Home Alone: the laws concerning leaving a child without supervision at home

  • Published
  • By Tiffany Esparza
  • Family Advocacy

If you are a parent who is facing the decision of having to leave their child home alone, try to find someone they trust to watch them, or pay for child care, you are probably wondering: At what age is it appropriate to leave a child home alone? 

The first thing to do is remember Safety first, and providing proper supervision of children is the number one thing we can do to keep children safe.  With that being said, in Texas, there is no law that specifies an age that children may be left alone at home.  However, according to Texas Department of Family and Child Protective Services, “an adult caregiver is accountable for the child’s care and inadequate supervision can be a type of neglect (neglectful supervision).”  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 or 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.” (Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, n.d.)  Unfortunately 75 percent of all confirmed child victims of abuse or neglect in 2011 were because of Neglectful Supervision.  (Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, n.d.)

So, how do I know if I can leave my child home by him/herself? 

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services asks that you take the following into consideration:

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

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

    • What are the hazards and risks in the neighborhood?

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

    • Does your 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 the child (or children) left alone?

Now if you live in the Freedom Estates housing area, across from the Sheppard Hospital Gate, you do have rules and regulations in regards to leaving your child at home unsupervised and are held to those standards. You may reference the residence guide (pg. 25-26) online at www.sheppardafbhomes.com.

Please see below for the guidelines for Freedom Estates in regards to leaving your child unsupervised for any period of time: 








Residents are responsible for the safeguard and control of all family members.


1. Supervision is necessary for the protection, care, and management of children and youth. The safety and well-being of children and youth is a priority.


2. Parents are held accountable for their decisions regarding their child’s/children’s supervision and any misconduct by juveniles/adolescents. The following provide the standards for the supervision of children and youth on Sheppard Air Force Base:


a. No child, 5 years or younger, will be left unattended at any time.

b. Children, 6-9 years of age, will not be left alone at any time but may be permitted to play outside as long as a                           responsible adult provides direct supervision

c. Children, 10-11 years of age may be left unattended during the day for periods not to exceed two hours.

d. Children, 12 years of age, may be left unattended during the day and in the early evenings not to exceed four hours.                 Children this age may also care for younger siblings during the same four-hour period.

e. Children, 13-15 years of age, may be left unattended during the day or evening hours not to exceed eight hours.                      Children this age may care for younger children other than their own siblings during this time for up to 8 hours.

f. Children, 16 years of age and older, may be left unattended, to include overnight. Children this age may also babysit                 younger siblings during this time.


We recommend that all childcare providers, whether attending younger children in their own home or another resident’s home, be at least thirteen (13) years of age and have completed the Red Cross Babysitting Course or similar course whose curriculum has been approved by Child Youth Services (CYS) or Family Child Care Office, 676-2038.


 Additionally, we recommend that adolescent baby sitters not watch more than two children at one time with no more than one of these children being under the age of two years.


 Residents will ensure that their children respect and do not damage private property. Fireworks, air rifles, pellet guns, paintball guns and all firearms will not be discharged anywhere within the community.


There are also Juvenile Curfew regulations as well which can be found on page 26 of the Residence Guide:


 Any child eighteen (18) years and younger will not be in a public place on Sheppard Air Force Base from the period of Sunday-Thursday, 2300 to 0600, and Friday 0001-0600.


For the purpose of this policy, a public place is defined as any location other than a resident’s own home and yard or the home and yard where resident is an invited guest.

There is no curfew violation if the child was in a public place during the established curfew hours and is:


 Accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.


 Accompanied by an adult at least twenty-one (21) years old and with parental or legal guardian permission.


 Attending a school, religious, community, government-sponsored or work activity. This includes the travel to and from the activity and travel during the activity (i.e. newspaper carriers).


 In a public place as a result or parental direction or to make an emergency errand (i.e. seeking medical assistance).


 On the sidewalk abutting his or her on-base home or abutting the residence of a next door neighbor, provided that the next door neighbor does not object to the minor’s presence.


 The juvenile is attending an official function. The curfew for such juveniles begins one half hour after the official termination of such events.


Please keep in mind that everyone is responsible in making sure children are safe. If you suspect any child abuse or neglect, please notify the proper authorities.


CPS: Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 1-800-252-5400

Family Advocacy: 940-676-2271

  *If after hours call command post @ 940-676-6226

WFPD:  940-761-7792 or 940-720-5000

In an emergency situation, call 911 immediately.