The Carlington Summit
by David Darwin.

As a parent, you have undoubtedly been of two minds about your children as they are out and about in the neighbourhood. Besides the pleasant thoughts of them having fun with their friends, playing and getting exercise, you may have also have had concerns. Concerns about them falling and hurting themselves, or being threatened by a dog or another child, or being approached by a stranger intent on harm.

How much better would you feel if you knew there was always a safe refuge nearby? A place where your children knew, if they knocked on the door, someone would be there to help them.

Throughout Canada, the red and white Block Parent sign is a symbol of a just such a safe refuge where assistance is available. For over 25 years, the Block Parent Program has been helping to make our communities safer. Police, government departments, educators, sponsors and volunteers support the Block Parent goal of providing safer communities for children and other citizens.

How it works

Block Parents are responsible adults who care sufficiently about the well-being of children to volunteer their homes as a refuge in an emergency. All Block Parents are screened by the police and are given instructions on the program by local volunteers.

The Block Parent window sign is shown only when someone over the age of 18 is available to answer the door. If the sign is not displayed, this does not mean that no one is home, only that the Block Parent is not available to offer immediate assistance.

In addition, to the primary goal of making communities safer for our children, the Block Parent Program deters criminals and troublemakers. The network of Block Parent homes is a visible reminder that citizens are watchful in their neighbourhood.

Goals of the program

Block Parent volunteers are working together to address many aspects of community safety. They want to expand the network of Block Parents until there are several Block Parent homes on every block in every community in Canada. Through presentations and materials they teach children and adults street proofing. Education is the first step to safety.

Block Parent volunteers are not expected to provide food, drink, toilet facilities or transportation; to administer first aid, to leave their home to break up a fight, to open their door to anyone if they feel uneasy about the situation.

What they are called upon to do is to offer their home as a place of safety when someone is in a dangerous or frightening situation. Some common situations are when someone is being bullied, is lost, hurt or ill, is caught in severe weather, or is frightened by a stranger.

A Block Parent assists persons in distress by telephoning the appropriate emergency service (police, fire, ambulance, etc.) when necessary.

Some common questions

Can I be a Block Parent if I work all day? Yes! Displaying the window sign for only a few hours a week will help. Block Parents are always needed—on weekends, after school, during the day and in the evening.

Do I have to open my door to strangers? No! If you feel uneasy about the situation, ask for the information through the locked door. The individual can stay outside while you call the Police or the necessary person. Your safety is the most important issue.

Aren't there enough Block Parents already? No! There need to be several Block Parent homes on every block to ensure that al least one Block Parent is available at any one time.

I will always help - sign or no sign. Of course! But children are taught to be cautious of strangers. A home displaying a Block Parent sign means a “safe stranger” can help them.

Do I have to be a parent? No! If you care about safer communities and are over the age of 18, you could be a Block Parent.

As a resident of Carlington, you may not be familiar with this well established program. Think about your walks about the neighbourhood, taking the children to school, or going to the bus stop. Have you ever seen the red and white Block Parent sign? Do your children know about the program?

If you think the Block Parent program makes sense, why not make a phone call that could contribute to a safer Carlington community for children, and everyone. Please call the Ottawa Block Parent Program at 521-0619. Right now!

(Information about the program was taken from the official web site at http://www.welcome.to/ottawablockparents.)