Now that the school year is at an end, children are more likely to be left home alone and unsupervised during parental work hours. Children love being out of school for the summer, but, long summer days can sometimes make children bored and restless. The City of Douglas Police Department would like to offer some tips to parents who must leave their children alone during the summer months.
Before leaving your child alone, parents should make sure their child is mature and old enough to stay home alone. The Department of Human Services (DFACS) has “Lack of Supervision” guidelines which should be followed. Children eight years or younger should not be left alone. Children between the ages of 9 and 12 years, based on the level of maturity, may be left alone for brief periods of time (less than 2 hours). Children who are 13 years and older, who are at an adequate level of maturity, may be left alone and may perform the role of babysitter, as authorized by a parent, for up to 12 hours. These guidelines are only for children who are not in DFACS custody, as other foster care guidelines apply to those children.
“Leaving children at home alone during the summer should not be an easy decision,” says Deputy Chief Brannen Pruette. “Parents should make every effort to keep their children safe during these summer months by providing a safe environment. Making clear what children are allowed to do and what they are not allowed to do while home alone will help prevent accidents and life-threatening injuries.”
Parents should team up with other adults in their neighborhood to secure a trusted safety environment. Other neighborhood parents may be able to provide some supervision and activity planning or carpooling opportunities to keep children busy. Make sure you keep a chore list up to date and try to enroll the kids in activities during the day. Set up some safety rules for them to follow such as do not answer the door if a stranger knocks, do not allow anyone in the house unless it is someone whom you have approved, do not allow friends over, screen calls – do not let a caller know they are home alone, do not cook unless a parent has approved it, never leave the house unless permission is obtained from parent. Parents should also post relevant emergency numbers or cell phone numbers. If you own a gun, make sure it is properly secured, locked and stored out of sight. Parents should, unexpectedly, call in at least once a day to check on the kids.
Parents who allow their kids to have friends over or visit friends during the day should use safety precautions. Know who your children’s friends are so that you know who your kids are around and “hanging out” with. Keep plenty of quick and easy snacks around the house. If your child is not at home, check-in with a quick text or call, however, don’t be overbearing.
The American Red Cross offers babysitting courses online for older children who are left to tend to their siblings during the day (http://www.redcross.org/take-aclass/babysitting-child-care). For more information or summer safety tips, call the Douglas Police Department at 912-384-2222.