Updated Dec. 11, 2018
The long winter holiday break and possible school closures because of inclement weather means more free time for many kids – and parent/guardian concerns about leaving children unsupervised at home. Every child is different and parents are ultimately responsible for making decisions about their child’s safety. There are no laws in Virginia that say when or for how long a child can be left alone. If you feel your child is ready to be left at home unsupervised, here are guidelines developed by social workers and community partners. It is important to understand these are only guidelines.
If you have questions, call the Child Protective Services Hotline at 703-324-7400, TTY 703-222-9452.
- 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 and under:
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 to 10 years:
May be ready to be left unsupervised up to 1.5 hours during daylight and early evening hours.
11 to 12 years:
May be ready to be left unsupervised up to 3 hours during daylight and early evening hours.
13 to 15 years:
May be ready to be left unsupervised more than three hours but not overnight.
16 and older:
May be ready to be left unsupervised overnight for one to two days, with a plan in place.
- Guidelines for Selecting a Babysitter
- Recognizing Child Abuse and Neglect
- Student Safety and Wellness