Consider These Issues Before Leaving a Child Home Alone

By Darlene Gray, Professional Development Coach

As many parents prepare to return to work in the coming weeks, childcare will be a major barrier, since schools are closed for the remainder of the year and many childcare centers are also closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Your Cincinnati Works coach can help you consider your options.

Our partners at 4C for Children have an interactive map of local childcare centers who have been allowed to remain open. If it is not practical or possible for you to utilize one of those centers, you might be thinking about leaving your children at home while you work. There are some important factors to consider.

First, keep in mind that neither Ohio, Kentucky nor Indiana has a law about what age a child is allowed to stay home alone. Very few states have such laws; for those states that do have laws on the books, the minimum age ranges from 8 – 14. Nationwide Children’s Hospital recommends that a child be at least 12 years old and be left alone for no more than a few hours at a time – and never overnight.

In general, it is up to each parent to decide whether his or her children are safe at home alone, and that depends on the maturity of the child and other circumstances. We encourage our Members to consider the following questions (and contact your coach if you would like to talk through them):

  • How long will the child be left alone and at what time of day?
  • How often will the child be expected to care for himself or others?
  • How easily can the parent be reached by telephone?
  • How close is the child to a trusted adult who can help in an emergency?
  • Is the home free of hazards?
  • How safe is the neighborhood?
  • Is the child expected to babysit younger siblings or prepare a meal?

Enriching Kidz offers a two-hour class for children in 3rd to 6th grade that prepares them for being home alone. Parents can contact Amy Marks at 513-560-9123 to learn more about the classes and how to educate their children on this issue.

For parents who wish to read more about this issue, here are links to additional sources on the topic of leaving a child home alone:

As always, we encourage our Members to contact their Cincinnati Works coach to discuss this important issue.