Parents: do you know where your children are?

Two stories in Monday's Vindicator should send chills down the backs of local parents: The first told of a young girl shot to death while riding with friends, who didn't even know the 15-year-old's last name despite the fact that she'd been living with the family of one of the friends for several weeks. In the other, a 13-year-old Poland girl has accused a 14-year-old Boardman boy of assaulting her while she was passed out from alcohol abuse. One tragedy and two more in the making serve as a painful reminder to mothers and fathers -- even those who think they can trust their kids. Know where your kids are, what they're doing and who they're doing it with.
We wonder how much of any of this would have occurred if all the parents involved had known what their kids were up to.
The 15-year-old has now been identified as Ashley Keene of New Castle. While we comiserate with her family on the loss of their daughter, we remain perturbed that a young woman was staying with people who apparently didn't care that they didn't know their houseguest's name. Ashley was unfortunately in a very wrong place at a very wrong time -- driving around the South Side after midnight with a 21-year-old woman. Comparatively young teenagers should be under the supervision of a parent or a trusted friend.
Unaware or uncaring?
If after Boardman police complete their investigation it is found that the story told by the 13-year-old that she was sexually assaulted by an acquaintance at the home of another friend, it can only mean that three parents were unaware of their kids' activities. We say "unaware" because we find it hard to believe that any loving mother or father would knowingly put a child in harm's way. We recognize, however, that some parents really don't care what their children do, while other parents are stuck with incorrigible children despite their best efforts to keep the kids on a moral path.
The vulnerability of children -- even teenagers -- to those of evil intent cannot be underestimated. Only yesterday, the body of a little California girl was found. Her grandmother had left her playing in the front yard with another little girl for just a moment when a man, who police now say may be a serial rapist and killer, snatched her away after telling her he needed help finding a lost dog.
Losing a child is one of life's most horrible catastrophes. And our hearts go out to those families whose children have been taken from them -- whether by illness or violence.
It is bad enough when a child dies, is killed or is otherwise hurt when parents have done everything in their power to protect the lives of those they hold dear. But to see children left in squalor, unnecessarily exposed to danger or simply ignored is heartbreaking.

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