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Children at Home Alone After School

Making Sure Your Child is Ready

Latch Key Kids

     In a perfect world, we could all stay at home and be there to provide a loving and safe environment for our children after school.  Unfortunately, many parents have to work, and consequently, children are forced to spend at least a few hours at home alone during the work week.  So as parents we hope and pray we beat the odds.  With baited breath, we spend those last few hours of each work day praying that our children are safe and secure until our return. 

     According to the National Child Care Information Network:  (excerpt)  "States do not have regulations or laws about when a child is considered old enough to care for him/herself or to care for other children. States may have guidelines or recommendations. These guidelines are most often distributed through child protective services and are administered at the county level."

     This page is dedicated to providing resources that address the many concerns and fears that parents (and children) face when home alone,  and provide helpful tips for making those hours more secure.  For local information search: Child Safety Laws for children at home alone in your city and state, or call your local Child Protective Services office.



American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: Home Alone Children

(excerpt) There are many issues and potential risks and dangers that parent(s) should consider before a child is placed in this situation. Parent(s) should consider the following:

bullet Age readiness
bullet Definition of parental "rules and expectations"
bullet How to access parent(s) or other adults (e.g. phone numbers)
bullet Potentially unsafe situations (e.g. medical emergencies, fire, alcohol, drugs, strangers, guns, etc.)
bullet When and how to answer the phone or doorbell
bullet Use of phone, 911 for emergencies
bullet Use of computer (internet)
bullet Friends and visitors coming to the house
bullet Responsibilities for siblings
bullet Use of unstructured time (e.g. watch TV, videos, etc.); and
bullet Access to "adult" cable TV; internet chat rooms and adult web sites

It is not possible to make a general statement about when a child can be left home. Many states have laws which hold parents responsible for the supervision of their children. Older adolescents are usually responsible enough to manage alone for limited periods of time. Parent(s) must consider the child's level of maturity and past evidence of responsible behavior and good judgement. When a child is ready to be left alone, a graduated approach should be used starting with a very short period of time (i.e.1 hour).

Parent(s) should talk with their youngsters to prepare them for each of the issues or potential problems listed above. In addition, parent(s) should strive to make their home as safe as possible from obvious dangers and hazards and rehearse the developed "emergency plan" with their children. Parents should also teach their child important safety precautions (i.e. locking the door, dealing with strangers or visitors who come to the house, use of the stove, etc.)

Being home alone can be a frightening and potentially dangerous situation for many children and adolescents. Parents should strive to limit the times when children are home alone. Parents should prepare their children in advance for how to deal with situations that may arise.


Mesa Arizona Police Dept:  Latchkey Children           Teach Your Children:

bullet To memorize their name and address, including city and state.
bullet To memorize their phone number, including area code.
bullet To use both pushbutton and rotary dial telephones to make emergency, local, and long distance calls and to reach the operator.
bullet To check in with your or a neighbor immediately after arriving home.
bullet To never go into your home if a door is ajar or a window is broken.
bullet How to work your home's door and window locks and lock them when they are at home alone.
bullet How to answer the doorbell and telephone when they're home alone.
bullet Not to go into anyone else's home without your permission.
bullet To avoid walking or playing alone.
bullet That a stranger is someone neither you nor they know well.
bullet That if they feel they're being followed, either on foot or by a car, to run to the nearest public place, neighbor, or "Safe-House."
bullet To tell you if anyone asks them to keep a secret, offers them gifts or money, or asks to take their picture.
bullet To always tell you if something happened while they were away from you that made them feel uncomfortable in any way.

 Information Parents Should Have In Case a Child Is Missing:                                                                    


 Current Photo


 Physical Description




 Dental Records (or access to)  


 List of Friends' names/phone numbers/addresses


 List of Places the child hangs out

(This information is provided by the National Crime Prevention Council and the Mesa Police Department.)

The Polly Klaas Foundation has a Child ID booklet that can be ordered by phone or from their web site.  1-800-587-HELP







Parental Support

Education Commission of the States
Home Alone
Parent Information& Resource Centers
Parenting Issues
Supplemental Education Services


US Dept of Health and Human Services- National Child Care Information Center: 
Children Home Alone and Babysitter Guidelines

National Parent Information Network: (Eric Clearinghouse) -
Are the Children Home Alone? (Don't Worry, Be Savvy) 
At Home Alone - Tips for Grown-ups

National Crime Prevention Council:
At Home Alone
































































































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