What age can a child be left alone?

Virginia state statutes do not set a specific age after which a child legally can stay alone. Age alone is not a very good indicator of a child's maturity level. Some very mature 10 year olds may be ready for self care while some 15 year olds may not be ready due to emotional problems or behavioral difficulties. In determining whether a child is capable of being left alone and whether a parent is providing adequate supervision in latchkey situations, Child Protective Services (CPS) will assess several areas.

These areas include:

Child's level of maturity. CPS will want to assess whether the child is physically capable of taking care of himself, is mentally capable of recognizing and avoiding danger and making sound decisions; is emotionally ready to be alone; knows what to do and whom to call if an emergency arises; and has special physical, emotional, or behavioral problems that make it unwise to be left alone. Its important to note that a child who can take care of him/herself may not be ready to care for younger children.

Accessibility of those responsible for the child. CPS will want to determine the location and proximity of the parents, whether they can be reached by phone and can get home quickly if needed, and whether the child knows the parents location and how to reach them.

The situation. CPS will want to assess the time of day and length of time the children will be left alone; the safety of the home or neighborhood; whether the parents have arranged for nearby adults to be available in case a problem arises; and whether there is a family history of child abuse or neglect.

Some localities have ordinance concerning the age at which a child may be left without supervision.

determining child supervision requirements.

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1. What age can a child be left alone?
2. Are mandated reporters required to report suspicions of abuse or neglect within their family or outside of their work place?
3. What happens when a new report is received on an open referral?
4. What constitutes exercising reasonable diligence to locate a child or family named in a CPS report?
5. What constitutes the first meaningful contact?
6. Does the worker have to contact the non-custodial parent?
7. What information can be released in a founded investigation when there is an on-going investigation but no charges have been filed?
8. What is the difference between information in OASIS and the Central Registry?
9. What is the timeframe for someone to request an appeal for a founded investigation?
10. Does a report of a child not being in a car seat or properly restrained in a car meet a definition of child abuse or neglect?