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How Old Do My Kids Need To Be Before I Can Leave Them Home Alone?

How Old Do My Kids Need To Be Before I Can Leave Them Home Alone?

Happy mixed-race girl sitting with a glass of pure water

In Winston-Salem, North Carolina, a mother faces charges after her young children, ages 3 and 5, were left home alone and reported missing, igniting a crucial conversation on parental responsibilities. This incident provides a stark backdrop to many parents’ pressing question: “How old do my kids need to be before I can leave them home alone?”

North Carolina law doesn’t specify an age, leaving parents to navigate the murky waters of legal and moral judgment. Let’s take a look into what the law says and how you can assess your child’s readiness for this significant step.

There is No Specific Age According to NC Law

First, it might surprise you that no law in North Carolina says, “Your child needs to be this old to stay home alone.” Instead, a couple of statutes touch on related issues but don’t give us a clear-cut age.

What the Laws Do Say…

Regarding Neglect

There’s a law that prohibits doing things that could lead to a child being seen as neglected. This means making sure they’re correctly taken care of and supervised. But it doesn’t give a specific age when leaving them alone would be considered neglect.

Regarding Safety and Fire Hazards 

While this law specifically addresses the risks associated with fire, it makes it illegal to confine a child under eight years old without proper supervision. If anything happens to a child under eight while left alone, the parent will be heavily scrutinized for that decision under the law. This is the closest North Carolina has to an actual age at which a child can be left alone “by law,” but it is more of a guideline for specific situations. 

So, What Should You Do?

Since there’s no set age, you need to think about a few things before deciding if your child is ready to stay home alone:


  • Maturity: How mature is your child? Can they handle being by themselves for a while?
  • Time Alone: How long will they be alone? A quick trip to the store is different from being out all day.
  • Safety: Is your neighborhood safe? Does your child know what to do in an emergency?
  • Communication: Can your child easily reach you or another adult if they need help?

And What About Siblings?

Just because your child might be okay on their own, it doesn’t automatically mean they’re ready to look after younger brothers or sisters. That’s a whole other responsibility. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services may get involved if there are concerns about neglect, particularly for children younger than eight left alone under circumstances deemed unsafe.

In a Nutshell

There’s no magic age in North Carolina for your kids to stay home alone. You’ve got to make the call based on how mature and prepared they are. Remember, if anything happens while they’re alone, the parents must answer for it, especially if the child is under eight. So, take your time to think it over and make the best decision for your family.

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Carolyn Bellof

Carolyn Bellof is a Certified Family Law Specialist in North Carolina. She brings empathy and a personal understanding of loss and resilience to her clients, ensuring their legal needs are protected during emotionally challenging family law proceedings.

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