It's a rite of passage. I think most of us as adults remember the very first time our parents thought we were old enough to be at home alone. I was 12. Yes, my parents were crazy protective. I remember how it felt to be old enough to do whatever I wanted, eat whatever I could find in the kitchen and snoop around.

I did make a few messes and my clumsy attempts to clean them up were not well-received when my parents got home. There were a ton more rules the next time they trusted me to stay at home by myself.

Many parents who face childcare issues must face the question of whether they should leave their children alone at home. Sometimes it's just for a short errand. Other times it's while they go to work. Here in Texas, is it illegal?

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Depending upon the circumstances and the age of the child, leaving a kid at home or in a vehicle can lead to serious consequences. In Texas, you can be charged with three different crimes depending upon the circumstances. Those felony charges include abandoning, endangering, and, if the child is under 7, leaving a child in a vehicle.

Photo: Tri-cities
Photo: Tri-cities
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Texas law does not specify at what age a child is old enough to stay home alone.  However, if you decide to leave your child under 15 home alone and something bad happens, you could face criminal abandonment charges.

Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash
Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash
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Under Texas Penal Code 22.041(b), a person commits an offense if, having custody, care, or control of a child younger than 15 years, he or she intentionally abandons the child in any place under circumstances that expose the child to an unreasonable risk of harm.

Under Texas Penal Code 22.041(c), a person commits child endangerment if he or she intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence, by act or omission, engages in conduct that places a child younger than 15 years in imminent danger of death, bodily injury, or physical or mental impairment.

This covers leaving a dangerous item like an unsecured handgun somewhere a child could find it and use it to cause harm.

Under Texas Penal Code 22.10, it is illegal to leave a child alone in a motor vehicle for more than five minutes, if the child is younger than 7 and is not accompanied by someone 14 or older.

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If your child is going to be home alone, there are things that the American Red Cross recommends for parents:

1) Post an emergency phone list where children can see it and know where it is. This should include 9-1-1.  This should include parents work and cell numbers, numbers for neighbors or anyone else nearby who can be trusted.

2) Practice an emergency plan, so they know what to do if there is a fire, injury or other emergency

3) Let children know where flashlights are and keep batteries fresh.

4) Remove or safely store dangerous items like guns, knives, hand tools, power tools, razor blades, scissors and other items than can cause injury. Also make sure poisons and mediations are safely locked away.

5) Limit or Ban cooking. Make sure your smoke alarms are working properly.

6) If children have access to smart phones or tablets, make sure they do not go on social media and share that they are home alone, or sharing their location with any adult they do not know.

7) Make sure they know all doors stay locked and are not opened for anyone.

Photo by Bianca Berndt on Unsplash
Photo by Bianca Berndt on Unsplash
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It's hard for many parents to afford childcare and babysitting these days. It can be tempting to leave a child alone. It can be risky, although the level of maturity an vary from child to child. It's something you should never take lightly as it could leave you with a lifetime of regret and in serious legal jeopardy if something goes wrong. Proceed with caution.

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