By Kelly Youngblood
A proposed policy by Illinois lawmakers could change the laws on leaving your child home alone.
Current Illinois law states leaving a child under 14 home alone (or 13 if left alone longer than 24 hours) could get you into trouble IF parents completely disregard the safety and welfare of the child.
But pending legislation proposed by Rep. John Anthony earlier this year would lower the age to 12.
While the age of a child is a consideration, the law looks at several other factors to determine child neglect or abandonment. Namely, whether or not a child’s health and well-being have been ignored.
Illinois statute looks at 15 different factors to determine whether a child’s physical and mental health have been regarded including the age of the child, the number of children left at the location, any special needs of the child, the duration of time in which the child was left, the condition and location of the place, the time of day or night, the weather conditions and many more.
Veronica Resa, Deputy Director of Communications and Marketing at Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, said the laws surrounding child abandonment and neglect are purposely ambiguous.
“It was written that way because each case is unique,” Resa said. “It’s left ambiguous because of the different scenarios where a child could get hurt if (he or she) is left alone.”
The law defines child neglect as leaving a minor under 14 years of age “without supervision for an unreasonable period of time without regard for the mental or physical health, safety, or welfare of that minor.”
Child abandonment is defined by Illinois law as leaving a child under 13 alone, without supervision by a responsible person over 14, for a period of 24 hours or more “without regard for the mental or physical health, safety, or welfare of that child.”
Resa said parents should remember the Department of Child and Family Services isn’t out “looking to take children away from parents who leave them home alone.”
She said they are typically brought into a situation by a mandated reporter such as a police officer to investigate allegations of neglect.
“We’re not the first-responder to something like this. We’re the middlemen. If you understand that I think you can probably understand why the legislation is so open-ended and ambiguous,” Resa said.
She noted Rep. Anthony’s bill is currently pending and has not been called.
For more information about leaving your child home alone, click here.
Here is the synopsis of the proposed HB6263 introduced by Rep. John Anthony on Feb. 11.
NOTE: The following month on March 30, Anthony filed an amendment to the bill that replaced the age of 10 with 12:
Amends the Juvenile Court Act of 1987. Provides that a neglected minor includes any minor under the age of 10 (rather than 14) years whose parent or other person responsible for the minor’s welfare leaves the minor without supervision for an unreasonable period of time without regard for the mental or physical health, safety, or welfare of that minor.
Amends the Criminal Code of 2012. Provides that a person commits child abandonment when he or she, as a parent, guardian, or other person having physical custody or control of a child, without regard for the mental or physical health, safety, or welfare of that child, knowingly leaves that child who is under the age of 10 (rather than 13) without supervision by a responsible person over the age of 14 for a period of 24 hours or more.