Update to “Leaving Children Home Alone in Oregon”

In addition to Laura’s most recent post on leaving children home alone, June 15, 2009, and our newly updated Kids Home Alone in Oregon legal research guide, here are a few websites with information and resources on leaving children home alone and child care:

1) “Babysitting Basics” class from the Oregon Red Cross:

“Designed for youth ages 8 to 11, this two-and-a-half-hour Red Cross course prepares children to respond safely to a variety of situations when direct parent supervision is unavailable”

The Oregon Red Cross does not condone leaving your children home alone, in fact they explicitly state the Oregon neglect law, but they offer the class to prepare children for emergency situations. You can register for the class online or by phone.

2)Employment Related Day Care (ERDC). The Oregon Department of Human Services provides financial assistance with child care costs for working families whose income is below 185% of the Federal Poverty Level. Initially set to expire in July 2010, funding was extended to 2011. However, although the Oregon Legislative Emergency Board voted to add money to the program’s funds in December 2010, enrollment is capped at 10,000 families. See the ERDC website for FAQs about the service cuts.

3)Backgound Brief on Child Care from the Oregon State Legislature’s Committee Services Office. This brief, from June 2010, provides information on child care facilities, child care resources in Oregon, and staff and agency contact information.

4) Leaving Your Children Home Alone. This factsheet from the Child Welfare Information Gateway, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families, provides information to consider when deciding whether or not your child can or should be left alone.

Leaving Children Alone in Cars:

As a Texan recently transplanted to Oregon, I appreciated this NPR report on a Texas couple whose car was stolen with their toddler in the backseat. After leaving their car unlocked and walking away:

“A homeless man jumped in [the running car] and drove off. But he hadn’t bargained for the toddler. He brought it back and yelled at the couple for leaving the child in the car.”

Texas does have a statue regarding leaving children alone in vehicles, a Class C misdemeanor: Texas Penal Code section 22.10. Oregon does not have a statue specifically addressing leaving children alone in cars, the neglect statute has been applied as seen in the previously cited State v. Obeidi, 211 Or App 377, but there are a number of resources with information on unattended children and vehicles:

1) Children and Cars: A Potentially Lethal Combination from the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA)has a section on unattended children in vehicles and appendices containing state statutes related to child endangerment.

2)Never Leave Your Child Alone in a Car from Safe Kids USA and the related video Why You Never Leave Your Child Alone.

Update to “Leaving Children Home Alone in Oregon”

See recent update (2/10/11), but also click on the Home Alone label at the bottom of this post.
In addition to my new Kids Home Alone in Oregon legal research guide and my rather lengthy previous post, from January 13, 2009, I add these:

1) A corrected link to the “What is the legal age for leaving a child home alone?” information at the Clackamas County Juvenile Department FAQ. This deep link changes periodically so don’t despair. Just hunt around a bit or leave a Comment here and I’ll look for the new link.

2) Oregonians, including law enforcement and DHS, are concerned with what is safe for the child, regardless of age, so make sure you check with your local social service and law enforcement offices.

3) Some local jurisdictions have their own laws about leaving kids on their own, anywhere, e.g. Portland’s City Code, which reads (as of this date):

14A.80.040 Unattended Minors in Vehicles.
It is unlawful for any person having the care and custody of a minor under 6 years of age to leave the minor unattended in a locked vehicle, or to leave the minor unattended in an unlocked vehicle for more than 15 minutes. A minor is unattended within the meaning of this Section if the oldest person with the minor is under the age of 10 years.”

4) The age of the child is not always specified in laws on when children in your care can be left on their own. And, sometimes more than one law pertains to your situation, which is why you may need professional advice. For example:

Abandonment of a child: It is considered “abandonment of a child” if a parent or guardian of a child under 15 years of age deserts their child in any place with intent to abandon him or her (ORS Chapter 163).

Child Neglect :The law says a person who has custody or control of a child under 10 years of age commits the crime of child neglect in the second degree if, with criminal negligence, the person leaves the child unattended in or at any place for such a period of time as may be likely to endanger the health or welfare of such child. Child neglect in the second degree is a Class A misdemeanor (ORS Chapter 163).

There are also laws about failing to supervise a child: A person commits the offense of failing to supervise a child if the person who is the parent, lawful guardian or other person lawfully charged with the care or custody of a child under 15 years of age and the child:
a) Commits an act that brings the child within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court as a delinquent.
b) Violates a curfew law of the county or any other political subdivision, or
c) Fails to attend school as required by law (
ORS Chapter 163)

5) You will need to do the research and consult an attorney if your situation isn’t clear, or might not be clear to law enforcement or DHS.
6) I’ve also updated our Legal Research Guides on Children and Babysitting. You can find these guides and other legal research guides and links at the Washington County (Oregon) Law Library website.

Leaving Children Home Alone (in Oregon) – Update

See recent updates (e.g. 2/10/11, 6/15/09), but also click on the Home Alone label in the sidebar.

Some who just left me a Comment on my previous leaving children home alone post asked if there were any laws “about 2, 3 or 4 children being left in one home alone that are just friends or days alone or over night alone?”

I wish there was a simple answer, but there is not. Like a lot of questions about leaving children home alone, if the general information given on the various websites doesn’t answer your question, you may need to consult a “professional.” “Professionals” includes any number of possibilities, from a social worker, to a law enforcement officer to a lawyer.

I recommend trying the following resources for finding someone who can advise you, keeping in mind that no one except an attorney can advise you on the law in your specific situation. It may seem like a lot of trouble to do this, but it’s better than seeing a police officer on your doorstep when you return home – or worse than that, an ambulance.

1) Contact a local social service agency, for example, your county’s branch of the Department of Human Services (see reference in the Clackamas County article, below).

2) Some counties have one or more nonprofit organizations that can advise you. In Washington County we have this terrific Community Action site. Call your own 211 service or your public library for other referrals. If your city or county has a government information line, try that. In some very small towns, ask the Mayor when you run into him/her at the grocery store. You can also call one or another of your elected officials, e.g. Find Your Legislator. Your state legislators make state laws, your local city or county commissioners make local law.

3) You could also contact the Oregon State Bar Information and Referral Service and ask them if they know the answer to your question or if they can make a referral. Their Problems Solvers (a legal aid service for 13-17 year olds) probably has attorneys who answer “home alone” and “babysitting” questions and may know the answer. (You can always have your 15 year old call them :-)

4) Here’s the information from the Clackamas County website (last checked on 1/13/09):

What is the legal age for leaving a child home alone?

When people ask this question they are typically wanting to be told a specific age when a child can be left alone. To the surprise of many, there is no specific age provided for by law. There is, however, one law which provides a minimum guideline. Oregon’s child neglect laws indicate a child should be at least ten years of age or older. Child neglect in the second degree is defined by a person having custody of a child under 10 years of age and, with criminal negligence, leaves the child unattended at any place for such period of time as may be likely to endanger the health or welfare of such child.
Some children who are ten years of age or older also should not be left alone. In these circumstances, the good judgment of the parent or guardian is most important. Generally speaking there are three primary variables which need to be considered. First, the maturity of the child, second, the environment provided for the child and third, how long the child will be unattended. The best advice is to error on the side of caution, safety and the best interest of the child. As a guideline it is also advisable to be extra cautious with children under 10 years of age. If in doubt it would be wise to call the State Department of Human Services – Clackamas Branch: 971-673-7200 or 1-800-628-7876.

In regard to maturity, a child may be 13 years old and yet immature and unskilled at providing for him or herself when alone or during an emergency. Under these circumstances, if notified, the police or State child welfare agency may be concerned. However, a child may be 11 years of age, very mature, quite skilled at meeting his needs and well prepared to respond to an unanticipated event. In this case it may be appropriate to leave the child unattended for a short period of time.

The child’s environment is also of great concern. Central issues of concern include the provision of food, heat, emergency planning, and access to a responsible adult if needed. Ideally, if a child must be left unattended for a short period of time, a neighbor should be available to periodically check in on the child. Of course, regular phone calls from a parent demonstrates appropriate concern too.

It is not advisable to leave any child unattended for an extended period of time.”

Nebraska’s Safe Haven Law and Oregon Parents

Maybe it’s my bent sense of pathos and bathos, but I’ve found Nebraska’s safe haven law dilemma both incredibly heartbreaking and (darkly) humorous. The sadness is for both the parents and the children. The humor is reserved for the legislature that crafted this law with enormous Unintended Consequences. (More Nebraska abandoned-children stories here and here.)

If you either don’t have kids or if you have trouble-free kids (ha ha ha ha ha), you might not know it but, believe me, there are an awful lot of parents around the county who would love to do what these parents have been doing. Parenting is really hard and not only is it very hard to get away even for a little while, but what do you do when you have completely run out of ideas and energy and are quickly running out of love?

Yes, Oregon parents want to get away from their kids too. My most popular blog posts, in page hit numbers you might find hard to believe, are the ones on WHEN CAN I LEAVE MY KIDS ALONE! That’s right. Parent everywhere, are trying to flee their kids. They have my sympathy, and loads of it, but I’m not offering to babysit, thank you.

But parents do find solace in the best of places, their kid-ful friends and in the funny pages! If you have children, and especially teenagers, and you don’t read Zits or Stone Soup (a Eugene, Oregon resident comic!) (both with terrific Wikipedia entries here and here and collected in book form at your local library and bookstores), you laugh a lot less than do your cartoon-reading friends.

Juvenile Curfews (Oregon)

Please see the Oregon Curfew Laws July 1, 2009, update.

I bet you thought curfews were from the old days (or war-torn countries). Or of the classic corfu/curfew mixup sort (“Curfew will not ring tonight!”) from here).

But these are real curfews – for real children (and parents)!

Here (scroll down to 3rd article) is a chart showing juvenile curfews in Washington County (Oregon). (From the Washington County Neighborhood Watch News, Vol_22 Issue_7-July, 2008.)

See these for more about juveniles (by county), the juvenile court system (and here and here), and leaving kids home alone, but also these and these and these and these.

Oregon Babysitting, Home-Alone: Parents, Teens, and Children and the Law

See recent updates (e.g. 2/10/11, 6/15/09), but also click on the Home Alone label in the sidebar.

The most frequently sought and read posts here at this blog over the years have been the ones on babysitting and, more to the point, When Can I Leave My Kids Home Alone? (Do you wonder? Parenting is not for the fainthearted.)

My previous post from Feb 2008 is here. Most of the links are still good, including the ones to the City of Albany, Clackamas County (look for the question: What is the legal age for leaving a child home alone?), and the Red Cross (this one on babysitting).

The law doesn’t change much on this issue here in Oregon, so for a bit of variety to this subject posting, I try to add some additional links to useful websites and blogs – and give reminders about the oldies but goodies:

1) Multnomah Bar Association (MBA) Juvenile Rights Handbook, in English and Spanish. (It is dated 2004, but I know for a fact it has been updated much more recently, within the past year, I believe.)

2) Oregon State Bar (OSB) Family Law web links and their Problems Solvers program that offers free legal information and advice to young people, ages 11-17.

3) ABA Center on Children and the Law

One thing there is a definite shortage of is good parenting guides and web 2.0 tools for teenage parents. Public library reference staff members often do an excellent job finding these so check with your public library reference staff (and their web pages) before throwing up your hands.

Babysitting and Leaving Children Home Alone in Oregon: Update

** Please see the February 2011 and June 2009 updates. **

My most popular posts (here and here) need a little link-refreshing:

From the City of Albany web site (click on Curfew):

At what age can a child be left home alone? Legally at 10 years of age; however, you may want to consider ORS 163.545.

163.545 Child neglect in the second degree.
(1) A person having custody or control of a child under 10 years of age commits the crime of child neglect in the second degree if, with criminal negligence, the person leaves the child unattended in or at any place for such period of time as maybe likely to endanger the health or welfare of such child
(2) Child neglect in the second degree is a Class A misdemeanor.
What is the legal babysitting age? There is no law regarding a specified babysitting age. What is being taught by the local classes offered to prospective sitters is age 11 or 12. The law that may pertain to the 12 years of age follows.

161.290 Incapacity due to immaturity.
(1) A person who is tried, as an adult in a court of criminal jurisdiction is not criminally responsible for any conduct which occurred when the person was under 12 years of age.
(2) Incapacity due to immaturity, as defined in subsection (1) of this section is a defense.

See also Clackamas County web site for more on when one can leave a child home alone.

ORS references are to the Oregon Revised Statutes. The 2005s are still there and the 2007s will be posted any day now.

Babysitting, Food, and Food Law

I’ve blogged about babysitting before (and the related “when can I leave my child home alone” question) and here is more babysitting news from an unlikely, but logical, source: the Splendid Table. Last night’s (12/30/07) program had a segment on the Nanny Nutrition Dilemma (And Babysitters a Mouse Click Away), with a link to Sitter City (and their library of articles).

Long gone, sadly, are the times when babysitting meant playing with the kids, sharing a snack, putting them to bed, and then combing the shelves for books your parent didn’t have on their own shelves (or at least not on their open shelves). I grew up in a very progressive, academically-inclined, and diverse community so babysitting reading material was an education in itself.

Now you must think about food allergies – and the accompanying lawsuits and insurance if you, the babysitter, don’t follow instructions or if you, the parent, don’t behave like, well, parents.