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Are Latchkey Kids Legal?

Posted on in Children

latchkey kidAs the school year progresses, many parents begin to consider the possibility of allowing their child to come home and care for themselves after school. However, many parents worry about the possibility of a DCFS investigation if they choose to allow their child to do this. Luckily, in most cases, there is no reason to worry.

According to the Illinois DCFS, Illinois courts must consider a total of 15 factors when deciding whether a latchkey kid has been the victim of neglect. Those factors are:
  • The child’s age;
  • How many children have been left alone;
  • Whether or not the child had any special needs, including medications;
  • How long the child stayed by themselves;
  • Whether or not the residence where the child was left was a safe and clean environment;
  • What time the minor was left (day, night, etc).
  • Whether the weather conditions presented a hazard to the child at the time, and whether the residence where the child was left provided adequate shelter from those conditions;
  • How far away the parent or guardian was at the time the child was alone;
  • Whether the child’s movements were restricted in any way (being locked into a room, etc.)
  • Whether the child was capable of calling emergency services, and whether or not the child had the means and information to call those services if needed;
  • Whether the child had access to food and water;
  • Any economic circumstances that may have been the cause of the parent leaving the child, and whether the parent made an effort to ensure the child’s safety;
  • Whether or not the parent had left the child in the care of another person;
  • Any other factors that might have presented a danger to the child at the time they were left alone.
In most cases, leaving a child who is mature and capable for an hour or two after school is perfectly legal. Unfortunately, not everyone understands these guidelines and false accusations can be filed. If you find yourself the subject of an Illinois DCFS investigation, it is important to have an attorney to advise you. Contact a qualified Illinois family attorney today for a consultation on your case.

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