Nebraska has no law that states a specific age when children can be left home alone. Each situation must be evaluated on a case by case basis considering a number of factors. These are the guidelines that Children and Family Services use to help parents decide what is appropriate. Preschool age children (age 6 or under) should never be left alone. For older children the parent must consider:
- The child’s age, cognitive abilities, maturity, and level of responsibility.
- The length of time the child will be alone.
- The circumstances under which they will be unsupervised. Is it day time or night time, will the child be asleep or awake, is the home in a safe neighborhood?
- Availability of a responsible adult to assist. Is there a neighbor the child can go to, or can the parent come home quickly?
- Ability of the child to phone for assistance. Does the child know how to reach the parent or a relative who could respond?
- Child’s ability to act in an emergency. Does the child know how to exit the home in a fire, what to do if a stranger?
- Child’s feelings about being alone. Is he/she afraid, or comfortable with the plan?
- Child’s ability to care for him/herself while alone. Can he/she fix a meal or snack, entertain themselves without getting into trouble?
- Can the child be trusted to follow household rules such as not having other kid in the home when parents are gone, not using the stove?
- Are dangerous things available to the child? Are the guns locked up, drugs and chemicals not accessible?
- Is the child expected to supervise younger children?
The Department generally considers children under the age of 11 to be unable to supervise children under the age of 6. If more than one child will be left alone, the interaction of the children must also be considered. Will they play well together or will they fight?
If the child is alone and someone calls law enforcement, the responding officer will consider these factors to determine if the plan is appropriate. If the officer determines that the child is not able to stay alone safely, it is possible the parent will get a ticket for child neglect.
Nebraska has a specific law about leaving children unattended in a motor vehicle.