At some point in his or her life every parent faces a very tough choice whether they can leave their child at home alone or not. In some cases parents have no other choice but to leave their children home alone after school because parents need to work to provide for the family. Very often parents are questioning if they should leave their child at home unsupervised while they go to dinner or social outing.
Generally, it is not recommended to leave children unsupervised at home before they become 12 years old. According to Expert Law, if your child is left alone at home before reaching this age, more than likely police or Child Protective Services can get involved. The reason for this is to insure the well-being of the child. These agencies are often concerned on how well the child is prepared to stay at home alone. Children under 12 years old are just not mentally and physically ready to take care of themselves and this is something parents seriously need to consider before they make their decision to leave their child alone at home.
In any case, the choice is personal and it depends on the maturity and health condition of the child and many other factors. It also depends on how well the child knows what to do in the emergency situations like fire, robbery or weather conditions. Other things to consider is how safe is your neighborhood, does your child know all the emergency services phone numbers, does your child understand that she or he can not open the door to strangers. Again, this is all personal choice and depends how much confidence you have in your child.
Different states have different approach to the age limitations when it comes to leaving a child at home alone. It is a very good idea to check with your local Child Protective Services or local Law Enforcement department first on what are the specific limitations in your state. Other good reason to check with those agencies first is because the laws change and internet sites may not be providing the information up to date.
According to Latchkey–Kids, the following states have no age requirement for leaving a child at home alone:
Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
The state of Florida’s minimum age requirement is 18 years old while this same age requirement is 14 years old in Illinois. The following states have a minimum age requirement of 12 years old for the child to be able to stay home alone: Colorado, Delaware and Kansas. The state of Michigan has a minimum age requirement of 11 years old while Oregon, Tennessee and Washington require the child to be at least 10 to be able to stay home unsupervised. North Dakota requires the child to be at least 9 years. Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina and South Carolina have a law stating that no child under 8 years old should be left alone at home.
Again, laws may vary and change by state and it is always a good idea to check first with your local authorities before you leave your child alone at home. Always consider the well-being of the child first and make sure your child is totally safe at home. Regardless of the minimum law requirements, your job as a parent is to insure that your child is not neglected.
More important information on law requirements and tips on how to keep your child safe at home while you are away are available at Child Welfare Information Center.