Can a 10 year old babysit for a 2 year old sibling?

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Can a 10 year old babysit for a 2 year old sibling?

This is in NY.

Asked on December 30, 2011 under Family Law, New York

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

In only 2 states is the age at which a child can be left at home alone legislated; NY is not one of them.  Rather, the legal check is whether or not the child is safe and has the ability to take care of themselves (although 12 years of age appears to be the most common recommendation).

There are however some items for parents (or other these decision-makers) to consider before leaving a child alone. While not all-inclusive here is a checklist to consider in making an intelligent and reasoned decision:

  • The child - How mature are they? How comfortable are they with the circumstances? What have they done in the past to show you they are able to take on this kind of responsibility?
  • The child’s knowledge and ability - Do they know how and when to contact emergency help? Are they able to prepare food for themself? Are there hazards to them in the environment such as accessible knives, power tools, stove, or an oven?
  • The circumstances - Where will they be when left alone? How long is the child to be alone? Is the general are of where the residence is located safe?

These same questions should be asked when considering whether a child is old enough to babysit. However, when considering if a child can also be a responsible babysitter, the above factors must be evaluated for both the babysitter and the needs of the child (or children) who will be cared for. A child of 12 might be fine alone for 2 hours in an afternoon. Yet, the same child may be incapable of adequately caring for a 2-year-old for that same period of time.

Bottom line, good judgement and common sense should tell you what is or isn't acceptable.


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