Here’s How Old Illinois Kids Have To Be To Be Left Home Alone
You may have seen it pointed out that Kevin McCallister's parents in the movie Home Alone (set here in Illinois) would have been looking at serious trouble for leaving an 8 year old to knock around that fabulous house all by himself.
If the McCallisters were following Illinois law, they wouldn't have headed for Paris without Kevin for another 6 years. But, they didn't, and didn't get in any trouble.
(As a side note, although some of these photos feature kids looking sadly alone, keep in mind that someone had to have taken the photos, so these kids do have somebody around, even if it's just a creepy stock-photographer)
It's Illegal For Parents In Illinois To Leave A Child Under The Age Of 14 Home Alone, At Least For Now
When you look at the age a child can be left alone on a state-by-state basis, it quickly becomes clear that Illinois' minimum age of 14 years old is two years older than any other state in the United States.
As a matter of fact, there are only 14 states that even set a minimum age. The other 36 have no minimum age. (WorldPopulationReview.com)
- 14 Years Old: Illinois
- 12 Years Old: Mississippi, Delaware, and Colorado
- 11 Years Old: Michigan
- 10 Years Old: Washington, Tennessee, Oregon, and New Mexico
- 9 Years Old: North Dakota
- 8 Years Old: North Carolina, Maryland, and Georgia
- 6 Years Old: Kansas
- No Age: 36 states
Illinois House Bill Changes That Age From 14 To 12
Illinois State Representative Sue Scherer (D-Decatur) introduced the bill in December after multiple families expressed concern according to a report at IllinoisPolicy.org.
I have lots of constituents who have reached out to me about this. It’s causing a lot of hardship on our working families. People who have talked to me say, ‘I have a 13-year-old and I want to leave them alone for a half an hour between when I have to go to work and when they have to go to school.’ It is very extreme the way the law is written right now.
The wording of the current law in place with the 14 year old minimum requirement has also caused some concern. It currently reads like this:
“any minor under the age of 14 years whose parent or other person responsible for the minor’s welfare leaves the minor without supervision for an unreasonable period of time without regard for the mental or physical health, safety, or welfare of that minor.”
If you just asked yourself what constitutes "an unreasonable period of time," you've caught on to the problem. It leaves the interpretation up to government officials. IllinoisPolicy.org:
Wilmette mother Corey Widen knows it all too well. In 2018, she let her 8-year-old daughter, Dorothy, walk their dog, Marshmallow, around the block. A neighbor noticed her walking alone and called the police, who saw no grounds for negligence.
But the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services opened an investigation. After enough scrutiny and uncertainty to leave mother and daughter traumatized, DCFS dropped the case.