Twenty years ago Macaulay Caulkin made a splash in the hit movie Home Alone playing a child home alone in the Chicago suburbs after his parents accidentally flew to Paris without him.
The movie was a success partly because it made light of a serious dilemma most parents face -- leaving a young child home alone as the parents go to work, go to the supermarket, attend a movie, etc. But just because Caulkin was able to thwart two would-be burglars in the movie leading to a Hollywood ending, Illinois parents should think twice before leaving a child home alone as they could face serious legal troubles.
The most important consideration you should think about before leaving a child home alone is the age of the child. According to Illinois Legal Aid, you can violate both child welfare laws and criminal laws should you leave a child home alone.
Under child welfare laws, it is considered child neglect to leave a child under 14 years of age without supervision for an unreasonable amount of time. You could potentially have your child taken away from you for this violation.
In addition, under Illinois criminal law, it would be considered child abandonment to leave a child under 13 alone for 24 hours or more. For this violation, you could go to jail for three years.
Along with age, there are several other factors you should consider before leaving your child home alone. So even if it would be legal to leave your kid alone, you should consider:
- maturity level of the child
- length of time child will be left alone
- number of children being left alone
- safety of the neighborhood
It is always hard to balance all the things that compete for a parent’s time: children, work, family. However, when it comes to leaving a child home alone, even to run a quick errand, keep the law and the safety of your child first in mind.