California Laws on Unattended Minors Home Alone

Written by trisha dawe
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California Laws on Unattended Minors Home Alone
Latchkey children are those left home alone, primarily after school. (Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

Many parents debate what is the appropriate age to leave children home alone. Work responsibilities, running a few errands, partaking in an outdoor exercise regimen or having a romantic dinner out together may result in leaving the children without supervision. Research the laws in California and parenting suggestions before trusting your children without a babysitter.

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California Laws

At the time of publication, there is no specific record of regulations regarding the age of latchkey children in the state of California. Other states either regulate or suggest an appropriate age for children to be left at home alone, but a state-specific chart on the Latchkey Kids website indicates that no resource could be found with regard to a mandated age in California. The California Child Protective Services Agency states that child neglect consists of not providing children with adequate shelter, food, water, clothing and medical care, requiring CPS to investigate. Ensure that the child is competent and mature enough to stay home and has an emergency backup caretaker, such as a nearby friend or neighbour to call in case of an emergency.

National Recommendation

In accordance with the national SAFEKIDS Campaign, the recommended age when children are mature enough to be left without adult supervision is 12. Resulting from the need for both parents to hold employment or single parents needing to work longer hours, many states are moving toward developing state laws stipulating an appropriate age for children being left alone, according to Latchkey Kids.

Child Development

In an emergency situation, a child left alone may react before thinking through the result or chain reaction of the initial steps. Swiss psychologist and child expert Jean Piaget stated that until the age of 12, children cannot fathom the consequences of their actions, and a final growth spurt into adulthood at 16 creates impulsiveness in teenagers. This teenage sense of freedom may result in an impromptu party at your home.

Tips and Advice

"San Francisco Chronicle" writer Meredith Gay states that leaving a child unattended should be a gradual process and can begin by leaving the child by herself for 15 minutes to a half hour at a time, until she is comfortable. Little by little, increase the amount of time you are away from the child in the home. When she is a teenager and capable of caring for herself, one night away from her may be appropriate and safe.

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