What would have happened in a middle or upperclass neighborhood? Hopefully a heck of a lot more than actually happened. Having worked in child welfare for over 20 years now I can tell you that your losing your babysitting certificate was absolutely a generous outcome. You say you and your siblings had recently returned to parental care from out of home care — I, of course, am curious why you were placed in out of home care.
This is a pretty clear case of Improper Care and Supervision any way you look at it. Any time a child is left with a caregiver there has to be the assumption that that caregiver will act and react as a responsible and reasonable adult. You were not an adult, yet your parents chose to leave you in charge of 4 younger siblings. I don’t know that a parent in the home would have reacted any differently to that knock on the door however, those parents didn’t respond to that knock on the door, they chose to leave a child in charge of children and to respond to whatever crisis may arise. That is not a responsible or reasonable course of action.
I also have to question the time frame — you claim 10 minutes, law enforcement claims 20, both seem too short. You left your home and reached your destination in a ‘few minutes’ with the benefit of roller skates and had time to become fully involved in a physical altercation with other children (I doubt an adult would have gotten engaged in a physical altercation in this situation, or experienced any resistance in removing your brother from the situation). Your 8 year old sibling, without benefit of wheels on his feet, arrived sometime during this altercation. Sometime after your 8 year old sibling left your home a neighbor called law enforcement because your toddler sister was crying. Law enforcement was dispatched and responded: it is just not believable that this all took place in 20 minutes or less. Regardless of the length of time, a four year old and a ‘toddler’ were left alone while their 12 year old sister/babysitter got into a fight while trying to break one up after having made the unreasonable choice to leave an 8 year old in charge of a four year old and a ‘toddler’. Nothing about this scenario hints at ‘responsible’ or ‘reasonable’.
I don’t believe you should have been ‘found guilty’ of anything — your parents, however, clearly demonstrated poor judgment in allowing a child to care for children regardless of how ‘good at managing’ four children you were by the time you turned 12. We call that Improper Care and Supervision and Child Welfare is involved — with or without placing the children in out of home care — until the family has a much better plan in place for the care and supervision of their children when they cannot be present. So, in my opinion, the fact that you and your siblings had previously been in care and law enforcement was called to your home regarding unattended children, and the only sacrifice was a babysitting certificate, tells me that the income associated with your neighborhood didn’t negatively impact the outcome.