No parent wants to willingly leave their kids home alone unattended–but sometimes, you just don’t have a choice. Of course, when in that situation, most parents wouldn’t wonder, “Will I be arrested?” But now maybe you will.
While on vacation with her children in Delaware, Susan Terrillion left her 8- and 9-year-old kids alone in their vacation rental while she ran out to pick up some food. According to USA Today, a witness “made contact” with the children when their dogs ran into the road in front of his car. After stopping to help the kids out, he discovered they were alone–which made him call the police.
When police learned Terrillion had left the children alone for about 45 minutes, she was then arrested and charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of her children. She was later released on $500 unsecured bail.
Hold on for a second. Pretty much every parent has done this, which means every parent could be at the risk of getting arrested. While I appreciate someone caring enough about a kid’s welfare, it also seems absurd to arrest a mom for negligence over leaving her kids alone to get FOOD for them.
The hard part, of course, is that this all largely depends on where you live, since there is no federal law that dictates when a parent can legally leave a child home alone. Only a handful of states have a minimum age for kids to be legally left home alone, which range from 6 years old to 14 years old. In Delaware, where the family was staying at the time, there is no minimum age–although, according the State of Delaware’s website, there is a caveat:
“While there is no law in Delaware regulating an appropriate age for a child to be left home alone, the Division of Family Services will accept for investigation any report of a child under the age of 12 being left alone. DFS will also accept reports for children age 12 and over if there are any extenuating circumstances (e.g. developmental delays, physical disabilities).”
But really, being arrested for this seems a bit extreme. There are so many other ways to deal with a situation that was less than perfect. Should the kids have been left alone? I don’t know–I don’t know the kids–and all kids have different needs and capabilities. I’m not advocating leaving kids alone–but I also don’t think taking a mom away from her children is the answer.