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Should you leave your child home alone?

Nadine WIlson
Monday, July 02, 2012

SCHOOLS will be out this week and already parents are trying to decide where to leave their children while they are at work.

Some will go the safer method of leaving them in the care of suitable guardians, but others with no such options will probably leave them home alone.

However, leaving a young child unsupervised could possibly land you in trouble with the law, as this is considered a form of neglect as is outlined in the Child Care and Protection Act (2004).

"Neglect, assault, physical/mental ill-treatment, abandonment or exposure causing suffering or injury of any child is defined as cruelty to children," explained Trevesa DaSilva Ashman, public education specialist at the Office of the Children's Registry.

Parents found guilty of contravening this law could be fined or face imprisonment with hard labour for a term not exceeding five years, or both, if convicted in a Circuit Court. If indicted by a Resident Magistrate, such a person could be fined $1M or face imprisonment with hard labour for a term not exceeding three years, or both.

Da-Silva Ashman said parents contemplating leaving their children home alone must consider factors such as how the child would be cared for should an intruder enter the property or in the event of a natural disaster. She said they ought to consider, too, how the child would be taken to the hospital in the event that they get ill.

Instead of leaving children home alone, the OCR suggests that parents:

1. Take the child to a registered daycare or after care centre.

2. Enlist the child in an affordable summer programme with a school or church, for example summer school, summer camp or bible school.

3. Place the child in the care of a responsible and trusted relative, neighbour or family friend

4. Find out from your employer if it is possible to take the child to work and plan structured activities for the child so as to reduce the level of disruption.

5. Community members can initiate an informal programme of activities for children within the community and enlist the voluntary services of child care/teaching professionals.

Before entrusting your child to someone else, the OCR suggests you do the following:

1.Ensure that the person/caregiver who is being entrusted with your child is responsible, trustworthy and dependable.

2. Ensure that complete and up-to-date contact information is there for the caregiver in whose care your child has been placed.

3. Your emergency contact information should be readily accessible to your child and their caregiver.

4. Adequate food should be provided and instructions given to the caregiver regarding chores, approved methods for punishment, school assignments, allergies and medications that your child may be taking.

5. Keep in touch with your child and their caregiver and where possible, drop in unexpectedly when the child is alone with the caregiver, even if it's a family member.

6. Ask the caregiver about the specifics of planned activities before your child leaves your care, and where possible, ensure activities are observable, if not by you, then at least by others.

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