Left Home Alone

Q: I needed to run to the store and pick up some things for Thanksgiving. I was told later that if my son got hurt while I was gone that I could lose custody? Is that true?

A:  Leaving children home alone has become a serious matter these days. Whereas currently, only three states have a minimum age requirement for leaving a child home alone, if there were an accident or injury to a child there is a risk of unwanted repercussions.

If a parent gets reported for leaving a young child home alone, an agency such as the Child Protective Services could investigate the complaint depending on the age of the child and if the child is injured. This means interviewing you, the neighbors, the child and/or other witnesses. If it is determined that you were endangering the child, it is possible the child could be removed from your custody and placed with relatives or foster care. There is even the possibility of criminal charges for neglect.

According to MinnesotaParent.com, “Minnesota state law says that parents must provide their children with adequate supervision, so they’re not left in unsafe situations.”  According to Don Pelton, Community Services Supervisor for Washington County, in 2008 the Citizens Review Panel published It’s Not Safe for Kids Under 8, a set of clear guidelines for parents to refer to as they attempt to interpret the state law in terms of when it’s safe for children to be left unsupervised. The panel examined research regarding the ability of children to care for themselves, respond to emergency situations, and keep themselves safe. 

The Minnesota Department of Human Services established the following guidelines to help give clarity to parents and people involved in childcare services. These guidelines have since been added to the statewide Maltreatment Screening Guidelines:

  • Children under age 8 should not be left alone for any period of time.
  • Children ages 8, 9, and 10 may be left alone for no longer than three hours.
  • Children under the age of 11 should not provide childcare (babysitting).
  • Children ages 11­ to 13 may be left alone for no longer than 12 hours.
  • Children ages 14 and 15 may be left alone for no longer than 24 hours.
  • Children ages 11 to 15 that are placed in a childcare role are subject to the same time restrictions of being left alone.
  • Children ages 16 and 17 may be left alone for over 24 hours with a plan in place concerning how to respond to an emergency and have adequate adult back-up supervision.

Whether you agree or not, we live in a period of time when protecting our children has become a paramount concern. It’s best to be aware of these matters and be wise.

Contact experienced family law attorney Jessica L. Sterle at (218) 722-2655 to schedule a consultation to discuss child custody, parenting time, and grandparent’s rights.


Age range guidelines here


What Does Minnesota Law Say About Leaving Children Home Alone?


Jessica Sterle

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