Human Services

How Young Is Too Young To Be Home Alone?


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These guidelines represent the minimal acceptable standards for the supervision of children developed by professionals in collaboration with the community. Remember, these are only guidelines. There may be situations when it is not safe to leave a child unsupervised.Arlington County Child Protective Services Hotline
TEL 703-228-1500
TTY 703-228-1598
Babysitting guidelines are also available.
For information on child care resources, call 703-228-1685.

Whenever any child is unsupervised/unattended:

  • There must be no emotional, medical, or behavioral problems that affect the child’s judgment or decision-making.
  • The child must be comfortable being alone.
  • All youths, including teens, must have a safety plan worked out with the parent/caretaker including: 
    1. How to access a parent or other responsible adult at all times (knowing the adult’s whereabouts and telephone number).
    2. What to do in case of an emergency.
    3. Guidelines for acceptable behavior.
  • Youth must demonstrate the ability to follow the safety plan and make good decisions about personal safety.

Supervision Guidelines:

  • 8 years and under : Should not be left alone for any period of time. This includes leaving children unattended in cars, playgrounds, and yards.
  • 9 to 10 years : Should not be left alone for more than 1 ½ hours and only during daylight and early evening hours.
  • 11 to 12 years : May be left alone for up to 3 hours, but not late at night or in circumstances requiring adult supervision.
  • 13 to 15 years : May be left unsupervised, but not overnight.
  • 16 to 17 years : May be left unsupervised for up to two consecutive overnight periods.

Last Modified: January 15, 2013
2100 Clarendon Blvd. Arlington, VA 22201 Tel: 703-228-3000 TTY: 703-228-4611