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Important Safety Tips for Families

Lisa Tabachnick
Sept. 27, 2007

Working with your neighbors to create a safe zone for your kids.

Recently, a friend in Toronto shared an alarming tale: her two young children (ages 8 and 6 years at the time) were approached by a man who tried to lure them into his car with the promise of candy. As much as this sounds like a cliche, it happens. What makes this story even more frightening is that this man was brazen enough to approach the children while they were playing on their own front lawn and that he returned, soon after the first incident, to try and lure the kids into his car again. Luckily, the children were aware enough to run and find their parents.

When this happened the first time, Stacey*, their mom, had just stepped inside the house for a moment, but once she figured out what was happening and ran outside, the man sped off in his car. What did Stacey do next? "The incident was reported to the police and to the schools. The police recommended that children never be outside in front [of the house], and parents [should remove] toys or evidence of kids as 'these people' cruise through neighborhoods looking for opportune moments," she says.

How is Stacey feeling about this experience now that a few months have gone by? "We have to be watchful, but not live in a state of fear or it gets very clearly communicated to the children. So, we do our best to try to balance that," she says. This is very timely advice. While it's important for parents and others to stay on top of goings-on in the community, it's also crucial to make sure that, at the appropriate times, children are comfortable exploring, growing and learning away from mom and dad, too.

In many cities across North America, "safety days" are held through police associations. They may be set up in malls, at fairs or in parks where they will do a special fingerprinting session and possibly take photographs and do dental swabs of your child(ren). If you'd like to explain this process to your kids, you can log on to this child-friendly description from the FBI's web site on why fingerprinting is useful: http://www.fbi.gov/kids/k5th/w...

Safety tips

  • If someone suspicious is hovering near your (or other) children, record the license plate number of the vehicle and/or get a good description of the man/woman
  • If your child is alone at the time, tell them to run away, shout "you're not my father (or mother)!" and find the nearest police officer, teacher, other parent, neighbor, etc.
  • Make sure your kids get safety training from an experienced police officer, social worker or teacher either through their school or a community program. If you're interested in training older kids at home, here's how to buy an interesting DVD entitled "Break and Run" at http://www.smallpotatoesproduc...
  • Share any current information on child predators, suspicious persons and other key data with nearby school principals, community watch groups and your own friends and neighbors so that they can be on the look-out for such individual(s)

Ironically, I had recently decided to let my guard down somewhat when it came to our pre-schooler playing outside. He's a tough little guy who is usually good at following the rules - no talking to strangers, staying on our property, making sure I can see him at all times, etc. However, after hearing about Stacey's chilling experience, I'm making sure that I (or another trusted adult) am within viewing distance of our kids at all times. Stacey and her husband have gone so far as to drive or walk with their two children (now 11 and 9) almost everywhere they go.

What can you do to make your neighborhood safer? Besides being street-savvy, you may be interested in joining a Neighborhood Watch program ? you can search by state or zip code to see if there's already one in place in your area at http://www.usaonwatch.org/Abou... or start your own group. In Canada, there's a program called Block Parents. According to the Canadian Block Parent web site, found at http://www.blockparent.ca/: The organization's mission is to provide immediate assistance through a safety network and to offer supportive community education programs. As long as you are over 18 years of age and pass a police screening exercise, you can apply to become a Block Parent. A recognizable red and white sign is placed in your home's window so that children, who are lost, afraid or otherwise concerned, can knock on your door for assistance.

What to do from here? As Stacey pointed out, it's difficult not to become paranoid at times but the key is to keep your children's safety in mind by speaking with them about it regularly, finding and taking part in the appropriate training and being vigilant about keeping your kids, and the kids of others, safe.

*Names have been changed.

Lisa Tabachnick Hotta is the mother of two young children and a freelance writer, editor and researcher.

* This article is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be providing medical advice and is not a substitute for such advice. The reader should always consult a health care provider concerning any medical condition or treatment plan.?? Neither Care.com nor the author assumes any responsibility or liability with respect to use of any information contained herein.

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