By Jim Hagerty
SPRINGFIELD — A bill filed by State Rep. Joe Sosnowski to lower the age at which children can be left home alone is now with a judiciary committee.
Introduced Jan. 22, House Bill 4296 would lower the age from 14 to 12. It was assigned to the Illinois House Criminal Committee Tuesday. Sosnowski said it allows more children to babysit younger siblings and takes scheduling burdens off single and working parents. It would also eliminate risk of parents being charged with child neglect.
“I think there’s a lot of issues where people have been or could be charged for leaving what most people would find an acceptably mature student or child to be on their own for a little while,” Sosnowski told the Illinois News Network. “I think we’re really out of touch with where other states are in terms of the law.”
In some cases, the Department of Children & Family Services gets involved and parents lose custody of their minor kids for leaving them unattended. A change, Sosnowski said, would allow for unique circumstances. It would require more parent responsibility but allow them to decide when a preteen is ready to be left alone or with younger children.
“(It will) allow them to decide if their 12- or 13-year-old is mature enough,” the Rockford Republican added. “Let’s not run into areas where people could be charged if there’s a report or something happens.”
Illinois is one of 14 states that specifies an age when children can be left home alone, and its limit is the highest. The lowest limit is 8, set in Maryland and North Carolina. In Kansas, the state recommended limit is age 6, although it is not a law. R.