Home Alone: Things to know before you leave your child home alone
Deciding to leave your child home alone is definitely an area with very gray guidelines. There are only three states that currently have laws regarding minimum age for leaving a child home alone. It is a parent’s obligation to assure their child is safe and has the skills and maturity level to handle being safely left alone. Many states offer guidelines; however, Nevada does not. Not having a set protocol to follow can leave things entirely up to individual parents’ code of ethics, morals, and ability to soundly make a decision in the best interest of their child.
Most states either via laws or guidance from the local child protective services (CPS) agency will classify leaving children home alone as a failure to provide “adequate supervision of child”. Things to consider when leaving your child home alone include but are not limited to: The child’s physical, mental, developmental and social emotional well being as well as the circumstances around leaving them home. When a child is left with less than adequate supervision, criminal charges can be filed against the parent and/or inappropriate caregiver. Neglectful and or inadequate supervision means “placing a child in or failing to remove a child from a situation” that a reasonable person would realize requires judgment or actions beyond the child’s maturity level, physical condition and or mental abilities and that results in bodily injury or substantial risk of immediate harm to the child. Neglectful situations account for a high percentage of confirmed child victims of abuse and/or neglect.
Some guidelines set out by FINDLAW.com
- Under 7 years old: Should not be left alone for any period of time. The determining consideration would be the dangers in the environment and the ability of the caretaker to intervene.
- 8-10 years old: Should not be left alone for more than 1½ hours and should only be left alone during daylight hours.
- 11-12 years old: May be left alone for up to 3 hours, but not during evening/night hours.
- 13-15 years old: May be left unsupervised but not overnight.
When you leave a child home alone you need to first think of their safety. Ask yourself questions like how long will you be gone, can they make a meal for themselves, how many children are being left alone, and is home secure? Parents and approved caregivers are responsible for the health and safety of children, and no child should ever be responsible for caring for a younger child simply because they’re just children themselves. Most childcare centers will offer affordable drop in rates for those moments in life when you are in a jam. Parents need to do what is in the best interest of their child and reach out to community outreach programs for assistance when necessary.
If you need help you can contact Childhelp at 1-800-422-4453 or Las Vegas CPS at 702-455-0000.