At What Age Can a Child Be Left Home Alone?

Child-Safety-at-Home

Illinois is the only state besides Maryland to have a law specifying a minimum age a child must be to be left home alone.  According to Illinois law,705 ILCS 405/2-3(1)(d), it is considered child neglect to leave a child under 14 years old without supervision for an unreasonable amount of time.  There are 15 factors (listed below) that the Court will look to when deciding if a child has been left alone for an unreasonable amount of time.

Additionally, the Illinois DCFS publishes a booklet entitled “Parenting Children to Stay Alone” that provides some tips on preparing children to stay home alone. However, it also warns parents that they “are legally responsible for their children’s welfare until they reach adulthood. Part of caring for children is providing adequate supervision.”  Children may be potentially removed from their home and placed in the State’s care until a court decides that the home is safe for the children to return to.

Essentially, parents and guardians must think carefully about many things before leaving their children alone.  This is important, even if a child is left alone for a short period of time.  But if you always put the child’s best interest first, you will make decisions that will benefit your child. When children are placed in situations of independence that they can handle successfully, it can help them learn responsibility and self-reliance and can also build their self confidence.  However, if the child is not ready, it can create a frightening and potentially dangerous situation for both the child and the parent.

15 Factors Courts Look To:

  1. Age of minor;
  2. Number of minors left;
  3. Special needs of minor;
  4. Duration of time in which the child was left;
  5. Condition and location of the place where the child was left;
  6. Time of day or night when the child was left;
  7. Weather conditions (adequate heat or light);
  8. Location of the parent or guardian;
  9. Whether the child’s movement restricted (was the child locked in a room?);
  10.  Whether child was given phone number of a person or location to call in the event of an emergency;
  11. Whether the child had enough food;
  12. Whether any of the conduct is attributable to economic hardship or illness and whether the parent or guardian made a good faith effort to provide for the health and safety of the child;
  13. The age and physical and mental capabilities of the person who provided supervision for the child;
  14. Whether the child was left under the supervision of another person; and
  15. Any other factor that would endanger the health and safety of that particular child.

Written by: Kathy E. Bojczuk, Attorney at Law

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