Endangered at the mall

A Montana mother was charged with child endangerment for dropping her three children at the mall with two friends.  The two 12-year-old girls, both experienced babysitters, were supposed to supervise their siblings, who were eight, seven and three. But the girls  left the younger kids to try on clothes in the dressing room. Store employees, thinking the kids were much younger, called a security guard, who called the police. After spending thousands of dollars in legal fees, Bridget Kevane accepted a deferred prosecution deal that included parenting classes.

Kevane grew up in Puerto Rico as one of eight children, she writes in Brain Child:

As kids, we were frequently left to our own devices, with the older children often left in charge of the younger ones. In many ways, I raised my youngest sister, walking her around the neighborhood, taking her to the local neighborhood store, and more. My mother was certainly around quite a bit, but many times she was not able to attend to all eight of us, each about a year apart, each with our own separate needs and demands on her time. She, like many mothers, believed in the power of allowing her children to gain independence by depending on themselves.

In the baby boom era, when I grew up, it was normal for young children to play together outside without any supervision. We had no malls, but we’d walk to the park or explore the ravines when we were six, seven or eight years old.  Our family had four kids, including a surprise baby born when we were 14, 13 and 10. Believe me: We older sibs took care of him.

Via Free Range Kids.

About Joanne


  1. Richard Brandshaft says:

    Cops will be cops. Prosecutors will be prosecutors.

    Real criminals get off on plea bargains so polices and prosecutors have the time to make a criminal case out of nothing. Easier than going after real criminals.

  2. These helicopter parents need to stop for awhile and let kids be kids and learn independence like we did growing up. Why do so many people think only bad things happen to kids who are left to freerange?

  3. Tom West says:

    > Why do so many people think only bad things happen to kids who are left to freerange?

    Umm, see the article. Bad things *did* happen…

    Given the damage that a criminal record (especially for something connected with children!) can do to your future, this could be a real threat. [Sorry kids, I used your college fund on lawyers fees to avoid getting you taken by children’s aid…]

  4. Ragnarok says:

    “Umm, see the article. Bad things *did* happen…”

    Such as?

  5. I wouldn’t be comfortable with two 12 year olds babysitting three younger siblings at the mall, especially the 3 year old. That said, I think it’s ridiculous that she was charged with a crime. This isn’t a crime, maybe iffy judegment – maybe, but not a crime.

  6. Tracy W says:

    I’m younger than a baby boomer, but my brothers and I were allowed to go exploring unsupervised in the streams and forests near where we lived, or were staying on holidays. And I think my dad or mum walked me to school the first week, when I was 5, after that I walked with the neighbours’ kid, who was a year older.

    I find it quite startling that my cousin’s children aren’t sent to walk to school alone. But on the other hand, two kids at my primary school were hit by a car and one killed and the other seriously injured.

  7. thaprof says:

    The apron strings were cut around age 6. It was understood that we were to stay within a six-block radius of the house, but probably 95% of the time there was no overt adult supervision.

  8. A dull life with little risk is also a tragedy.

  9. I started babysitting my younger brothers when I was 9 and was babysitting other families’ kids by 11.

    The 12 year olds absolutely should not have left the younger ones alone (as the mom had warned them not to) but it’s ludicrous to call the cops. A simple page over the loudspeaker should’ve sufficed.

  10. But see, Crimson Wife, that is where we seem to get off track…whatever happens, call the police. I laugh about all the things we did 50+ years ago that today would be probably be considered heinous, and perhaps even make for a 911 call. My friends and I wonder how we ever grew to adulthood what with no carseats or even seatbelts!

  11. What about the 13-year-olds with a baby of their own?

  12. Interested Observer says:

    Ridiculous! Nothing in the story gave any indication that the children were in danger.

  13. Parent2 says:

    It was a self-indulgent imposition on the mall owners and the other mall customers. It was rude and inconsiderate. Even professor parents can make a mistake, and should have the grace to acknowledge it.

    The two twelve year old girls were not mature enough to shepherd three children (8,7, and 3) on a visit to the mall. Period. Should it rise to the level of a criminal case? No, but the affluent and well-educated should keep in mind that they can’t expect the police and prosecutors to treat them more leniently than the local high school dropouts.

  14. Bozeman’s a crunchy-granola college town, but there’s bars in that mall, and it’s not quite as upscale as all that. Kevane’s also been reported to have Aspergers, and I think that might have some bearing on this.

  15. Robert Wright says:

    If I remember correctly, at age 7 I could be gone and on my own from 8AM to 8PM on any Saturday or summer’s day.

    For my 15 year old son, I’ll allow him to be unsupervised for 10 minutes, max.