I always thought there was a law regarding how old a child must be before they can be left at home alone. It turns out in Minnesota, and most other states, there is no actual law. However, the issue isn't quite that simple.

According to a story on parenting website iMom, as few as 15 states in the country have an official law stating at what age a child may be left home alone. Minnesota is one of the states that doesn't have a set age limit. Although there is no official law regarding leaving a child home alone, there are rules related to child welfare and well-being in Minnesota.

According to a report from the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare at the University of Minnesota, "Minnesota has a state-supervised, county-administered child welfare system. The Minnesota legislature passes laws, the Governor of Minnesota signs them (or vetoes them), and the Minnesota Department of Human Services establishes general rules, policies, and guidelines based on these laws and best practices. Each county may then develop these rules and policies further so that they fit within the context of each county."

That means that, while there is no official age minimum for letting a child stay home alone, there are certain guidelines that, if not followed, can be considered a form of neglect which could get a person in trouble with their county child protection services department.

For instance, in Dakota County a parent can be investigated for child neglect for leaving a child under 7 home alone for any length of time, or a child between 8 and 9 alone for more than two hours, or a child between 10 and 13 alone for more than 12 hours, or a child 14 to 17 alone for more than 24 hours.

Aside from the guidelines, parents should also use common sense when determining if leaving your child home alone is a good idea. Is the child ready and mature enough to handle time at home alone? What are the circumstances surrounding their need to be left at home? And, maybe most importantly, have you trained your child on what to do if an emergency should arise while they are home alone? And how to get in touch with you if they need help with something while you're gone? There are several other issues that this pamphlet from the Child Welfare Information Gateway encourages you to cover with your child before you leave them home alone.

Prepare your child and make sure they are ready and it will make the concept of leaving your child home alone much easier on them. And on you...

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