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B.C. Supreme Court Rules On When Kids Can Stay Home Alone

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If you think it’s okay to leave your children unsupervised, think again. A B.C. Supreme Court has ruled that children under the age of 10 should not be left home alone, no matter how mature they are.

The ruling came after child protective services discovered a single mom from Terrace, B.C., was leaving her son home alone every day after school in January 2014. From 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., the eight-year-old boy would be unsupervised until the mother, identified only as B.R., came home from work. However, B.R.’s other child, a four year old, was left with a caregiver during this time.

Previously, a provincial court judge ruled that B.R. must supervise her son at all times, but the mother appealed the decision. This week, Supreme Court Justice Robert Punnett then ruled in favour of the social workers who deemed that “children who are eight years of age do not have the cognitive ability to be left unsupervised.”

To back up their claim, social workers cited a number of various risks involved in leaving a child home alone. These included everything from accidental poisoning to fires. As a result, the Supreme Court ruled that kids under 10 must be supervised at all times.

In Canada, only Manitoba and New Brunswick’s child welfare acts state that children cannot legally be left home alone if they are under the age of 12.

As a result of this case and the lack of guidelines, parents are now questioning their judgement when it comes to leaving children unsupervised.

Lenore Skenazy, the New York-based author of "Free-Range Kids," explains: “I hear from parents every day who say ‘Now I’m dragging the triplets across the parking lot because I’m afraid that somebody will say that they think this is dangerous and they will call the police who will then think it’s dangerous who will then call [child protective services] who will then think it’s dangerous and so I have to second-guess literally what I think is best and safest for my own family.’”

For more information on leaving your children home alone, check out parenting expert Alyson Schafer’s advice.

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