Free-Range Kids

Mom Arrested, Jailed for Letting 7-Year-Old Watch His 4-Year-Old Brother at Home Alone

Ironically, the kids were watching the movie "Home Alone" when the cops showed up for no good reason.


Screenshot via Home Alone / Youtube

Last week in Muncie, Indiana, two boys—ages 7 and 4—were home alone watching, of all things, the beloved movie Home Alone, when their mom had to leave for work and couldn't find a babysitter.

But unlike Kevin McAllister's mother in the film, this mom was thrown in jail. Her children were placed under the supervision of a relative, and she faces a neglect charge and a $10,000 bond.

What, exactly, happened? The mom, Taylor Joann Cumings, had to go to work and struck out on a sitter, so she kept her older son out of school to watch her younger son, who was feeling ill. It's not clear how anyone else found out that the boys were home alone, but somebody anonymously called 911, and so the cops showed up, according to The Star Press:

When an officer knocked on the house's door, the older child looked through blinds and exclaimed, "It's the police!"

He then ran to a telephone and called his aunt, reporting officers were outside and he was scared.

The aunt quickly arrived and persuaded the boys to open the front door. The officer presented the youngsters with toys he had in his police car.

This reveals three important things: (1) the 7-year-old was quite capable of calling someone when he needed help, (2) an adult was nearby and could assist them, and (3) don't open the door for the cops!

Obviously, the situation for the kids was not ideal. But needing a job, having a sick kid, and not being able to find a last-minute sitter is far from ideal as well. This forced mom to make a seat-of-the-pants decision—something we all have to do from time to time. For this, Cumings is being treated like a criminal. But if it's a bad idea for a mom to leave her kids alone, why is it a good idea to take the mom away from her kids and lock her up?

What's more, the idea that a 7-year-old can't possibly take on some responsibility is also a bit precious. While we don't see or approve of 7-year-olds doing much of anything on their own anymore, 7 has long been considered "the age of reason." Sure enough, this kid behaved reasonably: He kept his brother company, found a movie they both could enjoy, and even knew not to blithely answer the door. (Whether he was capable of booby-trapping the house to deter bandits is unknown, though this isn't exactly an essential skill.)

Cumings told the cops she had made this same arrangement a few times before, but "rarely." Sounds like a mom stretched thin who was trying to do her best. Rather than help, the authorities chose the path of least assistance.