For those of us who work with children and families, summer can bring fun — but also a lot of season-specific challenges. Families are on unusual schedules, parents are juggling the demands of new childcare arrangements and children are spending more time alone / on-screen or online / with new adults / outdoors and in pools. This week, we’ve gathered some of the questions we hear from parents and the resources we share most during the summer:
Is it okay to leave my child home alone? There is no easy answer, so we’ve compiled some good questions for parents and linked to all of the local jurisdictions in Northern Virginia for their “official” supervision guidelines and information.
Can I leave my child in the car if I’m just running a quick errand? We all know this answer – NO! Give parents our 5 Tips “Keep Kids Safe in Cars” fact sheet, which includes helpful reminders and simple steps parents can take when they’re in the car to prevent a tragic mistake. We also recommend the resources from Kids and Cars.
My child is around water and outside a lot this summer — what should I know? Check out the Summer Safety page on SCAN’s Parent Resource Center for helpful reminders on everything from sunscreen and water safety to reading and monitoring your teens’ summer activities. Share the fact sheets for parents to post and refer to all season long.
There are a lot of new adults (like camp counselors and coaches) around my child this summer — what can I do to make sure my child is safe and not at risk for sexual abuse? Parents (as well as everyone working with children!) should educate themselves about how to recognize, react and respond to the threat of child sexual abuse. Through its partnership with Darkness to Light, SCAN works with many local agencies and organizations to train groups of adults in its Stewards of Children curriculum. A good place for parents to start is the Learn about Child Sexual Abuse page on our website, and then explore the Prevent Child Sexual Abuse and Take Action pages as well. (If you’re a child welfare professional, be sure to download our Northern Virginia Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Resource List in English and Spanish, too.)
Do you have more summer questions from parents in your community? How can we help?
(And don’t forget to download the FREE Parent Resource Center app from SCAN! It gives parents on-the-go access to every topic on SCAN’s Parent Resource Center from your Apple or Android device.)
Twenty-seven.27 children in the U.S. have died from being left in a car this year alone. There is record heat in many parts of the country with more than one month of summer ahead of us, and the arrival of fall does not automatically mean cooler temperatures.
As service providers and those who advocate for children on all levels, there is a lot that we can do. The Child Protection Partnership (CPP) of Greater Prince William County is one example: a coalition of public, private, non-profit, and government agencies from Prince William County, the City of Manassas, and the City of Manassas Park, its mission is to eliminate child abuse and neglect in the Greater Prince William area. SCAN is a proud member of this organization, whose vision is that “The Greater Prince William area will be a community where children are able to learn and grow up in a safe environment fostering wellness and positive social reinforcement.”
One of the CPP’s focuses over the last few years has been around the issue of leaving kids in cars. Most of their work has been in the area of awareness, not only for parents, but for the those in the community who may witness a parent leaving a child in a car or may walk by a car and notice a child has been left. They have pooled their resources to create large, vinyl window decals that read “Attention, NEVER leave children alone in cars. You see it, call 911.” These decals have been placed in child care centers, schools, government offices and local businesses. Another awareness tool they have is three traveling displays that can be used at resource fairs and other on-site locations (for example, one has been rotating at all Prince William Parks and Rec locations throughout the area.) A key aspect of the display is a thermometer which tells you what the outside temperature is and what the temperature is inside of a vehicle (a receiver is placed in a vehicle close by.)
While representing the CPP at various events with this display (National Night Out, Potomac Nationals games, Prince William Kids Expo), I have repeatedly heard “How can any parent do this?” This recent Washington Post article will tell you how. It can happen to anyone, from any background, anywhere.
What we all need to do is provide parents with ideas and tips on how to prevent leaving a child in a car (read SCAN’s tip sheet here) and we need to educate the community that if they see it they should call 911. Currently only 19 states in the US have laws that specifically make it illegal to leave a child unattended in a vehicle. And ten states have Good Samaritan laws that are specifically related to rescuing children in cars; Virginia is one of them. (Read the legislation here.)
Do your local first responders have campaigns regarding children and cars that you can help promote?
Prevention is key. As service providers and child advocates we must educate the families we work with about this issue so they never have to face the tragedy of a child dying in a hot car, nor the trauma that will affect them every day after.
– Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager
It’s summer: From more time at home (with a babysitter or unsupervised) to time on vacation (swimming, outdoors, etc.), it’s an important time to share resources with the parents and families in your community. Here’s a round-up of great, local information and support to share this summer:
SCAN’s Summer Safety for Kids page on the Parent Resource Center. Download a fact sheet or listen to a radio show covering everything from sun safety to preventing child sexual abuse at camps.
SCAN’s Supervision Guidelines page on the Parent Resource Center. When can a child be left at home alone? How can we prepare as a family? This includes links to guidelines for every local jurisdiction in Northern Virginia.
In the Greater Prince William County area, there is a unique organization called The Child Protection Partnership. It is a group of human service workers, non-profit organizations, county employees, early childhood educators, parks and recreation staff, school employees, and concerned citizens that meet monthly. SCAN is fortunate to be a part of it as well. At these monthly meetings, we get to the nitty gritty of what is going on in Prince William County, Manassas Park, and the City of Manassas but perhaps more importantly, we DO something about it.
One example surrounds the issue of parents and caregivers leaving children in cars. The CPP wanted to do something about this, working to make sure that it is not happening in the community and if it is, that people know how to respond. We all came to the table with ideas, financial support, and thoughts about how we would get the messaging into the community. All of that was finessed into a newly initiated campaign. We have created window clings that businesses and organizations can put on their front doors, Kids and Cars materials (www.kidsandcars.org), display information that we can take to various community events, and unique giveaway materials for parents and caregivers so that they are reminded to never leave children alone in cars.
If you are in the Greater Prince William area and would like to have a cling for your business or organization, please contact Jo Anne Renton at firstname.lastname@example.org.