Melissa Henderson needed to be at work when COVID-19 closed her children’s daycare. Linley Henderson, 14, asked Linley to look after her siblings. Linley was in remote learning and her four-year old brother Thaddeus spotted Linley outside. Linley went to join him. Linley noticed he wasn’t there for about 10 to 15 minutes. He must have been at his friend’s house so she got up and ran to retrieve him.
The mom of the friend called 911.
Now Henderson, a single mom in Blairsville, Georgia, is facing criminal reckless conduct charges for letting her 14-year-old babysit. Maximum penalty for the charges is one year in jail and $1,000 fine. In his report, the arresting officer, deputy Sheriff Marc Pilote wrote that any number of terrible things could have occurred to Thaddeus. He also mentioned being run over or “bitten” by a deadly snake. Pilote said that the child was gone for only a couple of minutes when Henderson complained that it was too short.
This is Thaddeus’s street scene and the jungle-like environment he was in. Henderson took the photo from Henderson’s porch and that’s Thaddeus’s friend’s house on the right.
This case is now almost two years old. Henderson’s lawyer David DeLugas argues that a mother being charged for making a parenting decision has been declared illegal by the Georgia Supreme Court. The case involved a mother who left her 11 year old child to care for her younger brother, who had tragically died. Even so, even though the court was unanimous in its decision, they deemed the mom’s recklessness arbitrary and subjective. DeLugas explains that Georgia’s child protection guidelines state that children can babysit from age 13 onwards.
DeLugas is founder of Parents USA, which exists to fight cases like this. DeLugas filed a motion three weeks back to dismiss the case.
About a year ago, Henderson was being investigated by Georgia Division of Family and Children’s Services. Thaddeus (age three at that time) had also wandered outdoors. When the second incident happened, Henderson was no longer being monitored by DFCS. The DFCS conducted an investigation into Henderson’s behavior and concluded that it was not unusual. Case closed. Pilote, however, remembered the previous investigation and initiated an arrest approximately two weeks later. Pilote believed this to be a pattern.
Henderson says that Henderson received five police cars to her residence. Reason.
She said, “It was so hard to put into words how awful it felt.” To truly believe in my gut that, if anything, I am a mother who does everything for her children. You are held accountable for your actions in front of children.
The officer placed her in a cruiser, then she took her to county jail. She was fingerprinted and photographed and was given bright orange Crocs. She was then taken to a jail cell. She recalls “I can remember curled up in a corner, just wanting to hide,” and she adds that it was the same thing. She was saved by her ex-husband.
Jeff Langley the District Attorney, said that he believed the police acted prudently because the boy had gone outside on his own once before. Although Henderson would not likely be sentenced to prison, he said that even a guilty plea might not lead to Henderson being sent to jail. However, he thought it was a smart idea for Henderson’s mother to forbid her daughter from babysitting. He said, “We want to ensure that the children of our small community are safe.”
Langley stated that he thought the boy was wandering naked during a storm. The boy wasn’t wearing a shirt and there was not storm.
Langley stated that Linley, a 14-year old girl with a learning disability, was informed by officers. This made Linley unreliable as a sitter.
Henderson shared with me her experience as a parent of a child diagnosed with ADHD. Henderson has an average GPA of 4.45. She is also vice president of 4-H Club.
It shouldn’t matter if a teen is a celebrity before parents can arrange for childcare in case of an epidemic. That’s why Let Grow is working to narrow states’ neglect laws, ensuring that they kick in only when parents put their kids in likely and obvious danger, not when they make a decision a cop or caseworker disapproves of.
The incident is four. It would have been a good idea for the boy’s parents to warn him to not go out without telling anyone. However, a child who wanders off to play with a neighbor is still considered to be a nuisance. childhood, Do not abuse children.
You can donate to the Hendersons through GoFundMe.