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Division of Family and Child Services suggests assessing age, maturity level before leaving child unattended

Age, maturity level should factor in decision making

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 8:49 PM
Last updated Thursday, June 26, 2014 10:46 AM
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Like many states, Georgia does not have a law mandating a cutoff age for leaving a child unattended at home or in a car. But child care experts and law enforcement officials say there are things to consider before doing so.



Children 8 years old or younger should never be left alone at home even for a short time, and a parent’s discretion should be used for older children, according to guidelines from Georgia’s Division of Family and Children Services. No child, no matter the age or self-dependence, should ever be unattended in a car, even if the air conditioner is running.

The issue of leaving children unattended has been spotlighted by recent incidents locally and statewide.

Earlier this week, two Augusta mothers were charged with deprivation of a minor in separate incidents after leaving their children unattended. On Monday around 10:30 p.m., Laquita Lakey Tart left her 2-year-old son standing on a street corner.

Another mother, Lyndia Joyce Lytle, left her daughters, ages 12 and 15, in her vehicle while she went to work a nightshift at Wal-Mart. The 15-year-old told police she grew scared and called 911 after unsuccessfully looking for her mother in the store.

Last week, a 2-week-old child was rescued from the back of a locked SUV while her mother, Alicia Manigault, of Augusta, took an exam at Virginia College. She was charged Thursday with first-degree cruelty to children.

Richmond County Sheriff’s Sgt. Shane McDaniel said parents who leave children unattended can be charged with cruelty to children, reckless conduct or deprivation of a minor. Charges, if warranted, are determined on a case-by-case basis, he said.

“Take into consideration if the child can help itself,” McDaniel said.

Susan Boatwright, a spokeswoman for Georgia DFCS, said the department receives more reports of children left at home during summer months.

Reg Griffin, a spokesman for the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning’s Bright From the Start, said the state has programs to prevent children from being unattended while parents work. Low-income families can apply for childcare subsidies through the Children and Parent Services, or CAP, program.

“There is money available to assist families looking for a job or going to work,” Griffin said.

Parents take a great risk leaving children in a car, even if only for a minute to run inside a store or pay for gas, Griffin said. A running car can be stolen with a child inside, he said.

“It’s just not worth the few minutes it would take to round them up,” he said.

WHEN TO LEAVE CHILDREN ALONE

The Georgia Division of Family and Children Services sets guidelines for parents to follow when determining whether to leave a child alone. Parents should take into consideration whether a child has a special condition or disability. The guidelines:

• Children under age 8 should never be left alone.

• Children ages 9 to 12 can be left alone for less than two hours, given their maturity level.

• Children ages 13 and older can be left alone and as a babysitter for up to 12 hours at the parent’s discretion of their maturity.

• Children younger than age 13 can be left alone or to care for others if they have taken a course on babysitting.

Comments (7) Add comment
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corgimom
38451
Points
corgimom 06/26/14 - 05:46 am
5
3
Back in the old days, people

Back in the old days, people left kids in cars all the time.

"Stay here, and I'll be back, and don't go anywhere."

Who knew that we were being abused?

gaflyboy
5345
Points
gaflyboy 06/26/14 - 08:11 am
6
0
Right corgimom

But then, they left the windows down too. Biggest worry for parents is that they kids would get out to follow them into a store, then get lost.

jimmymac
47688
Points
jimmymac 06/26/14 - 10:28 am
1
0
CORGI
Unpublished

I'm sure you'd acknowledge that times have changed. It's not safe for an adult to sit in a car in some area's let alone a child.

happychimer
19537
Points
happychimer 06/26/14 - 10:45 am
4
0
When my daughter was in 1st

When my daughter was in 1st grade they were taught lessons on being a latch key kid. I got home from work less than an hr after she got home from school. she had emergency phones numbers and called her grandmother as soon as she got home. She kept the doors locked and she was safe. She also wore a door key on a piece of yarn around her neck, inside her shirt.There were other kids in her class who were alone longer than she was. Rules have changed over the years.

corgimom
38451
Points
corgimom 06/26/14 - 02:52 pm
5
3
Hey, back in the old days, if

Hey, back in the old days, if your parents said "Don't go anywhere", if you valued your life, you didn't go anywhere.

One of my pet peeves is dumb mothers who take BOYS, not small children, into the women's restroom. If you can't trust your child to stand still for 2 minutes, you have big problems and the parent hasn't done their job. What are they going to do, take them into the women's bathroom until they are 18?

I started sending my son into the men's bathroom at age 4. I would stand outside the door and he knew that if there were any problems, to just call out and I would come in. And he stood outside the women's restroom from age 5 on.

Helicopter parents, there is now a whole generation of helpless children that can't do anything without an adult.

happychimer
19537
Points
happychimer 06/26/14 - 04:21 pm
2
2
Where do kids younger than 13

Where do kids younger than 13 take babysitting classes?

Kos
132
Points
Kos 06/26/14 - 07:01 pm
0
0
DFCS has it own dilemma they
Unpublished

DFCS has it own dilemma they need to mend, and follow a new guidelines. This department has went to the dog, since Gov. Deal took office. If Jason Carter is elected governor he will get Georgia back on track.

KSL
143858
Points
KSL 06/27/14 - 10:43 am
1
3
What's with baby sitting

What's with baby sitting courses? I baby sat my cousin's 4 children with just my common sense when I was 12.

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