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  • 1.  Unaccompanied Minors policies?

    Posted 08-04-2022 04:29 PM
    We had a woman last week at our historic, active archaeology site who was "tired" and wanted to let her 9 and 11 year olds on site (they'd be free). She wanted to rest in the Visitors Center. We told her no.

    As we are a private nonprofit in a partnership with the National Park Service, I reached out and am now in a long conversation with several NPS folks about some sort of policy. There is no policy with NPS about this. They said they defer to state law but that is only about children being left alone, not in a public place exposed to strangers, a river, an active archaeology site, etc.
    I'm now in the process of writing a policy and have reached out to local museums and theme parks in our area so I have more oomph to my argument. The liability risk seems like it would be over the top. 
    I'm wondering how many other sites have policies in place, maybe even added to their websites, etc. If you would be willing to share, I would appreciate it. 
    Thanks for any assistance!

    Lauren T. Furey
    Director of Visitor Services
    Preservation Virginia
    Newport News VA

  • 2.  RE: Unaccompanied Minors policies?

    Posted 08-05-2022 08:29 AM
    Some 20 years ago, a woman was found to have quickly dropped off her two kids outside the science center at which I was head of operations. It was three hours before closing on a Friday evening at an interactive museum with no general admission, and the kids were of similar ages to those you encountered.  Lobby video would later show that, within five minutes of their entry, the younger child had maneuvered around a barricade to grab onto the handrail of the lobby escalator, hanging on the outside of the unit to ride it up.  The escalator stopped at the second floor, some 16 feet above the lobby, and so did the child's ride.  In his fall he shattered a wrist and forearm and suffered a concussion.

    I was one of the staff deposed by the plaintiff's attorney, and I still recall the frustration - that, despite our own "must be accompanied by an adult" policy, it was viewed that the kids gained entry, albeit unintended, and therefore shelter in the absence of their parent.  And so, despite our best efforts at providing stimulating and meaningful visitor experiences (as well as safety measures and security presence), museums and cultural sites are no better than "attractive nuisances" when it comes to parents skirting responsibility.  A hefty settlement was paid, and within a few years, the escalator even removed in a lobby renovation.  

    My takeaway was that a stated policy may deflect some culpability - but not necessarily liability - for visitors, and those responsible for them, who choose to do the wrong thing.

    John Wharton
    Museum Docent &
    Retired Museum Professional
    Bonita Springs FL

  • 3.  RE: Unaccompanied Minors policies?

    Posted 08-05-2022 09:31 AM
    Thank you SO much for this. I'm adding it to my argument! And let me add that I'm so sorry that you had to deal with this.

    Lauren T. Furey
    Director of Visitor Services

  • 4.  RE: Unaccompanied Minors policies?

    Posted 08-05-2022 09:07 AM
    Hi Lauren,

    I've been looking into this, as well. We also see instances of teenage babysitters bringing in younger children. 

    I need to continue my research but here are some policies I found in my initial search:

    Would love to hear about what you find and what you decide to set as your policy.


    Kelsey Enderle
    Senior Director, Guest Engagement
    Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal
    Cincinnati OH

  • 5.  RE: Unaccompanied Minors policies?

    Posted 08-05-2022 09:30 AM
    I've reached out to all the local museums in our area for starters. Everyone else seems to have a policy in place. So far I've heard back from the Jamestown Yorktown Foundation (Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown), Busch Gardens (not a museum, lol, but a big destination in our area), and the Ripley's Believe it or Not "Museum".

    Busch Gardens and Water Country USA require visitors 13 years or younger to be accompanied by a supervising adult, parent or guardian.

    Jamestown Yorktown Foundation:
    "Our policy as I understand it is anyone under the age of 13 has to be accompanied by an adult. That's why we give stickers to adults only. So, we don't allow any free range children on the grounds."

    Ripley's Believe it or Not Williamsburg:
    You must be 13 or older to be in the attractions by yourself. Anyone 12 and under must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

    I'm waiting to hear from Colonial Williamsburg.

    Lauren T. Furey
    Director of Visitor Services

  • 6.  RE: Unaccompanied Minors policies?

    Posted 08-05-2022 11:47 AM


    Our facility and situation may be a bit different as we are an indoor single-site facility. Our director's team established the policy based on the Minnesota state child supervision guidelines that identify 12 years old as the minimum age to babysit and be left alone for an extended period of time.

    Although the implementation of the policy doesn't come up frequently at ticketing, we continue to use it as the minimum age for volunteering without an adult and the age at which our summer campers can check themselves in and out of camp (for instance, ride a bike and arrive without a parent to sign them in). The policy is listed on our website admissions page and is included with volunteer and camp information.

    Good luck and take care!

    Julie Marano
    Interpretive Content Developer
    Great Lakes Aquarium
    Duluth MN

  • 7.  RE: Unaccompanied Minors policies?

    Posted 08-08-2022 02:10 PM



    We are affiliated with our adjacent community library and refer to the same policy:


    All children 9 and under must be continually supervised by a parent or caregiver.

    A child 10 or older may visit the museum without adult supervision but must be accompanied by one or more peers age 15 or older.                                                                                                                                                                                                     Two adults (staff or volunteer) will be present in the museum whenever a group of unaccompanied minors are present.                                                                                                                                                                                                     Please see our children-specific policies for details.



    We have agreed that it is in everyone's interest to have an adult with the minors and that the liability risk would be over the top.


    Best regards,



    Robin Butrey

    Engagement Coordinator

    Margaret R. Grundy Memorial Museum

    610 Radcliffe Street

    Bristol, PA 19007

    C: 215-962-6627

    W: 215-788-7891 ext. 26