In Maryland, if your child is under the age of eight, the answer is no.
According to the People’s Law Library of Maryland, children this age cannot be left unattended at home, school or in a car. This can be a challenge when a parent is single due to divorce or any other reason, and there is a gap between when the child arrives home from school and his or her parent gets home from work. However, a parent or guardian must ensure the child is safe.
This requirement can be met by making sure someone who is at least age 13 years old accompanies the child and the parent must also be sure any person watching their child is reliable. Failure to do so is a misdemeanor, and the parent or guardian can be fined up to $500 and spend up to 30 days in prison for the crime.
In addition, a child of any age with a handicap is entitled to even stricter protection. According to Maryland Child Protective Services, this includes a child 12 or over who is left alone for long hours or overnight or with responsibilities beyond capabilities or where there is some special risk factor such as mental retardation or physical handicap that would indicate that the child may be in jeopardy.
For any child of any age who must be alone, it’s also important to start independent time appropriately and gradually, with fallbacks and resources the child can use to feel safe. The Montgomery County’s fact sheet, When is My Child Old Enough to Stay Home Alone? provides some useful guidelines and resources to help start your plan.