Questions Posted to "Ask a Dispatcher"
Q. If my 9 year old was going to be home alone after school until I get home from work (2:45 pm to 5 pm), can I get in trouble for that? Is there a legal age when children are allowed to be at home alone?
Dear Juneau Resident,
There is not a legal age for when kids can be home alone. Whether or not the parent is legally 'endangering' the child has to do with a bunch of factors. To be guilty of child endangerment the parent has to leave the child in circumstances 'creating a substantial risk of physical injury to the child.' (See AS 11.51.100 at the end of this answer.)
So the real issue is, is it safe for your particular child to be home alone? Tough decision point that most parents will face. Don't panic, it's pretty common sense stuff and what isn't common sense is addressed in lots of parenting guides on the internet.
You should consider the child's maturity level as well as his or her desire to take on this responsibility. JPD has had contact with a frustrated mother of a child who called 911 out of boredom. The mother said her older daughter did fine home alone at that age and couldn't understand why her son was struggling. Kids mature a different rates, even in the same family. If you feel like your view might be biased, ask a trusted friend for their take on your child's ability to be home alone.
You will want to make sure your child has access to an adult, like a trusted neighbor you know is at home during that time, should an emergency happen. Your child is old enough to understand 911 and you should talk about when 911 should be called. Some examples are if stranger knocks and is asking to come in or if the child smells smoke.
Obviously items like firearms or prescription drugs have to be secured. Some less obvious hazards to watch out for are cough syrup, currently a trendy drink among some juveniles, or having inappropriate chats on the internet. There are some great articles on the internet about how to address these concerns with children. It is important to know what issues are on the cutting edge so you have an idea of what your child's school friends are discussing.
Sec. 11.51.100. Endangering the welfare of a child in the first degree.
(a) A person commits the crime of endangering the welfare of a child in the first degree if, being a parent, guardian, or other person legally charged with the care of a child under 16 years of age, the person
(1) intentionally deserts the child in a place under circumstances creating a substantial risk of physical injury to the child;
(2) leaves the child with another person who is not a parent, guardian, or lawful custodian of the child knowing that the person
(A) is registered or required to register as a sex offender under AS 12.63 or a law or ordinance in another jurisdiction with similar requirements;
(B) has been charged by complaint, information, or indictment with a violation of AS 11.41.410 - 11.41.455 or a law or ordinance in another jurisdiction with similar elements; or
(C) has been charged by complaint, information, or indictment with an attempt, solicitation, or conspiracy to commit a crime described in (B) of this paragraph; or
(3) leaves the child with another person knowing that the person has previously physically mistreated or had sexual contact with any child, and the other person causes physical injury or engages in sexual contact with the child.
(b) A person commits the crime of endangering the welfare of a minor in the first degree if the person transports a child in a motor vehicle, aircraft, or watercraft while in violation of AS 28.35.030 .
(c) In this section, "physically mistreated" means
(1) having committed an act punishable under AS 11.41.100 - 11.41.250; or
(2) having applied force to a child that, under the circumstances in which it was applied, or considering the age or physical condition of the child, constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would observe in the situation because of the substantial and unjustifiable risk of
(B) serious or protracted disfigurement;
(C) protracted impairment of health;
(D) loss or impairment of the function of a body member or organ;
(E) substantial skin bruising, burning, or other skin injury;
(F) internal bleeding or subdural hematoma;
(G) bone fracture; or
(H) prolonged or extreme pain, swelling, or injury to soft tissue.
(d) Endangering the welfare of a child in the first degree under (a)(3) of this section is a
(1) class B felony if the child dies;
(2) class C felony if the child suffers sexual contact, sexual penetration, or serious physical injury; or
(3) class A misdemeanor if the child suffers physical injury.
(e) Endangering the welfare of a child under (b) of this subsection is a class A misdemeanor.
(f) Endangering the welfare of a child in the first degree under (a)(1) or (2) of this section is a class C felony.