Can I leave my child alone?
There are no laws in Virginia that say when or for how long a child can be left alone. Working with other jurisdictions in Northern Virginia, Fairfax County has developed these supervision guidelines for parents and caretakers to consider before leaving a child alone.
Parents are ultimately responsible for making decisions about their children’s safety. Every child is different and must be assessed based on their maturity, skills and comfort level to be home alone.
Is my child ready? Does he or she:
- understand instructions and follow important rules?
- know how to ask for help from friends, neighbors, and police?
- make good decisions when away from you or other adults?
- know when to contact you and 911 when needed?
- feel comfortable and confident about staying home alone?
- 8 years old and younger should always be in the care of a responsible person. Children this age should never be left unsupervised in homes, cars, playgrounds or yards.
- 9-10 years old may be ready to be left unsupervised up to 1.5 hours during daylight and early evening hours.
- 11-12 years old may be ready to be left unsupervised up to 3 hours during daylight and early evening hours.
- 13-15 years old may be ready to be left unsupervised more than three hours but not overnight.
- 16 years old and older may be ready to be left unsupervised overnight for one to two days, with a plan in place.
- 10-12 years old may provide care of other children for up to three hours with the help of an adult.
- 13-15 years old may babysit infants and children but not overnight.
- 16 years old and older may watch children overnight.
In addition, Fairfax County offers these steps to prepare your child to be left home alone.
Questions? Call the Child Protective Services Hotline 703-324-7400, TTY 703-222-9452.