The National Parenting Center

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The Latchkey Debate

I have received several letters from parents since the publication of two columns on latchkey children. I strongly agree with readers who believe that our communities desperately need to provide affordable, supervised programs for latchkey children. We must all continue to work to improve this situation by contacting our legislators and our government and school officials, urging them to provide good child care for working parents.
One parent has suggested that it is more cost-effective and far better for children if working moms would stay home with their offspring. While this may be true, in some cases, such as those of single parents, it is not possible.
Two others say that it may be illegal for children to be left home alone, and that the parent who does this could be charged with neglect.
According to the Michigan State Department of Social Services, there are NO states that have passed clear-cut laws as to what age a child can be left alone at home. In Michigan as in other states, parents must make this decision, using their own careful judgment, and taking into consideration such factors as the safety of the home and neighborhood and the maturity of the child.
Parents must also be aware that even if they make a thoughtful decision to use latchkey, and even if they do careful training for emergencies, they, as parents, are still held responsible for the welfare of their minor children.
Parents should keep looking for alternative solutions, such
as programs at schools, at YMCAs, at community centers, at
libraries, and at churches. They should plan schedules with
the children for time spent alone, including such things as
chores, reading, working with hobbies, making presents, and
writing letters.
Other good ideas can be found in the National PTA booklet,
“Kids with Keys; Parents with Jobs; Who’s in Charge?” Write
for a free copy, sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope to
PTA, 700 N. Rush St., Chicago, Ill. 60611-9894.

Evelyn Petersen’s nationally syndicated parenting column is carried in over 200 newspapers twice each week. As a family/parenting consultant, early childhood educator, Head Start consultant, and host of a series of parent training audio and video tapes, Ms. Petersen employs an approach of providing hands-on, nuts and bolts advice to parents across the country.Evelyn Petersen’s nationally syndicated parenting column is carried in over 200 newspapers twice each week. As a family/parenting consultant, early childhood educator, Head Start consultant, and host of a series of parent training audio and video tapes, Ms. Petersen employs an approach of providing hands-on, nuts and bolts advice to parents across the country. 

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