Virginia state statutes do not set a specific age after which a child legally can stay alone. Age alone is not a very good indicator of a child's maturity level. Some very mature 10 year olds may be ready for self care while some 15 year olds may not be ready due to emotional problems or behavioral difficulties. In determining whether a child is capable of being left alone and whether a parent is providing adequate supervision in latchkey situations, Child Protective Services (CPS) will assess several areas.
Areas of Assessment
Child's Level of Maturity
CPS will want to assess whether the child is:
Affected by any special physical, emotional, or behavioral problems that make it unwise for them to be left alone
Emotionally ready to be alone
Knowledgeable of what to do and whom to call if an emergency arises
Mentally capable of recognizing and avoiding danger and making sound decisions
Physically capable of taking care of himself
It is important to note that a child who can take care of him/herself may not be ready to care for younger children.
Accessibility of Those Responsible for the Child
CPS will want to determine:
Location and proximity of the parents/guardians
Whether the child knows the location of parents/guardians how to reach them
Whether guardians can be reached by phone and can get home quickly if needed
CPS will want to assess the situation including:
Safety of the home or neighborhood
Time of day and length of time the children will be left alone
Whether the parents have arranged for nearby adults to be available in case a problem arises
Whether there is a family history of child abuse or neglect
Some localities have ordinances concerning the age at which a child may be left without supervision.