Investigators have not said what the Sheboygan Falls parents were doing when fire broke out at their home. They have acknowledged that the children were home alone, and they say an 11-year-old was in charge at the time.
There is no law in Wisconsin about leaving kids home alone, but there are guidelines and common sense.
Lisa Kyles is a mom to a 12-year-old and a 17-year-old. She only recently allowed her 12-year-old to be home alone.
“When I called the Red Cross, they said there isn’t a legal age to stay home,” Kyles says. “So you have to know your kid and know what they’re comfortable with… and know how they’d react if there were a problem.”
In the past week, the Red Cross has responded to both the Sheboygan Falls fire and to another one near Madison where two teenagers died while their parents were at work.
Julie Tramte Brassfield works for Family and Childcare Resources of N.E.W. She says it’s impossible to know why parents have to leave their children home alone. After all, Brassfield deals with hundreds of parents who work odd hours and struggle to find even one or two certified locations to bring their kids.
“They’ll say, ‘I don’t have any other options,'” Brassfield says. “‘I don’t see another choice.’ And depending on the responsibility level of their child, they may feel that that’s appropriate and that that’s something they can do.”
Brown County Human Services recommends the following guidelines to parents:
– Children should be at least 12 years old to be home alone.
– Children between 9 and 11 years old might be able to handle limited amounts of time alone.
– Children under 8 years old should never be left home alone.
Sara Rose has a 3-year-old and a 9-year-old. Rose’s childhood home burned down, so she says she wants her kids to know fire safety before they’re ever home alone.
“We start at a young, young age,” Rose says. “Escape routes and different plans for the house… and (their schools) make you do different practice sessions as part of their homework”
The Red Cross says Sara Rose is doing the right thing. The Red Cross recently released a study showing families are not prepared for a house fire. The national study showed 52 percent of families have not talked about fire safety. Seventy percent have not identified a safe place to meet should an evacuation be necessary, and 82 percent of families have not practiced a home fire drill.