What Is the Appropriate Age for Child Babysitters in Massachusetts?
We came across an online report this morning of a Fall River mom being reported to the Department of Child and Family Services for leaving her 12-year-old-son alone to care for his 5-year-old sibling.
While there is no evidence about whether or not this actually happened in Fall River this weekend, it sparked an interesting conversation about whether or not 12 years old was an appropriate age to be left home alone to babysit.
I'll admit, when I first read about the concern, my immediate reaction was to wonder whether or not I've become insenstive. This didn't really seem like a big deal to me. Generally speaking, a 12-year-old is finishing up 6th grade or already in the 7th grade. While it really depends on the individual child and/or circumstances, this didn't sound particularly outrageous to me on the surface.
Cristin heard us discussing on Michael and Maddie and submitted this audio on the Fun 107 app:
She makes a solid point. If the babysitter certification course is targeted to a classroom full of 11 and 12 year olds, why would they offer those classes to that age group if officials didn't think it was OK?
Massachusetts State Law doesn't really help much with a definitive answer. The state basically says that it depends on the individual circumstances. The law is mostly centered around neglect. For example, whether or not the children have their basic needs met for food, shelter, clothing, or other essential care.
The overwhelming consensus of the audiece this morning was that, under normal circumstances, there was nothing wrong with a 12-year-old babysitting a younger sibling for an appropriate amount of time.
Fun 107 reached out to DCF in Fall River, but no one was available that had authorization to speak with media.