Who’s Watching The Kids This Summer?

May 30, 2013

By Angela Liddle

This past weekend, I served as chief diaper-changer, activities coordinator and snuggle bunny for my eight-month-old granddaughter, Hailey. I am in awe of this little one! When she looks at me with her bright eyes, smiles broadly and wraps her small hand around my finger, I melt. And when I am not in a euphoric state, I am a nervous wreck. I realize that I am on high alert and rarely take my eyes off her. I am determined that she will not get a scrape, bruise or bump on my watch.

I don’t recall watching my own children so closely. It seems looking back that I was always in a state of constant motion, with house chores and job tasks sprinkled in between the diaper changes and formula preparation. Now, when I am with Hailey, the chores go undone. Maybe that’s because as I have aged, dirty dishes and dust bunnies no longer concern me as they once did.  Or maybe it’s because I now see danger where once I did not. I guess that’s what becoming a grandma, or Mae Mae, as I am called, can do to a person.

For all of us whose life experiences have helped us develop this watchdog-like alert, how do we look out appropriately for other children we know, especially over the summer months when kids aren’t being watched at school?  Every summer, PSFA responds to callers who express concern about children whom they believe are too young to be left home alone. Most people incorrectly believe that Pennsylvania has a “legal age” when a child can or should be left alone. Not so – it’s up to each parent to decide what’s best for their family and it is a hard decision to make.

Here are some tips for neighbors concerned about children alone over the summer months from The Front Porch Project:

  • Establish a relationship with the children and parents, if you don’t already know them. Plan get-togethers so people get to know each other.
  • If appropriate, offer to be the emergency person that a child can call or go to if he needs help.
  • Maybe a child could help you with a yard project or join your family in an activity. Check with parents first, of course, and be creative with ways to interact with neighborhood kids.
  • Tell parents about any community programs that they may not have considered.
  • Keep an eye out for all the children in your neighborhood. Have an open dialogue with parents and older children if you are concerned – and when kids are doing positive things too.

For more information and ways to help keep kids safe and support parents, visit www.pa-fsa.org.

The Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance (PFSA) provides training on recognizing and reporting suspected child abuse and neglect to schools, early childhood education centers, law enforcement agencies, religious institutions, and social service agencies. PFSA is the Pennsylvania sponsor of The Front Porch Project®, a training initiative that educates community members so they can play a vital role in child protection.