Sunday, January 15, 2012

Protecting Our Boys 3: Do You Know Where Your Kids Are?

In part three of GET DOWN’s series Protecting Our Boys, we  question whether parents and caregivers are pro-active in investigating their minor child's extra-curricular activities and after school programs. Take a read.

All That Glitters isn't Gold.

It’s 3pm, school’s out – do you know where your children are?  After school and extra-curricular activities used to be where young people honed their unique talents, showed athletic prowess and often served as creative outlets for young people.  I was a product of the Carter Administration, which provided an abundance of youth programs.  It was my introduction to participating in activities outside of my home that only included my family members.  Those programs afforded me additional nurturing that eventually led to me becoming a professional actor at the age of ten.

Those years were formative years that developed me into the man that I am today.  I was thrust into situations that exposed me to a variety of adults, some healthy mentors and others who knew nothing about a child being a child.  It was the involvement of my family though that provided the security needed to help protect me from outside forces.  Now, after school and community program often serve as a dumping ground for young people whose parents or guardians are not active in their lives.  

Two weeks ago, Patrick Lott, a middle school vice principal was arrested on charges of invasion of privacy, and more than two dozen charges of endangering the welfare of a child for videotaping male students showering nude at Immaculata High School in Somerville, NJ where he serves as “volunteer coach” and videographer.  In another high profile case, alleged pedophile and former Penn State assistant coach Sandusky was accused of using his Second Mile youth foundation as a way to find his victims.

One area I know we can all support to ward off these hideous acts is active parenting.  Now this is not to place blame on parents alone, but it is the parents who are the primary caregivers in a child's life.  Too often we as parents trust our children to adults and programs that we know nothing about or haven't thoroughly investigated.  Many predators are trusted individuals in respected programs.

I know as a parent I want my children to be in a reputable program where they are safe and engaged in productive activities.  As is common we are all over worked and challenged with the daily task of making it through daily life.  Having our children in a program or mentored seems to solve a big problem of “what is my child doing when I'm not around”, but again how thoroughly have we look into the program and the people that service our children? 

As a parent it is our responsibility to do the extra homework.  How much do we really know about the organization, institution, or adults that our children encounter regularly?  I have and currently oversee youth programs where I have never had any contact with the parents.  Do we even know the names of the adults we entrust our children?  What are our roles as parents and how do we get the necessary information that is needed?

As a parent, primary caregiver of my partners' children, and having mentored hundreds of children over the years; I can say communication with our children is key.  I am the parent, the adult, and it is my sole responsibility to take care of my child.  It is my job to be nosey and ask as many questions as needed to both my child and the overseers of my children.  How often have I visited the program of my child?  How often do I communicate with the program and the adults?  What actually are the scheduled activities and the timeline of the program day?

These are questions I wished parents would ask me when I am solely responsible for their child while in my programs.  Yendor Productions works with children of all ages in performing, visual, and wellness arts programs.  Children are trusted to my programs to not only learn various art forms from theatre, photography, and poetry just to name a few but to be safe in their role as the child and student.

Recently, my godchildren wanted to bring a friend to a sleepover at my house.  I explained that I would need to meet the parents so they would feel safe about their nine year old being with a total stranger for the weekend.  In their defense, they are close to my kids mother, but don't know me from a can of paint.  I met the father asked if she could come over the following weekend for a sleepover.  He replied sure but never asked for my full name or address. What?!!!

It takes the additional work and as I stated earlier communication and being the parent has served me best as a father and educator.  I let my children and the youth that are in my program know that I care but that it is my responsibility to make sure that they are safe.

--Rodney Gilbert
Yendor Productions

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