Parents often ask, "When is my child old enough to stay home alone?" Decisions involving child safety go far beyond the law and require careful, realistic evaluation of each individual child's readiness.
Maryland State Law:
Deciding if Your Child is Ready to Stay Home Alone When the Law Permits:
You know your child and can best determine when she or he is ready to be alone. Factors such as emotional maturity, common sense and self-confidence must be considered. Ask yourself these questions to help you reach your decision:
- Does your child want to stay alone?
- Can your child use the telephone?
- Can your child lock and unlock the door properly?
- Can your child follow directions?
- Does your child know what to do in an emergency?
Prepare Your Child:
Help your child to be ready to stay home alone gradually, beginning with very short periods of time. Make certain that your home is safe. These guidelines will help prepare your child for this important step:
- Post important phone numbers and make sure your child understands when and how to contact parents, reliable neighbors, and emergency aid
- Have your child call a parent at work or a responsible adult to report safe arrival home from school.
- Practice situations that may occur when your child is alone - (What will you do if someone comes to the door? How will you answer the phone if someone calls for your parents? When should you call your parents at work? Etc.)
- Plan time after you return home to listen to your child's account of day's events and deal with problems and questions.
- Be sure you have a Family Emergency Plan in place.
- Make sure they know what to do in an emergency:
Other Situations to Consider When Deciding Your Child's Needs
- It's not okay to leave children alone at the library or other public facilities. Staff members have many duties. They are not responsible for child care and your child may not be safe.
- Is your home location safe? Do you know neighbors who can be trusted to provide good advice if called upon by your child?
The Rockville Regional Library at 21 Maryland Avenue maintains the Children's Resource Collection of books, videos and magazines on child development and other topics of interest to parents. Your local library or book stores will also have books which you might find helpful. Recommended are:
- Home-Alone Kids, by Bryan E. Robinson
- Safe Passages, by Hull
- Home Alone Video for Kids, Produced by KidSafety of America
- LOCATE: Child Care - for child care information and referral services. 301-279-1773
- Child Care Subsidy Infolink - information about eligibility for child care subsidies. 240-777-1155
- ChildLink - for information or resources to help with a child from birth to five years of age, such as Early Education, Parenting, Support for Families, Special Needs, Health Care, Mental Health Care, County Resources and more. 240-777-4769
- Montgomery County Schools (MCPS) Call Center - Information about Montgomery County Schools. 301-309-MCPS (6277)
- MCPS Division of Family and Community Partnerships - provides resources and services from the community to strengthen family practices. 301-279-3100
- Montgomery County Health and Human Services Information Line. 240-777-1245
- Montgomery County Child Welfare Services - fact sheets and parent tip sheets are available at www.montgomerycountymd.gov , search for Child Welfare Services or call 240-777-3555
- Some area hospitals community education departments offer workshops for youth in topics such as Home Alone, Babysitting, and Safety
- Children's National Medical Center (Washington D.C.) - 202-884-4500
- Holy Cross Hospital - Community Education Department - 301-754-7160
- Shady Grove Adventist Hospital - 800-542-5096
- Suburban Hospital - 301-896-3939 x 1