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Monday, June 27, 2016

When Can My Child Babysit Their Siblings?

Steven Franzen. Provided. 
By Steve Franzen, Campbell County Attorney 

With summer upon us and school being out till the fall, I thought it may be helpful to discuss when it is or is not appropriate to leave a child home alone or allowing a child to babysit younger siblings.

Parents have many concerns when it comes to leaving a child alone including the child’s safety, possible investigations by the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services for neglect, and police investigations or charges for endangering the welfare of a minor, which is a Class A Misdemeanor punishable by up to $500.00 and a year in jail.

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There are no Kentucky laws or Administrative Regulations setting any specific ages for leaving children without supervision or for children supervising minor siblings.  To a great degree, that is left up to the common sense and discretion of the parents.  However, the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, which is the agency that would investigate suspected cases of child neglect, has certain general in-house guidelines based upon training and experience that are used in looking at these matters.  In the order of importance, the main items looked at by the Cabinet are the age of the children, the length of time involved, the maturity and physical and mental conditions of the children involved, the environment the children are left in and the responsibilities given to the children.

Age - As to the age factor, children eight (8) and under left without supervision are almost always investigated as neglect.  Children eleven (11) and over left without supervision are generally not investigated as neglect.  Children left without supervision at the age of nine (9) or ten (10) would be considered based on consideration of the other factors.

Length of Time – Length of time is the amount of time left alone (minutes, hours or overnight) and also factors in how regular the unsupervised periods are.

Maturity/Cognitive – There are many cognitive, emotional, physical or behavioral issues a child may experience that can be verified and impact whether a child can be left alone at home.

Environment – Several environmental factors play a role, such as residence location, neighbor accessibility and parent/relative accessibility.

Responsibility – The amount of responsibility given also is an important part of the equation.  It includes things such as whether the child is babysitting other children or preschoolers and how many, whether they fix meals or have to complete chores and what the child or children do during unsupervised periods.

As mentioned above, to a great degree when it is safe to leave a child alone is up to the common sense and discretion of the parents.  Some children at age ten (10) may be mature enough and responsible enough to be left alone while it may be unreasonable for parents to allow other children of an older age to be home alone because of that child’s lack of maturity or prior irresponsible conduct.

If you have any topics you would like to have covered in this column, please contact my office by e-mail at, by phone at 491-7700 or by regular mail addressed to 319 York Street, Newport, Kentucky 41071.

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