Leaving children at home alone

Published 2:56 pm Monday, May 23, 2011

School is out and the children are in.

Now that summer is here, there will be more opportunities for children to be left home alone and more worry for parents who wonder if they should leave them without adult supervision.

The Georgia Department of Human Services (DHS), Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) urges caution and vigilance when leaving children home alone.

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Like most states, Georgia does not have regulations or laws to determine when a child is considered old enough to care for her/himself or to care for other children. However, there are state guidelines administered through DFCS to evaluate situations and determine if a child neglect investigation is warranted.

DFCS encourages parents to use sound judgment and assess the maturity and responsibility of their children before deciding whether to leave them home alone.

The following are Georgia’s Guidelines for leaving a child without adult supervision:

• Children under 8 years old should never be left alone, even for short periods of time;

• Children between the ages of 9 and 12, based on level of maturity, can be left home alone for brief periods of time;

• It is strongly discouraged for parents to have 13-year-olds baby-sit infants, small children and children that require special attention due to medical conditions

• Children 15 and older can be left home alone overnight, depending on the level of maturity of the child.

Other safety precautions to consider when leaving a child unaccompanied: Don’t leave the child responsible for food preparation that involves the stove; have a neighbor or relative check in regularly or have the child check in with an adult; make a safety plan that includes 911, and rehearse it with your child.