How young is too young to leave a child home alone? - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

How young is too young to leave a child home alone?

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -- It's a question many parents ask: when is your child old enough to stay home alone? Just this week a woman in Davenport was charged with child neglect after leaving her 10 and 13-year-old kids home alone while she went to the bar.

But Iowa doesn't have a law requiring your child to be a certain age to stay home alone.  Iowa doesn't have a law regarding what age a child should be before they start babysitting either. Both those decisions are up to parents.
But officials say if you leave you kids alone and something bad happens, you're held responsible.

"It's a really hard call," Tara Roddick with Project Concern said.  "All 14-year-olds are not the same maturity level. Some can call the police, some know their address and can say where they are, what's going on. Others, not really."

But at what point does leaving you child at home become child endangerment?

"They don't get that specific in terms of age. It's a discretionary call by the officer. They may also consult the Department of Human Services and/or our county attorney's office," said Lt. Scott Baxter with the Dubuque Police Department.

Dubuque police say they respond to child endangerment calls frequently.  He says each case is different and it all depends on the situation.

"We work together to ascertain the situation to make sure not only the criminal side of it but that the children are properly cared for a safe," Baxter said.

Roddick recommends parents slowly easy into leaving kids home alone. Start with a quick trip to the store. If that goes well then try an afternoon at work. Most importantly communicate with your child. And make sure they know who to call in an emergency.

"I do think parents need to be aware that if something happens they are ultimately responsible," Roddick said.

Illinois does have a law -- setting the minimum age to 13 years old. Wisconsin restricts those under the age of 12.

Either way, Roddick recommends your child take a babysitting class before they supervise others.  And reminds parents that they are responsible for what happens.

The Red Cross offers babysitting and CPR classes for kids. Finley Hospital in Dubuque also offers classes starting for age 10 and up.

Online Reporter: Lauren Squires

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