Families logo

I found out that my neighbor left his 12 year old son home alone and he hasn't returned in 6 hours, should I call CPS?

by tige 3 months ago in values / parents / humanity / children
Report Story

A Chinese woman faces charges for leaving her 12-year-old daughter at home to look after her younger brother in the UK

A Chinese woman living in East London was recently arrested by police for leaving her 12-year-old daughter at home to look after her 6-year-old brother while she was away at work. Criminal charges are being considered against the woman for ignoring repeated reminders from the police. This incident reflects the cultural differences between the East and the West, especially the new Chinese immigrants who do not understand the situation in the UK and have too little concept of the law in this regard.

  The woman, Chen, is 38 years old, her husband works as a chef in a restaurant, and she herself works part-time every Friday and Saturday at a take-away restaurant. Ms. Chen has two children, the oldest is 12 years old and the youngest is 6 years old. Ms. Chen usually takes the children to school by herself and takes care of the household chores.

  In order to increase her family's income, she needs to work out two nights a week. In previous years, she sent her children to a relative's house to take care of them for her. Starting two years ago, when her eldest daughter passed the age of 10, she instructed her oldest to take care of her younger brother: eat, watch TV and sleep.

  One day in October 2011, a burglary occurred near where Ms. Chen lives. A family on the same street as her was away on a trip and their belongings were stolen from their home. The police routinely went to the neighbor's house to find out what was going on. When they knocked on Ms. Chen's house at 5 p.m., the children initially refused to open the door as their mother had instructed them to do, but the police knew from outside the door that someone was inside and continued to call on the door.

  Eventually the police found the family with only two children, and the adults were nowhere to be found. Ms. Chen was quickly recalled by phone. She was warned by the police that it was a crime to leave minors alone in the home for long periods of time. Ms. Chen promised to obey the law and that such incidents would not happen again.

  Three months later, the local police came to the house for a routine check. The female subject was actually not home again, and her 12-year-old sister was playing video games with her little brother. They told the truth: the mother was working. The police rushed to the take-away store where she worked and arrested her. The child welfare department of the local district government also intervened urgently and picked up the siblings that night and arranged for them to be temporarily settled with a British family.

  The next day, Ms. Chen was released on bail, and her husband hurried back. The two were able to pick up the children four days later after a run by their lawyer. But the government has made it clear that it will review their suitability as parents to care for the two children. The police and the prosecutor's office are still conducting further investigations to decide whether to prosecute Ms. Chen.

  Two years ago a Chinese man suffered a tragedy when his wife became mentally ill and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital, leaving his 7-year-old child at home alone to earn money. The restaurant he worked at was only a ten-minute walk from his home, and he would always go home every two or three hours to check on his wife when he was working. The story reached the local child welfare department and the child was soon forcibly removed and the Chinese couple was found to be uncooperative parents. They have not yet been able to get their child back, despite two court hearings.

  At the end of February, a British woman went on a six-week trip abroad, leaving her 14-year-old daughter at home, even though she had a fridge full of food and £100 in cash. She was still sentenced for neglect

  According to traditional Chinese customs, 12-year-olds already know how to do a lot of household chores, especially in rural China, where it is natural for teenagers to bring up their younger siblings alone. In the UK, the situation is completely different.

  A spokesperson for the NSPCC, the largest child protection organization in the U.K., pointed out that child protection is relatively strict under British law. How old can a child be left at home alone? The law does not specify a precise age limit, but it is still relatively easy for parents to grasp the size. The first thing to look at is whether the parents go out occasionally, or whether they often leave their children alone at home. For example, if a parent occasionally goes to a neighbor's house for half an hour and leaves their 12-year-old daughter home alone, it is certainly okay. But not if it happens several nights a week. For example, it's okay to let a child play with other children near the house, which helps the children's development. It is illegal to let a minor child wander the streets during the day without a purpose. Only children over the age of 16 are allowed to stay home alone.

  The spokesman argued that Chinese parents who are forced to work outside the home should leave their children with other adults or hire a caregiver to look after them. He pointed out that some children seem quite old, but when they encounter an emergency, such as a fire, they panic and don't know how to respond.

  Myths about how old children can be independent

  Myth #1: The law says that 12-year-olds can't be home alone.

  Explanation: There is no law that says 12 is the age when people generally think they can be home alone, but school counselors and police believe 14 is actually the safest.

  Police say they don't often get complaints about children being home alone, unless something happens, such as a robbery or a report of marijuana cultivation, and they occasionally find someone who has left a minor child too young at home alone.

  Moreover, the police do not judge whether children can be left alone at home simply by their age. Other factors must be considered, such as whether the home environment is safe, whether it may be unsafe for younger children to cook on the stove, whether there are older siblings among the children, how resilient they are, whether they know to call the police in case of an emergency, or to contact someone who can provide assistance in an emergency, etc.

  Myth #2: If a child is of an age where he or she is generally allowed to be home alone, for example, at age 16, can they be home alone at night?

  Explanation: Although there is no legal requirement, police and social workers say that "alone at home" only means that children can be left alone during the day, but not at night.

  Generally speaking, minor children (under 18 years old) should have an adult living with them, and although they can be home alone during the day, it does not include having them stay alone at night.

  Chinese people generally misunderstand that teenage children can be home alone regardless of daytime or nighttime; however, in fact, as long as they are still minor children, they can be home alone during the daytime and must be cared for by an adult living with them at night. Therefore, if parents cannot go home at night to take care of their children, they should also ask other adult relatives to take care of them.

  Myth 3: If you have two or more children at the same time, the oldest must be 16 years old to take care of the younger sibling at home.

  Explanation: The law does not stipulate that, depending on the resilience of the children and the younger siblings in need of care, the age cannot be too young.

  Myth #4: If a child reaches the age of 12, he or she can take the bus on their own.

Explanation: The law also does not provide for this, but it depends on whether the child has enough resilience to go out. Generally, children who are already in secondary school should be able to take the bus to school by themselves, and it is better if they can have classmates with them. If you need to take a bus to a faraway place, or take a bus at night, or take a bus to a remote area, you should be careful and be accompanied by an adult.


About the author


I could have endured the darkness, yet I have seen the light

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights


There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

Sign in to comment

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2022 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.