A friend of mine was telling me that she wanted to have her daughter's sixth birthday party at an outdoor play area. It's this arcade that's outdoors, and they host birthday parties. It's a really fun place to have a birthday party, and her only reservation is that she doesn't feel comfortable watching 20+ kids in a place where they can easily escape.
I was just completely baffled by this. I asked her why it was her responsibility to watch all the children at the party, when she was hosting it at a third-party location, and presumably those children also have parents. She told me that it's her experience that the parents will just leave the children there, and then it is her job to keep track of them. If one of them got lost, she would be responsible.
Again, I was baffled. If a parent goes to a party and leaves their five-year-old child there without asking if it's OK, and the kid gets lost, how is that in any way the fault of the person holding the party? Does "party" somehow equate to "licensed childcare center"? There's nothing in the party invitation that says your child will be watched. I personally would assume that a person hosting a children's party would be far too busy to take care of 20 children, so as painful as it is, I usually stick around at these parties.
I pointed all that out, but my friend was insistent that multiple parents had left their kids at her parties in the past, and she felt responsible for all the children. She said if something happened to one of them, even at a third-party location, she would almost certainly be legally blamed for it.
What do you think?
It seems like children's birthday parties stress you out way too much.ReplyDelete
that's because fizzy wants to be part of the crowd, who throw lavish large parties. She becomes very angry when other point out that they make very small celebrations with a couple of friends to avoid stress. she especially becomes angry when someone expresses opinion that crowds at small child's party are unnecessary.ReplyDelete
I think you guys might be missing the point in an attempt to insult me.Delete
Anon 4:49 here. I agree that Anon 5:07's comments were rude and extreme.Delete
But, to be fair, you did ask for people's opinions and then you get mad when you disagree with opinions people share (in this case, that you may be overreacting). I haven't been reading your blog for long, but this is one of several posts you've made recently regarding the stress and frustration you have surrounding children's birthday parties.
Though, since this is clearly what you're looking for: I do agree that parents should supervise their children and that the host should make expectations clear.
Do I seem angry at anyone here? I'm not angry. Why would I get angry at an anonymous comment online?Delete
Large parties for children are very stressful though. I think that's pretty much a fact.
It happens, and you're getting to the zone where it's really unclear whether parents are supposed to stay or not. Invites should make it clear, but they never do. By 8 or so, it's usually pretty clear that you're not supposed to stay.ReplyDelete
This is a corollary to the issue of whether sibs are permitted. If parents are expected to stay, sibs really need to be permitted, too, because you can't always sequence the family's life to make sure that there's somebody to watch the sib.
BTW, not that you would necessarily lose, but if something tragic happened, you could potentially be sued. I swear I'm not an insurance broker, but I have a *lot* of extra liability insurance (like, $10M) just for things like this and carpooling kids for school events, etc.
And, ignore the trolls...
The troll comments don't bother me. They are just bizarre and almost nonsensical in their attempts to insult me. It's actually sort of funny.Delete
The issue with allowing siblings is that a lot of places have strict limits on the number of kids that can come, probably due to some reason involving fire hazards. So if you invite your child's entire class, and everyone brings two siblings or even just one sibling, you might be way, way over the limit. I'm not saying that siblings can't come, but the parents need to ask if it's OK and not just assume that there's room.
I just can't imagine leaving a five-year-old child at a party without checking to make sure it's OK. I mean, parents sometime disappear without even leaving contact information. I don't see how the parent would not be at fault.
I think that for a 6-year-old's birthday party, assuming all attendees are roughly 6 years old, parents don't usually stay... but also, the parties for kids that age that I've known have been much smaller. Less that 10 kids.ReplyDelete
If your friend is stressing about it, there are a couple of things she can do to have more help: when I was a teenager, one of the families I babysat for had me and another girl come out to help wrangle the kids at a party. She could also ask her husband or some friends/family to come help bring the ratios down to an easier level.
Or she could decide not to invite so many kids, which is what I'd do. Wouldn't the birthday kid enjoy the party just as much with a few special friends, cake, and all the fun activities?
I guess my question though is whether the parent hosting the party is legally responsible for any child brought to the party, especially if the parent just dropped the kid off and leaves without asking if it's OK or assessing the situation. I think your idea about hiring someone to help is a good one, but I have to tell you, I have been to dozens of children's birthday parties, and I have never once seen anyone hire an extra person to help out. My experience is that when kids are dropped off, they are simply not watched by anyone.Delete
She needs to invite 10 or fewer children and/or explicitly tell parents they need to stay, because she would *absolutely* be liable (and so would the play facility) if anything were to happen. It may not be morally her fault, but legally -- hell yes.ReplyDelete
If I were the lawyer for the defense, I would have to ask the parents:Delete
Did it say on the invitation that you are allowed to leave the child there? Did you ask the parents hosting the party if you were allowed to leave your child there unescorted? Did you receive any explicit verbal or written information saying that your child would be watched?
If not, then why would you leave your child there alone?
In response to the question on legality, I have no idea if the host parent would be convicted, but they certainly could potentially be sued. I am of the mind that I am responsible or my own children, so I'd never simply leave a young child at a party at ANY location without speaking directly to the host about their expectations. If I arrived and I saw many children and few adults in a potentially dangerous location, I would stick around and stay on the fringes of the party. Not necessarily participating, but not leaving my child to their own devices either. However if I had my other kids with me, that would be tricky.ReplyDelete
Regarding your comment section. I've been reading your blog for several years now, along with a few other blogs. I think you must have one of the strangest group of commenters I've ever seen. I don't know if it is because you are honest about being a young, successful, female, skinny woman or what, but these folks are quick to get offended by you. Its weird.
What seems to happen with some of the commenters is that they disagree with what I'm saying, and if I argue with them respectfully instead of immediately changing my opinion to theirs, they think I'm angry or stubborn. I'm not sure why me not changing my opinion the second somebody disagrees with me means that I'm closed-minded. I just want to have a discussion. If you disagree with me, convince me. Don't personally insult me.Delete
Anyway, I agree that a parent could be sued. But my question is whether the lawsuit could be successful. I've seen parents leave their children alone in all sorts of dangerous situations without any regard for what could happen, so it doesn't surprise me that kids get left at parties that aren't particularly safe. But that doesn't automatically mean that somebody else is at fault.
I think when they receive the invitation they interpret it to mean that their child is invited, not the child and parents. Unless the siblings and parents are explicitly invited on the invitation, I think that it could be assumed that the child alone is invited. No one should ever put their child in a dangerous situation, but they could not have been aware that they were expected to stay without specific instructions. Maybe my opinion is skewed because when the kids were that young the only invitations that weren't extended to us (the parents) had 10 children or less. I think that your friend may need to tell people that they need to stay in advance if that's what she expects from them. Or, she can do what another commentator said and hire some help. Either way, I think the host is always responsible for the safety of those at the party.ReplyDelete
I would completely agree that you are liable for anything that happens at your party if it is in your own home, but I don't know if I agree if it's a third-party location. Say you were having a birthday party for yourself and invited 10 of your friends over to a restaurant for a celebration, and somebody was injured at the restaurant. Would you be liable or with the restaurant? I assume the answer would be the restaurant. So I'm not sure why it's any different if you invite 10 kids over to Chuck E cheese and one of them gets hurt. Especially if you never agreed to watch the child.Delete
Not to say that somebody might not be able to file a lawsuit, but I can't imagine it would win. Ultimately, parents are responsible for their own children, and you can't trust somebody is going to watch your child based on something implicit. Especially when it's so obvious that the parents hosting the party are going to be pretty overwhelmed.
Parents should be with the kids. At least one of them should be. Its not fair to the parent giving the party in several ways. Less problems when parents stick around - ok the parents I know but not everyone's.ReplyDelete
I'd turn off anonymous comments if it were my place, but that is just me. :) If people can't make up a fake name to leave a comment, then they can't leave a comment IMO. ;)ReplyDelete
With that said, I've got nothing re birthday parties. I'd probably prefer parents stay to look after their kids in 99% of situations, myself. :)
I let people comment anonymously because I'd rather hear the comments and deal with a few crazy people. Most people are actually very respectful. I'm not going to allow a few trolls to ruin it for everyone.Delete
I'm not sure the legalities per se but teachers do it all the time! When we take field trips we can only take a limited # of parents! Parents need to make sure they have enough help including the employees that are "working" the party!ReplyDelete
However, I think the place where the party is being held is assuming liability be offering to host parties!
Therefore, you need to ask the party vendor what adult/child ratio they expect & ask a few patents to stay.
As for siblings.....I think it's out of line to think that you can just bring them w/out asking & inappropriate to ask to bring them! These parties are expensive and often billed per person! So why anyone would think bringing Sally's & her four siblings is beyond me!
I've been to parties where not only do the parents bring siblings they try to leave! In most of these situations my friends were able to catch them & in a few cases the parent knew it was wrong & snuck out quickly!
On these occasions when the parents left quickly, the host called them & told to come back or the police would be contacted for abandonment!
I guess clear expectations need to be included on the invitation. Things like: parents need to stay, I need a few parents to volunteer to stay & only the child on the invite can attend w/ a parent!
Yes, I think that a common situation is that the parent knows it's wrong and knows it's unsafe, but they justify it to themselves because they want to be able to leave their child there. I have seen parents drop a toddler age child in a park and just leave for an extended period, so it's obvious that not every parent is obsessed with their children's safety.Delete
I think in the case of an open play area where a child can easily leave, and the parents hosting are clearly overwhelmed, anybody with an ounce of common sense would recognize that a five-year-old child should not be left there alone, much less a second sibling. But the parents will do it anyway because it suits them.
And if that happens, who is legally responsible?
I think the only way to get that answer is to contact an attorney (I'm not trying to be an ass with that statement, Fizzy).Delete
When I was teaching and I took my class out for recess it often would be just me w/ my 25-27 students on a playground. It's an open area, a lot of kids and just me. It's standard operating procedure @ public schools (I can't speak for private). Sometimes multiple classes go out and unless there's more than 3 classes out @ once there's not more than one teacher out there. We carry a walkie talkie to radio into the office if need be but that's how it works. The kids no the boundaries and the consequences if they don't abide but still!!!!!
I carried personal liability insurance because if something ever did happen, although the school "would cover me" if I were to get sued as an individual for following school policy I wanted to make sure (1000%) that I was covered and my interests are being protected by myself.
It's scary to be responsible for all of these kids in an open area whether it be annually at a party of daily as a teacher. But there comes an age where parents are going to expect to leave their kids unless their asked to stay and some will still leave (lets face it some parents are just irresponsible).
If having a party like that is something that you want to do and are feeling this stressed about it try to pick a venue that has secure doors (alarms when someone goes out), security cameras covering all in/out doors, try to have a small adult/child ratio, if you know that a certain child is going to be a handful (ask your daughter she'll know) and the venue their policy, etc.! And if you're really uncomfortable than you'll need to tell parents that each child must be accompanied by a parent.
It's fair to say that many of the parent's of school age children (kindergarten up) are going to consider leaving if you don't tell them they have to stay. The thought process being if my kids are in school all day w/ one teacher and 25-27 students (in some schools it could be 30+) than why not a birthday party with more adults (parents for sure and sometimes aunts/uncles, grandparents, etc.)?
I know I'm not answering your question and that's because I'm not a legal professional. However, if that's the kind of party you want to have for your daughter (and she really would like that type of party) than there's no reason why you can't do so by taking every precaution possible.
You don't have to invite the entire class. Just don't hand out the invites @ school (some schools don't allow it anyway). My rule were: the only way I would hand out invites is if either all the boys are invited, all the girls are invited or the whole class is invited. I WOULD not address invitations (and believe me I was asked no less than five times a year for more than 17 years) and I will NOT give out addresses.
Sorry for any errors. Every time I try to go back and edit something it shoots back to the top of your BLOG page.
Have a great weekend.
I'm not a lawyer - I'm a veterinarian. However, I'm an experienced parent, and it's my experience that by age six, unless otherwise indicated on the invitation, birthday parties are in fact drop-off events. That said, when my own children were invited to parties that seemed as if security might be sketchy, I always took it upon myself to ask if the parents needed additional chaperones. If they said they did not, because "oh, my in-laws are all staying and helping" or "Jane & Jack's parents are already staying to help" or whatever, then I would be ok dropping off and not worrying, or if they said "that would be great!" I would stay," and if they said "oh, I'm not worried, it's a safe place" but I disagreed, I would say "ok well I'd like to stay, I think Johnny would prefer it if that's all right" and then stay! As a party host, I always ensured that my parents and in-laws would stay and help, or that I would have enough hired help to ensure an adequate supervision ratio. I would personally not expect the guest's parents to stay at that age to participate in the safe running of the party, although certainly if I were friends with some of them I might ask them to do so as friends do :)ReplyDelete
Regarding the Chuck E Cheese scenario proposed above... it is IMO unrealistic to expect that any minors at a location are the responsibility of the managers of the location unless that is explicitly stated upon entry. By which I mean, one cannot send one's six year old into a Chuck E Cheese alone, and expect that the facility is liable if the child is injured - right? Therefore, it would seem obvious to me that any minor children invited to a facility by an unrelated adult, who are dropped off into the care of that unrelated adult by the parent, would be the responsbility of that unrelated adult, and not of the facility (except of course in the event of injury due to facility negligence or whatever, like a play structure broke and the kid fell 10 feet down because of it).ReplyDelete
But it's a different situation if there is a party being hosted, because usually there is a staff member assigned to the party. And they are sort of responsible for everything that happens during the party. That's been my experience anyway.Delete
I have a 5.5 year old and no way would I leave him at a birthday party at an outdoor location and expect other adults to care for him! I don't think I'm over-protective, but 5-6 seems way too young for kids to be dropped off, and I would expect to say unless it was clearly stated that the kids would be supervised by the host and other predetermined adults.ReplyDelete
Though knowing that so many other consider it OK, I would probably state directly on the invitation that a parent needs to stay with the child (i.e "please plan to stay with your child as this is a large ungated space"). I've gotten invites where its indirectly stated "we will have pizza and cake for the kids and parents" but I guess that is pretty vague.
The sibling issue: I always ask, and try to give them an out when its a third party (vs their house or a park with no limits on headcount) "I know there are space limits, let me know either way and we'll make arrangements" My kids are less than 2 years apart and in the same daycare, so the kids all know each other.
Actually, I have to say that I personally have never experienced a parent dropping off a child in a situation where I did not feel comfortable with it at a party. But all my parties have been in small closed spaces, and actually most of the parents usually stay. But this friend of mine has complained about this multiple times in the past, and I've heard other people complain about this issue, so I guess it's a problem that parents will drop off kids in dangerous situations.Delete
I solved this problem by:ReplyDelete
1. Never hosting birthday parties. And I mean, NEVER.
2. Sticking with my kids at other's parties.
Ultimately, I am responsible for my children unless I am paying someone else to be responsible in my absence. Bringing a gift does not quite constitute payment.
Just my .02.
Totally agree with your last paragraph.Delete
I didn't want to have a big birthday party for my younger daughter, but it was all she could talk about and she wanted it so badly, I couldn't say no.
If you host a party, yes, morally you are responsible for the safety of the children who attend. I mean, you're the HOST! The kids are your guests! My kids are older now (teens), but when they were young, we only invited the number of kids I could handle. And we held the parties at enclosed places (pottery painting place, art studio, etc). Some parents stayed, some did not. I was ok with either. But we are a small community, and I knew all the kids we invited. I also knew their parents, at least by sight.ReplyDelete
So if your friend is too stressed by the idea of hosting a kids' party at an outdoor open area (and I would be too stressed by that too!), then she shouldn't do it.