Home Alone Rules (6/1/2016)
A new problem came across my desk today. At what age is it appropriate to allow a child to stay home alone? (https://www.ok.gov/osbi/Investigative/Oklahoma’s_Missing_Children/After_School_Safety/) Oklahoma is one of many states that does not have an established “Home Alone Rule” (See http://www.imom.com/home-alone-rules-state/ for a state by state comparison) Luckily, OSBI and OKDHS have provided some information regarding this issue. (See the OKDHS Brochure at http://www.okdhs.org/OKDHS%20Publication%20Library/03-24.pdf) Both agencies have concluded that maturity is guideline that parents should follow. If your child is comfortable being home alone and is responsible enough to do the same then he/she is most likely mature enough to have a little alone time.
Although we should strive to keep our children supervised whenever possible, sometimes that simply is not the case. Many children go to school each day and lock the door behind them because mom and dad have left for work. Take note I’m talking elementary level here! Some of these kids are even responsible for making sure their younger siblings get to school. This issue isn’t new though. Thousands of working parents have no choice but to leave their kids behind while they go to work and hope and pray their children are responsible and get themselves to school. For many its food on the table or waiting until their child is in a classroom.
In Oklahoma you are going to see a great epidemic occur of children being left alone. Toddlers left with 2nd graders to care for them over the summer or even worst-left alone! Why? Unfortunately because of the mass budget short fall this year in Oklahoma OKDHS has been forced to no longer approve any daycare assistance applications as of June 1, 2016. (See my previous post dated May 26, 2016 for more information regarding this issue)
So now we have a new question. What is child neglect now? Leaving a child alone for a few hours while a single mom works to pay the bills and provide food? Leaving children alone all day during the summer because they can’t attend a summer daycare program? I guess its all going to depend on how you “leave them alone.”
I do caution you to follow the maturity guideline. This is a time when the Oklahoma Standard is really going to have to come out in everyone. Neighbors are going to have to form groups and take turns watching each other children. Grandma and Aunt Lucy may now be your live in babysitters.
Volunteer groups will need to find a way to accept more children into their free programs. What does this mean for those of us blessed enough to not have to worry about this dilemma? We need to donate to groups like the YMCA who provide free or reduced cost summer programs. Donate what you can whether its time, money, materials etc. If you know someone struggling to work because they need help with childcare, volunteer for a couple hours to watch their child(ren). It may mean the difference between going grocery shopping for these families or visiting a local food bank.