The kind of supervision children need depends on their age, maturity, abilities, and surroundings. Here is a guide to keeping children safe with proper supervision.

How old does my child need to be to stay home alone?

Answer: Texas law doesn't say what age is old enough for a child to stay at home alone. However, adequate supervision is critical to keeping kids safe. An adult caregiver is accountable for the child's care and inadequate supervision can be a type of neglect (neglectful supervision). Here are some of things you should think about when deciding how closely to supervise a child:

  • How old, emotionally mature, and capable is your child?
  • What is the layout and safety of the home, play area, or other setting?
  • What are the hazards and risks in the neighborhood?
  • What is your child's ability to respond to illness, fire, weather, or other types of emergencies?
  • Does your child have a mental, physical, or medical disability?
  • How many children are being left unsupervised?
  • Do they know where you are?
  • Can they contact you or other responsible adults?
  • How long and how often is the child (or children) left alone?

Can I leave a child alone in my car for a short period of time?

Answer: No. Do not leave a child in a motor vehicle for any length of time.  If children are trapped inside cars, especially in hot weather, they can suffer from heat exhaustion or heat stroke in a matter of minutes, leading to permanent disability or death.

Heat stroke, also known as hyperthermia, can cause shock, seizures, irregular heartbeat, and heart attack, as well as brain, liver, and kidney damage.

Leaving a child unattended in a car is a crime that is punishable under the Texas Penal Code, Title 5, Chapter 22, Section 10, Leaving a child in a vehicle:

(a) A person commits an offense if he intentionally or knowingly leaves a child in a motor vehicle for longer than five minutes, knowing that the child is:

(1) younger than seven years of age; and

(2) not attended by an individual in the vehicle who is 14 years of age or older.

(b) An offense under this section is a Class C misdemeanor.

Leaving a child unattended in a car is also a form of neglectful supervision that is investigated by Child Protective Services.

What is neglectful supervision?

Answer: When children are not adequately supervised, it may be considered “neglectful supervision”.

Neglectful supervision means "placing a child in or failing to remove a child from a situation that a reasonable person would realize requires judgment or actions beyond the child's level of maturity, physical condition, or mental abilities and that results in bodily injury or substantial risk of immediate harm to the child."

Neglectful supervision is also defined as "placing a child in or failing to remove the child from a situation in which the child would be exposed to a substantial risk of sexual conduct harmful to the child."

Neglectful supervision accounts for more than half all confirmed abuse or neglect in Texas. Neglectful supervision accounted for 75 percent of all confirmed child victims of abuse or neglect in 2011. 

Call the Texas Abuse Hotline at 1-800-252-5400 if you suspect a child has been abused or neglected or have any questions about a situation you think might be abuse or neglect.

In an emergency situation, call local law enforcement or 911 immediately.