How old is old enough?

By: 
Lisa Ingebrand, Montgomery Messenger

When is a child old enough to stay home alone?

It’s a question all parents eventually face.

Unfortunately, there’s no magical age for parents to use as to when it is safe—and legal—to leave children home alone because all children mature at different rates, but there are guidelines.

According to information provided by Le Sueur County’s Lead Child Protection Investigator Cari Krenik, children ages seven years and under should never be left alone for any period of time and children ages eight through 17 should only be left alone for certain periods of time.

These guidelines (see information box) are based on the state's guidelines and recommendations, and yes, even though they are guidelines, they are enforceable.

“Child Protection does enforce these guidelines,” Krenik stated.

Reports alleging supervision or child care arrangements that fall outside of the state’s guidelines may lead to a response from child services. However, the enforcement and penalties for not following the guidelines are not clear cut.

According to Minnesota Statute 626.556, failure to provide for necessary supervision or child care arrangements occurs when a child is unable to provide for their own basic needs or safety, or the basic needs or safety of another child in their care.

"It really depends on the report," Krenik explained. "We team every report that comes to our county before a decision is made."

“The main thing I would want parents and caregivers to know is to make sure the children that are old enough to stay home alone know how to call 911, have access to a phone and have a pre-established emergency/safety plan for emergencies,” said Krenik, who explained that even though a child meets the age requirement, it is important for parents to ensure he or she has the skills and maturity to handle the home-alone situation safely before leaving them home alone.

Other things for parents to consider before leaving a child unsupervised include:...

To see more on this story pick up the July 5, 2018 print edition of the Montgomery Messenger.

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