A right of tween passage is being left home alone. Another right of tween passage is often the first babysitting job.
But at what age should those happen, and do parents get to decide? Or does the state law determine when your tween is ready to be left without parental supervision, or when they become the supervision themselves?
In New Canaan, CT, a mom was recently arrested for leaving her 13 year-old child to babysit three younger siblings, including a baby, after a 4 year-old sibling was found wandering unattended, reported the NewCanaan.Patch.com. Connecticut law does not specify an age at which children may be left alone, but their DCFS states, “Experts believe a child should be at least 12 before he is left alone, and at least 15 before he can care for a younger brother or sister. These are the minimum ages. Not every child is ready then.”
In Illinois, the law on the issue is less than clear.
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) There are 15 factors considered under the law when determining what constitutes neglect of a minor, including:
- the age of the child
- the number of minors left at the location
- special needs of the minor, including whether the minor is physically or mentally handicapped, or otherwise in need of ongoing prescribed medical treatment such as periodic dosages of insulin or other medications
- the duration of time in which the minor was left without supervision
- the condition and location of the place where the child was left without supervision
- the time of day or night when the minor was left without supervision
The Illinois DCFS publishes a booklet entitled "Preparing Children to Stay Alone." It has some tips on preparing children to stay home alone but also warns "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." It discusses the law, but fails to give any concrete guidelines.
According to safekids.org, “even if a state does not have a specific law prohibiting adults from leaving children unattended, state and local prosecutors have the discretion to criminally charge adults under existing child endangerment laws.”
Do you feel your tween is old enough to stay home alone?
Click here for a post on when is a tween old enough to babysit.