Over the years, I have been asked this question a number of times, and it has been part of litigation in many courtrooms throughout the country and even overseas. The simple answer is (like most legal questions)-it depends!
Most states do not have a minimum age requirement to leave a child home alone. Only a few states have laws that specify the age when a parent may leave their child home alone, including Oregon (age 10), Illinois (age 14), and Maryland (age 8).
Texas law does not state what age is old enough for a child to stay at home alone. However, you (as a parent) are accountable for the safety of your child, and failure to properly supervise your child could be considered as a type of neglect (“neglectful supervision”).
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services sets forth some things for parents to consider when deciding how closely to supervise a child:
-How old, emotionally mature, and capable is your child?
-What is the layout and safety of the home, play area, or other setting?
-What are the hazards and risks in the neighborhood?
-What is your child’s ability to respond to illness, fire, weather, or other types of emergencies?
-Does your child have a mental, physical, or medical disability?
-How many children are being left supervised?
-Do they know where you are?
-Can they contact you or other responsible adults?
-How long and how often is the child (or children) left alone?
In other words, use common sense. The bottom line is that it is a huge responsibility for a parent to make the decision to leave a child home alone. Please consider these guidelines when making that decision.