Spend enough time online, and you are likely to see a few spirited discussions surrounding the most appropriate age to leave children home alone. It would be simpler if there were a law in place to settle the matter. Unfortunately, there are not any such statutes in Connecticut.
But a parent that makes the wrong choice about leaving children home alone could find themselves on the wrong side of the law and the Department of Children and Families (DCF). Specifically, Connecticut law requires that parents always protect and care for their children and make decisions in the best interests of the child. So, what is the right or wrong age to leave a child home alone? As with many things, the answer to that question depends on a number of factors.
Leaving Your Children Home Alone in Connecticut
It is universally accepted that 6-year-old is not equipped to go it alone but that most 16-year-olds would do fine. But what about those children in the middle? It can be tough to know when your children are ready to stay home alone, but the law may not help in some cases. Your choice comes down to your judgment and what is in the best interests of your child.
How to Decide When Your Child Can Take Care of Themselves
If you are unsure about whether your child can stay home alone, here are a few guidelines that can help you make an informed decision:
Age of the Child
Most experts believe that children should be at least 12 years old before being left alone and at least 15 years old before being trusted to care for a younger sibling. These are minimum guidelines, but some children may not be ready at these ages.
Child’s Maturity Level
A more important consideration is the maturity level of your child. Some children make sound decisions and carefully think through their actions. Others are impulsive and don’t make the best choices. When leaving a child home alone, this should be a top consideration.
Special Needs Children
Children with special needs may require additional consideration as they may not be able to safely and effectively care for themselves or for others. For example, 15-year-old child with developmental delays may not be considered safe to stay home alone or watch a younger sibling.
Before you leave children home alone, think about the area where you live. Do you live on a busy street with a lot of traffic, or is it a quiet area? Are there neighbors close by that you know and trust to help your child in case of an emergency? Is there a lot of crime in or near your neighborhood?
A parent running a quick errand is much different from leaving a child at home all day to figure out homeschooling by themselves or alone at night for any reason. How long will you be gone, and what are the circumstances?
Your Child’s Feelings
How does your child feel about being left alone? Some cannot wait for the opportunity to usher you out the door and feel that first sense of independence. If that is the case, do you think they will handle it responsibly? Others are more apprehensive about being left alone, and you should respect those feelings.
Finally, think about how your child reacts under pressure. Do they calmly handle emergency situations? Can they understand and follow safety measures? It might be a good idea to take short practice runs as you built up to longer stays home alone.
Special Rules About Motor Vehicles and Public Places
When it comes to leaving your children alone in a motor vehicle or public place, even just for a few minutes, the law does address this. Specifically, you could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor for knowingly leaving a child under the age of 12 in a car or unsupervised in a public place. If the event happens between the hours of 8 PM and 6 AM, the charges could be elevated to a Class C felony.
In cases like this, parents often make snap decisions about quickly running into a business. But those choices can be costly. Once the authorities become involved in any matter involving children, DCF will quickly open an investigation.
Speak With an Experienced Connecticut DCF Attorney
If you have made a decision about leaving your children home alone in Connecticut and the authorities or DCF disagree with your choice, you could be facing an uphill battle. When DCF opens an investigation for child abuse or neglect, things can happen incredibly fast.
What many parents are never told is that they have rights throughout this process. At The Christie Law Firm, LLC, our experienced DCF cases attorney will review your situation and outline your options. Our office can immediately step in to safeguard your rights and the rights of your children when DCF gets involved.
Contact our Hartford office today at (860) 461-7494 or reach out to us online to schedule your initial consultation.