walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

Leaving the kiddos unsupervised at home and elsewhere


According to this,

"Only three States currently
have laws regarding a minimum age for
leaving a child home alone. Illinois law
requires children to be 14 years old before
being left alone; in Maryland, the minimum
age is 8, while in Oregon, children must be
10 before being left home alone."

We have clearly not attained any kind of agreement on this yet. Note this is specifically about _at home_. The dangers inherent in alone-at-home vs. unattended-at-a-library vs. unattended-at-a-public-park are unclear (that is, I have a theory about the ranking, and I don't think it would be hard to get people to disagree with me).

Here's Massachusetts law on kids-unattended-in-vehicles. FWIW, I recently left my son (then 8, now 9) in a vehicle in a parking lot of a CVS while I went in to get something. I was gone for maybe 10 minutes and he had his cell phone with him and clearly understood he wasn't to get out of the vehicle. It was after dark and the temperature was moderate, but it was not late at night. I had some reservations about this, but decided to do it anyway. Looks like I was on the OK side of the law, albeit probably showing bad judgment (altho nothing like the bad judgment my parents showed leaving my older sister in the car unattended in our driveway, long before I was born. Damage to a fence across the street occurred. I wouldn't leave my kids unattended in a car parked on a hill. Duh.).


"Neglect means failure by a caretaker, either deliberately or through negligence or inability, to take those actions necessary to provide a child with minimally adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, supervision, emotional stability and growth, or other essential care; provided, however, that such inability is not due solely to inadequate economic resources or solely to the existence of a handicapping condition. This definition is not dependent upon location (i.e., neglect can occur while the child is in an out-of-home or in-home setting.)"" I _love_ that this revolves around "adequate" meeting of needs. I just used this word when talking about the law's interest in regulating the care of children, and I was really emphatic that "better" couldn't be a policy goal, because you would never know when to stop interfering.
"Adequate" was the only thing that mattered from my perspective and I live in a place that apparently agrees with me.

Later on the same page:

"In Commonwealth v. Nebel, 59 Mass. App. Ct. 316, 321 (2003), the court explained that briefly leaving a child alone in a car was not child abandonment under MGL c.119, s.39:

"If this activity [leaving child alone in car], albeit ill-advised, were meant to be criminalized, the Legislature could have written a more extensive child endangerment statute. Compare 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/12-21.6 (b) (West 2002) ("There is a rebuttable presumption that a person committed the offense [endangering the life or health of a child] if he or she left a child 6 years of age or younger unattended in a motor vehicle for more than 10 minutes"). That the actions of the defendant were foolish and a lapse of judgment, as DSS observed, is self-evident. To equate abandonment with poor judgment, however, is a leap we are not prepared to take. The defendant left his daughter for an undetermined amount of time, traveling a relatively short distance away. There was no indication that he did not have the intention to return shortly; indeed the evidence was to the contrary. This cannot form the basis for a criminal conviction of abandonment.""

Connect the dots is such a shitty state. Apparently only boys will ever be left home alone.


Or maybe girls have a different, or no, set of rules? That page mentions 15 as a guideline for when children can start caring for other children. Look, I don't want to hear your stories about when you started babysitting. I started when I was 12. I was doing _overnight_ babysitting for 3 kids including one still in diapers when I was 14. Okay? I would never hire me-as-a-teenager to babysit my kids. I have no idea what those people were thinking. I have often wondered how babysitting interacts with child labor law.


"15. Do child labor laws apply to babysitting?

No. Youth employed as babysitters are not covered by the FLSA's child labor and wage and hour provisions. In most cases the same is true of state law. For more information you may want to contact your state's labor standards office."

*eye roll*

I really do grasp the concept of harm mitigation. I do. But there comes a year when letting teenage kids have a party with alcohol at home to mitigate the harm of drinking and driving is actually _worse_ than the drinking and driving risk, because there's been good success stamping out teen drinking and driving, and those house parties have become the primary risk. Good policy is about figuring out when that year is, and then enforcing about five years later.

This confirms that babysitting isn't subject to the minimum wage rule.


The next time you're thinking how great things would be if we would all just relax, try this one for size:


4 year old leaves house and crosses street alone. Someone finds the four year old and reports to the police. I don't find this unreasonable (that's what I would want to have happen! What if I had a stroke or fell down the basement steps and was unconscious?) but the blogger sure did.

This, however, has my all time most flabbergasting story:


2010, Alberta, so real rural and conservative vs. whatever you may be expecting from Canada.

"An Alberta girl was served a lawsuit last week after the home of the children she was babysitting burned down. Although her father says the suit has since been withdrawn, the case raises questions about the responsibilities placed on young sitters."

The grandparents sued the babysitter (then withdrew) BECAUSE THE HOUSE BURNED DOWN. Yikes. That crazy worst fear we all had as youngsters trying to cook mac n cheese for the kiddos? Oh yeah, it happened, altho apparently it was a kiddo with a Bic instead.

Having read through a whole lot of these articles (including way more than I included), here is what I think is going on. Anyone who can easily afford to hire trained adults to watch their kids (either in a group format or in their home) will tend to do so for a lot longer than people for whom that expense is very difficult. The people who are _most_ likely to push hard for a comparatively low babysitting age are people who have 3 or more children who are spread out in age so that the oldest child is 12 or older at a point in time where the youngest is 6 or under. Obvs, the youngest cannot be unattended. Equally obvs, it would be nice to not have to arrange or pay for someone else to come to the house and babysit.

Back In the Day, having kids spread out over a 6+ year range wasn't that unusual. But in a world in which many women try to have their two children as close in age as possible (ideally twins, I swear, it sometimes seems like) so as to minimize the total time taken off work, the "built in babysitter" is basically gone from most families. By the time one of your kids is old enough to babysit, the other kid is old enough to not really need one and your biggest risk is that they'll either go find trouble together, or kill each other during unsupervised time.

I foresee some legal evolution here, altho I'm not sure exactly how I think it's going to go. Clearly, the current parenting strategy is group activities to help bring the price down. My martial arts instructor regularly offered kids' nite out so parents could have date night. My kids' gymnastics place does so occasionally as well. In both instances, older students -- generally under the age of 18 -- help run structured activities (martial arts/gymnastics, free play on the equipment, snacks, watch a movie, arts and crafts) generally with at least one and often more than one over 18 year old on site.

This is not either one of those, but gives a sense of what I'm talking about:


And another, at the Newton YMCA:


6-9 is pretty typical, as is $20-$25, with less money for siblings and a break if you are currently registered in a program at the facility.

Someone is trying to roll out a franchise version of it.

Rather than kids unsupervised during the summer time, it is normal for them to be heavily programmed at day camps, rec programs, etc. Rather than kids unsupervised after school and before parents return home from work, parents pay for Xday or Boys' and Girls' Club or similar.

At some point, it will become so incredibly unusual to do things in the way that was once common, that all of the things which convinced individuals to change may eventually convince the group that children should be protected from the risks that we once took for granted. We adopted seat belts. We have air bags. We've done a lot to eliminate smoking in public places. Will we one day look, not with nostalgia, but rather incredulity, at underpaid and underage babysitters, and not see an opportunity to make money and become more independent, but instead a young person at risk from sexual assault by the parent of the children [s]he is caring for, and a group of children that ought to instead be in the care of a person whose frontal lobe has actually maybe finished developing? I bet we'll know before I have grandkids.



Ends with some comparisons to dog walking charges. Ha!


Warning on this one -- it starts with a summary of a very tragic young babysitter/bad outcome situation.


AAP quoted as saying 13 years old minimum.

Red Cross courses have an 11 year minimum?


Sounds like safesitter is transitioning to presenting sitter training as a way to teach kids how to stay home safely alone, not just care for others.


Whoa. Germany doesn't have a minimum wage law. Really?

Great English language article about Dutch childcare cost supports:


"lunch-break" is, I believe, kids at school come home for lunch, definitely during the early
years, possibly all the way through. I was shocked when I found that out, too.
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