Mom Arrested for Letting Her 13-Year-Old Babysit

handcuffsWhen you are a mother living in an area where childcare is scarce, you learn to worship at the altar of the teenage babysitter. Mine has saved my sanity, my sense of humor, and then some. But the Connecticut mom who just got arrested for leaving her 13-year-old home alone to watch over her three youngest kids scared the dickens out of me.

Considering I -- and most former babysitters I know -- started watching over kids at 13 or even younger, if this is now criminal behavior, we're all in trouble. This is not like leaving a house full of toddlers! Using the oldest kid to watch the younger kids, especially, is a time-honored tradition.

Young's neighbor apparently called the cops to say the 4-year-old who lived across the street had wandered into her yard. They arrived to find Young's 13-year-old was alone in their house with siblings aged 10 and 1 1/2, plus the wandering 4-year-old, and charged Young -- who'd left to go to church but said a real babysitter was on the way to relieve the young teen -- with risk of injury to a minor.

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I get it ... sort of. Just because they're "old enough" to babysit doesn't mean they're necessarily good at it. At least Rebecca Young's teenager wasn't good enough at the gig to handle a handful of kids. That's where a parent has to make some tough decisions: whether it's the parent of the kids being babysat saying, "OK, this teen is great, but not so great with kids" or the mother of a teenager saying, "Sorry, but my child isn't mature enough to handle that many kids."

Not to mention: a teenager needs to know where to draw the line when they take on a babysitting gig, even if it is watching their own siblings. Three kids is a lot!

I love my babysitter in part because she knows her limits. I always ask her if she feels comfortable with a few more kids when my daughter is going to have a playdate, and I trust her to be honest with me. She usually says yes, but she has told me what kids she does NOT think she could handle.

I'm still uneasy about calling this criminal behavior. As CNN's Ashleigh Banfield pointed out in a debate over Young's arrest, even good moms have had a toddler wander out of the house. It happens. But it's certainly a wake-up call for parents.

What's the maximum number of kids you'd put in the hands of one teenage babysitter? 


Image via petercastleton/Flickr



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nonmember avatar Michelle

Depends on the teenager, frankly. I know some very capable 14-year olds that could handle SIX kids. Yet when I started babysitting at age 12, I KNEW that TWO was my limit. STILL IS! I am not ashamed to say that I rarely watch our friends kids if it means there are more than two (I have one of my own as well--a 3-year old). When it comes to providing proper care to small children, one should NEVER be ashamed to say what their limit is...we ALL have them!

Anna Potts

really people need to mind thier own buissness and let people parent


nonmember avatar Jana Brady

What a neighbor! Couldn't she have just walked the child home and find out what was happening instead of calling the cops. If would have been different if she hadnt known the child but why call the cops first.

nonmember avatar Lord K

Only in America!

LoveM... LoveMyViolet

I used to watch my brother starting when I was about 12.  When I was 14/15 I watched 2 little girls during the summer. But then again, when I was a kid, parents taught their children to be a little more responsible than they do today (this is a general opinion I have of parents as a whole, some of us/you are better at is than others).

nonmember avatar Jenn

Um, no. My neighbors left their four kids alone, the oldest being 12 and the youngest six weeks. Yes, a newborn. They locked themselves out of the house with the newborn inside in a compromising place. Guess who had to do something about it? Not their parents. It was terrifying. I don't agree with having kids so the older ones can babysit. If you can't handle them ALL don't have them.

linzemae linzemae

I would think 13 is old enough... But it depends on the kid.

Katie Hesney Johnson

13 isn't old enough to be watching multiple kids, when I was that age, I only had my younger brother to look after. 

But I can get that if it was only a temporary situation (like max a half an hour) until another babysitter came over, she could handle it. Risk of injury is a bit extreme, and I'm sure it'll get dropped. Taxpayers of CT don't want to pay for something like this, they've got enough going on as it is. 

AliNo... AliNoelle

Wow. I started baby sitting my sisters kids when I was probably 11, and kept on babysitting up until I was 19. I know of some very capable young teen age baby sitters. I also no of some not so capable ones. Her being arrested is pretty ridiculous.

nonmember avatar Lord K

Oh, please, in virtually every other country in the world, daughters are expected, by their mothers, to assist in the care of younger siblings. But American parents think a teen can't watch a child??? Wow!

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