Should Mom Who Let 13-Year-Old Babysit Be Charged?

Neighbor calls cops when 4-year old wanders into her yard. Take our poll and tell us how you feel about this.

Recently, a New Canaan, Connecticut mother was arrested for leaving her thirteen-year old daughter in charge of watching her three younger siblings while she attended church.

According to , police arrested Rebecca Young, 39, of New Canaan, for leaving her children unattended at home and charged her with risk of injury to a minor. 

Young told police that she left her house at 1:30 p.m. and had a babysitter due to arrive at 2 p.m. She left her 13-year old in charge for the half-hour between the time she left and the hired babysitter was expected.

Authorities became involved when a neighbor of Young's phoned police to report that a four-year old had wandered into her yard alone.  

If it is criminal to leave a 13-year old alone to babysit children, then I am one guilty editor with a lot of guilty girlfriends. The summer I turned 12, I was working as a mother's helper for a woman who had two young girls. She would regularly leave me unattended to watch the girls while she ran errands. Most times she was gone for longer than a half-hour.

Being the days before cell phones, in her absence I was instructed that if I encountered any problems I could call on any of the neighbors for help. In fact, the neighbors would regularly check on me either by landline phone call or by knocking on the door to see if I was okay. That's what neighbors did back then. 

Besides which, for my friends with younger siblings, it was a tradition to be anointed babysitter at an age that was often younger than 13. 

Which is why I wonder if I'm the only one shocked that this particular neighbor called the police. What happened to taking the child back home to see if there was a greater problem? What happened to the common courtesy of checking in on our neighbors? Have we so isolated ourselves behind the glass curtains of our homes that we only look out, but never reach out? 

And what if this was not a 4-year old, but an elderly parent with Alzheimer's who managed to walk out of the house? Would that also result in an arrest of the caretaker? With all stress of the demands placed on people today, particularly women who still shoulder the burden of being the primary caretakers of children and aging parents, wouldn't it be nice if our neighbors could lend us a hand, instead of handcuffs?

How do you feel about this? Take our poll and leave a comment. We want to hear from you. 

Jeffrey DelVecchio June 11, 2012 at 08:29 PM
Gone are the days of neighborly neighbors, I can tell you from experience. A few years ago we found our neighbors' 2 year old grand daughter walking on Graphic Blvd. Did we call the police? No, we took her back to grandma's house and all was well. They didn't even realize she had left the front yard. Now I will say, I think they should have been paying closer attention but this was not an issue for the police.
Lauren Maehrlein June 11, 2012 at 08:53 PM
I'm sure I was babysitting when I was 13 or 14, and not just for family, although I did a lot of that. It depends on the 13-year-old, of course. Some are very responsible, others are space cadets and can't even take care of themselves.
Danielle June 11, 2012 at 09:22 PM
this is what happens when you let government run your life. Instead of being able to assess the capability of your own child, you are arrested for neglect and endangerment. I see 7 year olds walking to school alone and apparently there is no legal age at which that is allowed so how then is it more dangerous or less acceptable to be left in the care of an older sibling. I began babysitting for pay at 11 and we're talking about 1990, not 1960. Of course every child is different and maturity comes not necessarily numerically. That said, we should not have our rights as parents trampled on. I understand that these laws are in place to protect children from parents who would determine that their two year ol is capable of staying alone, but we must be very careful not to sacrifice our own liberties because of the idiots of the world. and that neighbor is unfortunately your typical "not my problem to solve or even assist so I'll call the cops instead" uncaring, callous, stranger in their community. I know my neighbors, their kids and vice versa. if I found the four year old, id bring her home. if it happened regularly, I'd speak to the parents. Why get the cops involved? Because they just couldn't be bothered to help. We live in a sad, sad world.
Ann Piccirillo June 11, 2012 at 09:53 PM
Interestingly, the Red Cross (in both NJ and Connecticut) offers Babysitter Training courses to youths ages 11 to 15. Once you pass their course you're given a certificate/card certifying that you are a Red Cross trained sitter. So, should the Red Cross not offer these classes to anyone under the age of 13? And who is determining the appropriate age?
Big Ben June 12, 2012 at 02:07 AM
The Nanny State in full bloom
Denise June 14, 2012 at 03:39 PM
The neighbor who called the police is not a "neighbor"........
Diana June 21, 2012 at 12:13 AM
I babysat at eleven for two girls under four. I now own my own daycare. Children can definitely babysit by age 13. Want to know why our children do not grow up and become responsible adults? Because they are not trusted or given responsibilities to help prepare them. The neighbor is disgusting. The police should be ashamed of themselves!
MommaBear June 23, 2012 at 01:53 PM
I am a single mom and as much as I would like for my 14 year old to babysit my 11 & 3 year old,I'm fearful that a neighbor would call the cops and I come home to no family.Neighbors don't care about my family.Even though my daughter is responsible enough, there are no more "it takes a village to raise a child" methodology in this day and age.Where a neighbor would look out for children that is not theirs.
Rene Car June 24, 2012 at 02:16 AM
Every child is different. Most 13 year olds are more than capable of babysitting. A mother should know her own children, and there may be cases where if there are 3 or 4 siblings who collectively aren't well behaved you may not want to leave a 13 yr old in charge. But, this mom was only going to be gone an hour or two. So, no , the mother didn't do anything wrong and shouldn't be charged. The neighbor was obviously a no good busybody!
fiona November 03, 2012 at 04:39 PM
theres 2 ways of looking at every story if there had been an accident or the house had burnt down the mother would of never forgave her self for leaving her children the world we live in is fucked up but if she was going to go she could have knocked on a neighbours door and asked if theres any problems can they call on them but she was lucky nothing serious happened there fore she should of got a warning not arrested if that child had got hit by a car when wondering across the road the year old would have to live with that im just glad all the children are safe and the mums not a bad mum she made a mistake one she will learn bye
Tara Good November 01, 2013 at 08:49 PM
There is NO LAW in New Jersey (believe it or not) that gives an age for a child to be left alone for under 24 hours (so long as the child/children are not in imminent danger). It is ultimately up to the parent to assess the child's maturity level (needs know to dial 911 in case of emergency, know his/her address & emergency #'s, and have a neighbor that can help). A common sense plan. Everyone will have an opinion on how OTHER'S should raise a child. Raising kids is not easy, but if there was more empathy and less douche-baggyness...we'd be a better country.


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