The decision to leave children home alone is one that ultimately, all parents face. Whether it’s after school when parents are at work or parents needing to run a quick errand, there comes a time when children, and often their parents, think it would be easiest to leave a child at home alone.
There is no state law specifying at what age children can be left at home alone. However, Hennepin County Child Protection does have age-related guidelines for juvenile self-care. These guidelines are used by child welfare workers and police officers as an evaluation tool when they are called to a home where children are home alone. The guidelines are:
- Ages 7 and under should not be left alone
- Ages 8–10 should not be left home alone for more than three hours
- Ages 11–13 should not be left at home alone for more than 12 hours
- Ages 14–15 should not be left at home alone for more than 24 hours
- Ages 16–17 may be left alone for more than 24 hours with a plan in place concerning how to respond to an emergency
For babysitting, children under age 11 should not provide childcare. Children ages 11 and older may provide childcare with the home-alone limits above.
When left alone, a child should know where the parents are and how to reach them. The child should also feel comfortable with the situation and know emergency resources. Before leaving a child home alone, the emotional maturity of the child should be evaluated by the parents. Ultimately it is the responsibility of parents to ensure their child is cared for in their absence. Parents may be held accountable for the decision to leave a child alone.
For more information on determining whether your child is ready to be left home alone, check out this University of Minnesota Extension website.