How old do children have to be before they can be left alone at home?
The Child & Family Services Act (CFSA) does not specifically state an age when children can be left home alone. This is because there are many factors to consider when making the decision about children being left at home by themselves.
SECT. 79, (3) of the CFSA states that “no person having charge of a child less than sixteen years of age shall leave the child without making provision for his or her supervision and care that is reasonable in the circumstances”.
It also strongly recommended that no child under the age of 10 be left home alone.
SECT. 79, (4) of the CFSA states that “where a person is charged with contravening subsection (3) and the child is less than ten years of age, the onus of establishing that the person made provision for the child’s supervision and care that was reasonable in the circumstances rest with the person”.
This means that it is the responsibility of the parents to care for and to ensure the safety of their children at all times. It also means that it is an offence to leave any child unattended without making adequate and reasonable arrangements for every situation for the child’s care and safety.
When deciding whether or not to leave your child alone, here are some guidelines to consider
(NOTE – These are guidelines and are not meant as hard and fast rules. Each situation must be considered individually)
Age of the child – age alone is not a determining factor
Behaviours of the child (dangerous, risk taking behaviours)
Temperament of the child (comfort level – discuss this with your child)
Health of the child (are there health considerations?)
Maturity level and capacity of the child
Length of time to be left alone
Does the child know where you are and how to reach you?
Does your child know who is the emergency contact and does he know how to use it? Is there a checklist posted beside the telephone of the emergency contacts?
Does your child know the rules they are to follow when you are not there? i.e. kitchen safety, strangers at the door, internet safety, power failures, satellite and television, safety, answering the phone, pet safety, fire safety, etc.
When considering whether to leave your child home alone, talk to your child about this first, and arrange short trial runs, to access your child’s readiness and capabilities.
It must be stressed that it is always the responsibility of the parents to make the necessary and appropriate arrangements for their child(ren) in these circumstances.