HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) – Lawmakers are debating whether or not the state should make changes to Connecticut’s child neglect laws and policies.
State Rep. Thomas O’Dea (R) and Rep. Travis Simms (D) say it’s time to allow kids to be kids and that the government is overstepping the rights of parents.
Growing up in the 70s, Rep. Travis Simms felt a sense of accomplishment and maturity walking across the street to buy milk for his mother when he was 11, but now he says that could be deemed as neglect.
“I think this is an overreach as government and we need to peel this back and revisit it and hopefully give the rights back to parents,” Rep. Simms said.
Simms and Rep. O’Dea want to loosen the rules so parents cannot be found neglectful unless they willfully or recklessly disregard obvious danger.
Currently, the law does not state an exact age of when a child can be home alone.
The Department of Children and Families has written guidelines recommending believe a child should be at least 12 but not every child is ready then.
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In 2022 the state agency investigated over 22,500 reports of neglect
Department of Children and Families Commissioner Vanessa Dorantes told News 8 the bill risks children’s safety by allowing parents to avoid risk of injury charges.
“The concern that we would have is that it’s so broad child safety would be impacted and I haven’t yet heard of an example that speaks of an overreach in a time when we actually had to investigate and did something improperly,” Dorantes said.
Parents told News 8 they gave their children more freedom around 12 years old but say every child is different and the choice should be left to the parents.
“Right before preteen I wouldn’t even say 12, to be honest, but she’s very mature for her age so she could be an exception to the rule because she was fine,” said parent, D’Shawn Jemison.
“They do kind of need to loosen up the neglect thing because I’ve been caught up in situations where I don’t know what to do right now and honestly, we’re parents and we work a lot and the bottom line is if your child is mature enough it’s your choice,” said parent Valeryn Perez.
The Department of Children and Families told News 8 they are speaking with the representatives and are open to compromise. Rep. Simms said the bill is currently in the public hearing stage and then it will hopefully be debated on the floor.