One of the biggest questions when parenting is “at what age can a child be left home alone?”The answers are usually all over the map, with many believing that a child’s maturity factors heavily into the decision. A mom on vacation in Rehoboth Beach, DE, was arrested when she left her 8- and 9-year old children at their rental home while she went out to pick up food a few miles away.According to USA Today, Susan Terrillion, 55, was charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of her children. Someone found her children alone when their dogs ran in front of his car and he helped them get the dogs. The person reported the incident to police and said the children had been left alone for 45 minutes.
Terrillion was later released on $500 bail.
So, what age can kids be left at home unsupervised? The answer is, it varies, with some states noting a minimum age, but no federal law in place. For Delaware, for example, the state website notes, “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).”
Those who weighed in in the comments section of the USA Today report were understandably outraged over the arrest, with one person offering: “This is utterly ridiculous! I was babysitting my 3 younger siblings at 9!!! Bogus charges!!!” and another adding, “Same here, I started ‘babysitting’ one of my sisters when I was 8, she was 6. The other sister became part of my job when she was 5 (I was 12 by then).”
Another commenter added:
One commenter made the following point: “A. ‘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.’ Straight from their website. This is a different day and age than what we grew up in. Might want to reconsider your thoughts on how this is handled these days, or it could cost you a pretty penny too.”
Another person responded:
“Key statement was that there is no law. How can she be charged with a crime that does not exist! DFS should have been contacted and they would have found nothing out of the ordinary.”
This commenter also made an interesting point, noting:
“What’s different? Other than we are raising our children not to be independent, resourceful people?”
Others wondered if there was more to the story, with one person commenting: “Perhaps there’s more than meets the eye? Something else that was going on that prompted the neighbor to be concerned & call the police? I find it difficult to believe they would have taken this mother in and arrested her if there was nothing more going on than the children being alone.”