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Wandering children can be prevented

Local news reports increasingly are filled with stories of small children found wandering in the streets while their parents are nowhere to be found.

As of late, this newspaper sadly carries such stories almost weekly — sometimes even more often than that.

In many cases, a parent or parents end up facing criminal charges.

Here are a few examples from recent months:

A Struthers dad was charged in May with child endangering after his toddler, 2, was found wandering alone outside. Police recognized the child from an incident in March where the same thing happened. The father, described as “groggy,” was located.

Last week another child, 3, was found wandering alone, also in Struthers. The mother, who was charged, told police the boy must have sneaked out while she was in the bathroom.

A Youngstown woman was charged in March with child endangerment after police said her grandchild was found wandering a hotel.

Another child was found in April wandering in the parking lot of a Weathersfield Dollar General store in nothing but a diaper and carrying a blanket. The mother was located in a nearby home and charged with child endangering.

What more important role does any adult play than the care and upbringing of their children? Along with that comes the job of teaching our children by example and molding them into upstanding citizens as they grow into adults.

So, we ask, what chance at a healthy, productive future do these children have if their protectors and role models don’t have enough foresight to keep an eye on them inside the house, or at the very least, to lock the door to keep them inside?

Child experts say children wander because they are bored, hungry or just curious. They often have no fear because they don’t yet understand the idea that dangers lurk, or even that they shouldn’t be going out alone.

Parents can be easily distracted when looking at their cellphones, watching TV or even preparing dinner. And it is extremely dangerous when adults fall asleep while watching young children.

All parents know it takes only a second to look away from your child for him or her to disappear.

Here are a few tips to keeping your toddler or young children secure at home.

Always know where your child is — both inside and outside the home.

Take note of warning signs from your toddler. For example, a child might make a certain sound or look toward the door before attempting to wander.

Parents and caregivers always must use gates, latches and locks on doors that cannot be reached or easily opened by toddlers.

When you are in a group, if “everyone” is in charge of watching a child, then no one is in charge. Make it clear who is responsible for watching each child.

Teach and remind children they should never be alone, or alone with an adult — even one they know — unless it’s one of their safe adults.

And most of all, don’t be distracted. Stay focused on your child’s whereabouts, avoid drugs and alcohol use, and stay awake.

editorial@vindy.com

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