Mother Arrested for Using 13-yr-old as Babysitter

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012 by from Buzzworthy Bulletins

young girlWhen does one become qualified to babysit? Is there a specific age or grade level that accurately measures the aptness of a sitter?

A 39-year-old woman was arrested for leaving her four children – ages 13, 10, 4, and 1 1/2 – alone at home while she attended church. According to this article, she left the children in the care of her eldest child; but when a neighbor called the police, stating that the 4-year-old wandered into the yard across the street alone, this mother was charged with “risk of injury to a minor.”

Some people are criticizing the mom, while others are pointing fingers at the neighbor, “accusing her of acting in anything but a neighborly way.”

When I was 13 years old, my parents felt I was qualified enough to be entrusted with my 9-year old sister and 5-year-old brother while my mom went to the grocery store, or while my parents went out to dinner for a Friday-evening date. I don’t know if they would have done the same if I’d had an even younger sibling; but regardless, they were never gone that long, and they were never too far away. If my younger brother had wandered out into a neighbor’s yard, I think that neighbor would’ve walked him back over to my house and then, perhaps, stayed until my parents returned. Or, that neighbor may have just returned him and scolded me, warning me about the possible dangers, and would’ve later told my parents what had happened.

I also don’t think my little brother would’ve wandered off without my knowledge. I was a bossy 13-year-old, and I loved authority and responsibility. My siblings probably hated when I was left in charge. I was a helicopter babysitter, just as I am a helicopter mom (I make no apologies for my hover-hover-hovering).

Times have definitely changed since I was 13 and children wandering out in streets or into neighbors’ yards can lead to much more dangerous situations than they once would have; but have the times changed so much that using a 13-year-old babysitter is considered child neglect, or “risk of injury to a minor”?

When does one become qualified to babysit? What do you think?

What do you think? Mother Arrested for Using 13-yr-old as Babysitter

Kim ShannonEditor

Kimberly Shannon is a wife, a mother, an editor, a writer ... She is always working to find the perfect balance¹! After Kimberly received her bachelor’s degree in Journalism, she worked on two master’s degree programs (Creative Writing, and Marriage and Family Therapy). At various times in her life she has signed up to study Naturopathy, only to back out at the last minute, and humored the idea of returning full-time to the world of dance. Kimberly has also started 10 different children ... More

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  1. Avatar of Erin Erin says:

    Times have changed for sure! When I was 12, my neighbor “hired” me to look after her three boys, aged 6, 3, and 4 months Monday-Friday 9am-4pm for a whole summer! I made bottles, cooked lunch, changed diapers…the works. I then went on to do lots of babysitting throughout my teens, and I think it was a really good experience for me, especially all of the little babies I cared for. I think it prepared me a bit…at least I already knew how to change a diaper and make a bottle when my baby was born! Now that I’m a mom, I can’t imagine leaving my baby with a teenager, unless it was the child of someone I knew well! Maybe I’m overprotective, but I look at teenagers today and feel a bit uneasy about having them for babysitters. I know that’s a generalization and that every age bracket has its fair share of mature, responsible people and total idiots…

  2. Avatar of Danielle Danielle says:

    Wow, in Wisconsin, you are allowed to babysit at 12 years old…

  3. Avatar of Mary Mary says:

    I think a lot depends on the 13 year old, and how mature they are for their age, and if they have younger siblings that they help care for. I am a 61 year old grandma, and also the oldest of six siblings. I helped out a lot at home and started babysitting outside the home for friends and neighbors who had children when I turned 12. I was comfortable dealing with small children and infants, and was very protective and vigilant. I would babysit for families of up to 10 children at a time. (Those days are over, except if you’re the Duggers)

    When babysitting I did dishes, made meals (simple ones) and even gave baths and got them to bed. I learned to deal with all kinds of issues and it gave me a lot of confidence in my abilities as a caregiver. The difference is that now most 12 year olds have cell phones or tablets, and do not take notice of what’s going on around them most of the time. I would be afraid to leave a child alone with a preteen or teen unless they are mature beyond their years.

  4. Avatar of Schazaura Schazaura says:

    I started baby sitting for my mom when I was 11. But it was for less than 30 minutes at a shot. When I was 12 she would only leave for an hour or so. My siblings are never ran out of the house and when we did we played in the yard. I think that leaving a 13 year old with your other two children is fine. I remember losing my littlest sister when my mom was gone. I found out later that she had been playing a prank on me and was hiding in her closet. That is what little sisters do. And when neighbors find children wandering, they should return them to their parents, not call the police.

  5. Avatar of mommamia mommamia says:

    Thirteen is merely a number that in and of itself doesn’t quality or disqualify one from babysitting. I don’t know the family and I certainly don’t know the maturity of the babysitter so it is impossible to me to determine whether she should be babysitting. Perhaps a better way for the neighbor to handle the situation would have been be to come to the babysitter’s aid instead of being a tattletale. Now THAT would be a neighbor worthy of respect.

  6. Avatar of Indiana07 Indiana07 says:

    That’s ridiculous! any 13 year old can babysit younger children. I started babysitting other peoples kids when I was 11 years old and I am talking about caring for newborn babies to 6 year olds. I was more responsible then the actual parents who were 18-19 year old teen moms that would go out and party all night and sleep half the day. And if it wasn’t me it was the grandmother. And my oldest sister started babysitting her younger siblings, me included, when she was 8 years old and she had to make dinner most of the time too. Just walk the kid back to his/her house and tell the sitter to be more careful.

  7. Avatar of Bethanie Bethanie says:

    I understand that the neighbor was trying to protect the child and was wanting to do the right thing by all of the children; however, I do not think calling the police was the best response. Unless, this is not the first time that it has happened and the older sibling really isn’t able to babysit all of her younger siblings at once. It seems we do not have all the facts that need to be presented to make a strong case either way. Did the daughter call her mother or anyone else or even notice that her younger sibling was missing? If she noticed that he/she wondered off, did she actively start to look for him/her?
    I know that when I was a pre-teen and teen, I was trusted by my parents to watch my siblings while they went to the store or post office, or out to dinner. I also had my grandparents and some close family friends as neighbor’s, so I always knew that if I needed anything I could call and they would be right over in no time flat. I am now 28 and having my first child.

  8. Avatar of ~Nico~ ~Nico~ says:

    I’m only 33yrs old and when I was like 10 I was babysitting the 1 yr old next door. I loved babysitting as a kid. I also baby sat 3 kids down the street from me. I would never have let them out of my sight. I knew better to keep an eye on them or I’d be in a ton of trouble. So yes I think 13 yr olds CAN be responsible to watch children, which I believe is the legal age in Illinois. But it is few and far between that I meet kids who I would trust with my 5 yr old. They are a little too involved in their social media and technology. Also I believe the parent should be in trouble for the younger one out in the street alone. She is ultimately responsibly for her daughters actions.

  9. Avatar of voniqua voniqua says:

    WOW times have changed. back when my grandmother was still a young teenager that was the norm. to have the eldest watch the kids while the mother ran some errands. It was the teenagers responsibility to watch all the children. I don’t understand why that’s so hard today. Kids these days need to unplug from their ipods, tablets, and t.vs and do what they are told and perhaps the mother wouldn’t have went to jail. things to think about parents!

  10. Avatar of casie casie says:

    I am from Wisconsin. Here the legal babysitting age is 12. What is it there? Two days after my 12th birthday I babysat and earned my first money on my own. I think it depends on the Maturity level of the child. I know some who I wouldn’t trust with anything and other I would trust with my baby. I watched newborns even and family of 5. I think it depends on the kid and as long as he/she is of legal age where you are from. I was very responsible.

  11. Avatar of Krystal Krystal says:

    Personally I agree with the article, but as Donna Griebling said we don’t know the whole story.
    My older brother (who was ten yrs older then me) regularly watched me (now 25) and my younger sister (who’s three yrs younger). My mother got divorced when I was six, but before that my dad traveled alot for work and my mom worked full time. By the time I was ten I was regularly left to watch my sister, and sometimes my nextdoor-neighbors. At fourteen I got “licenced” to baby-sit, which was a crock since the licence didn’t do me any good. By the time I was twenty there was a pack of children (from baby to ten) roaming the neighborhood without anyone watching them, my mom was forced to call the cops because they kept coming into our yard and throwing stones at our dog.

  12. Even if the mother was home, her little one wondering outside would bring the cops. I’m wondering why she left them home from church.

  13. Avatar of Christina Christina says:

    I was 13 and a babysitter of 3 of my siblings and i was left in charge the youngest child now is 11 years old now and i am 27 and the other one is 15 and the next is 24 yes my youngset brother had wondered off to into the neighbor’s yard and she had burging him back and had told me not to let him wonder off again and she didnt tell my mother she had just gave me a warning

    • Avatar of joanna joanna says:

      Wait, so your post says you are 27 now, and your 3 siblings are now 11, 15, and 24. Then my question is how did you babysit all 3 of your siblings when you were 13? You are 16 years older than the youngest one, so he wouldn’t have even been born until you were at least 15 years old… I am a little confused here.

  14. Avatar of Susan Susan says:

    I was 10 when I started to babysit my niece, when she was born. I also babysat for a lot of my brother and sister-in-laws friends and family members with small children, sometimes it would be three and four at a time. I was a very mature 10 year old and times have definitely changed. I do know if I would want my granddaughter to be watched by any of the 10 year old children that I know.

  15. Avatar of Stephanie Stephanie says:

    I live in Wisconsin and its legal at 12 to become a babysitter. they have babysitter classes that you can take and then you are able to babysit for people other than just your family. that is also the age when leaving your child home by themselves is allowed.

  16. Avatar of Samantha Samantha says:

    I agree that it depends on the 13 year old in charge. My cousin who is 13 I would trust to watch my sons but my nephew who is 13 I DO NOT. It all depends on the maturity of the teen. I was babysitting at 12 for my next door neighbor and it was no problem at all. I guess it also has to do with where you live and how many children are involved. But an older sister who looks to me is responsible can handle this.

  17. Avatar of Janet Janet says:

    I think it depends on the maturity of the 13 yr old. my 13 yr old babysits her little sister who is 3 yr old while I make my run to the store for milk or whatever I need sometimes up to 5 hours in a day! I guess to protect myself from being turned in I will go get her an official babysitting license!!

  18. Avatar of veronica veronica says:

    13, mature, seems ok to babysit for a short period of time. Church No!! You will be in there for hours. I babysat when i was 10. Watching an 5 and 8 year old.. but these days you would rather be safe than sorry

  19. Avatar of Gabriella Gabriella says:

    I think it is rediculess to say that a 13 yr old is to young to baby sit her younger siblings I was babysiting since I was 10 years old and would have been on my Sibblings butt to make sure they werent outside with out me….

  20. Avatar of Ann Ann says:

    It depends on the maturity level of the child. A lot of us were babysitting around that age, but it was mainly because of the maturity level. There’s classes now and days to help teens learn how to properly take care of children.

  21. Avatar of Katie Katie says:

    What kind of “church” was she attending where her children were not welcome? That seems very odd to me.

    I was babysitting for a few hours at 12 or 13 but not with 3 other children or a child as young as the baby. It probably would have been fine if she was in charge of just the 4 year old or something like that but under about 3 years old needs an older teenager or adult.

  22. Avatar of Wiley Wiley says:

    As so many of you have stated, it depends greatly on the child, how they were raised, their maturity level, and how well they accept responsibility. Some kids thrive when given more responsibility and I would trust some of those kids over many teenagers and older ones who are more interested on talking on their cellphones with boyfriends and gossiping with friends than watching a little kid. It’s very sad that there are so many bitter people in the world today who prefer to hurt another person by getting them in trouble than actually trying to help. My next door neighbor screams and curses at her kids all the time. I came home once to find her two kids had turned on my water hose and were spraying water over everything under my carport and I never could get my $150 battery booster to charge again…and she was in her yard watching them do it. I kept my mouth shut and didn’t let my anger show. Then one day my son who was a little over 2 years old (we were working on toilet training him) decided to pull his shorts down outside and start to pee in the grass before I could stop him and she started screaming at him and me with plenty of curse words and telling me how I had better teach my boy not to pee in public or she was going to call the cops on my disgusting kid. But, it’s obvious that she and her husband don’t have much love for each other and are unhappy and try to get short-term pleasure out of hurting others. I feel that is a huge part of the problems today. So many people are unhappy and feel trapped in their misery and so they lash out at others. Today more than previous generations, I think some people have mixed up values and priorities and continually concentrate on gaining social status over others by earning more material things in an effort to impress others or in thinking having more will make them happier. They fail to put their family before other things and as a result they fail to have the type of family closeness and love that tied earlier generations together and helped those families get through hard times….resulting in behavior like I have next door.

  23. Avatar of Nat Nat says:

    I was working as after school care at age 12 by 13 had over $1000 in the bank from babysitting. Four year olds wonder out of houses with both adults home…I hope this gets thrown out and the police officer and neighbor are reprimanded for wasting government time and money.

  24. Avatar of Leilani Leilani says:

    I’m horrified to have read this. I began babysitting when I was 10. I was watching my siblings, who were 8 and 3 at the time, as well as neighbors’ children — the youngest at the time was 4. I feel as though this neighbor who called the police didn’t like the family, otherwise, I’m sure another ending would have happened.

  25. Avatar of hb200432 hb200432 says:

    Indiana State Law for babysitting is 18 years old or older. Parents are charged all the time, from dont mind their own business neighbors calling police, in Indiana. Spank your 13 year old boy on his butt for calling mom names and runs to grandmas house to call police, will get you a CLASS D FELONY BATTERY in Indiana if you leave a mark, Yell at him will get you a CLASS B misdemeanor, not counting the $3000 to clear your name. Throwing his xbox360, PS3, IPOD, IPAD, LAPTOP in the trash PRICELESS!!! HE can go everywhere I need to go until he is 18, dont need a babysitter now!!!

    • Avatar of elizabeth elizabeth says:

      Not sure who told you that but they are wrong.

      “There really is no Indiana law that says how old a child must be before you can leave them home alone. It’s really based on a case-by-case basis,” said attorney Michael Schoen, with Indianapolis Legal Aid.

      The YMCA in Indiana offers a baby sitting course for 12 and over, after that they are certified to baby sit. There is no actual age requirements in Indiana unless they want to work a child care facility and then they must be 18

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