It’s summer time and that means one thing for Georgia parents; it’s time, again, to consider options for children while out on summer break. Summer camps are plentiful in the Atlanta metro area, and several extended sleep-away camps are available that provide supervised activities and adventures for children of varied ages, but for many Georgia families, costs alone may exclude many of these options.
For some parents, options may be limited; grandparents and relatives are a great solution, but with Atlanta being a largely transient community, it is not unlikely that many Georgia families are separated from extended family Parents are left to consider when may be the appropriate time to permit their children to care for him/herself or even to provide care for younger siblings.
It is surprising to learn that, like most states, Georgia does not have regulations or laws to determine when a child may be left home alone. The Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS) provides state guidelines to evaluate individual situations and is the investigative law enforcement arm for neglect. According to the DFCS, the instruction for parents is to assess the maturity and judgment of the child before reaching the decision to leave a child alone.
Rather than focus on a child’s age, the evaluation must consider whether your child has the sophistication and judgment required to make decisions in the event of an emergency. That said, however, it is inconceivable that children under the age of 8, should ever be left alone. In fact, DFCS warns that children of this age should never be left alone, even for short periods of time.
Consider these guidelines provided by DFCS for determining your child’s maturity before leaving the child without adult supervision:
- Children under 8 years old should never be left alone
- Between the ages of 9 and 12, consider brief periods without adult supervision; unlikely that children at this age can be left unsupervised for the workday’s duration
- When considering children caring for other children, children under 13 should not provide care for infants or children that have special needs
- Children under 15 should not be left home alone overnight; older than 15, based only on the child’s maturity
If you must leave a child unattended, please take the following precaution:
- Prepare food in advance that involves stoves or sharp utensils
- Reschedule repairmen, cable technicians visits for a time when an adult can be in the home
- Have an adult or relative check in regularly or vice versa
- Prepare, review, rehearse a safety plan with your child
- Leave emergency contact list in conspicuous places
- Many homes today are without landline phones, ensure that the child has a charged, working phone at all times