Mom Arrested for Letting 14-Year-Old Babysit Finally Cleared of Charges


In a significant legal victory, Melissa Henderson, a Georgia mother who was arrested for allowing her 14-year-old daughter to babysit her younger siblings during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, has been cleared of all charges. This decision marks the end of a prolonged legal battle that began in May 2020.

Henderson's ordeal started when she had to leave for work, and with daycare centers closed and schools shifted to remote learning, she asked her teenage daughter, Linley, to watch her younger siblings. During this time, Linley, engaged in her online classes, temporarily lost sight of her 4-year-old brother, Thaddeus, who went outside to play with a friend. The friend's mother, seeing Thaddeus alone, called the police​.

Police arrived at Henderson's home in Blairsville, Georgia, and arrested her on charges of reckless conduct, which could have led to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. The arresting officer cited concerns that Thaddeus could have been in significant danger, including risks of being run over or bitten by a venomous snake​.

David DeLugas, founder of Parents USA, a nonprofit advocating for parents' rights, took on Henderson's case pro bono. He argued that Georgia's guidelines allowed teenagers aged 13 and older to babysit siblings for up to 12 hours. DeLugas contended that the reckless conduct statute was misapplied and that Henderson’s actions did not constitute a crime under state law​​.

The case, which dragged on for nearly three years, placed a significant emotional and financial strain on Henderson. Throughout this period, she refused to accept plea deals, determined to clear her name. Her persistence paid off when the judge ruled in her favor, acknowledging that the state had failed to provide sufficient evidence that Henderson had acted with reckless disregard for her children's safety​.

Despite this legal victory, Henderson faces additional challenges. She must now work to expunge her arrest record, a process that requires time and resources. Furthermore, her ex-husband has filed for custody of their two young children, partly based on her arrest​ ​.

Henderson’s case has highlighted the ongoing debate about parental rights and government overreach. Advocacy groups like Let Grow are working to amend state neglect laws to ensure they only apply in cases of clear and present danger to children, not merely when a parent's judgment is questioned by authorities.

This ruling brings relief to Henderson and her supporters, shedding light on the need for more precise definitions of parental neglect and reinforcing the importance of reasonable parental autonomy during unprecedented times such as the pandemic.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here