It’s a rite of passage most parents look forward to: When their child finally reaches an age where they can be left at home without supervision. Still, it’s the duty of every parent to ensure their child is safe.
Failing to do so can lead to criminal charges, especially if you leave a child home alone who shouldn’t be. So how do you know when your child is old enough to be home alone?
Read on to find out!
The Right Age in Texas
In Texas, the age a child can be left at home without supervision isn’t dictated by the law. Instead, there are factors that parents should consider, outlined by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
Key Indicators a Child Can Safely Stay Home Alone
These indicators will let you know when your child has reached an appropriate point in their development to be left unsupervised for a period of time:
- How emotionally mature your child is
- How capable your child is
- If the home is safe for the child to be left unsupervised
- If your child has the capability to respond to emergencies such as illness, fire, or weather
- The number of children that will be left unsupervised in the home
- If your child has any physical, medical, or mental disabilities
- If your child knows where they are and could report their address if needed
- How long they may be left alone for
- If they can contact you or other responsible adults if necessary
Texas Laws on Child Endangerment
Leaving your child home alone when they’re not capable of caring for themselves can result in child endangerment charges.
Even though Texas doesn’t have any laws regarding the age you can leave a child at home, child endangerment and abandonment are taken very seriously in the state.
If something happens to your child when you leave them alone at home, then you can be charged with child endangerment.
Child Abandonment and Neglect
Under the Texas Penal Code, you abandon a child whenever you leave them without necessary and reasonable care. The law also defines neglect as:
- Leaving a child in a position in which they could potentially be exposed to the risk of mental or physical harm
- Placing a child in, or failing to remove them from, a dangerous situation
- Failing to provide the necessary clothing, shelter, or food to the child
- Failing to seek medical care for a child so that their health is put at substantial risk
When Parents Can Face Texas Criminal Charges
You can be charged with child abandonment or endangerment under Texas law if you intentionally leave a child under age 15 in circumstances that expose them to risk or harm.
You can also be charged with abandonment or endangerment if you recklessly, intentionally, through criminal negligence, or knowingly engage in conduct that puts a child at risk of bodily injury, death, or mental or physical impairment.
Penalties for Child Endangerment
It is generally a state jail felony to be convicted of child abandonment or endangerment. Penalties for this can include up to six months in jail and fines up to $10,000.
However, you can be charged with second-degree child abandonment or endangerment if the child was left in a situation that was likely to cause injury, mental or physical impairment, or death. Conviction of this can result in up to 20 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.
About the Author:
After getting his Juris Doctor from the University of Houston Law Center, Jeff Hampton began practicing criminal law in Texas in 2005. Before becoming a defense attorney, he worked as a prosecutor for the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office – experience he uses to anticipate and cast doubt on the arguments that will be used against his clients. Over the course of his career, he has helped countless Texans protect their rights and get the best possible outcome in their criminal cases. He has been named one of the 3 Best DUI Lawyers in Fort Worth, recognized by Expertise, National Trial Lawyers, Avvo, and others, and he is Lead Counsel rated.