DHS Home Page
Department of Human Services    Follow DHS on Facebook Follow DHS on Twitter Watch DHS Videos on Vimeo Connect with DHS on LinkedIn

"Home Alone?" Parent’s Age-old Quandary Explored—and Answered with Questions

The content below may contain dated material as it was prepared for the media in advance of Pittsburgh’s hosting of the G20 in March 2010.  

For generations, parents have asked, “When is it safe to leave our children home alone?” and “At what age does a child become a responsible sitter?” With many households having primary caregivers in the workforce and considering the high cost of child care, more and more families are struggling with the decision.  

The Department of Human Services (DHS) Children and Youth Services Advisory Board decided to explore the quandary and create for parents a guide on how to decide.

The objectives of their effort were ambitious:

  • To raise awareness with parents and guardians of the importance of determining the age-appropriateness of children before leaving them alone at home or in charge of younger children and provide them with resources  that help in their decision making.
  • To educate parents on how to assess their child’s ability to be left alone.
  • To provide information about resources that help parents find alternatives to leaving their children home alone. Suggest resources such as churches for child-care groups that offer respite, child-care pools, etc that can act as a safety net if the parents do have to leave.
  • To provide parents with information on how to minimize risk if they have to leave their child(ren) alone. 

The Advisory Board tapped into the expertise and connections of Subject Matter Experts from across Allegheny County to help shape and publicize the tenets of the document. Included were representatives from the DHS Offices of Community Relations and Children, Youth and FamiliesFamily Communications Inc. (Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood); Children’s Hospital of PittsburghFamily Resources and the Allegheny Intermediate Unit. Family Communications served as the final editor of the document to ensure that it was non-judgmental and approachable to families. After the booklet was published, these same professionals, who had day-to-day interaction with parents and/or allied professionals, were invaluable as emissaries for the effort.

The resultant booklet, Home Alone - Is Your Child Ready? was first published in March, 2008. Tens of thousands of the booklet have been distributed since to individuals and providers of social services within Allegheny County and throughout the state. A Spanish version, Solo en Casa ¿Estu listo tu hijo? was released in October, 2009.