Policy on Babysitting, Daycare & Supervision
This policy has been established in conjunction with the Wood County Prosecutor’s Office and the Interdisciplinary Team.
13 Years and Older
These children do not necessarily need a sitter unless they have special needs or are known to engage in unruly or delinquent behaviors. Excessive periods (i.e. weekends) without access to supervision or monitoring is a problem for any minor.
10 – 12 years of age
Children this age most probably do not need a sitter and, in fact, many 11 and 12 year olds babysit other children. (The Red Cross Babysitting Course requires participants to be at least 11 years old). This age group’s maturity level and abilities can vary greatly due to developmental differences and should be carefully reviewed.
8-9 years of age
This is a common age for parents to allow their children to be “latch key kids” – or by themselves for short amounts of time (usually before or after school until a parent arrives home from work).
This age group should always have direct access to a helping person if the need should arise (the parent, neighbor, grandmother, etc.) and the time alone should be limited to under 2 hours. There also must be careful planning on the part of the parent to ensure that the child has a key, knows where they live, has access to emergency assistance (i.e. a phone), and whom to contact. The emergency contact person needs to be aware of and willing to assist with this responsibility.
If the child is unable to handle this responsibility and problems result, then this is not an adequate plan. Many families have financial barriers that must be taken into consideration.
7 years and under
These children need direct supervision or immediate access to an adult, or responsible person, at all times. Parents need to know these children’s whereabouts at all times. Infants and toddlers should never be left alone at home or in the car – awake or asleep – for any amount of time. Inadequate supervision for children this young often results in criminal charges.
A parent is liable for the care and supervision of their child until they are 18 (or older if they are incapacitated or special needs). This makes it hard to draw any lines where supervision is not needed. We feel that good parental judgment is knowing just what your child can handle within the above age guidelines.
There are no laws directly relating to this area of concern. However, there is social and legal consensus. Parents should be cautious about their child’s supervision because when left to their own devices, any of the following (and more) can happen:
- The child may be caught in a crisis and not be able to react appropriately, such as a fire, a burglar, illness, poisoning, burning themselves while cooking, a drowning accident, getting badly cut, breaking a bone, have a serious fall, etc. A good question to ask yourself is whether your child can make split second decisions in an emergency.
- Children (especially siblings) tend to quarrel and fight when not supervised and this can lead to trouble without parental or supervisory intervention.
- Children at increasingly younger ages are becoming involved with alcohol and drugs and this is certainly more likely to happen when they are left unsupervised.
- Children who are unsupervised are more likely to leave the house, wander around and get into juvenile trouble as they are bored and may feel unloved or unwanted.
- Children left alone are more likely to leave with: 1) a parent who does not have custody; 2) a person they are not supposed to “hang around” with; and/or 3) a kidnapper (this is an increasingly horrible reality).
Agency Policy on Babysitting and Daycare
When your own teenager wants to babysit, it is important for you, as a parent, to participate in this decision and know what kind of people your child will be sitting for and under what circumstances.
- Is your child responsible enough to care for other children?
- Can he/she cope in a crisis?
- Will he/she know what to do or whom to call in an emergency?
There are several “babysitting clinics” available to train teenagers. This training may be available at your local school, YMCA or recreation department. These are well-organized and a teenager who wants to baby-sit should take this course. Also, a parent should be sure their child is not being exploited by the people he/she is sitting for (i.e. knowing where the parents will be, not sitting for too many children, etc.).
Some of the important qualifications to consider when employing a babysitter are:
- Does the sitter use drugs or alcohol?
- Is he/she alert and capable of paying attention to your child’s needs?
- Will your sitter be too busy talking on the telephone and/or visiting with friends to spend time with your child?
- Is your babysitter mature and wise enough to handle the problems of disciplining your child without using corporal punishment?
A lot of thought must be put into the decisions as to when your children can be left home alone or with someone else. These guidelines have been prepared to assist you with this decision.