COPY-Latchkey Kids and The Law - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

05/25/04-Tyler

COPY-Latchkey Kids and The Law

With so many two-parent working families these days, it's very common for children to spend the summer on their own at home. During the school year latchkey kids usually spend only a minimal number of hours at home alone. But in the summer that number climbs to 8 or 10. So how soon is too soon to let kids care for themselves at home in the state of Texas "Fourteen or Fifteen?"  "I would say about twelve or older."  "I think about age thirteen." "I don't think there is a law for this" Bingo - There is no law stating when kids are old enough to stay home alone. Instead authorities rely on laws regarding child endangerment to protect kids in unsafe environments. "Under the Texas Family Code, which is what we opreate under, we look at risks and often what we get into is neglectful supervision, but again there's no age limit," says Child Protective Service worker, Christie Hachtel.  Which is in part why Child Protective Services says cases of neglectful supervision often-- with latchkey kids-- are their number one investigations. But for some kids like Ashlyn Ace, being home alone is no big deal. "I have a key that I carry around just to the front door, and I carry it around with me," Ace.  A latchkey kid for a several years now, Ashlyn says parents or no parents,  she feels safe and has even learned responsibility. A few things she learned, "Never to open the door for anyone and to keep the backdoor locked and keep the dogs in with me and wait till she comes home." Instructions, CS officials say are a must for children who are home alone. Other tips include leaving a list of emergency numbers, a first-aid kit and evaluating each child according to their own maturity level before handing over the key. And to remeber anything can happen. "A cool TV show could come on and they're engrossed, and they may not be paying attention to their five year old sibling who is running around eating Drano or playing with matches," Hatchel says. Bottom line: even though there's no legal age for latchkey kids, parents need to remeber little kids may not quite have the shoulders for big responsibility.

Reported By:  Braid Sharp bsharp@kltv.com

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