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Can I leave my child home alone?

The Crow Wing County Community Services Department is reminding parents of state guidelines regarding the ages of children who may be left at home alone. As the end of the school year approaches, many parents find themselves concerned about child care for the summer months. Often times children feel they are find staying home alone or with siblings while their parents are working. For some families the additional financial obligation of child care is a factor in the stay-at-home versus child-care decision. This time of year, Crow Wing County Child Protective Services receives many calls either from parents questioning how old a child needs to be to stay home alone or from concerned citizens reporting children being unsupervised.

Minnesota Child Maltreatment Screening Guidelines are used by child protection agencies in determining if a report regarding lack of supervision needs to be assessed by a social work.

Reports alleging inadequate child care arrangements may be screened in for a child protection response according to the following guidelines:

• Children age 7 and under who are left alone for any period of time.

• Children ages 8 to 10 who are left alone for more than three hours.

• Children ages 11 to 13 who are left along for more than 12 hours.

• Children ages 14 to 15 who are left for more than 24 hours.

• Children ages 16 to 17 may be left home alone for more than 24 hours with a plan in place concerning how to handle an emergency.

Modifying factors affecting screening decisions include:

• A child’s mental ability and maturity level.

• The accessibility of the parent, guardian or designated caregiver to child by phone and/or in person.

• The presence of intellectual deficits, psychological problems or mental health concerns.

• The existence of physical problems or disabilities.

• The behavioral history of a child including suicidal thoughts or actions, fire setting, delinquency, vandalism or assault.

• The establishment of a well understood escape plan that has been worked out by the parent(s) or fire drill practice that has been rehearsed with the child and the presence of a working fire of smoke detector in the home.

• The presence of unusual hazards in the home.

• A child feeling confident and safe when left alone.

Additional information can be accessed by calling Dawn DeVries at (218) 824-1253 regarding available child care in your area and income based child care financial assistance or Bob Backberg at (218) 824-1154 regarding the Minnesota Child Maltreatment Screening Guidelines or visiting the Crow Wing County website at

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
(218) 855-5889