When can you leave your kids home alone?

School is almost out, which means a lot of parents are probably trying to figure out what their kids are going to do over the summer. For parents who work, the question becomes even more important.
School is almost out, which means a lot of parents are probably trying to figure out what their kids are going to do over the summer. For parents who work, the question becomes even more important.

Leaving them home alone is the cheapest option, but when is that ok? And that's a tough question to answer, especially because in California there's no law telling you when it's legally OK to leave your kids home alone.

Besides all the trouble they can get into, leaving your kids at home by themselves can be downright dangerous. "A lack of supervision is often the reason for tragic accidents with children," said Lisa Duncan-Purcell with Community Connection for Child Care.

But parents want to be able to leave their children alone once they reach a certain age. "You have to go make money and baby-sitters are expensive. And maybe you think, I'm just going to the store and it's only going to take five minutes," said Tony Johnson who has three children.

One of the most common questions they get at Community Connection for Child Care is, "when can I leave my kids home alone?"

"There's no actual state law in California that dictates when a child can be left alone," said Carina Ortiz with the Bakersfield Police Department.

There are guidelines however on how to tell if your kids are ready and how to prepare them. "I think the key is starting small. Maybe you run out to the store to pick up a carton of milk. Maybe your child's home alone for 15 or 20 minutes," said Duncan Purcell.

"We don't recommend that they answer the door to anybody. We don't recommend you answer the phone unless you absolutely have to," said Ortiz.

Experts say it's different with every child. "She was about eight or nine, but she showed that she could handle it and do what she needed to do," said Johnson of his oldest daughter.

Other parents say 12, 14, even 16 is still too young. In the end, experts say it comes down to maturity and the comfort level of both parent and child.

Kern County Network for Children is hosting a free class June 3rd on how to prepare your child to be home alone and how to judge if they're ready for that responsibility. it's being held from 8:30 to 11:30 in the morning at 2000 "K" Street.

While there are no laws about at what age to leave kids alone, there are laws regarding child endangerment and neglect, and for instance, experts say it's never ok to leave a toddler alone.
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