It's time for parents to step up their parenting

If you're a parent, listen up!
Do you know where your children are right now? Yes, right now. At this moment. If they are not with you, who are they with? Do you know these people? Have you taken the time to find out about their friends and their friends' families? Have you asked questions? If you haven't, why not?
Several news stories last week out of Mahoning Valley communities suggest a grave need for parents to be reminded about their responsibilities:
UA 14-year-old Newton Falls boy is in critical condition and is facing an uncertain future after a gasoline explosion in a garage. It happened at 2:45 a.m., when most children and young teens should be sleeping. According to police reports, the boy and four other juveniles between 12 and 14 were staying overnight at a house when two of them went to the garage. One boy told police the two went there to sniff gasoline, though police haven't confirmed that. What Police Chief Robert Carlson has confirmed is this: "There was no adult supervision outside, and the boys were smoking cigarettes, which is against the law," Carlson said. "Where was the adult supervision?" Indeed!
UA Salem man was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of rape involving a 2-year-old girl. In this case, the perpetrator was a known family friend, best man at the mother's wedding, somebody who presumably could be trusted. Yet for reasons unexplained, the young girl was left alone with the 29-year-old man during a Thanksgiving dinner in 2002 long enough for him to harm her. Judge Jack Durkin of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court had this to say about the case: "If there is anything that we want to do as parents, as a public, as a family, it's protect our children." Indeed!
UColumbiana County's Job & amp; Family Services announced a plan to publish the names of 30 men who owe a combined $1.1 million in child support. It's all part of National Child Support Month. NATIONAL CHILD SUPPORT MONTH! That such a designation exists is nothing short of a travesty. A special month shouldn't have to be set aside for parents to support their children. Those who don't or won't do that should not be parents. Not only do these men not know where their children are or who they might be hanging out with, they don't care. They haven't bothered to pay a penny to support them in at least 90 days. Of the 30 men (and we use that word loosely) whose names will be published, one owes $68,000. The least amount owed is $23,000. All told, the agency has a total of $59 million in delinquent payments going back years. Eileen Dray-Bardon, the agency's director, said she is trying to "make child support a family issue." Indeed! Indeed!
Contrast these tragic stories with one about a group of upper South Side Youngstown residents who gathered last week for a block watch party with the goal of coming up with ideas to provide opportunities for their children to learn, to play and to stay off the streets and stay on the right path. "Get them off these corners. Teach them some things so they're not learning on the corners," said resident Ruth Jenkins. These efforts demonstrate that these parents care enough about their children to look after their welfare.
But programs alone will not be enough. No matter what activities they come up with, the parents must still be parents and be involved. They must check people out, they must ask questions, they must say "no" from time to time.
We don't mean to suggest that parenting will ever be foolproof. We understand, despite best efforts at times, unforeseen things can happen. And we certainly don't mean to dump on the families of the burn and rape victims, who are likely already dealing with enough grief, guilt and second-guessing.
But all parents, even the most diligent, need to be reminded from time to time that our children are gifts and that we owe it to them to pay more than a passing glance to what they say, where they go and who they are with.

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