‘Home Alone’ in real life could land you in an Illinois jail
Illinois sees leaving a child younger than 14 ‘Home Alone’ as a crime, one that state employees have vigorously applied.
Chicagoland’s Christmas classic, “Home Alone,” is fictional, but anyone in Illinois who makes the movie plot come to life could face real consequences.
State law considers it neglect or abuse when “any minor under the age of 14 years whose parent or other person responsible for the minor’s welfare leaves the minor without supervision for an unreasonable period of time without regard for the mental or physical health, safety, or welfare of that minor.”
The Hollywood magic left out the fact that the McAllisters could’ve been arrested for forgetting their son Kevin.
However, the law doesn’t define “an unreasonable period of time.” Is an hour unreasonable? Two hours? It’s completely up to the interpretation of government employees, opening up potential to abuse the rule.
Wilmette mother Corey Widen knows it all too well. In 2018, she let her 8-year-old daughter, Dorothy, walk their dog, Marshmallow, around the block. A neighbor noticed her walking alone and called the police, who saw no grounds for negligence.
But the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services opened an investigation. After enough scrutiny and uncertainty to leave mother and daughter traumatized, DCFS dropped the case.
Illinois’ law is the strictest in the nation. The highest age for a child to be left alone in other states is 12, and 30 states don’t have any age restrictions on leaving kids at home. Illinois parents can temporarily lose custody simply on allegations.
The question is, should state lawmakers set a statewide standard or should parents decide when their children are mature enough to stay home alone?
Lawmakers took notice after Widen’s incident. The Illinois House unanimously passed a bill lowering the age from 14 to 12, but the bill never reached the Senate floor. The age remains 14.
Supervision is important, but letting a child walk her dog or play in her neighborhood should never be labeled as negligence.