In Texas, you could go to jail for leaving a child at home alone unless they’re this age

School is almost out and according to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, children under 12 shouldn’t be left at home alone.

Parents could be accused of neglectful supervision if an underage child is left at home unattended. This can result in lawsuits, fines, or even jail time.

Neglectful supervision is defined as “placing a child in or failing to remove a child from a situation that a reasonable person would realize requires judgment actions beyond the child’s level of maturity, physical condition, or mental abilities and that results in bodily injury or substantial risk of immediate harm to the child.”

More than half of Texas’s confirmed cases of abuse and neglect are the result of negligent supervision. In 2011, it accounted 75% of all confirmed cases of child abuse or neglect.

Texas law doesn’t explicitly state how old a child must be to stay at home alone, but the state does offer recommendations to parents in the form of guidelines.

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You should ask yourself the following questions according to DFPS:

  • How old, emotionally mature and capable is my child?

  • What is the layout and safety of the home, play area or other setting?

  • What are the hazards and risks in our neighborhood?

  • What is my child’s ability to respond to illness, fire, weather or other types of emergencies?

  • Does my child have a mental, physical or medical disability?

  • How many children are being left unsupervised?

  • Do they know where you are?

  • Can they contact you or other responsible adults?

  • How long and how often is your child or children left alone?

Before you leave your child alone, teach them these safety tips

Before leaving your child behind at home, experts at Thompson Law recommend making sure to plan for their safety, and talk to them about what to do in various situations that may come up while they are alone. Here are the ideas for safety and preparedness that the experts suggest:

  • Make sure they have memorized their full name, address, and phone number.

  • Provide instructions on what to do if someone comes to the door or calls on the phone.

  • Set boundaries for what they are allowed to do online.

  • Provide emergency contact information including access to you plus a trusted friend or neighbor.

  • Make a plan for where they should go and what they should do if they need to leave the house.

  • Provide instructions for what to do if they are injured.

  • If they have any allergies, make a plan for what to do in a reaction.