Minnesota has no laws that specifically address minimum age requirements for babysitters. There also are no federal laws that deal directly with babysitting other than general labor laws. Minnesota leaves babysitting regulations and enforcement up to local jurisdictions, and most counties provide guidelines. Any breach of established local babysitting guidelines in Minnesota would generally fall under child neglect or abuse laws. Minnesota residents should check with their local municipalities about babysitting guidelines.
According to the Minnesota Office of the Revisor of Statutes, “Babysitters are individuals who provide child-care services to parents and are not licensed to operate day care centers under Minnesota Statutes, chapter 245.”
The Minnesota Office of the Revisor of Statutes also defines babysitters as independent contractors, employees or workers contracted through an agency. Each of these definitions is described in detail, with threshold criteria explained. For example, independent contractors (your neighbor’s teenage daughter, for example) differ from employees in that contractors may exercise more discretion and judgment in caring for children and may engage in unrelated activities, such as household chores. These laws pertain almost exclusively to labor laws and do not establish age minimums nor set forth requirements for Minnesota babysitters. Adult babysitters are required to meet all applicable labor laws and, of course, abide by any child neglect and abuse laws.
Most Minnesota counties, as well as some smaller government entities, have established guidelines for babysitting services. Most of these suggestions are efforts to ensure that laws relating to child neglect or abuse are not violated, as well as providing common-sense tips to avoid such transgressions. For instance, Dakota County — just south of the Minneapolis-St.Paul metropolitan area on the Wisconsin border — suggests that it’s “acceptable for children ages 11 to 14 to baby-sit, with the expectation that the parent, guardian or caretaker will be returning to supervise the children later that same day.”
The county goes on to say that teenagers 15 and older may babysit children for periods longer than 24 hours. Pine County also has child-care guidelines, including suggestions that children age 7 and under should never be left alone, kids 8 and 9 should not be left alone for more than two hours, children 10 to 13 shouldn’t be left on their own for more than eight hours, and teens 14 and older shouldn’t be unsupervised for more than a day. The county also stipulates that children must be 11 to babysit younger children. Individual children’s maturity levels are taken into account, but the county attorney’s office or other agencies will investigate cases that come to their attention when these guidelines are violated.
Tips for Parents
Parents who use the services of babysitters — including those of their own children — and parents of children being supervised by other kids should be able to know that children who provide babysitting duties are able to perform certain tasks, such as solving problems and contacting emergency services if needed. In addition, children who are left home alone should meet certain skill and maturity thresholds, like being able to reach you by phone, being able to dial “911,” knowing how to lock doors and windows, and being able to communicate with adults.
Most counties also explicitly prohibit disabled or mentally impaired children from performig babysitting duties. Children who babysit — and adults, for that matter — should be trained in emergency techniques such as CPR. The American Red Cross provides babysitting classes that teach youngsters how to responsibly care for younger children. Some classes include CPR training for an additional fee.