Can you leave Children Home Alone?

Students are out of school for summer break, which increases the chances that children are left home along for periods of time. Leaving a child home alone isn’t an easy decision for any parent, even with a fully capable child and when your trip to the store is just going to last a few minutes.

According to the attorneys with Althauser Rayan Abbarno, LLP, there are no laws regarding the supervision of your kids in Washington. However, according to the Washington State Department of Children, Youth, Families (DCYF), in general children under the age of 10 should not be left alone in the home.

Leaving a Child Home Alone: Safety Tips

If leaving kids home alone is a necessity — at least where older children are involved — you can follow the following recommendations provided by the American Red Cross:

  • Have the child memorize their full name, address, and telephone number.
  • Post a list of emergency, local, and long distance numbers to call in the event of an emergency.
  • Call the child several times during the day while you are away.
  • Teach the child how to work the locks on windows and doors and to lock them when at home.
  • Tell the child not to go into other people’s home (even neighbors) without your permission.
  • Designate a “safe house” to run to if the child ever feels that they’re in danger.
  • Never allow a child to work the oven or stove without a parent or adult caretaker.
  • Consider programs offered by schools, organizations, and churches as an alternative to leaving a child home alone for extended periods time.

In addition to the suggestions listed above, it’s always a good idea to inform immediate neighbors that your child may be home alone on some days. Not only can a neighbor be a good resource in the event of an emergency, it can help alleviate potential calls to child protective services by unaware neighbors.

What about children left in vehicles?

It is unlawful to leave children unattended in standing vehicle with motor running.

According to RCW 46.61.685, (1) It is unlawful for any person, while operating or in charge of a vehicle, to park or willfully allow such vehicle to stand upon a public highway or in a public place with its motor running, leaving a minor child or children under the age of sixteen years unattended in the vehicle. (2) Any person violating this section is guilty of a misdemeanor. Upon a second or subsequent conviction for a violation of this section, the department shall revoke the operator’s license of such person.

It is unlawful to leave children unattended in parked automobile. . . and go to the bar!

According to RCW 9.91.060, every person having the care and custody, whether temporary or permanent, of minor children under the age of twelve years, who shall leave such children in a parked automobile unattended by an adult while such person enters a tavern or other premises where vinous, spirituous, or malt liquors are dispensed for consumption on the premises shall be guilty of a gross misdemeanor.

Your Local Attorneys Are Here To Help!

Althauser Rayan Abbarno, LLP has been representing individuals and businesses in the State of Washington for more than 75 years. For a consultation with our attorneys in Centralia or Olympia, call (360) 736-1301 or visit