A mother has been charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of her children, after she left her eight and nine-year-old alone in a holiday rental while she went to collect a takeaway food order.
Susan L. Terrillion, 55, of Olney, Maryland, was gone for around 45 minutes, reports Rehoboth Beach Police Lt. Jaime B. Riddle. The restaurant she visited was approximately 8 kilometres away.
Police responded to a witness report that the nine-year-old boy and eight-year-old girl had been left unattended in their holiday residence. The witness encountered the children when their dogs ran in front of his vehicle, reports the News Journal. After helping them regain control of their dogs, he notified police that the children were on their own.
Terrillion was arrested and charged and subsequently released on bail.
Authorities have advised that the children and their dogs were not injured.
According to the State of Delaware Department of Children, Youth and Families, while there is no law regulating an appropriate age for a child to be left at home unsupervised, "the Division of Family Services will accept for investigation, any report of a child under the age of 12 being left alone."
Similarly, in Australia, as the Raising Children Network outlines, there is no one law that indicates at what age you can and can't leave your child home alone.
Queensland offers the most specific direction, the criminal code stating: "A person who, having the lawful care or charge of a child under 12 years, leaves the child for an unreasonable time without making reasonable provision for the supervision and care of the child during that time, commits a misdemeanour."
The maximum penalty is three years prison, and whether or not the time is "unreasonable" depends on individual circumstances.
Country-wide, however, the law does make clear that parents are legally obliged to ensure their children are properly cared for. In addition, Police or child protection agencies are authorised to remove children from situations where their safety is in question and/or where no guardian is present.
What do you think? How young is too young to leave your children home alone?