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JOHNSTON, Iowa  —  A Johnston mother is behind bars on Friday after police say she left her four children home alone while she took a trip to Europe.

Police say the mother in this case, 30-year-old Erin Macke, left her two 12-year-olds home alone along with her seven and six-year-old. Meanwhile, she was over 4,000 miles away in Germany.

Police say Macke left the country on September 20th with no plans to return anytime soon.  She was scheduled to get back to the U.S. on October 1st.

“The father of the two youngest children had gotten information that the children may be home alone at the apartment while the mother was out of the country, so he had contacted law enforcement and asked them to do a welfare check on the children. When officers arrived at the apartment, that’s when they found the four children home alone in the apartment,” said Lieutenant Lynn Aswegan of the Johnston Police Department.

Police say Macke did not arrange any child care for the kids while she was gone, and left a firearm unsecured that the children would have had access to. Macke is now charged with four counts of child endangerment and one count of making a firearm available to a person under the age of 21.

“It is a dangerous situation, regardless of how responsible your children might be. It’s not something that we recommend or encourage,” said Aswegan.

Iowa law does not require children to be a certain age to be left alone, but the law defines child endangerment as “a person who abandons the child or minor to fend for themselves, knowing the child or minor is unable to do so.” It also defines it as “an act that creates a substantial risk” to the child’s health.

Anti-child abuse advocates say it doesn’t matter how old a child is, leaving them alone is not a good idea.

“We think leaving your kids at home at any age is a risk, from young children up to teenagers. Any parent is going to worry, no matter what the situation is, when you leave your kids at home. Even if they’re older, there’s a risk involved,” said Alli Moerman with Prevent Child Abuse Iowa. “Obviously being out of the country and unavailable for your children is not recommend and not something we want to encourage parents to do, but it’s up to their own judgment for as far as when it’s okay for them to leave their children at home alone,” she said.

Macke is scheduled back in court on October 9th. She is currently being held on a $9,000 bond.