Local

December 6, 2013

Fort makes changes to child supervision policy

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Maranda Flynn
Staff Writer

Army spouse Karen Fulk walks her son, Jonathan, 11, to General Myer Elementary School on Fort Huachuca, Nov. 22. Fulk agrees with the changes recently made to Policy 14-048, Fort Huachuca Child Supervision Guidelines, because she has witnessed smaller children walking alone who did not pay attention to oncoming traffic.

Due to parental concerns about supervision of youth on post, Fort Huachuca officials released changes to Policy 14-048, Supervision of Minor Children on Fort Huachuca, Oct. 30, to ensure protection and safety of the children.

The child supervision guidelines address the age and grade at which children may be left alone at home, left alone overnight or left outside unattended. The guidelines also describe those who are allowed to babysit siblings or other children, and the appropriate curfew time for post youth.

The Supervision of Minor Children on Fort Huachuca policy applies to everyone who enters the post, and all personnel assigned to the installation including U.S. Army Garrison Fort Huachuca, Family members, and tenant units and organizations.

According to Col. Dan McFarland, Fort Huachuca garrison commander, the policy modifications stemmed from concerned members in the community who noticed 5-year-old children walking to school, alone and scared.

“The parents’ concern led to a discussion with several people within the community on whether or not it was appropriate for a 5-year-old to walk alone, out of the direct visual supervision of their parent or an older child,” McFarland said.

“The general consensus from the group of people that I talked to indicated that as a standard rule, 7 years was the right minimum age for kids to walk to school [unattended],” he continued.

These concerns, combined with the on-going review and attention of the Fort Huachuca Child, Youth and School Services programs mandated by Secretary of the Army John McHugh, were a significant factor in the decision to review the child supervision policy.

The new policy includes guidelines for the supervision of minor children based on a child’s age and grade in school. A detailed table explaining the level of supervision required for children is included.

The primary change to note is the required minimum age of children who walk to and from school unaccompanied.

The original policy stated, “Kindergartners may not walk to and from school, or other supervised activities, alone. First through fifth graders may walk to and from school, and other supervised activities, alone.”

After gathering feedback from parents within the community, organizations that deal with safety on post, school personnel and making a comparison to policies from other installations, the new policy was changed to state, “Kindergarten and first graders (under 7) may not walk to and from school or other supervised activities alone. Second through fifth graders may walk to and from school and other supervised activities alone.”

“We tried to add enough flexibility in the policy,” said McFarland. “As long as there is a system where they are walking with older kids, the 5- and 6-year olds can be with them, but there has to be somebody there to acknowledge or take on the role as the senior person.”

McFarland added that most people agreed that, except in exceptional cases, a 5- or 6-year-old doesn’t have the maturity to recognize the problem when a stranger pulls up and asks them to get in. Generally, by 7, they do.

Debbie Bauer, a Fort Huachuca spouse and mother, explained that she is happy with the changes made to the policy.

“I am glad that they raised the ages,” she said. “It’s a discipline concern at the bus stop, and it’s a safety concern when crossing the streets. I think the majority of [parents] around here feel the more supervision, the better.”

In addition, the curfew for all dependents and guests under 18 was changed to 11 p.m. during vacation periods, Friday and Saturday nights, and nights proceeding school holidays. During all other periods, dependents and guests under 18 are now required to be in their quarters no later than 10 p.m.

McFarland explained that even though the curfew has not been a major issue, as he looked through the original policy, his concern was drawn to the weekday times.

“I don’t understand, on a weekday when kids are supposed to be in school the next morning, why they need to be out after 10 p.m. To me, I see no reason for that unless they are on an authorized absence, like an athletic program,” McFarland said.

“In a town like Sierra Vista, I don’t know what kids have to do to be out that late. Our intent is not to catch people at the front gate. If you are a 17-year-old, and your movie ended past the curfew time by a few minutes, you won’t be held accountable for that. This is more for the kids that may be out where they aren’t supposed to be after curfew hours and it is clear that they need parental supervision.”

While this policy provides the guidelines for the supervision of minor children on Fort Huachuca, it is important to remember that safeguarding children is primarily a parental responsibility.

Every member of the Fort Huachuca community is responsible for maintaining the highest possible safety standards. Everyone should report information regarding known or suspected incidents of child abuse or child neglect to the Military Police, 533.3000.

(Note: The new Fort Huachuca Child Supervision Guidelines matrix that was sent as an email attachment with the updated policy was incorrect. The correct matrix has since been added to the policy.)




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