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What age can a child legally stay home alone in California?

Resolved Question:

At what age can a child legally stay home alone in California?

Submitted: 9 years ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Attorney & Mediator replied 9 years ago.

California has no specific legal age where a child can stay home alone. Rather, the law provides that the parent must be able to make the determination if their child is competent and capable of taking care of themselves and to handle every possible risk of harm which can occur if left alone.

Below is a standard guide that the California Department of Health and Services has provided about this issue. If you wish to learn more about this contact your county's department of social services that handles this issue.

In California, there is not a legal age at which a minor can be left unsupervised. Age in and of itself is not a reliable guide. There are several additional factors that influence whether it is appropriate to leave a child alone, even for short periods of time.

Parents should use good judgment in deciding if their child(ren) is mature enough to be left without adult supervision. It is important to realize that children left in self-care could be at a higher risk for injuries.

Below are a few questions that may assist you in making the decision if your child is ready and able to stay home safely without supervision:

  • Does your child know what to do in case of a house fire?
  • Does your child know what to do when a stranger is at the front door asking them to open the door?
  • Does your child know in what situations should they call 911 and what information to have ready (name, address, nature of emergency, etc.)?
  • Does your child know how to address a person calling on the phone requesting to speak with you?
  • Does your child know whom to contact if he/she have questions, but are not in crisis at that moment such as another adult family member, trusted friend, or neighbor?
  • Does your child know how to take immediate care of serious wound until professional help arrives?
  • Does your child know how to prepare a simple meal? Does it involve using the stove? Does your child know what to do if an oil fire started on the stovetop?
  • Do you regularly practice acting out the above situations with your child so that your child and you gain confidence in their ability to consistently react safety and appropriately to the situations?

Safety tips:

  • Keep a list of all emergency numbers (doctor, hospitals, police, fire department, poison control center, EMS) and the phone number of a trusted friend or neighbor posted on each phone.
  • Show the child where the first aid kit is located and how to use the items in it.
  • Tell your child where you will be, when you plan to return home and how you can be reached. Leaving a beeper or cell phone on when you are away may help put you and your child more at ease.
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