Single parents and dual-income households are becoming increasingly common. Many parents have to choose between staying home with their child and working to pay the bills. And, as working-age adults flock to urban areas, fewer families live near extended family members who could provide child care. To complicate matters more, the cost of childcare is ever rising. As a consequence of these factors, many parents are left with no other option than to leave their child at home alone while they work.
In the past, children were left unattended for several hours, even at young ages. Today, parenting is far more regulated, which begs the question of at what age may a child be legally left home alone?
When Are They Old Enough?
While some states have laws on leaving children at home or guidelines on what age is appropriate, the State of New Jersey does not specify a legal age when children can be left home alone. Instead, parents are asked to make that judgment themselves, but this opens them up to the risk of being labeled irresponsible or neglectful if something goes wrong.
Many parents have heard of stories where the State took children away because they were found home alone. Naturally, this causes parents to worry about what will happen if they leave their child home while they work. Unfortunately, many do not have the choice to stay home and supervise their children or pay for costly professional child care. Parents can use discretion when leaving their child home alone, but professionals recommended they consider the child’s age, maturity, and needs, and the overall safety of their home environment before making that decision.
The Legal Boundaries
While parents are under no law as to the age they can leave their child home alone, child protective services can and will become involved if someone reports that the child was abused, neglected, or otherwise put at risk of harm while the parent was gone. Once a report is made, the case must be investigated, at which point caseworkers will thoroughly evaluate the home and family to determine whether the child was harmed by being left home alone or any other reason. You can liken this to Pandora’s box where one unknowing allegation can open up a world of invasion and investigation.
Unfortunately, these types of cases are not uncommon. It’s important to work closely with a child abuse and neglect defense attorney whenever facing such allegations. An attorney can explain your rights and help you make informed decisions in your case to defend your rights and clear your name.