Mother Arrested for Using 13-yr-old as Babysitter



Some people are criticizing the mom, while others are pointing fingers at the neighbor.

When 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.”

{ MORE: Guess What? Americans Aren't Having Enough Babies }

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


What do you think?

Mother Arrested for Using 13-yr-old as Babysitter

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

Tell us what you think!


  1. Erin says:

    OMG, seriously. My mom was a single parent for a lot of my childhood, especially with my Dad being in the Navy until I was about 8. My older sister was babysitting us(my younger sister 4, and myself 6) at 9 years old. We even walked to school just the 2 of us older ones, and that was a 2 mile round trip. I started babysitting at around 8 years old myself for family, and then when I was 12, I made a good amount of money babysitting first for neighbors, and then through play dates at the park, other parents recruited my services. I did this until 14 years old, then helped in a daycare at 15 until almost 17 years old. I used to walk over to my neighbors houses all the time and would sit and talk with them for hours, even at 3 years old, and by the time I was 6, that did not stop just because my sister was babysitting. I would still walk to the neighbors and hang out with them. They never would have called the cops, and would always come by to see how everything was going if I hadn’t made it over in a few days. Some neighbors like to cause trouble and judge others because they refuse to understand life from another person point of view, and don’t care to walk a mile in their shoes. It does depend on the maturity of the child for when babysitting can start, and if this is going to occur, talk with certain neighbors(not all) about it. They can help keep a look out for any unwanted visitors and report directly to you, and keep an eye/ear out for any signs of danger. Who knows, you may even find a more suited or trustworthy sitter in the process. My neighbors did not charge her. It is a big responsibility that does take a lot of discipline, and some may feel overburdened. Communication could have made this entire situation better.

  2. Chrystal says:

    A normal neighbor would have taken the boy back inside and had a chat with the 13 year old. It seems like this neighbor was just trying to cause trouble and managed to do so. Everyone knows that at 13 you are trusted to not only watch your own siblings but that babysitting can be a paying job at that age. It is ridiculous that the mother got arrested for allowing her children to be taken care of by her oldest child. Yes the little boy should not have been out side alone but that is when you take him back and explain that it is dangerous in some places and that if the children want to go outside they should all go. My cousin was 2 years old and he walked 2.5 miles away from home in the middle of a 4 lane highway and his parents did not get arrested. Being outside alone when you are small does not mean that you have bad parents, it means you snuck out and now your in trouble.

  3. shantel says:

    This is just insane. My 12 year old babysits for us all the time. Granted it is never more than for something as quick as running to the store, but still. It’s like you can’t breath anymore without being arrested. And the fact that their is no law stating when it’s legal to leave a child home, gives cops way too much power to decide. There needs to be an exact law.

  4. Megan says:

    Most 13 year old children are responsible enough to babysit, though 3 children might be a bit more than the child can manage. I began babysitting at the ago of 10 years old, though I was always very mature for my age and never babysat more than 2 children. I think each case should be examined on an individual basis…

  5. Kaileen says:

    My mom trusted me to watch my brother when I was 13, granted I only have one brother that was 10 when I was 13. But she told our neighbors that her and my dad were going out or to a run an errand so that way of something did happen the neighbor would either yell at me or wait until my parents were home to let them know. Trust thy neighbors!

  6. Johanne says:

    I took my safe babysitter course at the highschool when I was 13 and I was babysitting a week later! The first couple I baby sat for had 4 boys! They were 4,6,8, and 10 years old at the time! So I think this neighbor needs to act more neighborly and not be so quick to call the police instead!

  7. Regina says:

    Where I live it is illegal to leave your child home until a certain age and you can’t babysit til you are even older it is called child endangerment here. Myself I have a 15 yr old who is not responsible enough to look out for herself much less her brother so social services here say if a child is not responsible enough for their own self then you will be held accountable for what happens if they babysit your children and in this part of the state can get all your kids takin away cause of one mistake of leaving your children with someone who is not yet responsible enough to watch them. When I was younger my mom would leave me and my sister home by ourselves and we were 8 & 5 so yes times have changed and I wouldn’t let my oldest watch the kids cause I know how she is and I wouldn’t want my kids taken away from me. Also you have to look at the laws behind things anymore cause in a blink of an eye you can loose all your kids cause of one mistake of not checking into things. Do I think this is right I believe that of a child is responsible enough then it should be fine but if you can’t keep an eye on the children and they get outside then I don’t think they are responsible enough and for the neighbors to call then how long was the child outside and what kind of neighborhood is it. These are all factors in the matter plus where is she from and what are the laws about ages too.

    • eric says:

      Stop living in fear. Living in fear that a 13 year old can not watch kids. Living in fear that the authorities will take your children. Teach your teenager how to babysit and let them do it in a progressive way. We have a 13 year old and a 6 year old. She babysits all the time. The government has no authority to interrupt in the raising of my children unless I am endangering them. There are plenty of grown adults who do far worse than the distracted teenager who a child evades and gets outside. Finally, what kind of neighbor calls the police on a neighbor in need? A story like that is discussing and is what is generally wrong with my country, the good old USA.

  8. Melissa says:

    My mom didn’t leave me at home alone tell I was 11 and I was freaked out of my mined. Yet my older sister was baby sitting my middle sister, and my twin and I when she was only 14. I wouldn’t arrested the woman for it. 13 year olds stay with there siblings alone all the time. This is an outrage for sure.

  9. Angie says:

    I think it is horrible that this woman was arrested for entrusting her children’s care to her eldest child. Let’s just hope that the charges were dismissed. Now, I would agree with the arrest if the woman had hired some random 13 year old, but it was her child!

  10. mary says:

    by time I was 13 I was raising my younger siblings and staying home with them from 7 am till around 6 at night when mom and dad got home from work. We were all home schooled. SO I had to not only cook, bath clean etc. I also had to do their school work with them. 13 is plenty old enough if they are responsible. Unless you smother your kids and don’t let them grow up. My daughter is 8 (9 in aug) and already stays home alone for short periods. People get in such a tizzy over it because their 8 year olds are clingy and needy and they have not taught them to be self sufficient or have any sense. I do not care what other peoples opinions are. My kid , My house MY RULES!

  11. kerstein says:

    I babysat many neighborhood children when I was around 11. I don’t really see the big deal.

  12. Melissa says:

    The neighbor wasn’t neighborly in calling the police. There were more things at play here than this article addresses. That’s pretty obvious. I’m 42 and have an 8 month old. I babysat at 11 years old for many neighbors and even had a regular Saturday night gig for a divorced mom who liked to go out for a break on Saturday nights. So much has changed, but not because “children” have changed – parenting has. There’s ALWAYS been perverts and drug use and all sorts of horrors that can and do happen. It’s just a lot more known when it happens because of the constant stream of news coverage on everything. Believe me, there was plenty to worry about in 1988 when I was 15, as there is now.

    Technology can be unplugged and our kids can be taught responsibility. It all starts at home. I was a great babysitter and took my job seriously at age 11. Why? Because I had good parents who taught me to be a responsible person and would not have allowed me to babysit unless I had shown that I was. I see a lot of entitled brats out there who have the maturity of a 6 year old when they are about 13. But, I do see good kids too – I have friends who are wonderful parents and work hard to teach their kids in this crazy society of social media we have today. I’d let one of those kids watch my child, sure.

    Babysitting was great for me, it enabled me to earn my own money and save for the things I wanted. Back then too – most kids my age didn’t get everything handed to them either. We had to earn things and wait patiently for birthdays and holidays and even then, if it was outside the family budget – it was up to us to earn it for ourselves. This part of growing up came a lot faster to us, because if we wanted it badly enough, we worked for it. Simple as that. Take note – don’t just hand your kid a cell phone when they turn 10 (for safety – puh-lease!…such a crock! no kid “needs” this to be safe, they need an interested and engaged parent is what they need to be “safe”) make them earn the darned thing. And have limits and enforce them. I was surprised with a pregnancy later than a lot of ladies and am frightened as hell how to teach my son about this technology based world and do a good job. But I will do my absolute best to teach him independence and responsibility at an early age. My job is all the more difficult with the way of the parenting world today and also this “get it all NOW attitude” of SOME of my younger parent counterparts (read – some, not all – as I do realize that there are good younger parents out there).

    It will be a daunting feat, but I will do my best to prevail. My son may hate me when he’s 13 because he’s not just getting handed whatever technological new thing is out at that time, but I’m sure there will be other parents like me…so all can’t be lost. He’ll just have to suck it up and start liking me again at maybe age 23, and appreciating that I cared and wanted him to be socially responsible and a darned good person instead of an entitled brat.

    I can’t imagine back when I was babysitting…a neighbor calling the cops because this happened…perhaps that neighbor had darned good reason to call, perhaps not but it just is doubtful it would have even been a story back then. Most neighbors would have just walked the child in hand back across the street, yelled at and scared the teen watching the child within an inch of their life and got the teen in BIG trouble with her own parents for being an irresponsible fool. That would not have been “news” or an article. That would have just been a neighborhood story and that particular babysitter wouldn’t have gotten any more jobs.

  13. Shannon says:

    I started babysitting for money at 11 y/o and continued through my teens, college, and even all through my 20’s while I worked in education. Of course it depends on each kid how early they are responsible enough to be charged with others’ safety. I can’t believe the police charged her. Yes, there was some sort of lapse for the young one to wander off, but can’t that happen to even the most attentive adult? The neighbor could have been more helpful, rather than hurtful. And, as long as this isn’t a recurring issue, the police could have let Mom off with a warning.

  14. Lori says:

    I really think it depends on the individual and the parents. I know I started baby sitting when I was about 12. I also had experience with babies and I had phone numbers of people to call if I had questions. I don’t think I would leave a 13 year old that has never been around babies alone with my child. I would wait until they are older.

  15. 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…

  16. Danielle says:

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

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. ~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.

  23. 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!

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

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