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Supervision guidelines help keep kids safe

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- When running a short errand, it can be tempting to leave kids alone for a minute either in the car or at home, but unless they fall into the proper age category as outlined by the Child and Youth Supervision Guidelines, they should come along.

According to Jeremy Roberts, Family Advocacy program assistant, the guidelines for Peterson Air Force Base are formed in line with what the state of Colorado has established, are adjusted for the needs of the base, and then signed by the wing commander.

The guidelines state:
Children under age five cannot be left alone in the house or in the car for any amount of time.
Five and six-year-olds can play in the yard where a parent or an adult can see and hear them.
Children age 7 to 9 cannot be left home alone, but can walk to and from school unattended.
Children ages 10 and 11 can be left in a vehicle with the keys removed and handbrake applied and can stay home alone, but need to be able to reach their parent, guardian or adult by telephone.
Youth must be 11 years old or in the sixth grade to babysit a younger sibling for a maximum of two hours and must have access to a parent or adult.
Youth over 12 can babysit a younger child who is not a sibling for greater than two hours.
A 15-year-old can stay home alone overnight if parents are in the local area and the child can access an adult by telephone.
Youth older than 16 years can stay home alone for five consecutive days if an adult is available to check-in.

A Home Alone training class, offered by the R. P. Youth Center is required for children older than 10 before they are left home alone. A Red Cross babysitting course, also offered by the youth center, is required before a child is allowed to babysit.

A copy of the guidelines is given to parents when they arrive on base during Right Start briefings.

According to Staff Sgt. Andres Freire, 21st Security Forces Squadron reports and analysis, these guidelines also fall under the Department of Defense Instruction 6060.3 School-Age Care Program. "This program emphasizes the unique value of each child, by providing appropriate guidance and quality training for the supervision of school-aged children," he said.

Roberts said that many of the parents who get called in for possible child neglect are simply unaware that these guidelines exist on base. "They consider an Air Force installation a safe place. We have so many security forces always patrolling around base and keeping the community here safe. But just like anywhere else, it can be unsafe. You never know who is going to be on base or what could happen," he said.

If a call is made to the Base Defense Operations Center about an unattended child, the dispatcher initiates Quick Reaction Checklist number 17, which is child abuse and child neglect. Appropriate forces, including the 21st SFS, fire department, and possibly American Medical Response would be called to the scene.

Consequences vary on a case-by-case basis, Freire said, but at the minimum, a notification of the incident will be made to the member's command.

"We've adopted the better safe than sorry mentality when it comes to children, and the state of Colorado has too," Roberts said.

For more information about the Child and Youth Supervision Guidelines, call 556-8943.

For information about Home Alone training and the Red Cross babysitting class, call 556-7220.

For information about youth supervision off-base, contact the El Paso County Department of Human Services at 636-0000.

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