Sue Perry and Velma Ganassini, co-founders of SOS 4 Kids, were interviewed by the Oakville Beaver regarding the popularity of the Home Alone Safety course in Oakville, Ontario. Courtesy of the Oakville Beaver, the article has been reproduced below. Since the printing of this article, SOS 4 Kids has partnered with a number of other municipalities in addition to Oakville to bring safety and home alone preparedness information to children in other communities. Please contact SOS 4 Kids at 905-844-9813 if you are interested in bringing the program to your community.
SOS 4 Kids offers Home Alone Safety training
by Nathan Howes Special to the Beaver
Parents who may not be comfortable leaving their children home alone may welcome a new safety course. Developed by Oakville’s SOS 4 Kids — a sister company of SOS First Aid and Safety Training — Home Alone Safety for Kids is a comprehensive
safety program that prepares children to stay home alone. It is offered through the Town of Oakville’s Parks and Recreation department and The Meeting House.
The course utilizes digital technology and interactive tools to teach children aged nine-12 about people safety, street smarts, house rules, injury prevention, online safety, fire safety and first aid.
“There are fewer stay-at-home parents, so there comes a point where independence becomes part of development. Some kids are fearful staying home on their own and some parents are fearful of making that first step,” said SOS 4 Kids co-founder Velma
Ganassini. “There’s a planning process the entire family needs to be committed to, to ensure the child’s safety.”
She said the program began after a number of parents approached the pair to offer a safety course for their children who weren’t interested in taking its babysitting class. “We hear from parents time-aftertime that their children don’t listen to
them when it comes to safety advice. Children are more inclined to listen to a complete stranger or an instructor teaching safety than their own parents,” said Ganassini.
SOS First Aid and Safety Training is a Canadian Red Cross training partner. It offers Red Cross programs such as first aid, CPR and babysitting training. “The Red Cross does not have a home alone course. We noticed the need and demand in the community to have that information available, so we decided to develop our own,” said Ganassini, who approached the Town
to host the course.
The opening class offered through Oakville Parks and Recreation in June 2011 sold out weeks in advance, Ganassini said.
Sessions are typically scheduled on PA days, holidays and on March break. She noted feedback from students, parents and facilitators has been “overwhelmingly positive.”
“We have talked about potentially offering more courses through the Town. The problem with this course is people don’t know it’s available. When we offered it at schools and communities and people find out about it, then it fills up,” said Ganassini.
“We have to turn kids away. We just don’t have enough instructors.”
Sue Perry, SOS 4 Kids co-founder, said one of the program’s most important aspects is online safety. “We show somebody posting (a picture) on Facebook or Instagram. We ask them to tell us, ‘What do you think is wrong with posting this picture?
Or these words?’ We show them how anybody can pull up enough information to find them,” said Perry. “It really does open their eyes.”
Another critical “learning piece” is first aid training, Perry said, and talking to children about preventing accidents while home alone. “We talk to them about accidental poisonings and what to do if that happens. We also talk to them about choking,” said Perry.
She noted age isn’t a fair assessment to determine a child’s readiness to stay home alone. Parents should talk to their children and “make that decision as a family.” “You could have a mature 10-year old who’s ready for it or you could have a 12- or 13-year-old who’s not.” The more proactive families are in keeping their children safe, the safer “our community will be,” Perry said.
“Our No. 1 goal is to help educate families and help keep children safe. With or without this course, these children are going to start staying home alone. We want families to feel confident when they leave their kids home alone.”
Registration fees are approximately $50.
SOS 4 Kids also offers courses at residential homes.
For more information, visit www.sosfirstaid.ca.