When Are my Kids Old Enough to Stay Home Alone In Michigan?

Two girls holding hands and playing
When are children old enough to be left alone at home? Many parents ask that question!

There isn’t a week that goes by without some tragic story making the headlines, about a neglectful or abusive parent who makes terrible parenting decisions and CPS has to step in. But not everything is the way it appears in the media. Not every parent painted with that brush is actually a ‘bad parent’ or a violent abuser. Sometimes they’re just moms and dads who made a poor choice in the moment (we’ve all done it), or a parent who did what they thought was best, and it turned out they were wrong.

Some children are simply too young to be left unattended!

One of the examples that seems to crop up regularly is children who were left unattended by parents who thought they were old enough to cope. Sometimes it’s obvious the choice was a bad one (five year olds simply can’t care for newborns), and sometimes it’s purely siuational. Either way, once CPS gets involved a good family can be turned upside down and inside out trying to cope with the state looking over their shoulder as they try to care for their children.

So when is a good age to leave your kids alone at home?

If you’re wondering this, then you’re not alone! Many parents wrestle with figuring out exactly when is a good age to trust a child alone at home. In addition to the concerns about what might happen to the children, there is the fear of being reported to the state. Of being labelled a neglectful parent, and having CPS interfere in how you parent. Which is an entirely legitimate concern. So if fear of CPS is a factor, let’s take a look at what recommendations the Department of Health and Human Services makes:

  • 7 and younger – Children 7 and younger should not be left alone for any period of time. This includes at home, in cars, at public playgrounds, and even in backyards.
  • 8 to 10 years – 8 to 10-year-old children can usually be left unattended for brief periods. If you choose to leave them unattended, it should not be for more than one and a half hours, and only during daylight or early evening hours.
  • 11 to 12 years – 11 – 12-year-old children can usually be left alone for up to 3 hours, however not late at night, or in circumstances that require inappropriate responsibility, for example a situation where they would be responsible for several other younger children.
  • 13 to 15 years – Teens aged 13 to 15 can normally be left unsupervised, but only during the day or evening, not overnight.
  • 16 to 17 years – Teens aged 16 to 17 can usually be left unsupervised for longer periods of time. In some instances, when they are mature enough and are experienced in meeting daily needs without oversight, this can go on for up to two consecutive overnight periods.

Recommendations and guidelines are not laws!

Despite the fact that DHHS makes these recommendations, they are not in fact state laws. Which means that while these are the ages and time periods they believe are safest, it isn’t illegal to choose to leave a younger child alone for a longer period (or an older child for a shorter time.)

However, please remember to consider the maturity level and development of each child when you consider leaving them alone. Consider their decision making skills, their approach to personal responsibility, and their history of choices when left alone. Always choose based on what you feel will be safest and smartest for each individual child.

Have you been accused of neglecting your child?

Has CPS accused you of being a neglectful parent because you chose to leave your kids unattended for a period of time? Does the agency disagree with your decision to trust your children? As dedicated parent advocates, we help a lot of Michigan parents who’ve been targeted by CPS for their parenting choices. If this sounds like your situation, call our skilled parent defense attorneys at 866 766 5245. We are available 24/7 we can help you too.