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What are the laws about leaving your children home alone?

Posted at 2:23 PM, Aug 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-07 16:49:04-04

STUART, Fla. — There’s a difficult conversation in the air these days. Many kids will start school virtually, so they’ll be home, and many parents will be at work. Many parents are worried about what a virtual start means for their jobs and their children’s safety.

Some mothers expressed concern in the days leading up to the Palm Beach County School District’s decision to begin remotely.

“What choice do you have? Your job or kids home alone and they could be in danger left home alone at such a young age without supervision,” said one mother.

“I can’t leave work, ‘OK I have to go home and home school my child.’ And I won’t leave her home alone and that’s another concern parents have,” said Gloria Tucker, a mother.

Major John Budensiek with the Martin County Sheriff’s Office said the state of Florida does not have a hard and fast rule about when it’s OK to leave a child alone.

“It’s up to the parent to asses how mature their child is,” he said.

There is no set age and it’s up to parents to decide when their children are old enough, but there can be consequences.

“The law that comes into play is the law that addresses child abuse or child neglect and that law outlines what children have to have in order to be home alone.”

According to the Florida Department of Children and Families, the National SAFE KIDS Campaign recommends children should not be left alone before the age of 12. It also states that older siblings should not supervise younger children until 15.

“Make sure there are no firearms available to them. If you have a pool at your house, just keep the children away from the pool while you are at work,” he said. “Make sure they understand 911 and what’s available to them if something bad happens.”

He also recommended using modern technology.

“Install a system in your house where you can see your children throughout the day and talk to them throughout the day and then prepare your children,” he said.

If you feel your child is ready, Major Budensiek, said start putting a plan in place and start with small trips to the store. He said make sure to start with small steps, like a trip to the store. Make sure to have food and water available and don’t allow use of the oven. He said, bottom line, the importance of the decision cannot be understated.

“If your child is not capable of being home alone, it is not worth the risk,” he said. “Don’t leave them home alone. If you have to quit your job, and I'm not saying that lightly.”

Law enforcement said they will respond to concerned calls about children left at home.

“If it’s just the parent made a mistake, we will try to work with them and get them the resources and help guide them in making sure the children are safe and they stay in compliance with the law,” he said.

For a guide on leaving your kids home alone, you can visit the Florida Department of Children and Families by clicking here.