As children get older, parents watch them mature from dependent to independent. However, as if leaving a child without adult supervision isn’t nerve-racking enough for a parent, some parents now have the added stress of worrying about the legalities of leaving a child without adult supervision. This added stress stems from a mother in Illinois who recently made headlines after she was placed under investigation by the police and Department of Children and Family Services for allowing her eight-year-old daughter to walk the family dog around the block by herself. Because not all children mature at the same age, how much freedom is too much and at what age should that freedom be granted?
The answer to this varies. Only three states, Illinois, Maryland, and Oregon have a set minimum age that a child must reach before being left home alone. Interestingly, those three states do not agree on the minimum age, Illinois law requires a child to be fourteen, Oregon requires a child to be ten, and Maryland requires a child to be eight. Furthermore, some states have set guidelines and other states, such as Nevada, have left the age completely open to interpretation.
What does Nevada say about when a parent has negligently supervised their child? The short answer is, not much.
Those living in the Reno, Nevada should be aware that Reno municipal code section 8.16.060(b) states that “it shall be unlawful for any person who is a parent or guardian, or for any person who has been entrusted by a parent or guardian, to fail to supervise and attend a child or children under the age of ten years.”
However, the Nevada Revised Statute (NRS) 432B.121 only states that, “negligent treatment or maltreatment of a child occurs if a child … has been abandoned, is without proper care, control or supervision or lacks the subsistence, education, shelter, medical care or other care necessary for the well-being of the child because of the faults or habits of the person responsible for the welfare of the child or the neglect or refusal of the person to provide them when able to do so.”
The broadness of the NRS might leave some parents wondering: what age can they leave their child at home alone, when can they let their child walk home from school alone, can they let their child go with a friend to the movies or the park without an adult?
The answer to each one of these questions and too many other questions is, the age will vary depending on the child and their parents. However, because many states are like Nevada and are very broad in their laws, many organizations have developed steps and recommendations for parents to consider in order to prepare themselves and their child so that no harm comes to the child. Those recommendations include starting with short periods of time, making sure there is always a way for the child and the parent to communicate, preparing the child for emergencies and calling 9-1-1, giving them boundaries such as do not go outside or open the door.
However, just because a parent takes steps to prepare the child does not mean that the parent cannot be found to be neglectful or to have negligently supervised their child. Not all children mature at the same age. Therefore, a parent should consider multiple factors before leaving a child unsupervised. If you have a question about this issue or have been charged with a child abuse, negligence, or mistreatment offense, call Las Vegas criminal defense lawyer Gabriel L. Grasso.