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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, we, sadly, have carried 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:

Last month a Warren man was charged with child endangering after a toddler was walking alone in the middle of the Hoyt Street SW, Warren, with no shoes on. Police found a neighbor who said a little girl from a nearby home was constantly getting out and wandering into the street. Police located the parents and, only upon urging them to check for the child, did the mother acknowledge the girl was missing. Charges were filed.

In a separate incident, a Youngstown woman was arrested on child endangering and disorderly conduct charges after an 18-month-old girl was found walking alone in the parking lot of the Bazetta Walmart Supercenter in April. Police determined the mother appeared to be “under the influence of something.”

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

In March, a woman was charged with child endangering after she was found unconscious on a Warren Township playground, and a young child was walking around the area by himself.

What more critical role does any adult play than the care and upbringing of his / her 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 distracted easily 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 only takes 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 towards the door before attempting to wander.

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

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