Could you leave your child home alone? CAN you?

Illinois State law has some language on the books, single mothers, and if you leave your minor child (under the age of 14) home alone, you could face charges of neglect.

I quote from Child Care Resources Service:

When is it legal to leave children alone?

When thinking about leaving children alone, whether for a short time or long time, it is important for parents to consider all the risks involved. There are many potential risks to children that need to be considered. It is also important to understand that parents and other persons responsible for a minor’s welfare also face risks.

Parents are legally responsible for their children’s welfare until they reach adulthood. Part of caring for children is providing adequate supervision. Under some circumstances a parent can be charged with neglect for leaving children unattended.

The children may also be removed from their home and placed into the state’s care for their protection, until a judge decides that the home is safe for the children to return to.

Illinois law defines a neglected minor, in part, as “any minor  under the age of 14 years whose parent or other person responsible for the minor’s welfare leaves the minor without supervision for an unreasonable period of time without regard for the mental or physical health, safety or welfare of that minor.”
Juvenile Court Act   , 705 ILCS 405/2-3(1)(d)

How long may a child be left alone?

What is appropriate under certain circumstances may be considered child neglect in other circumstances.

While recognizing that many factors may apply, Illinois law lists 15 specific factors to be considered when deciding whether a child has been left alone for an unreasonable period of time.

Does your state have rules on the books on what constitutes neglect for latchkey kids? If you’ve got a nasty ex gunning for you, you might want to do some research.

(Thanks to iPandora for pointing this one out)

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    • Jennifer Wolf

      Thanks for bringing this up. I know Maryland law stipulates that you can’t leave a child under the age of 8 home alone unless you provide a sitter, who has to be at least 13.

    • notasoccermom

      This is a great post.
      My kids are grown now, however, daycare costs for three children even when making a good wage can add up to big money. My children were very mature and well behaved so they were left at home at a young age… during the summer months but i was a wreck!
      Being a single parent adds so much more difficulty. More so when the father is not in the picture.

    • matthew

      Thanks for the link.

      Jennifer, I would have less of an issue with the Maryland law as you’ve stated it.

      I’d have issues, no matter how mature my kids were, leaving them home alone if they were under 8.

      Kids are kids and it’s nothing against them to want someone a little older around.

      But while it may start at 8, some do-gooder and busybody could easily paint a horrific scenario and all of a sudden it’s “Big Brother Knows Best” and we’ve got Illinois and 14 year old children not being allowed to walk to the park alone.

      Let’s all just let common sense rule: Let the parents decide what is right for their family.

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