My oldest son is 11. When can I have him watch the younger ones (5 & 7) for a few hours?
Family Law Attorney
I'm unaware of a legal requirement that specifies a minimum age for babysitting. Here's an excerpt from womensforum.com:
"Many states do not actually specify a legal age for babysitters, but rather an age for minors being left home alone. In Illinois, it is considered to be neglect if a child under the age of 14 is left home without any supervision for a lengthy period of time. A mature age for babysitting may depend upon the sitter. Most childcare professionals and child services recommend that the age limit for children in charge of children be 17 years old. This is because most children of 17 are mature and responsible enough to handle looking after younger children, and many of them also have a driver's license which is necessary in the case of an emergency. In many states, however, it is recognized that children start babysitting from the age of 11 and upwards. This includes Washington, Texas, Michigan, and others."
Personally, I would check with WA Childrens Protective Service to find out what guidelines they have. If anyone questioned your use of your 11 year old to watch his siblings, it would be CPS that would investigate. Make sure you follow their rules.
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Child Abuse Lawyer
I like the above answer, but I would add that many states have CPS's guidelines available on their websites. I would search for the rules online, or contact an attorney who practices CPS law in your county before I talked with anyone at CPS.
Ms. Duffeyâ€™s response to the question above is not legal advice and it does not create an attorney-client relationship. All responses to questions posted on AVVO are intended as general information based upon the facts stated in the question, provided for general information purposes, to the public -- not any specific individual. Ms. Duffey is licensed to practice law in Texas.