New bill proposed to lower the Illinois babysitting age from 14 to 12

By  | 

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) -- A new bill has been introduced to protect working families that reduces the age children in Illinois are allowed to babysit.

Under a newly proposed bill by Illinois State Representative Joe Sosnowski, children 12 years or older would be able to babysit. It would also lower the age a child could be home alone from 14 to 12.

Currently, under state law, a child under 14 who is left without supervision for “an unreasonable amount of time” is considered neglected.

"Many were shocked to find out that 14 was the age. It's one of those bills I think a lot of families and parents don't even realize that it's out there and we're one of the most strict in all of the nation," said Sosnowski. "Illinois has by far the most restrictive law of its kind in the nation.”

The most average age children are allowed to be left alone across the country is 10-years-old, while some state’s like Kansas allow children to be as young as 6.

“My bill would reduce the threshold to children under the age of 12, recognizing that working parents who struggle to afford child care should not live under the fear of losing their kids simply for working hard to support their family," said Sosnowski.

Sosnowski believes this bill will help protect working families from being charged with child neglect or abandonment and lose custody of their kids.

"The bottom line is we don't want families to be arrested if a student is at home at age 13 and is not quite according to the law. A lot of times it will happen in an odd situation where maybe someone’s home alarm goes off accidentally, the police end up responding and they find out that there's a 12 or 13-year-old at home, but again if you have a state law, it's very tough for police officers to ignore that law," said Sosnowski.

"We need to look at families, give them the responsibility to make those decisions, especially if the parents are confident in the maturity of their own children," said Sosnowski.

Hospitals like SwedishAmerican offer a Safe Sitter Program for kids 11 to 14 to learn the necessary skills to care for a child. It can offer parents peace of mind who may need their child to help babysit. The program teaches kids many skills like how to change diapers, feed a baby, and how to perform CPR.

"By lowering the age it's going to help parents because babysitting is expensive. Parents should ultimately have that ability to say my child's responsible," said Penny Lentz, the Safe Kids Winnebago County Coalition Coordinator. "As long as they've gone through a safe sitter class or some kind of babysitting class, they know how to do CPR and they know how to do choking, then they're responsible.”

"We’ll see if there is a general consensus, but I think it's a good legislation at this time," said Sosnowski.

The Illinois House of Representatives is scheduled to return to Springfield next week for the start of the 2018 session. That will be the first day this bill can be assigned to a committee for review.

SwedishAmerican’s free Safe Sitter Program is offered the second Saturday of every month. Contact Penny Lentz’s office at 779-696-6088 to register.