PIERCE COUNTY, Wash. - A new analysis from Smart Dollar says nearly 34% of families in the Seattle metro area with kids under 14-years-old do not have stay at home parents.
That means many families are scrambling to find a solution and for some, that may mean leaving a child home alone.
In Washington, there is no law that specifies an age when a child can stay home alone.
State officials say it depends on a child’s maturity but they say children 10-years-old or younger should not be left home alone.
One Pierce County single father said he is doing something he’s never done before this year as a single parent.
When meeting Justin and his daughter Kiawna, their banter shows the bond they have. It’s just been the two of them for most of the 12-year-old’s life.
“It feels like it might be hard for him but I can’t tell,” Kiawna said.
But it’s been hard for Kiawna too lately, in a lonely kind of way.
“It’s not fun being inside all day,” Kiawna said.
“It’s all new, it’s nothing I’ve done before,” Justin said.
The dire circumstances many families are forced into are leading them to make some tough decisions.
For Justin, it’s leaving his 12-year-old home alone for portions of the day.
“I’m pretty lucky to have a kid who is good and listens and I can depend on her, otherwise I wouldn’t feel safe leaving her at home,” Justin said.
But even a straight-A student needs reminding at this age.
“Making her do things a lot, repetitive and coming up with the idea of what she can and can’t do while I’m gone,” Justin said.
When Q13 News caught up with Justin again, who is an electrician, he was at work physically in Seattle but mentally far away.
“There is a bunch of scenarios that play out in my head,” Justin said.
He’s constantly thinking of Kiawna home alone. Although there is a lot of trust in Kiawna’s maturity, her dad knows the situation is far from ideal.
After considering finances, care options, and the dangers of the virus, Justin said their current plan, for now, is necessary for his family. He’s cut off interactions with others due to COVID-19 and he doesn’t feel comfortable sending Kiawna to a center to mingle with many others.
Still, he worries constantly when he is away, checking in on his daughter via Facetime and phone calls throughout the day.
“She lets me know everything is good,” Justin said.
Back home his daughter is thinking about what kind of fun things they can do when her dad gets home.
They are finding a new rhythm because tough times are nothing new for the duo.
“I had some health issues, 8 surgeries in 3 and half years,” Justin said.
Grit and hope got him through that one and he said these times will pass too.