In the latest Weekly Wright Report:
- Should You Leave Your Child Home Alone?
Should You Leave Your Child Home Alone?
Back-to-school season is associated with a flurry of activity and a myriad of anxieties for families with school age children. Parents and children can be seen shopping for fresh school supplies and the latest fashions. Children starting a new school are unsure about what to expect and parents are thinking about carpools or checking bus routes. Families where both parents work outside of the home and single-parent families may also be considering before school and after school care options. One possibility is to allow children to remain home alone for a period until the school bus arrives in the morning or a parent gets home from work at the end of the day. Whether to adopt the “home alone” option requires careful consideration, both from a practical and a legal standpoint.
Regardless of the age of the child, factors to consider include:
- The child’s maturity and judgment
- The child’s trustworthiness and responsibility
- Any special needs of the child
- The child’s comfort about being by themselves
- The existence of a safety plan, including emergency contacts
In Maryland, a child must be at least 8 years old to be left unattended without supervision. And a child must be at least 13 years old to supervise other children by themselves. The relevant law requires that the supervising child be “a reliable person.” Each violation of these laws subjects the person charged with the care of a child under the age of 8 to imprisonment of up to 30 days and a fine of $500. It should be noted that these laws also apply when leaving a child unattended in a car.
For parents who are getting divorced, childcare arrangements can be an important part of creating a plan for how parenting time will be handled. Those parents need to be mindful of the practical and legal considerations for deciding whether or how to incorporate a “home alone” component to those plans.