Children grow fast, and often they think they are ready for responsibility before their parents are ready to pass it on to them. When a child is ready to stay home alone, the parent needs to determine if the choice is right for both parent and child. A parent who lives in the commonwealth of Massachusetts is wise to understand the laws regarding children staying home alone before attempting the routine.
Chapter 176: An Act Protecting Children in the Care of the Commonwealth
This section of law determines what departments and which officials assist neglected children. Massachusetts law determines boards for children who are left at home unlawfully by any parent or guardian. The Office of the Child Advocate is the office determined by this law to monitor and uphold neglect laws.
Title XVI Chapter 119 Section 39
This section of Massachusetts law states that a child younger than 10 years old may not be left home alone. The law states any person who knowingly abandons a child for a period of more than four weeks without checking the welfare of the child or assigning another mentally stable adult to care for the child will be jailed for no more than two years. If the child dies due to abandonment, the jail term will be two and one-half years, but no more than five years.
Parents' Legalities for Children
Massachusetts law states parents are legally responsible for children until they are adults. A child becomes an adult in Massachusetts at the age of 18. Any act the child commits before the age of 18, regardless of parental attendance, is legally the responsibility of the parents. This law should be considered when deciding whether the child should be left home alone.
Obeying the Laws
Deciding if a child should be left home alone extends beyond the law. The maturity of the child and the trust the parent has in the child are factors in determining if the child is ready for the experience. Make sure the child is aware of what to do in emergency situations, is aware of what to do when strangers approach the home, where to go if they need a trusted adult, and how to reach a parent in an emergency. Establish house rules and strict consequences if the rules are broken. Establish a time to try the situation before beginning a regular routine.