Wondering if you can let your kids walk to the park or wait in the car for a few minutesâ€”legally?
Or maybe you want to get a Free-Range Kids Law passed in your state, guaranteeing your right to give your kids some independence without this being mistaken for neglect?Â Let Grow — the non-profit that grew out of Free-Range Kids — has what you need:
Click here to see a map of all 50 states’ neglect laws.
Click here for Let Grow’s “Legislative Toolkit,” where you’ll find model legislation, model testimony, arguments for the bill, etc.
At the bottom of that legislative toolkit is a form to fill out if you’d like more information, or wish to get involved with Let Grow’s legal advocacy.
Please include the District of Columbia in this list.
The California summary is not stated quite right. If you leave a kid 6yo or younger in the car, y.You have to either leave someone 12yo or older in the car, or you have to do it safely with no keys in the car.
I have heard of parents who deliberately leave the keys in the ignition on the theory that it will be obvious that the driver is coming right back. But legally, you are better off taking the keys.
And now in Georgia people are protected by law and encouraged to bust windows. Cannot see anything going wrong with that.
I will say that I lived in Ohio and at the the time CPS came to my home claiming my then 14 and 7 year old daughters had been outside playing together unsupervised in our own yard and started an investigation. We were cleared but also warned that they could not be outside on our farm with out adult supervision period.
Thank you for this!!! Nice to have some ammo.
Good consolidated resource, but…
The greater problem is that CPS doesn’t need “a law” to restrict or enforce “rules.” .They literally are empowered to just make them up as they see fit.
These kafka-esque like agencies function autonomously, outside the normal judicial system, avoiding any due process rights of the parents. There is no hearing, no appeal. Do as they order you…or else they will take your kids on the spot.
Yeah, about that substantial risk of harm? I wonder how that will be interpreted.
WA car code needs some clarification. There is a time when children cannot be left alone in parked car. That is when the car is in front of a bar that serves alcohol. I think the assumption is that the parents would be inside the bar, but I am not sure that on a business street with little parking that it would not apply then as well.
I can tell you from first hand experience that in Virginia if you fail to follow the guidelines you can be charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
I am also interested in the District of Columbia. My googling has not found a specific law but of course I could be missing it.
Although it is true that in Illinois you can leave a 14 year old home alone, it is very ambiguous about leaving kids younger than 14 home alone – they cannot be left for an “unreasonable period of time”:
“any minor under the age of 14 years whose parent or other person responsible for the minor’s welfare leaves the minor without supervision for an unreasonable period of time without regard for the mental or physical health, safety, or welfare of that minor”
And then it goes on to list 15 factors that should be considered to determine how reasonable/unreasonable it is, including length of time, etc. I hate to see websites just list 14 because then people who are less free-range see that and internalize it.
Just a correction…It is my understanding that IOWA has a zero tolerance car rule. No child can be left in the car for ANY length of time. I know people who have been mowed down by this law. (goes on record, end of licensure…etc.). And, of course, the main problem is the absolute nature of most of these laws and the gross discrepancies between states. One state…you are fine…another you can get 10 years in prison.
Could someone please give me a bit of assistance? I’m totally blind and PDF is not blind user friendly. Does anyone have any idea where I can find a text, word document or html copy of the rules for Vermont? Thanks in advance.
I also feel DC should have been included. We’re part of this country too, you know. My understanding is that there is no law about age in DC. From the dc.gov website from an FAQ about child and family services:
“DC law says a child is anyone up to age 18 but does not give a specific age at which children can be on their own at home. You need to use your own good judgment. At the same time, we can provide some insight into when leaving a child alone crosses the line into neglect. When CFSA gets a report of a child left alone, we look at each situation individually.”
There’s a little more on there – that the older the child, the safer, that a couple of hours is different from overnight, etc. Common sense stuff. I feel like this is a terrific paragraph and exactly what authorities should do – look into cases individually instead of having blanket rules. My experience is that kids are out alone here in DC often. Also that the police aren’t interesting in hassling parents for it. The one time the police were called in a public place about my kids, they made it clear they thought it was fine for two 10 yos to be unattended.
Be careful in Washington state with leaving children in cars. Some cities, like Tacoma, have additional laws or municipal codes. In some places, it’s illegal to leave a child unattended in a vehicle while in an establishment that sells alcohol and, in Tacoma, any child under six can’t be left unattended. You’re probably ok in the rural areas, but once you’re in the areas like Tacoma and Seattle, you will need to pay attention to any additional municipal and county codes.
So…let’s say that someone proves they’re economically disadvantaged and that’s why they left the underage kid in the car…..how the feck would parenting classes help? The problem was that they didn’t really have a choice, not ignorance. Wouldn’t a slightly better solution to be to help them find benefits/childcare while they attend the interview?
I am bothered by the number of laws that are worded vaguely, along the lines of “if there is significant risk” or “for extended periods of time.” This is open to interpretations ranging from the chance of getting a paper cut being “too dangerous” to leaving a child alone for a full word day being “not very long.” If a state feels that it must pass a law, make it clear! Don’t pass a law that leaves parents just as confused and vulnerable as they were before.
It also makes me aware of how difficult we make it in the US to travel or move from state to state and have any idea what the laws are. A family who dutifully follows the law in CA, for example, and routinely leaves their 12 year old in charge of their 6 year old in the car when they run in to the pharmacy, could be arrested if they did the very same thing while on vacation in Illinois. Do their children become less capable once they drive across the Illinois border?
Laws with “vague” wording are still preferable to codifying every possible condition and situation and/or requiring a life sentence for stealing a slice of pizza because of strictly worded laws.
Similarly, although laws which differ from state to state may be confusing, I’d rather have at least the illusion of local control. Imagine the federal government trying to cobble all of these state laws into some overreaching law of the land that only 5% of the public likes. I’m surprised there’s no law against “transporting a minor across state lines for the purpose of leaving him unattended in a non-running vehicle for longer than 15 minutes”.
I’ll go out on a limb and say that most of these sound fairly reasonable. That assumes that reasonable people are interpreting them, which is not always the case, unfortunately.
Whoo-hoo! My state is awesome!
so, Wisconsin is pretty free range eh? That’s awesome!
The “definition” of child neglect needs fine tuning. I refer readers to the link above to the child welfare web site. In the definition two terms are wonderfully vague so as to admit any interpretation. Those terms are: “Any recent act…” & “imminent risk”.
How recent is recent? Two hours? Five days? 2-8 weeks, 183 days? Last 10 years?
What level of probability constitutes a risk? Every daily action is fraught with a risk of being hit by an asteroid, an imminent one. The level of risk that is considered to trigger child neglect must be quantified. 20% would be a good place to start.
Qualitative statements in laws are fine, but in laws, whenever possible, any statement that can be quantified must be quantified.
” itâ€™s illegal to leave a child unattended in a vehicle while in an establishment that sells alcohol”
So it’s better to take a child INTO the liquor store while I grab a six-pack? I can’t figure out what they’re afraid of if into an establishment that sells alcohol is better than outside of.
The outline of the law for Illinois referenced above is inaccurate and overly simplified.
Can a child 14yrs or older attend movies in Georgia’s unattended
I read online that in February a law was passed in New York making it illegal to leave a child under the age of 8 in a car alone. And if you had more than one child in the car, one of the children must be over the age of 12.
thank you for posting this i’ve always wanted to stay home while my mom goes to the store since I’m literaly at the age limit I’m 10 i can stay home
I parked along the sidewalk of a strip mall to drop off a package at a UPS Store. I was never more than 20 ft from the car which had my 4,5 and 7 year old in it. The vehicle was not running and the store and had huge windows they were completely in my line of site. I was in the store for 10 seconds and I noticed a woman looking at my car and talking to someone about it. I step outside the store ask if there was a problem, she began to berate me. I went back inside dropped off my package then returned to my car. She continued to berate me and threatened to call the police. I said “Please do, I’ve done nothing wrong”. She did some more cussing. I gave her a firm middle finger and went on my way. I do not think what I did was morally wrong, was it a legal offence? I live in Washington state.
Anne don’t feel bad one instant. Many years ago something similar happened to me on an early Sunday morning running in for a quick cup of coffee, parked directly outside, in complete sight of the car with sleeper in car seat. Total transaction time 30seconds or less. In my opinion the proper thing to do would have been for that person to be helpful and say… “Don’t worry I’ll cover them while you run in… I know how it is.” or just be silent and keep a protective eye on them without looking like a scary stalker. In both scenarios they have done their duty as a good person and not made you feel like crap – it’s a win for everyone. I understand that some people feel conviction to voice their concerns rather than stand by and be silent but they could take a non-confrontational tact and everyone would feel good about it. Now you feel bad, and she’s a jerk. How does that help anyone?
Funny you say that Warren Pacholzuk; yet, you’d go and tell someone else that if they were caught busting your truck window that you’d basically kill them. You sir are delusional.
This is not exactly accurate. We live in Virginia and homeschool. Our daughter will be 9 in a couple of weeks and our jerk of a neighbor called CPS and they are throwing a fit. She is with a sitter now but because I refused to give them the name of the sitter (cause they were already harassing us and our neighbors), they took me to court…and they are STILL harassing us. Their ‘guidelines’ to them ARE LAWS. They have nothing on us, but are making our lives a living hell. They even entered our house when she was at the sitter’s and I was at work, because we left our back door open for our elderly dog to use the bathroom. THEY TOOK HIM and then they played tag so that no one is accountable. We got the dog back but they are insisting that we take him to the vet, (they said they took him to an emergency vet and gave me the street…well that is one of the vets we use and he isn’t even open that day and said they need to call him if they are trying to say that he saw him that day). The dog is 16 and on what I call ‘hospice’ care. He is happy and not suffering, but they are using his frailty to bully us 🙁 My lawyer said that they won’t go by daughter’s abilities (she is big for her age and gifted) that STRICTLY, if she isn’t 12 she can NOT be left alone at home, even with neighbors close by that usually watch her :/ Be careful, or the police will be on your case whether you are doing what is right for your child or not.
As someone stated in the comments, CPS does NOT follow laws, they make them up and the ‘rules/guidelines’ are VAGUE for their benefit, not ours. I have an English degree, and work as an interpreter, and they are still trying to get around their own ‘guidelines’ and the judge is no better. He won’t even truly assess the child’s ability–neglect in Virginia is not having ‘adequate (vague) supervision based on the age and level of development (also vague). Primarily they are trying to say that a 10 yro may be ok (for however long THEY deem ok) but that a 15 yro may be immature and should not be left alone.
Please don’t think that they are protecting anyone.
see here for the law in the UK
I was charged with child neglect for leaving my children in the car for a few minutes in a well-lit parking lot in Arizona in autumn. Some well-meaning citizen called the cops. My lawyer has said he managed to get diversion for me, but I will actually have my court date in a few days. The prosecutor wanted to slap a misdemeanor on my record, which in AZ stays on for life, but if (when) I complete diversion, the case will be dismissed.
Since I don’t know how the case will be classed (minor crime, assault, or domestic violence), my diversion could last 3, 6, or 9 months. I won’t know until I’ve gone to court. What’s scary about this is, if I couldn’t secure private counsel, I may have gotten thrown in jail for six months. I don’t understand how this is helpful to children. I’m a single mom and now I’m up to my neck in legal fees which are putting me through a hardship, but the alternative would’ve been being taken away from my children when I am their primary parent. How is this looking out for the children?
On top of the criminal aspect, I also have the Department of Child Services investigating me. I have hired yet another lawyer to contend with that.
Yes, there’s no law that says you can’t leave your children in the car in Arizona, but you can’t account for over-zealous cops and busybodies. This cop made up the craziest scenario to justify her decision to charge me with a crime. Be careful. We aren’t allowed to make decisions for our own children anymore.
So how is it that no kid can be left alone in a car in washington state unless there 16 is this really a law? So if I run into pay for gas lock mu doors and tell my 6year old not to open the door for noone I can be charged? Even with me having the keys and being 40feet away paying for gas?
Providing You with Health Care at Home. Alexandria, VA Home Health Care Agencies – find home care agencies in Alexandria. Great Expectations.info helps you find right Annandale, Alexandria (Old Town), Arlington, McLean, Woodbridge, Manassas, Fairfax city and county in VA and Prince George’s Cheverly, College Park , Baltimore City/County, Charles County, Bethesda – Chevy Chase, Gaithersburg, Beltsville, Greenbelt, Rockville, Hyattsville, Indian Head, Laurel, Takoma Park, Upper Marlboro and Montgomery in MD home care agency for your loved ones, Talk o our case managers to get you started
â€œWelcome to Great Expectations Home Health Care Family! We have provided quality home health care to seniors in Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia and Maryland for over 20 years. While our main office is in Alexandria, V.A., we also have offices in Bethesda, M.D. and Washington, D.C. We are eager to become a part of your family and assist you with all of your home health care needs. Give us a call or contact us! We are honored to serve you. Great Expectations Home health care agency in Annandale, Alexandria (Old Town), Arlington, McLean, Woodbridge, Manassas, Fairfax city and county in VA and Prince George’s Cheverly, College Park , Baltimore City/County, Charles County, Bethesda – Chevy Chase, Gaithersburg, Beltsville, Greenbelt, Rockville, Hyattsville, Indian Head, Laurel, Takoma Park, Upper Marlboro and Montgomery in MD.â€
Is it against the law in the state of Texas to leave a 9 year old child alone at night?
I live in California,I allowed my 6, 9, 10, 11 year old kids and one 9 year old neighbor child to go to the park with a cell phone to call 911. the park is right up the street from my home and around 730 it was light outside they were to be headed home. This was a group of kids so I felt it was OK for this. Well 8 o’clock came and they had not appeared so I sent my teenager, the police had my kids and walked them home. They demanded to search my home and informed CPs likely will show up at my home. What are the laws if any to protect me?
Is there a similar list for Canada?
What about children playing outside with other neighborhood kids….UNSUPERVISED? In California….I have 3 kids that go and play with the other kids in the neighborhood, I go out and check to see what they’re doing from time to time. However, I have a neighbor that threatened to take pictures of the kids playing unsupervised and call the cops!….It’s not a suburban area…it’s a block with multiple apartments, so we don’t have back yards for the kids!….plus, the kids are not toddlers, they are 12, 9, and 7. Very curious because the last thing I want is to get in trouble…nor do I want the kids cupped up in the house all day!. Thanks.
The free-range idea doesn’t work well if you’re in a dicey urban neighborhood.
Does anyone know of rules for 13 year old to be left at mall with friends and no adult supervision in utah???
In Washington State it is illegal to leave a child under the age of 12 in a vehicle running or not and no child under the age of 11 may be left alone at home! Please do further research so as not to mislead parents in Washington State
Provide the statute and show your research. Otherwise you are just another Internet wannabe.
The Washington state law is more than accurate . . . Well now that I think of it all of the laws are up to date and ready for readers to read.
My daughter is 13 years old handicap and is too big to fit in shopping cart at local grocery store so when I go into store to get a couple of things so I leave her in the car. Can’t find anything about handicap for this she is in her car seat with seatbelt on give her my phone I to keep her busy it’s a small town everyone know everyone need info
The info for NY is incorrect. Any child under the legal driving age cannot be left in the car unattended by an adult. I was told this by a police officer, who was wanting to write me a ticket for leaving my child who was of babysitting age, in the car while I turned my back for one moment to deposit a Redbox movie into the box which was no more than 20 feet away. Apparently, it’s illegal to even stand outside of the vehicle to even have a conversation with someone, and to leave your children unattended inside the vehicle. This was as of at least 3 years ago, I think at that time it was 2012 or 2013.
South Carolina’s section needs updating. Under nine may not be left with anyone under twelve, or longer than five minutes.
I just thought I would point out that the law in Il. is actually quite vague.
When is it legal to leave children alone?
Illinois law defines a neglected minor, in part, as â€œany minor under the age of 14 years whose parent or other person responsible for the minorâ€™s welfare leaves the minor without supervision for an unreasonable period of time without regard for the mental or physical health, safety or welfare of that minor.â€
Also from DCFS in Illinois:
How can I tell if my child is ready?
Unfortunately, there is no magic age at which children develop the maturity and good sense needed to stay alone.
I have child age 7 and 8 . Iâ€™m work all night . Can I can let they sleep all night by them self ? Iâ€™m live Kansas City Missouri .
What is the Law for leaving kids in ur car in arkansas for less then 30 min ? This year of 2018
Lily – It is never a good idea to leave your children at home all night! I am sure it is not legal, and even if it would be, it is not safe. Anything could happen. An adult needs to be available for those children all during the night for any need that would arise on their part, and any emergency situation that could arise.
What about city ordinances involving free range children? Do they supercede state law?
Hi, the information on Oregon should be updated. I was recently informed by a police official that I could not leave my four year old in the car unattended while I ran into the gas station to pay (less than 5 minutes)–they cited this child neglect law. The law is written so subjectively and vaguely that it sounds like parents can make a judgement call (ie, in my example, there was no way she was in harm for the five minutes it took me to run inside–and I could see the car the entire time!), but they have no chance if it would go to court.
Oregon does not have a law specifically stating the exact age when children can be left home alone. However, the child neglect statutes do offer some guidance.
2011 Oregon Revised Statutes, Chapter 163, Sections 545 and 547, “Child Neglect”:
163.545 Child neglect in the second degree. (1) A person having custody or control of a child under 10 years of age commits the crime of child neglect in the second degree if, with criminal negligence, the person leaves the child unattended in or at any place for such period of time as may be likely to endanger the health or welfare of such child.
(2) Child neglect in the second degree is a Class A misdemeanor. [1971 c.743 Â§174; 1991 c.832 Â§2]
The idea of raising kids how we were raised is awesome but parents need to keep in mind not every community is safe for this concept. Honestly I wouldn’t want my kids unsupervised around some of the other kids and people in the world. I think some parents just care too little about what their kids are doing and would rather not be bothered. Would you want kids like those free range around your child? If you community is safe enough and well established I’m all for it. But if there are a lot of people moving in and out of the area please think twice.
I was traveling back from a gig on the prior Sunday, so I missed â€œJimmiesâ€ night, which happened to be the night they managed to play ALL of the songs I was hoping to catch during the run (The Curtain With, Esther, Col. Forbinâ€™s > Famous Mockingbird, David Bowie, Harpua) and one of my favorite jams of the run during â€œA Song I Heard the Ocean Singâ€â€¦ just listening to this on the stream, it was clear they were adventurous and locked in. Upon hearing that, I went directly to Ticketmaster.com to secure tickets for Tues and Weds, and started working on tickets for the final weekend which was sold out.
The idea of raising kids how we were raised is awesome but parents need to keep in mind not every community is safe for this concept. Honestly I wouldnâ€™t want my kids unsupervised around some of the other kids and people in the world. I think some parents just care too little about what their kids are doing and would rather not be bothered. Would you want kids like those free range around your child? If you community is safe enough and well established Iâ€™m all for it. But if there are a lot of people moving in and out of the area please think twice.safe travel
Wisconsin should be updated. A child can be legally left alone/unattended in a car after hitting age 7!
MY 5 YEAR OLD GRANDDAUGHTER IS BEING ALLOWED TO GO TO PARK WITH 8 YEAR OLD BROTHER 200 FEET FROM APARTMENT WITHOUT PARENT.
The idea of raising kids how we were raised is awesome but parents need to keep in mind not every community is safe for this concept. Honestly I wouldnâ€™t want my kids unsupervised around some of the other kids and people in the world. I think some parents just care too little about what their kids are doing and would rather not be bothered. Would you want kids like those free range around your child? If you community is safe enough and well established Iâ€™m all for it. But if there are a lot of people moving in and out of the area please think twice.
Law for children is very important for all the persons. In this post five states have laws that specify what age a child can be home alone, and 10 states have â€œguidelines.â€ For states that donâ€™t have these, the child neglect laws are the next most relevant sources of information. These should be adopted by all the country. Bonding company also has the law about the kids that are very helpful for you.
Hello free range parents I have some questions. I live in a neighborhood with the majority of parents being free range. Children roam the neighborhood unsupervised and their parents claim it’s for their benefit it’s what they did as kids ECT. I am a laid back parent here not free range though and I am constantly finding myself being forced to worry and care for the neighborhood children who’s parents have no idea what’s going on in their own children’s lives. Frankly it’s a burden. Children are over at my house constantly coming in and going through my cupboards even. My question for y’all is why do you expect others to look after YOur children? Is it really for their benefit because from where I’m standing it’s a big fluffy excuse to be lazy. If you are not keeping tabs on your children how do you know they’re not being destructive? It’s not just about their safety only how about my children’s safety? When an unattended boy comes onto my property and hits my son? I don’t know who he belongs to its not right. Why do you think you have the right to not supervise your children?
When I was a child my parents had close friends that we visited often. Both our houses were middle class and children played outside. To reach the friends house we had to go through Beverly Hills where the houses are large and beautiful, but not a child in sight. It’s still that way today in every upper class neighborhood I’ve been to. I guess the wealthy don’t need laws to protect their kids.
What wonderful memories and pictures for your family! Growing up my grandparents had a place on Crystal Lake and then Lake Michigan, both in northern Michigan. I loved running the dunes along Lake Michigan! We have a cabin in Twin Lakes, Colorado and the cold, clear water reminds me of northern Michigan, although it is actually colder (48 degrees on Memorial Day) so we do more wading than swimming. We like to drive the boat to deserted beaches and enjoy picnics and playing in the sand. The cold water scares most boaters away (and the lake is surrounded by national forest, so no houses directly on the lake), so often we are the only ones out there! There are some warmer reservoirs in southern Colorado that are better for swimming and not quite.
Had the police called on me by the mum of my daughter classmate for leaving my daughter in the playground after school unsupervised for 20 minutes.
Playground is 3 mins away from my house and she comes and goes if daytime / people in the playground. She also walks to local shop, same distance.
We live in a safe london suburb, and the distance she covers involves a safe traffic light crossing (green light), and it’s fully covered by cameras.
She is incredibly mature and reliable, and we have been preparing and exercising for it for months. She’ll be 7 in November.
Police said not to do it again or charged with neglect / social services / child taken away.
What can I do? She is definitively ready to do this.
The Supreme Court shall, to the exclusion of every other court, have original jurisdiction in any dispute between any two or more Governments. If at any time, the President considers that it is desirable to obtain the opinion of the Supreme Court on any question of law which he considers of public importance, he may refer the question to the Supreme Court for consideration.Dental Negligence
What interesting food for thought. Iâ€™m one who hates to see the commandments taken down, for the same reasons that Jen gave. Honestly, at this point, Iâ€™ll take any display of the bible that anyone is willing to share.. it seems that too many are willing to forget that it even exists or the part it played in our history.
But reading your post and also your comment, I can see your point that it does not bring understanding of salvation and truly may seem condemning more than anything.
Legalism is a tough wall to tear down, especially when some have spent their entire life trying to follow the laws with the purpose of â€œwinningâ€ what Jesus already offered to us freely.sue my dentist
Can an 11 year old be alone for more then 6 hours? What do you guys think?
Quick question. How do you go about reporting your 6 yr. old sitter leaves her in the car while she shops at the store? I live in California and I’ve read the laws but do I report the to CPS? My daughter mentioned to me that the sitter left her in the car while she shopped in the store.
i just want some money to help out my mother
This is a system of rules created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior, with its precise definition a matter Thank you for taking the time to write a great post!