Are There Any Babysitting Laws I Need To Know About?
Most states do not have babysitting laws on the books, although a number of them do have laws that apply to some aspects of baby sitting, if at times indirectly. A number of states provide guidelines and recommendations, but only one state to date has a specific law relating to babysitters age. Several states have laws, not pertaining to babysitters, but addressing the minimum age as to when children can be left alone.
Maryland More Or Less Stands Alone - Under Maryland babysitting laws, the minimum age cited is 13. The law does not state that 13 is the minimum allowable age for a babysitter, but rather that a child is considered unsupervised unless there is someone present in charge of being with, and protecting the child, and that person is at least 13 years of age That really says the same thing, except if you leave your child with a 12 year old you could be charged with child neglect. Leaving your son or daughter home alone, if that child is 8 years old or younger, is also against the law.
Most States Have A Mix OF Guidelines And Code - Minnesota does not have a state law on the books governing babysitting, but has instead left that task up to county or local authorities. There are some local guidelines which state that children 11and older may babysit, but the parents or guardians must return within the same day, no overnight sitting. On the other hand, there are laws on the books designed to protect children that are under the care of another. In California it is not lawful to leave a minor in charge of other minors, where a minor is defined as a person 14 years old or younger. There is a code in the books which makes it illegal for an 8 year old, presumably a sibling, to watch over two toddlers, though nothing is said about a single toddler. This is an example where one would hope that common sense would normally prevail, instead of getting into the nitty-gritty of legal fine points.
Most all other states have nothing on the books regarding babysitting, but in many states and localities there are programs set up offering guidelines for both babysitters and parents, and classes for those wishing to earn money babysitting. In Virginia for example, there are some highly regarded classes offered by the Girl Scouts and the American Red Cross. The Scouts, Red Cross and YMCA/YWCA's are active in other states as well. Where many states do have laws on the books is in the area of parental and babysitting responsibilities. These laws are designed primarily to protect the child who is being looked after, but there are also laws designed to protect young babysitters as well.
Rely On Local Organizations And Common Sense - If you are a babysitter, the parent of a babysitter, or a parent looking for a reliable babysitter, you'll be wasting your time (outside of Maryland) pouring over your state's babysitting laws to see what's legal and what is not. A better approach, at least at this point in time, would be to check with the American Red Cross chapter in your area, the Girl Scouts, your church, or even your PTA, to see if they have a list of qualified babysitters, or if they offer classes or training for babysitters.
Thirteen seems like a reasonable age to babysit as n most cases girls are quite mature by that age. Try to avoid mistakes like getting a babysitter in a situation that is too difficult for her to manage. It generally is not a good idea to have someone babysit with a person too near their own age, or to have too young of a sitter looking after toddlers. Also, the parents or guardian of the child being looked after have responsibilities as well, and all the laws on the books can't help much when irresponsible people are involved, which is perhaps one reason why there are not more laws on the books.