Leaving Children Alone

Apparently a six-year-old boy suffocated from smoke inhalation after being locked inside the house by his mother, who had taken the little brother to gan.

In the US, all locks must be openable from the inside. Here in Israel, most locks are designed so a key is needed to unlock the door from either side. If the key is still in the lock on the inside, it’s impossible to get into the apartment without breaking the lock. Many a babysitter has locked the door, left the key in the lock, and fallen asleep, forcing the parents to climb in through the window. When I moved to a new apartment, I paid an extra NIS 20 ($4-$5) to get a lock that allows easy exit without a key and entry with a key.

Just a few weeks ago, a neighbor suggested I leave my 2yo at home after I complained that she would be asleep during the gan pickup time. Unfortunately this attitude is still too common. The neighbor said that she had done it all the time and she “had no choice.” Since when is waking up a child not an option? Another child was killed a few years ago when a babysitter left an infant and a six-year-old home alone to pick up a third child from gan. The infant crawled under a stroller and strangled himself. It was raining that day and I’m sure the babysitter didn’t want to inconvenience the children by taking them outside. I wonder if the babysitter had told the mother of her plan.


  1. SephardiLady says

    How tragic.
    I have seen a few houses in the US where a key is needed to exit a door from the inside and this is so unsafe. I’m surprised that it is normal in Israel. And, what happens when you loose the key? I’m notorious for forgetting where I put my keys, especially in other people’s houses where they don’t have a set place.

  2. mother in israel says

    Aren’t they illegal in the US? I know they were illegal in NYC when I lived there, and window guards also had to have an escape route.

    Most people keep their keys in the lock. If you pull it out a bit someone else can still get in with a key. My friend with small children keeps hers on a hook near the door so that the children can’t get out without her knowing.

  3. SephardiLady says

    I believe they are illegal. But, I’ve still seen a handful. There is nothing safe about these locks, and it is too easy to loose the keys.

  4. Oy, when will these parents learn that you MUSTN’T LEAVE LITTLE KIDS AT HOME ALONE????? You’re right, how much sense does it take to wake a sleeping baby or just put him, still sleeping, into the car seat if you need to go somewhere??? I’ve done it, oh, about a million times!

    That story you told of the baby who was strangled under the stroller is heartbreaking- why would anyone put their own convenience above a child’s safety? It’s maddening.

    And we recently changed the lock on our front door to the kind that only needs a key from the outside. The old lock was broken and we decided this would be easier- and it is. I’m surprised more people don’t have this kind of lock.

  5. mother in israel says

    I have heard conflicting reports–he may have been awake and watching tv. It doesn’t really matter, does it.
    I once heard that the advantage of the key-on-the-inside system is that it is much, much, harder to break in when the key is in the lock. A single mother, who was afraid of her ex-husband, made sure that both she and her son wore keys around their necks day and night.