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The law does not stipulate at what age a child can be left home alone - which is problematic because you can get in grave trouble on someone else's discretion (ie. DYFS). Mainly because age is only one factor to consider when leaving a child alone at home. However, I think you are 100% correct and your ex is unwisely willing to take risks that could both impact your 13 years old if something bad happens (she will be traumatized if all doesn't turn out well) and could subject him (and/or you) to criminal prosecution, child neglect and/or endangerment, etc. if the authorities were to find out - this is especially risk given the fact that one of the child not being cared for with adult supervision is autistic with special needs. Imagine the problems if DYFS is called!
In addition to age, other factors include,
- maturity, their ability to care for themselves and younger children (if applicable)
- knowing when and when NOT to open a door
- know the rules about electrical appliances; iron, stove, microwave, toasters, etc. It's best to prepare a snack in advance that doesn't require turning on the stove.
- what info to give out on the phone/online and to whom
- rules; they should know them by heart (and you can place them on paper and in plain view, when necessary)
- know their address and how/when to call 911. Put emergency numbers; hospital, fire dept, poison control, neighbor or friends number in plain view near all phones.
- child should know to leave the house if a smoke or carbon monoxide detector goes off.
- and make sure the child knows where you are and when you will be back (call if the plans change). Having a cell phone or pager is optimal, so that the child knows they can reach you at a moments notice.
- in addition to knowledge of the above, the child needs to be able to react and not panic in an emergency situation and in this case, be ablel to take care of the 2 younger children at the same time, one of which is impaired.
- if child also had to be responsible for others not just himself
- how long the child is left home alone (8-10 hours is rather long, especially when considering she has to supervise the two other child this entire time)
DO keep in mind that a parent is responsible for the child's safety and security until legal age, so if something happens while parents are not home, they can be charged with a multitude of crimes depending on the circumstances.
For an interesting NJ case from a couple of weeks agi, where the oldest child was 11, click here.
Let me know if you have any other questions.
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