Fall 1987 // Volume 25 // Number 3 // Ideas at Work // 3IAW3

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Keys for Kids


E. Linda Ferris
County Extension Agent, Home Economics
Warren County
Lebanon, Ohio

Deborah A. Jones
County Extension Agent, 4-H
Cuyahoga County
Cleveland, Ohio

Jo M. Jones
Associate State Leader, Home Economics
Ohio State University-Columbus

Sooner or later, there comes a time in almost every family when an elementary school child must be left home alone.

Self-care may be for a half-hour while a parent goes to the store, or perhaps for several hours every day after school, if both parents work outside the home. Whatever the reason, according to an Ohio Extension study, self-care occurred in three out of four families with children of elementary school age.

For peace of mind, parents need assurance that a child knows basic safety and security rules. Children need to feel confident and competent about being in charge of themselves and their home.

Thanks to Key for Kids, a home study packet for self-care/latchkey children and their parents, 5,000 Ohio families are better prepared for the special challenge of self-care. The packet includes an activity workbook for the child, a study guide for parents, and a board game for all family members to enjoy. The game promotes family discussion and interaction while helping parents assess their children's ability to function safely on their own.

Keys for Kids was developed from data collected in a local needs survey, a cooperative venture between Extension and the city schools. The survey identified safety, household responsibilities, self-esteem, and health care as the main concerns of self-care children and their parents. These priority concerns are addressed in the nine Keys for Kids lessons.

A random sample of 50 families rated the pilot packet a success. Delighted that the program didn't require additional meetings away from home, the sample indicated that Keys for Kids stimulated discussion and strengthened family communication. Responses showed increased competencies among the children in each of the identified priorities, and parents reported improved confidence in their children's ability to cope when home alone.

From the mailing lists generated in filling Keys for Kids requests, Extension faculty have created other innovative programs. Single-parent newsletters, working women seminars, and commuter tapes are ideas successfully tried by Extension home economists, while 4-H agents found the list a helpful resource in identifying volunteers for new 4-H Clubs. The packet has enriched school curricula, day care center programs, after-school activities at libraries and community centers, and county 4-H camp safety classes.

Copies of Keys for Kids learning packets are available from: OCES Publications Office, 2120 Fyffe Road, Columbus, OH 43210, at the cost of $5.00 plus $2.40 postage.