Recently, I blogged the issue of leaving children home alone. The interest in these Blog articles has been immense. Parents all over the country came -- mostly via Google -- to Updates in Michigan Law looking for an answer to the question "how old does a child have to be before the parent can leave him/her home alone?" Primarily, it appears that parents are concerned because the other parent fails to provide proper care and supervision. This could, of course, form a basis for modification of an existing custody or parenting time order.
This week, the issue arose again on the State Bar of Michigan's Family Law Listserv.
The question posed was whether is was appropriate for the custodial parent to let the child stand at the bus stop for 15 minutes after the parent left for work, and could the child be left alone for 5 or more minutes after school, until the parent arrived home.
One of our most active participants, James J. Harrington III of Novi, Michigan voiced this opinion:
"If the “client” who leaves the 9 year old at a bus stop for 15 minutes in the a.m. and possibly 5 minutes or so in the home in the afternoon (which I’m a little suspect of…maybe every now and then 15 minutes or a half hour if Mom has to stop at the store ?) is a Divorced client, I would expect Dad to be crawling all over this situation.
"What Mom is betting is that “it can’t happen to me” (or to my child) which is a really really risky bet these days. The key question Mom should be answering is NOT “what are the odds of something happening to my 9 year old?”. The real question is “if something goes wrong, how bad can it be ???” Mom does not need a lifetime of guilt to deal with something going wrong. The 9 year old doesn’t need to have Mom “playing the odds”.
"Simple proactive, common sense solutions are mandated here. What about Mom having a formal written understanding with one of the other Moms who does have the flexibility to wait at the bus stop with her child? A written understanding will surely satisfy any Court or CPS worker. It will also provide the necessary on site supervision.
"What about having the Child dropped off at a nearby neighbors home for the “five minutes” that child is waiting for Mom? Again, have a letter or note evidencing this.
"Why can’t Mom suck it up and get the Employer to work with her on the “5 minutes” end --- like taking a 55 minute lunch rather than an hour?
"Bottom line is this is really risky stuff, and 9 year olds should not be left “Home Alone” under any circumstances, particularly on a regular and predictable basis."
This is a sound and common sense approach. Thanks, Jim, for giving me permission to post this on this Blog.
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