When is it safe to leave a child home alone?
The following represent minimally acceptable standards for the supervision of children. These guidelines have been developed by social work professionals in collaboration with the community. Remember, they are guidelines only. There may be situations, even within these guidelines, when it is not safe to leave a child unsupervised. Parents are ultimately responsible for making decisions about their child’s safety.
Whenever any child is unsupervised/unattended:
- There must be no emotional, medical, or behavioral problems which affect judgement or decision-making skills
- Child must be comfortable being alone
- Youth must have a safety plan worked out with the parent/caretaker, which includes:
- How to access parent or other responsible adult at all times (including knowing the parent/caretaker’s whereabouts and having a telephone number where parent can be reached)
- What to do in case of emergency
- Guidelines for acceptable behavior
- Knowledge of emergency telephone numbers
- Youth must demonstrate the ability to follow the safety plan and to make decisions that reflect concern for personal safety
- 8 years and under: Should not be left alone for any period of time. This may include leaving children unattended in cars, playgrounds, and backyards. The determining consideration would be the dangers in the environment and the ability of the caretaker to intervene.
- 9 to 10 years: Should not be left alone for more than 1½ hours and only during daylight and early evening hours.
- 11 to 12 years: May be left alone for up to 3 hours during daylight hours but not late at night or in circumstances requiring inappropriate responsibility.
- 13 to 15 years: May be left unsupervised more than 3 hours, but not overnight.