Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

When is it Legal to Leave Kids at Home Alone?

What children can do without supervision is a legal gray area.

Photo: Tamis Haddad/Flickr

More parents are beingdetained after leaving their kids at home on purpose. As NPR reports, a Maryland couple that identifies with the free-range parentingmovementare under investigation after allowing their kids, ages 6 and 10, to walk home alone from a park in January. In 2013, a mother in Canada lost custody of her son after leaving him on his own at home for an hour and a half.

Child welfare specialists say that what is and isn't legal when it comes to free-range parenting, where kids explore and learn at their own pace, is a gray area. Some free-range parents claim the model allows kids to gain self-awareness and hone decision-making skills, while opponents claim the behavior can be neglectful. In Washington State, the recommended age kids can be at home unsupervised is 10. NOTE: Washington State has not passed a law specifying that kids must be 10 before they are left home unsupervised but has setthe age as a guideline for parents and caregivers.