a diaper, but that’s because I did not intend for him to be leaving the house! He got as far as running down our driveway, and unfortunately into the street with a car coming, before my older kids who were playing outside caught him. I came outside to get him, and the people in the car were ALREADY on the phone with the police. Lucky for me, all I got was a stern, “Don’t let it happen again.”

  35. That is completely ridiculous. I was babysitting my sisters and cousins by the time I was 11/12. I was walking down the hill to the store by myself to get milk and bread and to the post office for my mom by the time I was 6. That was 30 years ago, but still, not a big deal.

    My kids are 10 and almost 7 (birthday is in 2 weeks). They have been left home by themselves for a couple of hours at a time during the day for at least 6 months now, and the oldest by himself for longer than that. In fact, they’ll be home by themselves for a couple of hours tomorrow, since, even though I’m officially off work for the summer, I have to go to a mandatory diversity training seminar in the afternoon.

    They also go to the school playground across the street all by themselves pretty regularly, and once school starts back in the fall, the oldest will be getting a house key and I won’t have to pop home from work in the afternoons to let them in and get them settled. He is perfectly capable of getting a snack, helping his brother with homework, and turning on the tv/computer by himself.

  36. When my younger brother was about 18 months old he managed to escape from the back yard without my mom noticing. At the time my mom was running an after school care program at home. One of the moms whose daughter stayed with us after school, found my brother just as he was about to step into a busy road and brought him home. Not only did she not call welfare or police, she also continued to trust my mom with her daughter’s care. There are no perfect parents. I wonder if people who are so keen to call the authorities rather than act like a community and helping other parents, live in fear of doing something wrong themselves. And this fear probably leads to them overprotecting their children, stifling their development and producing adolescents with minimal life skills.

  37. Oh, and my mom swears I escaped and tried to walk a mile or so down the road to my grandmother’s house with my stuffed animal monkey when I was about 3 or 4. My grandpa was driving past and saw me, very close to their house, and brought me back home. And this is told as a charming/funny story about how attached I was to my grandparents and how busy my mom was with my two younger sisters and not at all as a cautionary/don’t let his happen to you story. Because it never crossed anybody’s mind that something bad would happen to me from one place to the next. Again, a little over 30 years ago, but the late 70s/early 80s weren’t *that* different of a time.

  38. I wish I could have peace in my heart again about leaving my 10 year old home alone. I started doing it last year, for up to half an hour at a time. But then we had two burglaries in less than a month, both during daytime. Sadly this is not that unusual where we live either and if you’re home during a break-in there is a high possibility of violence, so unfortunately I feel it is a real risk. I worry that my child is not getting the experience of handling herself on her own.

  39. ks, you just reminded me of a story about my cousin. They lived in a rural South African town, late 70’s. My youngest cousin was an escape artist, no fence, gate or wall could keep her in. When she was around 4 years old she would often disappear and my aunt and uncle would search the neighbourhood and find her happily watching tv with complete strangers sometimes. Nobody got upset about it, nobody called the police, she was never assaulted, and all that happened was that an extended community helped to take care of an adventurous little girl.

  40. Only 2 states actually have babysitting laws…And I’m pretty sure 13 is old enough in those 2. People call the police because they don’t want to be responsible for anything. My 5 year old hit another child in his kindergarten class this year and before letting the school notify me of t his, the child’s mother called the police. The FIRST I heard of it was when a police officer called me the next morning to “inform” me that he was going to have a talk with my son. Fortunately, he assured me he thought it was pretty ridiculous to call the police over the matter and he was only going to talk to him about the importance of keeping his hands to himself, but the CRAZY MOTHER thought the police should take over because she didn’t want to responsibility of teaching her child how to deal with things.

  41. My daughter took the Red Cross babysitting course last fall at age 11 (minimum age). Silly me, i thought that meant she was ready and able to sit. I have four kids – 11, 10, 8, 6 and the oldest two are left in charge quite often for an hour or two. My neighbor pays my oldest to sit for her 3 little ones…hopefully no one will call the police on me, I’ve got a busy schedule which doesn’t allow for jail time.

  42. Read through some of the comments, and the shrill replies from the woman calling herself “Canaanite” have me shaking my head. Yes, nothing bad happened, “BUT WHAT IF IT HAD?”

    According to her logic, I should stay inside cowering all day because a plane might fall on my head, or I might get struck by lightning. No, it’s not likely, but the statistical probability is greater than zero, so EVERYONE BE AFRAID OF EVERYTHING!!1!

  43. I going to defend the neighbor here somewhat. If the neighbor did try to walk the 4y.o. back It’s possible that the neighbor could have had the police calle on him/her, especially if it was a male. It’s a shame that everything has been so subjected to the legal system that the police end up being called into a situation that could have been handled by neighbors and were in the not so recent past. You see the same thing with teachers being so afraid to discipline that the police get called in and do what police are trained to do which is arrest people.

  44. Added to say, Helia, you describe a situation where concern is actually warranted. If your neighborhood is having a rash of break-ins, that’s a good reason to worry. And then after they catch the guys, or after it’s been peaceful for a while, I’m sure you will feel more secure leaving your daughter at home.

  45. SKL, I just don’t understand why people CARE so much about the way other people parent. There are some parents in my neighborhood who annoy me, but only when their behavior affects ME. (Like the mom who encouraged her daughter to beat up my daughter, or the mom who calls to ask if I can babysit… when she’s already left the house and her daughter is already walking over to my house.) I would never think to actually try to interfere with another parents’ decision for his or her own kids, no matter how stupid I think it is.

    On the other hand, I have had parents request (and once even DEMAND) that I unground my kids so their kids have someone to play with. I’ve had one neighborhood mom confront my kid in the street to tell him what a bad parent I am (for grounding my daughter), on top of repeatedly telling my daughter how awful it is that I homeschool her. I also know a dad who likes to step in when he thinks I’ve made a bad decision and contradict me to my kids, right in front of me. (Like, I told my 10yo he could go home from the park because he was being a brat, and this guy steps in and says, “Oh, no you can’t! You HAVE to stay with your mother!”) Not even my husband would dare do that to me (nor would I to him — we’d talk about it in private.) Self-righteous *****s, the lot of them.

  46. If my grandmother could read this story, believe me, she would roll furiously in her grave. My grandmother grew up in the rural south and worked long hours in the field alongside her family of two parents and 8 siblings, sharecropping. Her earliest memories–and I won’t romanticize it, because they weren’t her fondest memories–were of her working as a little girl in the field, leaving briefly mid-day to make a giant meal for her family, and then heading back out to the fields to work for the rest of the day boiling under the sun, doing back-breaking work. If you told my grandmother that a 13 year old isn’t capable of baby-sitting , I know she would stare at you like you just arrived from Mars. Since she’s not here to rant at this story, I will. I babysat 8-month-old babies long before I was 12 years old and by the time I was 13, I was a seasoned babysitter, bossing anything shorter than me around. I was a freeranger, because that’s just how things were. It’s no wonder I was employed as a firefighter and a wilderness ranger, all before the age of 24. It makes me wonder how many kids don’t even bother fantasizing about the big adventures awaiting them, since even our legal systems makes criminals out of parents that dare to imagine that their young teen is capable of keeping their siblings alive for an hour without adult supervision. ‘tis a shameful waste of our legal system.

  47. If the person who commented saying they were the neighbor who called actually is, then I won’t fault them for calling the cops after multiple times of walking the child home. I still do think that it is ridiculous for the mother to be arrested. My kid manages to escape despite going above and beyond in the way of securing the doors- who expects a 2 year old to be able to climb the door frame or to hold on while unlocking both a chain and deadbolt? Thankfully my neighbors are understanding and get a good chuckle when they see my son running naked down the sidewalk with me carrying a baby with a naked butt and a diaper in hand running after him.

  48. WptMom, that does make it less clear cut, but it also brings up more questions. How close is the lake? I live about three blocks from a creek, and I feel like that’s far enough away that I don’t even worry about my small children falling into it when I first let them play outside alone. When I was a kid, my grandparents lived about 5 blocks away from a lake. Yes, their house was “close” to the lake, but not so close that a small child couldn’t play outside alone.

    Also, we don’t know how mature this 4yo is. Is this a small child who keeps escaping from her parents, or is it a mature kid who the parents feel is ready to play outside on her own (and the neighbor just doesn’t agree with that)? I know that for my youngest son, who will be 4 next month, he is nowhere ready to play outside on his own. However, my youngest daughter WAS ready at 4, and I spent a year trying to keep her inside (much to her misery AND mine), before finally relenting when she turned 5. I really could have let her out much sooner, but I’d made my other kids wait until they were 6, and it took me awhile to accept that she was just ready younger.

  49. So there was a lake nearby. Okay, I can see the cause for concern. If the neighbor had repeatedly walked the child back, that’s good. But if the problem wasn’t getting solved, did the neighbor share her concern with the child’s mother about the danger of the lake? That’s a lot more proactive!

    And yes, I am so glad I’m not the only one who read the comments! I thought about leaving my one, but I didn’t feel like registering. If we should arrest people on the grounds that something bad might happen, let’s just all get incarcerated right now!

  50. If the person who commented saying they were the neighbor who called actually is, then I won’t fault them for calling the cops after multiple times of walking the child home. I still do think that it is ridiculous for the mother to be arrested.

    Agreed on both points, Heather.

    IF the kid is constantly getting out that MAY mean a real, ongoing problem. Or it might not. If it’s true that the kid is always getting out, though, I’m hopeful they’ve at least thought about this rationally rather than panicking or going “well, just in case….” over nothing.

  51. One more comment on the lake thing: My parents’ community recently dealt with the tragedy where a toddler drowned in a river. I know it. Water can be very dangerous for little kids. When it comes to water, parents should be intelligent and cautious. I’m sure everyone here knows better than to be flippant about water safety.

    But, as Michelle mentioned, how far is this lake? Is this beachfront property or does it take some walking to get to this body of water? Just how concerned about this lake do the parents of this neighborhood need to be? Every community is going to have SOME local danger–should parents lock up their kids or use intelligence, reason, and good sense?

  52. I love how the charge is “risk of injury to a minor.” Every parent should be charged with this as soon as the mother gives birth, because bringing a child into this world inherently puts them at risk.

  53. Michelle, yes, there are still plenty of questions about the level of actual danger to the child. I don’t know any more about it, as I have only read the comments. From the neighbor’s comments, it seems the lake is very close (in her backyard), there have been drownings before, there are no fences, that she has walked the child home several times and talked to parents, and she had serious concerns about the child’s safety. Perhaps the child can swim, perhaps the child was nowhere near the water, but merely on her property & thus she was concerned….I don’t know. However, it does not appear to be a case of a neighbor calling police because kids were left with siblings…but once again, the reporting on it has turned this into a huge debate about the “irresponsibility” of young babysitters, and the hysteria of nosy neighbors, neither of which seem to have played a role in what actually happened.

  54. So, why does the Red Cross offer thier babysitting class to 11 year olds? I thought it was because they could babysit.

  55. “I love how the charge is “risk of injury to a minor.” Every parent should be charged with this as soon as the mother gives birth, because bringing a child into this world inherently puts them at risk.”

    Why not during pregnancy? Being born is terribly risky!

  56. I wonder if The Baby-Sitters Club series would be allowed to be in print these days. The characters were 13 and 11! I grew up idolizing the Baby-Sitters Club and to be honest I think I was an extra-responsible tween because of it.

  57. Hmmm…I have actually hired 13 year olds to watch my kids!

    When I was a kid in the 70s, I started babysitting when I was 10 and stopped babysitting when I was 13. Babysitting was definitely a junior high school thing to do. I didn’t know anyone who was still babysitting in high school.

  58. I was less than 13 (maybe 11 or 12), when I was babysitting a family the next street over. The parents snuck out without saying bye to the the littlest one. The 3 yo realized the parents had left and she ran outside to catch them. So now I’m on one of my 1st babysitting jobs, the alarm is going off and the preschooler has taken off.

    I had just caught the 3 yo, when the cops came because of the alarm. They helped me reset the alarm. I asked how much the fine was going to be for setting off the alarm. The cops responded that this wasn’t a false alarm because it let me know the child had run out the front door. Oh I babysat for that family for several years.

  59. I was watching my nephew and brother at 9, and by 11 I was watching 2 nephews + my brother, as well as unrelated kids. And this was in 1994 – 96!

    If the child has escaped before and the parents thought the lake was a risk, they would have been more cautious (by either not leaving the 13 year old in charge or ensuring the 13 year old would be more cautious). They’ve managed to keep the kids from drowning for this long, haven’t they? I grew up near a lake and by 4 I certainly knew how to swim and that I could go look at the lake, but I could not go in nor close enough to fall in without having a buddy and telling whomever was in charge at the time (parents or babysitter).

    I don’t know if the neighbor that called the police owns the lake, but if not, I see no reason the 4 year old can’t go look at the lake from a safe distance alone. The neighbor does have the right to not have the child on her property, though, so she could inform the family of where her property lines are so that the child can stay off.

    This is a case of the neighbor and the police thinking something was more of a concern than the parents did. It’s not about the neighbor disagreeing that the 13 year old could babysit, but it’s still about a disagreement over parenting choices.

    The comments, though, are certainly about a 13 year old not being able to babysit, and those comments are quite scary. People that are claiming they have never let their child out of their eyesight for a second, acting as if that is something to be proud of; people saying they are going to call cps because neighbors put their kids out in the yard to play all day; someone saying the cops should be called because a class was grilled and one kid admitted her parents left her alone for 8 hours! It is just mind-boggling that all these things that were normal a generation ago are now seen as criminal…

  60. Did anyone watch Mad Men the other night? It takes place in the late 1960’s. 12 or 13 year old Sally was left alone in her father’s doorman-guarded, possibly penthouse NYC apartment for a morning. I was on a message board about the show and people were complaining that she was left alone. Yikes! 12 or 13! Dorman! 1960’s! C’mon, people. Forget the fact that it’s fictional, these people were saying how that it shows the parents really don’t care about her, etc. I avoided getting into an argument with a guy who was saying it would be years before his 11 year old daughter would be left alone. How did I avoid it? By logging off, LOL. You just can’t argue with people like that.

  61. This is the link to the story I watched on CNN. One of the reporters (who actually used to work at our local news station many years ago) admitted her own child had even gotten out of her house while she was home and so she felt sorry for the mother. The other commentator was ruthless however and it was really over-the-top.

  62. This is absolutely ridiculous! My 14 year old baby-sits his siblings whenever I need him to. I am a single mother and we are all contributing members of our new family dynamic. I started baby-sitting at 12 and was fully capable. When will people start trusting their children?

  63. dallassteph, I don’t think that reporter actually *wants* people to email her. I bet she would be shocked to see how many people *did* babysit at 13 and how her “anything can happen” argument applies to when adults are home with the kids too.

  64. While my sister-in-law and her family were on vacation my nephew(13yrs) wanted to sleep in while the rest of the family went down to breakfast at the hotel. My sister-in-law lost custody of her 13yr old son (to her ex-husband) for child endangerment!

  65. I was the youngest of 4 kids. My mum was a nurse and my father worked shifts too. We were left home alone all the time when my oldest sister was that age. Sometimes we woke up in a house without parents! It was never regarded as babysitting either. We only called it babysitting if you got paid for it. If you were left home alone, it was just your responsibility to make sure your younger siblings didn’t get into trouble. And in our case, got to school with lunches and clean clothes.

    Calling the cops for a child that got out is not being a good samaritan indeed. It is damaging the trust of your neighbours and we all know that the world does not need more of that.

  66. I lived near a lake from age 7 to 12. Our small street dead-ended into it – there was only one house between my house and the lake. I still ranged free. Even played near the lake and on the lake in the winter alone (well with friends) at that age.

    Likewise, we now have a pool in our government housing compound. It has a fence around it but not lock. The fence door is often left open. My daughter can go in anytime. I trust her not to. I’m not panicked about her playing outside alone or walking around the compound herself. She’s never gone into the pool area by herself nor do I think she would based on 6 years of experience with my kid.

    4 is a little younger, but I’d have trusted my daughter in the exact same situation at 4 years old. I’d poke my head out more frequently than I do now, but otherwise I’d trust her not to go in the pool. Some kids can be trusted to stay out of pools and lakes if faced with pools and lakes in their backyards their entire lives. Some cannot. We don’t know where this kid falls but I’m not sure that a neighbor knows that much more than us.

    And why not just keep bringing the kid home if you don’t want him in your yard? If my neighbor’s kid got out and came into my yard regularly, I would just continue to walk him home. It’s neighborly. But then I was a wanderer so I would have been the kid in the neighbors yard through no fault of my parents so I understand the wandering child.

  67. I’m sure I’m repeating what others here are saying, but I’m late and haven’t read all the comments. I watched my younger sisters starting when I was 10/11. I started babysitting other people’s kids for money when I was 13. I was good and in high-demand. I made a lot of money back then and that was at only $2/hr when I started!

  68. HAHAHA. Oh. My. God. Well, thank goodness the laws are different here in the Great White North. Here, my son is legal to babysit (siblings and other peoples’ children) the very day he turns 12 years old, and successfully passes the ‘babysitting’ course.

    I have friends who think I’m insane because I can’t wait to leave the house, and leave my son in charge of the other kids. I think it’s normal and a necessary part of growing up.

    I remember CLEARLY being put in charge of a 5 month old infant when I was 10 (almost 11). I remember being given very specific instructions, and being trusted to make sure he was cared for properly.

    It’s how I started learning to be a good mother.

    I hope that the mother in this case gets enough support to have the charges laughed square out of court.

    And I hope the oldest, who was in charge got grounded.

  69. It’s heartening to read all these comments and know that i’m not alone in my practise of leaving my four children aged between 7yo and 11yo alone for an hour or so. I never tell anyone because I know they wont approve.
    I hope the mother in this case has any charges dropped!

  70. I don’t know if it’s still the case. But when I was young Oregon’s law stated a 13 year old could babysit *or* a 12 year old if they had passed the state-approved course (usually hosted by the Red Cross). I took the class as was doing overnight, multikid jobs almost immediately. In fact my very first overnight job was a weekend, early Friday afternoon to late Sunday morning, with 3 kids (about a year, 3 years, and 5 years) including a teething baby. The parents were out hunting, so not able to be contacted, and my parents (who certainly were availible if I had an emergency) were a good 20 min away. I spent all Friday night pacing with the teething baby, who screamed when put down, and nearly all of Saturday night too. We all walked to the library on Saturday successfully to. The job ultimately went fine. I was tired, but the only ‘problem’ I had the whole time was when the two older ones decided to climb on the counter and get into the sugar bowl with a spoon each ten minutes before the parents got home! 12 year olds are only irresponsible to watch kids if they’ve been carefully trained by their parents for 12 years to be that way! And certainly having a 4 year old wander to a neighbor’s yard is hardly negligent behavior, it’s 4 year old behavior. A proper neighbor would have told the child to go back home or maybe walked them back.

  71. I used to read ‘baby sitters club’ books when I was younger and there were 11 and 13 year olds baby sitting all the time – hence the titles of the books. What has really changed????

  72. This is so very bad. In the 80s my sisters and I were left “alone” all of the time and we never had any problems. My oldest sister once burned herself on the stove (stupid design — the controls were in the back) but she took care of herself and went to the doctor’s office once an adult came home to take her there. I think she was 12 or 13. And that was the worst thing that ever happened when we were “alone.”

  73. When I was 13 I was regularly babysitting for my younger siblings (10 and 4 at the time) and for other kids in the neighborhood (including one in a house on a lake!). I started watching my younger brother for an hour or so at a time when I was 10 and he was 1. Never knew I had such a terrible mother for allowing me to do that.

  74. I regularly HIRE 13-year-old babysitters to babysit my kids who are 9, 7, 5, 4 and 1. This sort of thing makes me so irritated that I want to scream, really scream. What is wrong with people that a 13-year-old isn’t considered capable enough to watch their own younger siblings for a little while? I could see it being a problem if the mom was gone for a day or more, but a few hours? Ridiculous. I hope that this mom gets off and that the cops and CPS wise up a little.

    And like others here have said, I was babysitting by the time I was 13. I started babysitting other families for pay by the time I was 12 and of course staying home with my younger brothers at that age as well. In fact, my older brother would stay home with us younger ones when he was only 9 or 10 for a few hours. We were always fine. When he was that age, there were five of us. My youngest brother came along when my oldest brother was 12 and he was babysitting all of us at the age of 13. Yep, he was taking care of FIVE younger siblings, one of which was a 1-year-old for short stints.

  75. Oh, and I might add, I just saw a babysitting course with CPR training offered at my local rec center for kids starting at the age of NINE. I even asked my 9-year-old son if he wanted to take the class and he said he did, but then I decided I’m going to wait until next summer to have him take it, when he’s ten and just a little older and more responsible. I live in Utah, BTW.

  76. Jenna, I also live in Utah! What a wonderful thing to have a minimum of 9!

  77. Some commenters were saying that there is no law about babysitting age but I think that may be dependent on your jurisdiction. My cousin’s daughter completed her babysitting course when she was 11 and told us that she could babysit babies that were 1 year or older or could babysit any age once she turned 12. I was 11 when I first babysat but didn’t know if things had changed. After checking with our police department, it turns out she was correct that it is the law in our area, plus children can be left home alone (with no children younger than them in their care) at age ten.

  78. Unbelievable and sad! When I was 12, I was jr. Leader at the ymca for kiddie camp 4-7 yr olds, 5 days a week 8 weeks in the summer… Why do some insist on treating young adults as infants instead of capable, functioning young adults?

  79. So a 13 year old is incompetent, but we will trust that same kid two-and-a-half years later with a license to drive one of the most dangerous weapons ever devised through our streets?

  80. My daughter is 13 and isn’t interested in babysitting, but she’d certainly be responsible enough to do it if she wanted to. I started babysitting when I was 11, and the kids I sat for used to ask their parents to go out so I could come over!

  81. Next headlines: “Babysitter pinned in tax-evasion scheme!” “Officials Uncover a National Network of Child-Laborers Working in Underground Childcare Industry”. Stupid culture. There are children who raise their younger siblings in sewer pipes. 10 year olds playing Carnegie Hall. 12 year old kids in college. 11 year old kids organizing significant charitable projects. Kids starting companies. Let’s stop underestimating our children.

  82. I have hired 12 and 13-year-olds to babysit my son when he was younger. He liked having younger babysitters because they were more willilng to play with him than some of the older ones.

    I started watching my brother (9 years younger) when I was 10 for short periods during the day, for example, when my mother went out to the grocery store. By the time I was 11, I was watching my brother at night while my parents went out. At that age I also started babysitting for pay. I would often watch 2 or 3 children when I was 11 or 12.

    Am I the only one who thinks it’s ironic that a 13-year-old now is considered too immature to watch younger kids but a 16-year-old suddenly becomes responsible enough to drive? Is there a three year maturity spurt that I’m unaware of? I’ve been on some parenting sites where mothers say that they take their 13-year-old sons into public toilets with them. Those same kids who can’t be trusted in a men’s WC by themselves at 13 will be deemed responsible enough to drive a car with their younger siblings as passengers three years later.

  83. Wow insane! When i was 10 and 11 I was home alone often since my parents did not get home from work til a few hrs after school was out. it was no biggie…and by 12/13 I was babysitting my nieces and nephews(who were toddlers and preschoolers) all the time! They crowned me “Queen of babysitting” since I was the most fun babysitter they had. This was the mid to late 90s, not *that* long ago! I don’t get how things have changed so much so quickly. Is it 9/11 that has suddenly made the world insane with fear? I guess that’s when i started noticing this shift. But I don’t get it

  84. I started using our regular babysitter when she was one week shy of her 12th birthday and my kids were 3 and 6. She’s 15 now. She came from a family of 4 and had been watching her brothers for years. It never even occurred to me that her age would be an issue, but that it was up to my judgment to decide whether she was capable. and now I’m really glad nothing happened that would have made her age an issue for the police! She even baked cupcakes with my 3 year old that first time–it’s probably illegal for an 11 year old to bake cupcakes by herself, now that I’m thinking about it!! Come on.

  85. I babysat my 6-yr-old brother overnight when I was 11. It happened just once (my parents had to go away for some reason Saturday and Sunday, and it happened to be the yearly school fair, so there was no way we were going to miss it!). So it was just the two of us for the weekend and you know what? I don’t remember a thing about it, except that the school fair was fun. Guess the whole thing felt “normal”…

  86. I also was babysitting for other families with multiple kids (including one with four kids age 6 months to 6 years) by the time I was 12, at a time when “call the restaurant” was the only way to reach a parent. I was baby sitting for other families even before my mom would leave me alone with my brother who is 2 years younger because he didn’t like that I was “in charge” and always caused an issue (we could stay alone).

    Honestly, I think part of the shift towards “older sitters” has to do with the shift towards “older mothers”…When most moms had their first kids in their early twenties, hiring a young teen made sense (they were not that much younger than the moms themselves). My newly 11 year old is great with kids and would love to baby sit, but I think she will have a hard time finding jobs (unless it is as as “mother’s helper”).

    Anyway, I too have stories of wandering off under the care of my parents. My favorite is when I was 2 and a half, my dad brought me to my grandmother’s house the morning after my brother was born (in the middle of the night). My dad fell asleep on the couch and my grandmother told me she was going to laundry. She apparently went to the basement, but a while later I decided to look for her outside at the clothes line. When I didn’t see her, I walked down the driveway to a busy street and kept walking, over a bridge (over a river). A MAN on a MOTORCYCLE stopped and put me on the motor cycle and brought me back in the direction I had been walking from…all the while, I am calling, “Nana where are you?”…when we got to the corner my grandfather’s brother happened to be in the yard of his house which was next door and claimed me and brought me back as my grandmother and father (who had been shaken awake) came running out the door. When my mom arrived home with my new baby brother, I announced, “The nice man helped me find Nana on his motorcycle.”

    More recently (4 years ago now), I was asked if I would fire my caregiver because my son (then 4) had left a playground on our block and gone home while my babysitter was trying to clean up a skinned knee on my then 6 year old. My babysitter is amazing. She has now been with our family for 9+ years (5 at the time). My son apparently left the playground with an older boy, but when he got to the corner, told him he couldn’t cross the street without his “grownup”… apparently he missed my sitter who was now frantically searching for him when he returned to the playground, so he went home (on the same NYC block block, but around 2 corners). Of course I did not fire my sitter. He has gotten away from me too. I was proud he could get home and also that he clearly understood the rule about not crossing/leaving with someone.

  87. I find this astounding. The middle school where my kids go has a leadership program where the selected leaders are trained and are responsible for dealing with all sorts of minor discipline issues in school. The kids are taught to deal with hallway scuffles, bullying, lying, etc. They’re also taught the limits of what they can do and when to involve a teacher. If kids can do that, then they can certainly babysit.

    IANAL but I would think that “endangering a minor” is a pretty vague charge that can be levied against anyone with kids for almost any reason. Think about it: how many of us have found our kids in a dangerous situation? My son got hit by a rock and split his head open. My daughter and a friend were the ones throwing the rocks. We we negligent? And what would happen if we were charged and jailed? What’s the greater harm?

    A 13 year old is old enough to have kids, but not old enough to babysit. Go figure.

  88. Insane. My stepdad took off when I was 13, my siblings were 8, 4 (and cognitively impaired), 2 and 1 at the time. I watched them from the time I got home from school until 9 or later every day, and all day on the weekends… including cooking dinner and everything. Mom had to work.

    You know what happened? I spent a lot of time as a teenage bitter about it, yea… but I’m also able to go into motherhood without driving myself nuts with anxiety, can handle emergencies (like my now-15 year old sister’s sudden seizures/resulting broken noses lately) without losing it, and a relationship with my mom and siblings that I wouldn’t trade all the missed football games and high school dances in the world for.

  89. I had to look it up:

    It’s so broad that anything can be construed as such. Ever let your 13 year old watch a TV-14 show? That’s child endagerment if the jury agrees….

    [Shakes head….]

  90. My mom gave me the responsibility to get my 11 year old self and 7 year old brother home from school, into the house, and doing homework while she was at her university. I was so proud at the time that she had such faith in me and I think that experience has made me have more faith in the abilities of my own children. Such a shame…

  91. I would have liked to have read more specifics. Historically speaking, this does seem pretty silly. I was left alone when I was 10 or 11. But as a parent I know how hard it is to watch even two children – keeping track of four has got to be more than twice as difficult. I wonder if the 13 year old was really suited to this. Perhaps the neighbor would have thought better to approach the family instead of going to police, but maybe they’ve also witnessed previous problems like this before and were at the end of their rope.
    What is just as disturbing is the fact that it seems that so many commenters seem to have no idea that there are laws regarding the age a child must be to be left alone or babysit. If you feel the age in your area is too restrictive, pettion to have it changed.

  92. I was baby-sitting my siblings (10,7,5,2) by the time I was 11. Of course, the older two were really responsible, so it was more like having three baby-sitters for the youngest two.

    Stephanie, your story about losing custody for leaving a 13yo in a hotel room while eating breakfast is horrifying. For some perspective, I’ve been listing to my grandpa’s memoirs. By 13, he was working at a newspaper office with his two older brothers. Among other things, he said that if they were there late and had to be up early to deliver papers, they often slept at the office on top of rolls of newsprint with the carrier bags for blankets. They also started paying the rent at about this point.

  93. AT, once children are over about 4, ‘watching’ them is really just being available if they need something. Actually, that is generally true even of 2-3year olds (mine is not a runner, though, that makes a difference). And the biggest problem I see with laws is police and CPS assuming their own opinions are actually law, or exploiting others’ ignorance of the law by telling them things are illegal when they are not.

  94. AT: There’s a book out there, a very good one, called “Three Felonies a Day”. It discusses the fact that there are so many laws out there, that are so overbroad that we unintentionally break them every day. The title comes from an observation that many of us commit an average of three felonies, every day, without even knowing it, just going through our daily lives.

    Worthless laws like this one, that are so overbroad as to criminalize much of what we do as parents, come from the kind of attitude we see in the comments at the newspaper site. We shouldn’t legislate on the worst case scenario, especially when that worst case scenario is unlikely.

  95. I had a situation where I called the cops for a child who happened into our yard. I had never seen the child before and he was moving through the yards at a breakneck pace. He didn’t speak and turned out to be 2 years old. I actually asked the new neighbors next door if they had a little one, and by the time I got back to my front yard, he was three yards down, heading closer to a very large intersection. A lawn service man brought him back to me because he thought I was his mother. I called the police because I wanted them to be able to assure the parents that the child was safe. I had no idea how far away from home he was or if anyone was looking for him yet.
    Yes, the mother drove up 15 minutes later, 3 minutes before the police arrived. They advised her to call them first in the situation of a lost child. He turned out to be 2 blocks from home, and he would have been much farther if I hadn’t stopped him.
    I am a free-range mom, but in this situation, I felt I did the right thing. That said, had I known where the child lived and/or who his parents were, I would certainly have walked him back home.

  96. @brigid, other than being told by the police to call if her child is missing, did anything else happen? ie arrest, chastising, CPS threats? I’m wondering if some of these situations are purely regional, and hopeing there are some areas of the US where mothers/parents aren’t arrested for parenting decisions that, for lack of a better term, go wrong.

  97. If leaving a 13-year-old home to babysit is a crime, then lock me up and throw away the key!

  98. What I’m wondering is, is the law/charge of child endangerment really apply in this situation? Unless the laws have changed, my understanding is there is NO minimum age a child can stay at home alone. In the past, the parents decided if they were mature enough, and responsible enough to stay home alone for a little while. And if there were more than one child, the oldest was always tasked with the job of looking after his/her siblings. 13 years old is more than sufficient to babysit…until the babysitter got there. I don’t understand how this charge applies. The mother left her kids in the good hands of her oldest daughter, till the babysitter was to arrive within the hour. Even if the mother had been home, the 4 year old could have just as easily gotten out of the house (yes, kids are smart enough to open doors at that age). It’s no different if the mother is sitting right beside her child, and her child trips walking bumping her head. Would this mother still be charged with child endangerment in that situation? The sad thing about the “law” is that it’s on the discretion of the person charging. If your going to charge someone for endangerment, than ALL parents who take their eyes off their kids even for ONE SECOND, and they get hurt, should be charged with child endangerment. That’s A LOT of parents. It’s impossible to have an eye on your kids every second, and just as impossible to keep them from ever getting hurt. This psychological evolution of worse case thinking, and paranoia that many people are starting to succumb to is only the beginning of the demise of our society as we’ve known it from centuries past. Sad. I just hope that free-range doesn’t become the minority. Taking away our own freedom from ourselves, gives an open invite to authorities to take more of it away from us, and eventually our children, and their children.

  99. This frightens me. Can we raise independent free-range children if we risk some interloper having CPS take our children away from us?

    Am I doomed to continue teaching 18 year-olds that can’t solve their own problems or cope with any independence as they’ve never experienced any?

    Are we, as a nation, so risk-averse that we prefer legislating zero-tolerance rules for parenting rather than empowering families?

  100. The 4 year old could have just as easily wandered if mom and dad were home too. The only way to stop a 4 year old from wandering is a lock that is out of their reach or a deadbolt that is keyed from the insides as well as outside (illegal in many places because of the difficulty in getting out if there is a fire).

  101. Very few states in the U.S. actually have formal laws about when children can stay alone/babysit. Even the states with “guidelines” tend to have suggested ages in the 8-10 range, which is probably much younger than most people would expect. I still get funny looks when I mention that my 13-year-old stays home alone on her days off from school – well, of course she does; I’m not paying someone to sit in my house all day and “watch” her while she reads a book or paints her toenails.

  102. We had something similar happen a few years back, as far as the neighbor calling the police on us. My daughter (7 or 8 at the time) went for a walk, with her father’s permission. A neighbor spotted her and called the police. Thankfully in this case, the policeman took the sane approach, found my daughter and asked her some simple questions – ‘where do you live,’ ‘do your parents know where you are,’ etc, and he decided nothing was amiss. But my daughter was a bit embarrassed and hasn’t taken a walk on her own since. (Though she still goes for scooter and bike rides.)

    I’ve said it many times – the scariest part of going free-range isn’t the idea of putting the kids at risk, it’s the judgement from the other parents and adults, and possibly the law.

  103. I started babysitting for strangers for pay when I was 13 (and I only started that late because my mom was paranoid about danger, all my friends started when they were 11). I regularly watched up to four kids, who were between 1 and 8 years old. I cooked dinner, I wiped bottoms, I soothed separation anxiety, and I would have called 9-1-1 and the next-door neighbor (who was also a stranger!) if an emergency had ever occurred. I worked on some very important life skills at that job: diplomacy, negotiation, multi-tasking, forethought, scheduling, parenting, all come to mind. It was a milestone, a necessary step on the path to becoming a responsible, well-rounded adult.

    No one benefits when kids are infantilized. These kids are going to grow up to rule the country and the planet – unless they are so coddled that they are never permitted to grow up. If we can’t raise strong adults, we are going to be the weak nation multinationals come to for cheap overseas labor, while China sets policy for the world.

  104. In reply to police giving the parent a stern warning, “Don’t ever let it happen again”, I would say, “Fine, and don’t YOU ever let a robbery, rape or murder happen again. Sound fair and reasonable, officer?”

  105. “I still get funny looks when I mention that my 13-year-old stays home alone on her days off from school – well, of course she does; I’m not paying someone to sit in my house all day and “watch” her while she reads a book or paints her toenails.”

    At least around here, you would have to hire someone to sit around with her, because most of the school-day-off camps and afterschool care don’t accept kids over the age of 12.

  106. In Pennsylvania I called Child Protective Services to ask about the law concerning leaving children at home. I wanted to know what age was deemed except able. There response was that there was no law in Pennsylvania. Child Protective Services recommended that I have my 11 year old attend the Red Cross Babysitting course to CMA.

  107. My 13 year old spent today babysitting her 5 year old sister while her dad and I were at work. She also regularly drops her at school on her way to catch her own school bus in the morning, and sometimes collects her from afterschool club. Sometimes our 17 year old is with them, sometimes not. The little one loves getting to spend the day with her sister. The older ones have learned to take responsibility for themselves and for someone else.

  108. After reading the comments on the actual article I am amazed anyone leaves their homes at all with or without their children. At 13 I was the neighborhood babysitter (starting at age 12) and had anywhere from 1 to 6 kids in my care. I was also a Campfire Girls counselor with 12 charges for a week every summer. These commentors are aghast at the idea that a 13 year old was left with 3 siblings and one suggests NO minor should evr be alone, as in not until age 18. WTH??? My oldest is almost 17 and will be “watching” his 3 younger siblings for a few hours while my husband and I go to dinner. Mind you, the others are 13, 10, and 8 and really don’t need a sitter, all 4 will just be home…Oh, and the one commentor seems very focused on the fact that the 13 year old is a boy, therefore making it even more “wrong” that they were left with a male sibling versus a female. My son has been babysitting since age 11. My 10 year old daughter is nowhere near ready….not all boys are immature or incapable, in fact most are very capable…

  109. I agree, Canaanite sounds like a piece of work. I hope for his or her kids’ sake (kids who might or might not actually exist, that is), that Canaanite is just an Internet troll looking to stir up trouble, and doesn’t actually believe all that nonsense about how thirteen-year-olds are too immature to babysit their own siblings for less than an hour, especially if they’re MALE. Also, when I was four, I played in the yard alone all the time. It wasn’t called “escaping” back then, it was called “playing outside,” and it was considered perfectly normal. If I’d wandered into a neighbour’s yard, they’d probably have just sent me home (although, I don’t think I ever did that). They wouldn’t have had to walk me back home, because they could SEE my house from where they were, so there was no point.

  110. @Beth, the police told the mother to call them first, gave her a stern lecture and were on their way. I comforted her and told her these things happen and it didn’t mean she wasn’t a great mom. That week they dropped off some homemade chocolates for us as a thank you for “catching” their son.

  111. After slogging through the 222(!!!) comments on the original article, including those of the neighbor who called the police, I’m of the opinion that the only party acting without common sense was the police.

    Considering that the 4 year old sounded to be a bit of a chronic wanderer, which most well adjusted 4 year olds are (and should be!), and that the neighbor had previously and repeatedly taken the child back across the street instead of calling the police, I can’t fault the neighbors for their strong concern. I do, however, fault the police for arresting the mother. At most, a visit from cfps may have been warranted. And emphasis on the MAY.

    Kudos to the mother for expecting her 13 year old to take on some responsibility. So sad that it had to end with everyone in the situation coming out on the losing end of things.

  112. CPS? NOOOOOOOOOOOO…. Those people can ruin the lives of a family in a heartbeat.

  113. @kd–My older brother was the favorite babysitter of the neighborhood for a long time when he was 14 to about 16 and then he was too busy with a part-time job to babysit so I inherited most of his clients who still mourned the fact that their favorite babysitter had moved on. It’s no wonder that he’s an excellent father of six children now.

    As for the child endangerment charge, my little brother wandered off when he was four years old and we were visiting some family friends of my parents in San Antonio Texas. I remember all of us dividing into pairs and scouring the neighborhood for him. We eventually found him walking with an old man trying to help him find his way back to where he was lost from. He was perfectly safe and fine. We were all in the backyard from where he disappeared too, he had slipped through the gate and wandered away. Ten feet from where my parents were. Yet he was perfectly fine when he was found about an hour later and four blocks down the road.

  114. My kids, at any age after age one, could cross the road in a matter of seconds. This kid, at 4, is old enough to ask to play outside, which may or may not have happened. That the child went beyond the yard is NOT the fault of the teen watching, it was the fault of the child. Bad kid! You get time out for the next 5 minutes and no TV tonight!

    (I bet the neighbor’s yard is full of either flowers, or rolly-pollies (pill bugs.) Both of which are magnets for 4 year old kids. She needs a fence as she is neighborhood nuisance, just like a pool would be!)

  115. The other day my son was watching an episode of Full House from around ’94. The middle daughter (12 at the time), was left home to watch the younger daughter 7ish, and twin boys 2ish. It used to be perfectly normal behavior less than 20 years ago. Fast forward to 2012 and I have a friend that will not let her 12 year old stay home alone at all for any length of time!!!

  116. By the time I had I could drive, I was less interested in babysitting–by then I could get another job.

    So if 16-year-olds (and up) would rather do something else than baby-sit, and the kids under 16 required a babysitter…who’s watching the kids?

  117. I was 9 the first time I babysat my little brother, who was 2 at the time. She left me the number of the clinic (I thought it was the hospital) she was taking our other siblings to for their annual checkups. My brother hit me over the head with a wooden box, & it bled, a lot, because it was my head. I put pressure on the wound & called the hospital/clinic, because that’s where my mom was. They tried to get a hold of my mom, but meanwhile they sent paramedics over, & a cop came, too. By the time the paramedics arrived, I had stopped the bleeding myself, so they cleaned it up & left, & the cop stayed with us, BECAUSE IT WAS A HEAD WOUND. When my mom got home, the cop left. She didn’t get in trouble, I didn’t get in trouble, & my brother only got in trouble with my mom. Later, my mom told me that when she turned the corner & saw the cop car in front of our house, her first thought was “What did (2 year old) do NOW.”

  118. I just can’t believe that people think a 13 year old cannot be left alone at all. I am an only child. By the time I was 9, I thought that my after school program was too babyish. After begging and pleading for weeks, my parents allowed me to walk home after school (both of them were at work) I had to call my mom at work right away to let her know I was home, and if I went to a friend’s house, I had to call her and let her know that, but otherwise, I was on my own until she got home (about an hour after I did). That following summer, I talked my parents into leaving me home alone all day, and they did, under the same conditions: I called my mom if I left and I was to call my grandpa (who was retired) if I needed anything. And I remember that my grandpa would stop by (especially in the mornings, when I was still asleep, but my parents were gone) under the guide of “helping with chores”, but I now realize that he was making sure that everything was ok. And of course, it was. But there was never an implication that I was in any danger – grandpa was always great about making me think that I was in charge 🙂

  119. Well, if a parent can be charged when an accident happens, if a doctor can be charged when something doesn’t go as expected – they why do we not arrest the patrolling police officers every time there is a crime? Their responsibilty is to prevent/avert crime, so every time a crime happens, they were negligent and should be held responsible. If we apply the same logic evenly, that is.

  120. Oy vey. In most states the age to babysit is 12. When I was younger it was 11. When I was 13 my parents left me and my sister alone for a whole weekend while they rode their bikes somewhere we apparently didn’t want to go.
    This is just silliness.
    @Hels above – I dig your logic.

  121. You could set up a FreeRange legal fund.. or atleast directory of resources- lawyers and case history.

  122. Great idea, Geekmom!

  123. Wait a minute. What??? When I was 13 I was PAID to babysit. Heck, we’ve paid a 13yo to babysit our kids (we are not the only one hiring her to babysit). Good grief!

  124. Christ. Kids escape from their parents all the time. My friend took a shower and came out to find her 3-year-old on the sidewalk outside the house.

  125. “The sad thing about the “law” is that it’s on the discretion of the person charging. If your going to charge someone for endangerment, than ALL parents who take their eyes off their kids even for ONE SECOND, and they get hurt, should be charged with child endangerment.”

    Even worse, kids can get hurt while parents ARE watching them. There’s no sure thing.

  126. […] One mom was arrested after her neighbor discovered her 4 year old wandering around the street. The […]

  127. And there are KIDS — never mind the parents — who refuse to take on responsibility when asked. My SIL and BIL’s oldest (she will be 13) will only stay at home alone for a short while with her 8 y.o. and 6 y.o. siblings. The other night, BIL/SIL were invited to an event (adults only) and were phoning us to see about babysitting. To which I replied, why can’t the oldest stay home? (Said event was 30 min. away,. and parents would be home after 4-5 hours out.) Apparently my niece is “too scared” to stay home alone, so my SIL had to wind up having the kids stay at her stepdad’s home (he is in poor health and is the last one who should be worrying about three kids). What is wrong with kids like my niece today?

  128. Well, yesterday my 13 1/2 year old watched my 10 and 8 year olds for a couple of hours for me. I got a call about 90 minutes into the time I was gone from my older daughter to report that my 8 year old had decided to go to her friend’s house and was caught by the teenager walking down the street….thankfully my neighbors thought nothing of it. We do have a hard and fast rule that the kids do not go off on their own when mom and dad aren’t home, so youngest child was in a world of trouble when mom got home. It reminded me of this story and what would have happened had someone decided I was in the wrong to leave them…..

  129. […] New Canaan, Ct.: “Mom Arrested for Letting Her 13-year-old Babysit Siblings” [Lenore Skenazy, Free-Range Kids] […]

  130. […] way to the Swiss children in my neighborhood. Boys had pocket knives. Everyone rode bikes to school. Kids started babysitting other children at 11- or 12-years-old. Now? We coddle and protect […]

  131. […] I returned I came upon this article via Free Range Kids blog. Mom arrrested for letting her 13 year old babysit 3 other siblings until the “real” baby…. If you read further apparently the four-year-old wandered off, and it may not have been the first […]

  132. […] example, I have noticed this “not old enough” mentality applied to everything from 13-year-olds babysitting younger siblings to toddlers being able to put away their toys (it can be done, as Meg at SewLiberated shows us). […]

  133. I was 8 when I had to take FULL responsibility for my Newborn little sister. My Mom was drunk ALL of the time. I prayed DSS or CPS (Whatever it’s called these days and in your state) would take us BUT no one ever did anything. I can see both sides. I am 35 now and I would never leave my 9 & 5 year old with a 13 year old…. But that’s me and times have changed. Look at all the recent headlines with all of the kids that go missing DAILY only to wind up meeting a gruesome end and that’s only the one’s you hear about. It’s much more widespread than publicized. I’m Leary of my girls playing outside a block from home. We don’t live in the same world we did back in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s.

  134. Oh and to the Mom’s who are thinking others are paranoid about having a male teen babysitter….I was 3 when I was FIRST sexually assaulted by a High School Boy who was MY BABYSITTER. He did go to prison BUT who can undo what’s already been done???? Is that really a risk you want to take? Later at the age of 11…different state…different neighborhood…a SAFE neighborhood I was molested a BLOCK from home by an ADOPTED Grandfather who lived 2 streets over Believe me when I say you can’t be too careful. Let your kids live outside of a bubble but please don’t get so comfortable that you invite danger.

  135. What the heck is wrong with our law enforcers. I get in trouble for letting my 12 year-old walk to the pool. She had a phone which we call each other about 5 times and her grandmother lived half between our house and the pool. She did not stay and swim but in our town you can leave a 12 year-old there without adult supervision and they know that most kids walk there. She just wanted to know if she could do it. She also had a map and when took a trail drive several times. This bad, right. Now lets talk about something that is really bad but somehow deemed as “a joke” My daughters dad was bragging about how he made the kids drink whiskey because he was mad at them for drinking his mountain dew. I know this because the idiot is the one who told me about it. He said Laughing, that he put whiskey in his drink and made them drink it. Not only that he took the kids to a bar/restaurant left them in the restaurant part while he drank and play darts then drove the kids home. The kids said that he told them it was ok because he waited an hour before leaving. They were there several hours and he definitely had more than one drink. This also was deemed ok because he waited an hour after having only one drink. Do they really belief that, that he was in a bar while leaving his kids unattended for several hours and drank only one drink. Then lets talk about the drinking parties he has at his house where many adults are there drinking and passing out while my kids are left there unattended taking care of all these drunks kids. Oh and this is ok but by God you let your kid take a walk by herself in the middle of the day, now that is child abuse.

  136. That mother should not have been arrested. I was babysitting at 13. Im a male. She is a responsible parent. Police are quite dumb. She should have arrested the police for being stupid.

  137. Wow. That’s Harsh. I came across this article. My Daughter is 14 and wants to Babysit . She done a little last summer in our home for friend’s of mine . I was home so it’s Big Difference. I hope the family from this story is doing fine. ❤

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