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At What Age Can Your Son Or Daughter Legally Stay Home Alone In Michigan?

At What Age Can Your Son Or Daughter Legally Stay Home Alone In Michigan?

Every parent will eventually be faced with the decision of whether or not to leave his or her child home alone. According to the Census Bureau “In spring 2011, 4.2 million (approx. 11%) of the 38.6 million grade school aged children cared for themselves on a regular basis.”

Are you amongst those thinking of letting your kids do the same? Will your kids be staying home alone this summer?

Some states have laws specifying at what age (i.e. ten) a child may be left home alone while, most simply take into account the maturity level and readiness of the child. In Michigan, there is no state law that specifically mandates how old a child must be in order to be left without adult supervision. The real issue becomes one of readiness – is your child ready to stay home alone?

Let’s take a closer look –

Assessing Readiness

In general it is thought that most children ten years and under are not physically and mentally mature or responsible enough to deal with a possible emergency situation should one arise. Therefore, it is strongly advised to make other child care arrangements.

However, as previously stated, “there is no state law that specifically mandates how old a child must be.” Thus leaving the ultimate decision in the hands of the parents. Such a decision can only accurately be made after careful consideration and evaluation.

Please Note: “The Michigan Court of Appeals has even found that, under certain circumstances, leaving an 11 year-old child home alone for extended periods of time is improper.” In re Howard, 1999 WL 33444158, at *1 [Mich Ct App, May 28, 1999] Cases involving children over ten and under twelve years of age being considered for parental neglect would most likely be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and may not always be assigned for a Child Protective Service (CPS) investigation.

 Is your son/daughter ready to stay home alone?

At What Age Can Your Son Or Daughter Legally Stay Home Alone In Michigan?

 10 Readiness Questions to Carefully Evaluate Your Decision–

Here are some questions for parents and children to further discuss and evaluate your son/daughter’s readiness to stay alone.

Please note these questions are to be used simply as a guide and should NOT be used solely as the deciding factor.

  • Can your son/daughter can recognize an emergency and call 911 should it be medically necessary?
  • Can he/she provide the necessary information to the dispatcher (address, directions, home phone number, etc.)?
  • Can your son/daughter contact you or another trusted adult in the event of a minor emergency?
  • Can he/she evaluate, assist, or administer aid to a minor injury?
  • Can he/she identify two escape routes in the event of a fire?
  • Can he/she seek shelter in the unlikely event of a natural disaster or severe storm?
  • Does he/she know where first aid supplies are stored and how to use them?
  • Does he/she know CPR and/or the Heimlich maneuver?
  • Does he/she feel safe being home alone?
  • Has he/she expressed an interest and willingness to stay home alone?
  • You son/daughter has demonstrated correct procedures for handling strangers both on the phone and at the door?

Evaluation

Each factor needs to be carefully considered and evaluated for his/her individual sense of readiness. Now days, it is equally important to educate not only on basic care but, also on the basics of Internet communication safety practices as well. One should never make it known that he/she is home alone and, especially not over the World Wide Web.

Even after your son/daughter has demonstrated the necessary skills, maturity, knowledge, and readiness to stay home alone, one may still choose to do a ‘trial’ self-care period.

Building a sense of self-independence is an important and major milestone for those who have been taught the skills and been provided with the knowledge necessary to handle such a new responsibility. For those young persons not completely ‘ready’ the decision to be left home alone should not be rushed or forced upon-

 Michigan courts have recognized that leaving a child before he/she is deemed ready may constitute child neglect charges and/or even result in the termination of parental rights.

At What Age Can Your Son Or Daughter Legally Stay Home Alone In Michigan?

Child Protective Services and Child Neglect

Child neglect” means harm or threatened harm to a child’s health or welfare by a parent, legal guardian, or other responsible person’s in regards to the overall health and wellbeing of a child. A failure to provide the necessary needs (food, clothing, shelter, etc.) and/or placing a child in a situation that may pose an ‘un-reasonable risk’ to his/her health and/or welfare.

The DHS Children Protective Services Manual further provides the following information-

A child found in a situation where harm is likely to occur based on:

  • A current situation (e.g., home alone, domestic violence, drug house, etc.)
  • A historical circumstance (history of abuse/neglect, prior termination of parental rights, etc.)

{DHS Children Protective Services, 711-5, p 5 (emphasis added)[2].}

As summer fast approaches and you begin to wonder if this is the summer your kids can stay home alone – keep the above in mind. With some careful considerations, a little planning, and some direct family discussions assure your family a safe, positive, and fun filled summer vacation experience had by all.

Disclosure: All cases are driven by the facts unique to each case as they apply to the law at the time, and the persuasive argument of an attorney. The information we at Corriveau Law provide is meant only as a broad overview, and not to be relied on without speaking with a legal representative.