Allowing older siblings to watch over younger siblings at home is cost effective, teaches them all responsibility and gives parents a break to bond with one another occasionally.
Knowing your eldest child and their capabilities, however, is something crucial for all parents in order to avoid trouble with the law. Leaving too many children for too long with a child who isn't mentally prepared could be deemed neglect by a judge.
Sgt. Carol Ogrinc of the New Canaan Police Department addressed the very subjective issue of when children can be considered old enough to babysit.
"It depends on the child in charge. There's no legal age saying you have to be 12 or 13," said Ogrinc. "DCS family guidelines recommends 15 being an age when people can be in charge of other people, but it also depends on the child in care, how long and how many children. "It's a lot of things like that so it's hard to say. It all depends on the circumstances."
Ogrinc also clarified the acceptance of the 11-year-old children into babysitting courses.
"People get confused because, I always hear, 'I signed up my daughter for babysitting classes as early as 11.' That's not to leave a child or children at home with an 11-year-old, but more to prepare someone for something like that when they're older. An 11-year-old could help out as a babysitter when a parent is present, but I do not believe those classes are intended to suggest, 'Okay, you've taken the class, now you're ready to babysit at 11.'"
A Red Cross representative could not be reached for comment at the time of publication. Stay Patched in for an update.
A message from the officer of the Attorney General George Jepsen reinforces Ogrinc's comments on babysitting:
"Connecticut law does not specify at what age a child may be left home alone. When deciding whether or not to leave a child home alone, a parent should consider the child's age. Many experts believe that a children should be at least 12 years of age before they are allowed to stay home alone. Experts also believe that children should be over the age of 15 before caring for a younger sibling.
"Additionally, parents should consider other factors when deciding if their child is ready to stay at home alone. A child's maturity should be considered. Also, a child's ability to handle urgent situations should be reviewed. A parent should also take into account the environment in which the child will be alone, and the child's feelings about being alone."
Much concern arose among readers after an incident in town in which a mother was arrested for leaving her four children at home under the , after a neighbor alerted police that woman's four-year-old had wandered away from the home.
The mother is due to appear in court on June 18. Stay Patched in for the verdict.