Home Alone: Is This a Crime?

I couldn’t believe this article I saw in our local paper today: Mom acquitted of leaving kids alone. Now if the kids were, say, ages 1 and 4 or 6 and 8, I’d be concerned about this ruling. Kids that young shouldn’t be left to fend for themselves at home without a responsible adult to supervise.

But no. This single working mom left her 10 and 11-year-old kids at home while she worked at a local restaurant. And while she was gone, her dumbass 10-year-old son went down the street and stole some pepperoni from a local grocery store — which was how the authorities got involved in the first place.
Thank God the judge recognized how ridiculous it would be to convict this woman for her actions. She was simply trying to make a living for her family, and made the completely reasonable choice to leave her old-enough kids home during her shift. Her kid just screwed up. He should’ve known better at that age.
How many of you were allowed to stay home alone when you were 10 or 11? I know I was. I even babysat other people’s kids when I was that age (though, quite frankly, I wouldn’t let a 10 or 11-year-old babysit my kid, but that’s a personal preference). I’m sure I did some dumb things, too (though nothing as serious as stealing — even pepperoni), But I can’t imagine why my parents would have been found guilty of child endangering because of it.
Instead of blaming the poor mom for not being around to keep her kids out of trouble, why don’t we focus on other ways to keep tweens and teens productive when their parents simply have to be at work and can’t afford “older kid” child care? Seems like a better use of our taxpayer dollars than arresting and putting parents like this on trial.

16 thoughts on “Home Alone: Is This a Crime?

  1. That is ridiculous! I left my 10 year old home by herself after school and she thankfully followed the rules and stayed out of trouble. A 10 year old little girl watches my 5 year old son for 30 minutes until his 12 year old sister, or 14 and 16 year old cousins get home. I am glad the judge had some sense about him.

  2. Susan, you keep stealing my post ideas!! 🙂 But seriously – I was a latch-key kid from first grade on, meaning I literally wore a key around my neck and let myself into my house after walking home from school each day. I was alone for 2-3 hours until my mother could get home from her job, and I wasn’t much older than 7. I just watched cartoons and practiced piano. It pisses me off how some people can complain about “welfare queens” in one breath and then criticize women who have to make tough choices in order to work and support their families. If I were this mom I would have really given it to my 10-year-old klepto son. Thanks a lot, kid!

  3. BlondeMomBlog (Jamie) says:

    That poor mom! The 10-year-old should have known better. I definitely think it depends on the child. Many kids are old enough at that age to be left alone if needed, however my neighbor’s daughter will be 10 in October and I can’t imagine leaving my 4-year-old in her care even for an hour (but she is a troublemaker.) 😉

  4. I was left alone since.. geeze, I think at least 5. Maybe earlier, I can’t remember that far back! If my parents had to go out and do an errand real quick, they knew I’d be fine left to my own devices. Worst thing I can ever remember doing was putting in a movie when they left and re-watching the naughty parts out of curiosity. (Since I knew I was expected to cover my eyes and go ewww during them.)

    Although, actually, that’s not true. My parents would leave me alone when I was 3 or so to go outside and tend the chicken coop together or take care of other things around the house. I called 911 once to see if it worked.

    It did.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I am of two minds on this issue. Children of 10 should be responsible enough to be left alone for a few hours. But this, of course, depends on the maturity of the child. I know I had to leave my nine year old alone with her two younger siblings for 1/2 hour until her father came home from work and I felt so guilty about that for a long time, I still do to some degree. But is was a necessity and I felt that she was mature enough to handle it,she often didn’t like it. We did have close neighbors that she could go to if she had any problems. But in that day and age it didn’t seem the issue it is now.

    A child of 10 should know better, but then he is a child. Every mother can gauge the maturity of her child and essentially that desicion is left up to the parent. I am amazed regarding the comments here about the age of some of the children that were left to fend for themselves, as young as 5? Again each parent should be able to decide what is best for their child.

    The perfect solution would be childcare that is offered free or at a lower cost for children of parents who work. But we all know that is a longshot.

  6. I know that when I was 9 and my brother was 12, my mom went to work and left us alone after school, as well as all day in the summer. I don’t know if I’ll do that with my kids, seems like times have changed so much…

  7. I was home alone (often with my 4 year old sister) at 10 and 11. I even babysit my neighbor’s kids (all three of them!) when I was 11. However, I guess I was a pretty mature kid at that age. There’s such a variance in maturity level, each parent needs to evaluate their own kid.

    In hindsite, maybe this *particular* 10 year old needed an adult presence. But that speaks to what you alluded to – the broader issue of the lack of safe, responsible after-school activities for older kids. My two-year-old has any number of places I could take her for “enrichment”. But older kids? not so much. We need to find ways to have free, supervised, neighborhood centers for older kids so that parents aren’t forced to leave them home and to their own devices.

  8. Felicia - I complete Me says:

    I was home alone at 10 and new the rules. Don’t answer the phone (only for the special ring we had) don’t answer the door, don’t go outside, and be quiet. When my son was 10 we use to leave him home alone. What is a mom suppose to do when she has to provide for her family. So glad the judge threw this out. I’m honestly tired of the government making rules for people based on their lifestyle not the actual circumstance of the individual.

  9. Not a crime. Stealing the pepperoni,though, that’s a crime. My 10 year old stays home alone often…he loves to feel grown up and make his own decisions. He sometimes keeps our 7 year old, but not for more than an hour…because he gets a little bossy. My only concern is that if that are in the house alone, all they do is watch TV, play on the computer, eat snacks, and play video games…not my idea of perfect activities for young boys. I’d rather they played outside and with their friends.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Sorry, I disagree. What if there’s an emergency? A fire? A break-in? There are so many things that can go wrong, and kids that age don’t often have the judgment or maturity to handle it. Not to mention, I think the kids might have a lot of anxiety or fear, especially if they live in a “tough” neighborhood. Not a good call, in my opinion.

  11. I don’t know if it’s a crime, but I don’t know if I think it’s right. I was a latch-key kid as well, and like some others, watched other children (including my bro and sis) from a fairly young age. However, I lived in a teeny tiny small town, I was pretty mature for my age, and times have definitely changed in the last 20 or so years.

    I recently read something that said a fourth grader shouldn’t cross a street at a busy crosswalk by him/herself. At that age, they can’t accurately judge distances! Isn’t fourth grader around 9 or 10?

    I know the single, working mom plight well. It’s hard. People have to make tough decisions. But if this kid is out stealing, maybe mom needs to rethink leaving him alone. And maybe mom shouldn’t hang up on the police officer when they call her at work. 😉

  12. Lisamarch says:

    Sorry, but if a kid can’t cross a street by the time he/she is in SECOND grade, the parents just haven’t taught the child any sense. Overprotecting our children is what has changed the times as much as anything. If kids aren’t as mature now, it is because we haven’t given them the chance.

  13. Lisamarch–I was just reiterating what the article said–don’t know if I agree with it. To be fair, it did say “busy crosswalk/intersection” not just any old street.

    The kindergardners in my neighborhood cross the street to our house all the time, and the second and fourth graders walk to school by themselves, but there are crossing guards at the busier crosswalks.

    But I don’t think this is about crosswalks. 🙂 It’s about at what age kids can care for themselves. And just like with almost everything, there is no “one size fits all” answer.

  14. Tela, Don’t believe everything you read 😉 If a fourth grader isn’t capable of judging distance, he needs glasses. Most fourth graders I know can throw strikes (or hit them) in baseball from 45 ft away, and can make goals in soccer from 30 feet away with 8 defenders around them. They can jump out of trees and not break bones…because they can judge distance.
    Also, things HAVE changed in the past 20 years. Crime is WAY down…to where it was in 1970.
    Anonymous, If there’s an emergency my 10 year old would do what I’d do…call 911 or get a neighbor to help. If there’s a fire, he’d do what I’d do…get out of the house and have a neighbor call 911. If there’s a break in he’d do what I’d do…FREAK OUT! But seriously, who breaks into a house when someone is there?
    We’ve taught him well.

  15. I just checked out that site Anonymous mentioned …. weird. If you need to hire someone to call and check in with your loved one alone at home, perhaps you need to rethink your priorities a bit?

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