Can a 10 year old babysit for a 2 year old sibling?

UPDATED: Dec 30, 2011

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Can a 10 year old babysit for a 2 year old sibling?

This is in NY.

Asked on December 30, 2011 under Family Law, New York


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

In only 2 states is the age at which a child can be left at home alone legislated; NY is not one of them.  Rather, the legal check is whether or not the child is safe and has the ability to take care of themselves (although 12 years of age appears to be the most common recommendation).

There are however some items for parents (or other these decision-makers) to consider before leaving a child alone. While not all-inclusive here is a checklist to consider in making an intelligent and reasoned decision:

  • The child - How mature are they? How comfortable are they with the circumstances? What have they done in the past to show you they are able to take on this kind of responsibility?
  • The child’s knowledge and ability - Do they know how and when to contact emergency help? Are they able to prepare food for themself? Are there hazards to them in the environment such as accessible knives, power tools, stove, or an oven?
  • The circumstances - Where will they be when left alone? How long is the child to be alone? Is the general are of where the residence is located safe?

These same questions should be asked when considering whether a child is old enough to babysit. However, when considering if a child can also be a responsible babysitter, the above factors must be evaluated for both the babysitter and the needs of the child (or children) who will be cared for. A child of 12 might be fine alone for 2 hours in an afternoon. Yet, the same child may be incapable of adequately caring for a 2-year-old for that same period of time.

Bottom line, good judgement and common sense should tell you what is or isn't acceptable.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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