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When is it okay to leave my child home alone?

With so many people having their own opinions on when children can be left at home alone, you're always bound to have someone who disagrees with you. What is the law, though, so you don't find yourself accused of neglect? There are only a few laws that actually specify how old a child has to be before he or she can be left at home alone. In Maryland, for instance, a child must be at least 8. In Illinois, that age limit is raised to 14.

What's better to abide by is the Department of Health and Human Services' rules for determining if a child is capable of being home alone and still being safe. The general guidelines suggest that children ages 7 or younger shouldn't be left home alone without supervision at any time. This even includes letting children go to the park or stay in a vehicle alone.

When children reach the ages of 8 to 10, it's suggested that parents can leave them alone for around 1.5 hours at a time during the day or early evening, like after school but before the parents return home. When children reach the age of 16 or 17, that's when leaving them completely unsupervised is usually okay, most for up to two nights and days.

No two children are alike, so it's up to you to use your best judgment to decide when your child is ready to be home alone. Consider what you and your ex or current partner think is an appropriate time before you make this decision on your own.

Source: FindLaw, "When Can You Leave a Child Home Alone?," accessed April 08, 2016

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