Mum who left kids home alone to go to Germany avoids prison

A mother from Iowa who left her four children home alone so she could go to Europe has been sentenced.

Erin Macke, 31, faced up to eight years in prison on charges of child endangerment.

According to local police, Macke was planning a trip to Germany last September when her plans for a babysitter fell through. Instead of cancelling or postponing the 10-day trip, she instead opted to leave the children alone.

The youngest two, aged seven and six, were left in the care of their 12-year-old siblings. Johnston Police Lieutenant Tyler Tompkins told local media the 12-year-olds were expected to be "the adults".

"They were concerned, they didn't know, they were confused," he said.

Matthew Macke, the father of the two youngest children, alerted police the day after Macke left.

He gave a victim impact statement in court and said the children were put at a "substantial risk of harm".

"Erin's decision to leave the children was intentional, done knowingly, she has not accepted any responsibility and continued to place blame on everyone else," he was quoted as saying.

In court in February, Macke entered an Alford plea to four counts of child endangerment, according to the Des Moines Register.

The newspaper cites an Alford plea as being one where a person doesn't admit guilt, but does acknowledge there's enough evidence for a likely conviction.

Macke was sentenced to two years' probation on Thursday (local time) and the children are in the care of relatives, with Matthew Macke granted primary custody of the two youngest children.

A no-contact order is in place, meaning Macke can't contact her children except for supervised phone calls, according to the Des Moines Register.