Questions frequently arise during the course of a divorce about about how old one must be in Michigan to be a babysitter, about how old a child must be in Michigan before she can be left alone without a babysitter or daycare, and about whether older siblings can babysit for younger ones.
An appallingly large number of children are left without care and supervision by their parents. See, Left Unsupervised: A Look at the Most Vulnerable Children, By Sharon Vandivere, M.P.P., Kathryn Tout, Ph.D., Jeffrey Capizzano, M.A., and Martha Zaslow, Ph.D., April 2003, published by Child Trends, a non-profit research organization based in Washington, D.C.
Most States do not have regulations or laws about when a child is considered old enough to care for him/herself or to care for other children. Currently Illinois and Maryland have laws addressing this topic. States may have guidelines or recommendations. These guidelines are most often distributed through child protective services and are administered at the county level. Additionally, see this checklist that you can use to determine whether your children are mature enough to be left home alone.
If your child lives in Michigan and you believe that a parent is leaving the child or children unsupervised, you'll want to review the Michigan Child Protection Act. Is the other parent's action "neglect" or abuse?" Does leaving a child alone, or leaving a sibling in charge of younger children, constitute "failure to protect?" For more information, see my website.
Michigan child support orders provide for child care reimbursements up the a child's 12th birthday. While I could not find any law on point, this seems to be the age at which the courts deem a child old enough to stay home alone. Of course, we all know that some children are mature at an early age, some are immature, and many fall somewhere in the middle. Any parent would be well-advised to base a decision about leaving his or her minor child unsupervised upon careful consideration of the child's maturity and emotional stability, in order to avoid a risk of being charged with a failure to provide adequate care or supervision and/or failure to protect.
Family dynamics also must play a part in a parent's decisions about child care. Should a sibling be left in charge of younger siblings? If so, how old should that sibling be? How long should or could he/she be in charge? In some families, it would never work to leave one child in charge because of family dynamics, sibling rivalries, or other special challenges faced by one of more of the children. Michigan's labor laws provide that children must be 14 in order to work a farm job. But there is really no set age for babysitting. Everything is going to depend upon the maturity and capabilities of the elected babysitter.
What can parents do to make sure their children are safe? Here is tremendous information from the University of Michigan Health System's "Your Child" web page:
Babysitter Safety - What Parents and Sitters Need to Know
This web page tells parents how to choose a babysitter, things to tell the sitter before you leave, information sitters should have, resources for sitters, the dangers of leaving kids home alone, information about problems associated with sibling sitters, and more.
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