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New Hampshire Home Alone Case Raises Questions in Maine

PORTLAND (WGME) -- A New Hampshire woman is now facing child endangerment charges after police say she left her three young children home alone. They say those children got dressed by themselves and braved frigid temperatures to walk to the police station in the hopes of getting a ride to school. Many people would agree leaving three such young children alone for any amount of time was wrong. Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce agrees.Anything could have happened while they were home alone, or while they were walking to the police station.

So when is it ok to leave your kids home alone? According to Sheriff Joyce there is no set age in Maine when it is o-k to do so, but he says under Maine law that mother would likely be facing the same charges if she'd offended here.

When it comes to the law in this state, it says you can be charged with endangering the welfare of a child if you "otherwise recklessly endanger the health, safety or welfare of a child under 16 years of age by violating a duty of care or protection." That could include putting your kids at risk by leaving them home alone.

Sheriff Joyce says making a decision about leaving your kids home while you go can depend on the age and maturity of the child:
  • do they know how to call 911,
  • get of their house if it's on fire,
  • can they contact you quickly if they need too?
If the answer is no, and your child is hurt after being left, you can be charged if they are under 16. Joyce says for parents safe is better than sorry.

"We as adults need to protect our kids. some people are over protective some people are underprotective, but the reality is because you don't have that do over you really got to think of all the consequesces," said Joyce.
     
With no set age here in Maine, Joyce says it comes down to using common sense.