With classes canceled for the rest of the year because of the coronavirus, students will be engaging in distance learning, meaning most will do their remaining schoolwork from home.
While schools are charged with ensuring children have access to the materials they need for learning from home, there are very few resources readily available for parents who must work and don’t have childcare options.
The Oklahoma Department of Human Services notes that there is no Oklahoma law that determines a minimum age where a child can be left at home alone while parents are gone.
“The focus of DHS child welfare services is to respond to situations where children are reported to be unsafe or at risk of harm,” the agency states. “Action is contingent on the child’s age, cognitive and physical abilities; access to the alleged perpetrator and the degree of danger.”
In other words, the agency handles cases of children left without an accessible adult on a case-by-case basis, with no law definitively governing its actions. It is parents’ responsibility to determine whether a child is old enough and mature enough to stay home alone, and DHS may or may not agree with that assessment.
In general, the agency recommends children under 6 are never left alone for any amount of time without adequate supervision. Children 6 to 7 should be left home alone less than one hour during the day — with access to a responsible adult and not caring for younger children, DHS guidelines state. Older elementary children should be left alone no longer than two hours with access to a responsible adult and not caring for younger children. Middle School children should be left alone no more than four hours during the day or evening.
The national SAFEKIDS campaign, however, recommends that no child under age 12 be left at home alone under any circumstances.
With the government mandating that kids stay home for the rest of the school year but not providing resources to help parents who must work during the school day and don’t have access to childcare, parents must find creative solutions to avoid leaving children home alone.