Child Supervision Guidelines


This page is being reviewed and may be revised.

When is it safe to leave a child home alone?

For most parents, answering this question can be difficult.

Fortunately, here in Fairfax County, social work and community professionals have developed guidelines to help parents decide when it might be safe to leave a child unsupervised.


Child Supervision Guidelines

Lack of supervision is one of the most prevalent child neglect problems in Fairfax County.

The following represent minimally acceptable standards for the supervision of children. These guidelines have been developed by social work professionals in collaboration with the community. REMEMBER, they are guidelines only.

There may be situations, even within these guidelines, when it is not safe to leave a child unsupervised. Parents are ultimately responsible for making decisions about their child’s safety.

Whenever any child is unsupervised / unattended the following should apply ...

  • There must be no emotional, medical, or behavioral problems which affect judgement or decision-making skills.
  • Child must be comfortable being alone.
  • Youth must have a safety plan worked out with the parent/caretaker, which includes:
    • How to access parent or other responsible adult at all times (including knowing the parent/caretaker’s whereabouts and having a telephone number where parent can be reached).
    • What to do in case of emergency.
    • Guidelines for acceptable behavior.
    • Knowledge of emergency telephone numbers.
  • Youth must demonstrate the ability to follow the safety plan and to make decisions that reflect concern for personal safety.

Age Guidelines ...

7 years and under:
Should not be left alone for any period of time. This may include leaving children unattended in cars, playgrounds, and backyards. The determining consideration would be the dangers in the environment and the ability of the caretaker to intervene.

8 to 10 years:
Should not be left alone for more than 1½ hours and only during daylight and early evening hours.

11 to 12 years:
May be left alone for up to 3 hours but not late at night or in circumstances requiring inappropriate responsibility.

13 to 15 years:
May be left unsupervised, but not overnight.

16 to 17 years:
May be left unsupervised (in some cases, for up to two consecutive overnight periods).

 

Related Resources

Guidelines for Selecting a Babysitter

Recognizing Child Abuse and Neglect

Child Care Central (information on child care in Fairfax County)

www.nccic.org
National Child Care Information Center

www.census.gov/population/www/socdemo/childcare.html
U.S. Census Bureau - child care information

www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/occ
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - Office of Child Care (OCC)

 Questions?
Child Protective Services
HELPLINE
703-324-7400

TTY 703-222-9452

 

family on bed

 

Age Guidelines ...

  • 7 years and under: Should not be left alone for any period of time.
  • 8 to 10 years: Should not be left alone for more than 1½ hours and only during daylight and early evening hours.
  • 11 to 12 years: May be left alone for up to 3 hours but not late at night.
  • 13 to 15 years: May be left unsupervised, but not overnight.
  • 16 to 17 years:May be left unsupervised.

 

woman and child with toy bin

 

man and girl clapping

 




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Fairfax County Department of Family Services
[ 12011 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, VA 22035 ]
[ 703-324-7500 ]

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