When Does Allowing Your Kids to be Independent Cross Over Into Neglect? (Pt 1)

A wide open field with a young teen girl walking away from the camera alone.
As our children grow older, we want them to learn to be responsible and independent. But how to let them learn those lessons without CPS interfering?

This is a question that many, many Michigan moms and dads have themselves, and us, over the years. And we’re sorry to say that there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Whether or not CPS or the cops, or even other parents and members of the community think you’re neglecting your kids has a lot to do with personal perspectives.┬áSo let’s check out a few examples of when allowing your children to be independent may actually get you into trouble with CPS in Michigan…

Leaving kids alone at home

Although Michigan’s Child Protection Law says there’s no legal age at which it’s considered “safe” or “recommended” for a child to be left home alone, there are a few simple guidelines CPS uses when determining whether or not a case should be investigated as possible neglect. For example, kids under the age of seven should never be left alone, but children aged 11 or 12 can be alone up to three hours without supervision, and 16-year-olds can be left unsupervised overnight, as long as they’re mature enough. 

You have to remember that any decision you make with your children involves some element of risk. Leaving your child alone for any period of time could result in them being hurt while no one is there to help. Or they could be abducted. Or someone could assume they’ve been abandoned and call CPS. Or they could be fine. You never know, so you just have to make the best decision you can for your child, taking into account all the possible factors, and hope for the best.

Letting kids go out and about on their own

Letting children use public transport (like buses) on their own, walk to the local park or to a nearby store, or even just riding their bikes around the neighborhood can be scary for a parent. When they’re out on their own, you can’t be there to step in on their behalf. Will they be safe? Is the experience of being responsible for themselves going to make them stronger and more independent, or put them at greater risk?

Only you can decide when your child is mature enough, and when the risks are worth the reward. But when making that decision, please take into account all the facts that could influence your child’s safety. How safe is the neighborhood where they will be unsupervised? Will they be alone, or with friends? Do they have a way to contact you if something happened? How old, and how mature is your child? Have you taught them protocols for what to do in an emergency? Fostering independence is great, but only when they’re ready!

Kids are our future, so let’s care for them properly!

Here at The Kronzek Firm, our experienced child abuse and neglect defense attorneys are also parents, so we understand the struggle you face when trying to make the right choices for your kids. We understand that you want to protect your kids, but also want them to grow up responsible, confident, and equipped for life. So if you’re doing the best you can and someone reports you to CPS, claiming that you’re a neglectful parent, call 866 766 5245 today and protect your parenting rights! And don’t forget to join us next time for more discussion on this complex parenting topic.