The Ministry of Health and Welfare’s Department of Protective Services is calling on parents not to leave children aged under 12 at home alone to avoid being penalized under the child protection law.
Responding to a recent survey conducted by the Child Welfare League Foundation that found nearly 80 percent of teenagers spend most of their time “cocooning” at home during the summer vacation, the ministry asked parents with children younger than 12 to spend more time with their kids and not to leave them on their own.
Chang Hsiu-yuan (張秀鴛), the department’s director-general, said that as the number of families with two working parents increases, parents are increasingly leaving their elementary-school children home alone.
Parents tend to believe that their children can perform the activities of daily living and are therefore safe when home alone, but accidents happen, Chang said.
According to the department’s data, of the total unintentional injuries and deaths among children and teenagers recorded in the past three years, 65 were caused by falls, 44 of which involved children aged between 5 and 19.
Most of the deaths caused by falls were the result of parents’ negligence, Chang said, stressing that the call to not leave children home alone is more than a moral persuasion, it is also a matter of law, as the Protection of Children and Youths Welfare and Rights Act (兒童及少年福利與權益保障法) states that “parents, guardians, or other people looking after children and youth will not leave children alone in an environment that can easily cause danger or damage.”
The ministry’s data show that from 2007 to last year, 135 cases had been recorded involving violation of the act by leaving children home alone.
The act also states that “children aged below six, or children and youth that need special care, will not be left alone, or be looked after by improper people,” with “improper people” being children aged between 7 and 12, people infected with notifiable communicable diseases, people with severe disabilities, or those who are not able to attend to children’s safety and wellbeing, according to the department.
Leaving a five-year-old with an 11-year-old sibling is equally against the law, even though the older child is able to perform activities of daily living, Chang said.