Is this mom's arrest justified or just ridiculous?

By Melissa Willets

Would you leave your 8- and 9-year-old kids home alone to go pick up takeout? Susan Terrillion of Maryland did, during a family trip to Delaware. And she was arrested. Seriously.

According to USA Today, the mom of two has been charged with two counts of child endangerment because she decided to run out to a restaurant five miles from where the family was staying, while her children stayed behind.

It turns out the kids went outside to walk their dogs, and that's when a "witness" found out they were by themselves. I guess that was Terrillion's first and second mistake: allowing her kids to leave the house while she was out, and then, not instructing them to keep the information that she was not at home to themselves.

Police were then called to the "scene" of this mom's "crime." She returned 45 minutes after leaving the family's vacation rental.

So, did Terrillion do anything wrong? According to the law, it seems the answer is "yes."

Believe it or not, some states have laws that regulate the age at which parents can legally leave their kids home by themselves. And each state is different. According to Maryland State Law, a child must be at least 8 years old to be left alone in a house or car. But according to Delaware State Law, "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)."

Okay. But morally, is 8 and 9 too young to leave kids by themselves? I mean, seriously, how young is too young for kids to be left home alone?

In addition to knowing your state's laws (and those of the state your family is visiting on vacation), I think that decision comes down to what you as a parent feel comfortable with. I personally would not leave my 8-year-old home alone. Unless I was going outside to check the the end of our driveway. It's not that I don't trust her, but look, things do happen. She could get hurt, with no one home to help her. Plus, I don't trust other people. What if someone came to the door, and she got scared? What if she had a right to get scared, because the person was up to no good?

I'm not sure when I will feel ready to leave my kids home alone. But when that day comes, it will. Be. Glorious. No more paying for babysitters!

In the meantime, it is my personal belief that children require adult supervision. Leaving them alone, even for 45 minutes, is not cool. I know a lot of people would disagree with me. And so be it. But I would just add that these kids were not at home, but rather at what was presumably an unfamiliar vacation property, in an unfamiliar town.

It's also worth noting we don't know the mom's side of the story. So, the truth is we should not send in the mom judgment mob quite yet! All we can do is make the right decisions for our own children.

What age do you think is appropriate to leave a child home alone?

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.


Comments (4)

June 8, 2019
Congratulations! You are part of the reason why kids today are so inadequately prepared to succeed in the real world. I wish you morons would stop trying to tell other people how to raise their kids. When I was that age my parents would leave for the entire day and at times not come back until late in the evening. I was 8 years old and we had a hotel, and I had a stool that I used so I could see over the desk and would rent rooms to customers, taking payment, handling issues that would come up. Run the phone system etc. When my parents were home we would get on our bikes or even dirtbikes(if we stuck to the alleys) and head out to go hang out with friends. No cell phones, no tracking devices and all of us were JUST FINE and grew up to be able to thrive in the world.
February 27, 2019
When I was 9 years old I was babysitting for other families. My oldest child who is now 29 was babysitting for other families at 10. My youngest child is 9 and he stays home when we go grocery shopping if he doesn’t want to go. He has a phone that has TextNow on it so he can make and receive calls and texts. We have two dogs that protect the house and all of the dogs are double locked. He knows not to answer the door or eat anything ( choking hazard) while we are gone. Bottom line is if the child is educated and the parent is ok with it, I believe it is ok. I do believe the mother should have taken the dogs out herself before leaving and told the kids to not open the door for any reason.
February 24, 2019
I believe the Mom was fine with leaving them alone for an hour or even two over age 8. Give them a phone to call, make sure they know 911 and go. Listen, when I was a kid I was home until 9pm every night alone. Latch key kid. I grew up confident in myself, self sufficient and my mother knew I could get a neighbor to help if needed. I have 3 kids and I find nothing at all wrong with this mom's actions.
February 3, 2019
Nice little read until the “In the meantime, it is my personal belief...” Why does every damn writer think that the read gives a damn about the writer thinks? We already know this; we are reading your damn article. Try this on for size. Find an interesting concept to write about, research it enough to not make an ass out of yourself, give both sides of the story with as little to no emotion (think logos not pathos here), stop putting B.S. liberal horseshit, I’m better than you as long as your not in my group, “non” reasoning into it, then sit back and enjoy your job because you are finally a real journalist. You almost made it.