This week, a Conway woman was arrested on two counts of cruelty to a child after leaving her children at home alone. The children’s father called police when he believed their mother left them home alone. Police found the children, ages 11 and seven, at home alone at about 11:00 on a Saturday night. When their mom returned home, officers said she smelled heavily of alcohol and failed a field sobriety test.
She was arrested for child cruelty and driving under an unlawful alcohol content. She was released from jail the next day after posting bond.
This story sparked the question in some moms who want to know if they are at risk for being arrested when they leave their children at home.
In particular, Jennifer emailed us wondering what the state law is pertaining to this. She said, “Lot of parents leave their school age children home alone so that they can work or go shopping. I leave my 12 year old alone with my 9 & 3 year old to go to the grocery store ....am I at risk of being arrested too? Let me state though that I do not agree with her leaving them to go out drinking! A parent knows if their child is responsible enough to babysit!”
There actually isn’t any state law regarding when a child can be left alone. However, there are “regulations,” which say no child under the age of nine should be left alone. The regulations boil down to what Jennifer said, “A parent knows if their child is responsible.”
The Children’s Trust of South Carolina strongly recommends talking with your child about how he or she feels about being left alone and reviewing possible scenarios that could happen while they have no supervision. They should be familiar with household electrical appliances, know how to respond if they need to make a 911 call, and be equipped with a basic First Aid kit.
The Department of Social Services said officers and judges decide on a case-by-case basis if there should be any punishment or legal action taken when a child (or children) is left home alone.
To view all of the guidelines laid out by the Children’s Trust of South Carolina, click here (and skip to page 46.)
For more information on this question or others related to children’s safety and well-being, contact the Dept. of Social Services at (803) 898-7601.