Something happened yesterday that I still just can not believe was for real. The more I think about it, the more shocking and unbelievable I think it is. So, of course I have to write about it! That's how I roll....
During the summer, we often go the a local "spray ground." (it is on the grounds of one of the rec centers) It is free and filled with different sprinkler type attachments that get the kids thoroughly soaked. We went yesterday for the first time this season. (No pictures- I didn't take my camera because I have a ton of spray ground pictures already).
I was there with a few friends and their children. As usual, we were chatting while the kids played. A group of three children (that none of us knew) - all around age 6 (at least two of them said they were six) came up to my friend Autumn. This is basically how the conversation went:
Kids: Do you have a dollar we can have?
Autumn: No, sorry- what do you need a dollar for?
Kids: To get ice cream
Autumn: Sorry, I don't have a dollar, but that is something you should ask your parents and not a stranger (an awesome response I thought...)
The kids said okay and started to walk away...
Me: Wait- are you here with your parents?
Me: With a day care, babysitter or other friends?
Me: With a grown up?
Kids: no- our parents dropped us off.
What?!?! So the kids walked away and Abbey (my friend who works at a different rec center for the same city) confirmed that it is actually "legal" at the rec centers to be able to drop your kids off at the age of 6!!! Seriously?!?! I can NOT believe this! (Note- Abbey does NOT condone this- she was just informing us of policy....) Add in the fact that the rec centers and some other locations around here offer free breakfast and lunch to any kid- and what is to stop an irresponsible parent from dropping their kid off in the morning, they get free breakfast, free lunch and can run around crazy!
Get this though- the rec center does not claim responsibility for them and doesn't watch over them. I think in theory, this is meant for kids who have a scheduled class- the parents could drop them off and come back and get them after the class, but obviously some parents just drop them off and leave them to their own devices- with nothing but their own conscience to prevent them from doing so!
What if a kid gets hurt? How would they find their parents? According to Abbey, each kid is supposed to have a leisure card (costing only $1) that they scan when they come in- the contact info is contained on this card. Okay, I get that- but it isn't like they are keeping track of who has parents there and who doesn't. There is no way to be sure that kids are not dropped off unless they have one. There was no one watching over them to keep an eye on them. And, what is to stop a kid from wandering off and getting lost or from getting kidnapped, or an older kid/adult (for example, the basketball court FULL of older teens/adults...) doing whatever they want to them? Nothing- nothing to prevent that. How could the parents not think of all this?! These rec centers were never supposed to be free babysitting. It is a community resource to be used under adult supervision.
And I don't buy that maybe these parents can't afford daycare- there are tons of options for poverty or low-income free/cheap daycare that is GOOD SUPERVISED CARE! I really believe the parents are taking advantage of the system- dropping their kids off to get a free lunch and play and do "whatever" while they go and do who knows what with their "freedom."
We couldn't even believe the kids were brave enough to go to a stranger and ask for money. We all mentioned how we never would have had the guts to do that as a kid. But, I figured that they are probably left alone often enough that they manage to do what they feel they have to do!
I always hate to pass any sort of judgment on parents- I am far from perfect as a parent. I just don't see this as okay at ALL- I wouldn't even leave my 10 year old there alone! I don't see how anyone could just drop off a six year old without direct supervision and leave without worrying themselves sick! This is just so scary to me! Also can't help but wonder what kids who are raised that way will be like as adults....
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