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At what age can a child legally be left alone to care for themselves?


State child abuse and neglect reporting laws do not specify the age at which a child can be left home alone. No consistent community standards exist describing when and under what circumstances children can be left alone or in the care of other children. Information about the age at which it is considered appropriate to leave a child alone may exist elsewhere in your local, county or State policies or ordinances that cover this special topic.

You may want to contact your local police department or child protective services agency for information about specific local regulations or ordinances. If you need help in locating your local child protective services agency, you may call Childhelp USA® 24 hours a day, seven days a week at its toll-free number, 1.800.4-A CHILD® (1.800.422.4453).

If you have concerns that a child is being left home alone inappropriately, you should report your concerns to the appropriate authorities, such as Child Protective Services (CPS), in the State in which the child resides. Each State has trained professionals who can evaluate the situation and determine whether intervention and services are needed. Most States have a toll-free number to call to report suspected abuse. Please refer to the resource directory listing at 11-11172 for information about where to call to make a report within your State.

Many national organizations have developed resources and guidelines to help parents make decisions on leaving their children home alone while they go to work, run errands, attend social events etc. Listed below are several examples of such guidelines:

(Note: Posting of non-government resources does not constitute an endorsement by the the Department of Health and Human Services, nor does it guarantee the contents nor privacy policies of the Web sites. These resources are provided for information sharing purposes only.)


Last Updated: 04/28/2009