Thursday, 31 October 2013 07:18

Program needs more block parents in Swift Current

Written by  Matthew Liebenberg
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Organizers of the Block Parent Program in Swift Current is looking for more volunteers to provide a safety network for people in need on streets around the city.

Jennifer Harrison is the new co-ordinator for the program in Swift Current. There is currently only 25 block parents in the city and she is concerned about the future of the program if there is not more community support.
She has recently been using social media to raise awareness about the program, which resulted in inquiries from more than 30 people. She was hopeful more people would get involved after the information and registration night Oct. 29.
“This is just the start,” she said. “This is just to try and get people because lots of people think the Block Parent Program is literally taking care of kids, like it’s a babysitting service, and it’s not.”
Last week from Oct. 20-26, was National Block Parent Week in the country.  The Canadian program was created in 1968 to make communities safer.
Participants place a red and white Block Parent sign in the windows of their homes as a signal to children or other residents in distress that they can find help there.
“Primarily the Block Parent Program is for emergencies,” she said. “It’s not a hang out place; it’s not a free babysitting service. ... If you’re lost or hurt or someone is making you feel uncomfortable, we can certainly call for help.”
According to Harrison there appears to be a number of misperceptions about the program. In some instances, people do not trust the sign because they believe the program participants are not screened.
One of the requirements to become a block parent is to get a criminal check done at a local police detachment. Applicants must also provide two references that will be checked out by the program.
In other instances, people are reluctant to allow strangers to come into their homes, but she said it is not a requirement of the program.
“If you don’t feel comfortable as a block parent having someone come in, you can just have them wait and call for help,” she emphasized. “You don’t ever have to endanger yourself.”
According to Harrison the recent incident with sex offender Michael Stanley, who removed his electronic monitoring bracelet and escaped to the United States, raised public concerns over the safety of children.
“I’ve had teachers coming forward and we’ve been doing presentations at their school with the recent Michael Stanley issue,” she said. “Children are really concerned and they’re scared and it’s just a really good time to bring the program back and to bring awareness that there is a safe place to go if you’re scared but there needs to be more signs out there.”
Harrison has been a block parent since 2009. Her family decided to join the program after noticing there were many children coming and going on their street.
“Sometimes you know their parents and sometimes you don’t and we just noticed that some kids sometimes have a problem or concern or some sort of issue,” she said. “It just became apparent that having a block parent on every block is really smart.”
Once the registration process has been completed and the criminal checks have been done,  there is not much work involved for block parents.
“The actual commitment it takes once you have your sign is so minimal for the actual safety in the community,” she said. “It has been proven that when people do see a block parent sign, it reduces crime in the area and it just promotes the community watch.”
She is hoping to double the number of block parents in Swift Current during the next year and  to eventually have a block parent on every block in the city. In addition to block parents there is a need for volunteers to help with administrative tasks, fundraising and raising awareness about the program.
For more information, contact Harrison at 306-315-0030.

Read 25629 times Last modified on Wednesday, 30 October 2013 15:29

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