What Is the Legal Age for Children to Stay Home Alone Overnight?

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In the United States, no federal law exists setting an age at which children can stay home along unsupervised, although some states have certain restrictions on age for children to stay home alone as well as duration of unsupervised period. Generally, individual families have quite a bit of flexibility in determining when children are physically and emotionally mature enough to remain home without parental supervision. Although most states do not have specific ages for leaving kids alone, some states, such as Maryland, require children who are age 8 or younger to have adult supervision, such as a babysitter or nanny, when parents must leave the home.

Although states do not set age limits for when children can stay at home alone, they impose penalties and fines to encourage parents to think before leaving children at home unsupervised. In most states, penalties may be severe, and include imprisonment and hefty fines. In New York, for instance, parents whose children suffer harm in their absence may face criminal charges including reckless endangerment and even neglect. To fill the void of federal and state-level statutory silence on the issue, many child welfare agencies post recommendations for parents to determine readiness of children to remain home alone, and post guidelines for ensuring children remain safe when unsupervised.