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. When children may be with the non-custodial parent for a large portion of the summer, specific concerns often arise about whether the child can or should be left home alone.
This isn't an Ozzie and Harriet world anymore. I can remember when, in 1975, I felt perfectly comfortable to browse in the adult section while my three-year-old ran to the children's book area of Horizon Books in Traverse City to look for the book he'd come back clutching saying "This is the Richard Scarry book I need today!" Would I allow a young child to be unsupervised in a downtown store today? Absolutely not. Similar concerns are raised these days about leaving children unsupervised in their home.
The issues then are what expectations of the custodial and non-custodial parents should be validated and what guidelines are available for parents. 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.
If your child lives or exercises parenting time 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?"
I've written many articles about this topic because the interest of parents is acute, evidenced by the unusually high number of visitors to my blog Updates in Michigan Family Law to those articles. You'll find many guidelines and resources to help you evaluate when and if your child or children should be left home alone here:
See a Record Eagle Blog article Home Alone | Is your child ready for this? November 2008 where you will find checklists to help you evaluate whether your child is mature enough to be left home alone.
See also these archives:
Home Alone: Summer Parenting Issues and "Failure to Protect" Part II, August 2, 2007
Home Alone Part III October 4, 2007
Home Alone Part IV October 11, 2007
Home Alone Part V October 12, 2007
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