On April 3, 2019, the Illinois House overwhelmingly passed House Bill 2334 on a vote of 111-1, that would lower the age at which a child can be left at home without adult supervision. HB 2334, which would amend the Juvenile Court Act of 1987, would lower the age at which a child could be left home without appropriate supervision to children younger than 12, instead of children under 14, as is the current law. According to current state law, parents can face neglect charges for leaving children under the age of 14 “without supervision for an unreasonable period without regard for the mental or physical health, safety, or welfare of that minor.”
HB 2334 also seeks to amend the age at which a child could be considered “abandoned,” stating that a “person commits child abandonment when he or she, as a parent, guardian, or other person having physical custody or control of a child, without regard for the mental or physical health, safety or welfare of that child, knowingly leaves that child who is under the age of 12 [rather than 13] without supervision by a responsible person over the age of 14 for a period of 24 hours or more.”
According to the bill sponsor, Representative Joe Sosnowski (R), the bill is designed to lessen the burden on working parents who struggle to meet child care costs.
Prior to 1993, Illinois did not define the age at which children could be left unattended. However, in 1992, a St. Charles, Illinois couple left their two daughters, aged 9 and 4, home alone while the couple took a 9 day vacation in Mexico over Christmas. Two days after David and Sharon Schoo departed, a fire alarm in the home went off and the two girls sought refuge at a neighbor’s home. Upon their return, the Schoos were immediately arrested for leaving their very young children alone for so long. The Schoos avoided felony charges by pleading down to misdemeanors, for which they were sentenced to two years’ probation.
Illinois law at the time had a subjective criteria that did not include a minimum age, and their case inspired a change in Illinois state law regarding child abuse and abandonment.
HB 2334 had its first reading on the Illinois Senate floor on April 4, 2019 and it has been referred to Assignments.