Helping Children in Self-Care: The Evolution of the Project Home Safe Initiative on the Community Level
Ferrer, Millie, Homrich, Alicia M., Chambers, Janet, Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences
Project Home Safe, an advocacy program on behalf of children in self care, continues to evolve a decade after its inception. This demonstration project initiated in 1988 by the American Home Economics Association (AREA), now known as the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS), is still functioning at the community level in Orange County, FL. Changes in funding sources and guidelines have required project flexibility and have resulted in project growth. This article describes a case study of how this outreach program has evolved effectively into a collaborative effort as it continues to help families and educate children about staying home alone safely. The current trend of program implementation through community-based collaboratives provides funding, as this project continues to serve the needs of the community.
After more than a decade, the effects of Project Home Safe (1988), a national demonstration and advocacy program on behalf of children in self-care, are still strong in Orange County, FL. Its impact is still making great contributions in meeting the challenges inherent in helping to keep schoolage children who must stay home alone safe from harm. Project Home Safe in Orange County, FL has survived numerous funding and organizational changes. It began with the efforts of two professionals and has evolved into an extensive outreach education program that meets the current trends in community collaborative initiatives. In the process, tens of thousands of school-age children and their families have received the information necessary to make responsible decisions about the personal safety of their family members.
In the late 1980s, Project Home Safe, an innovative response that addressed the problems of children staying home alone, was launched on the national level by AREA (now AAFCS) with financial support from the Whirlpool Foundation. Children in self-care, often termed latchkey kids, stay home alone for some period of time during the day, often by necessity due to restrictions in family resources or accessibility of child care. Project Home Safe's goal was to develop multiple solutions to reduce the risks of children staying home alone. This initiative was spearheaded by home economists (now referred to as family and consumer sciences professionals) nationwide. Each year, five states were selected as Project Home Safe training sites. Two family and consumer sciences professionals selected from each state received intensive preparation to become Project Home Safe trainers. They then trained other professionals in their state to assess local child-care needs and resources, offer educational workshops for children and parents about responsible preparation for home safety, and build community coalitions to establish or expand effective school-age child-care programs. On the basis of their own interests and the needs of their local community, these professional volunteers were expected to contribute at least 40 hours of community service to improve the welfare of self-care children in their communities. The intent of this training strategy was for this national initiative to spread throughout the country on a progressive basis by using a national-to-state-to-local community education model intended to effect change at the grassroots level.
Florida was one of the first states to receive Project Home Safe training. Florida's involvement resulted from a tragic incident in 1987 when Angeli Bare, a 12-year-old Orlando girl, was kidnapped and murdered while waiting alone at home for her morning ride to school. At the time, research findings on latchkey children were revealing that many children were afraid, bored, and lonely when they were home alone and that they did not have the information or skills on how to cope with this situation or how to keep themselves safe (Long and Long, 1983). Angeli Bares tragedy brought the issue of safety and concern for school-age children to the attention of Orange County officials, families, educators, and the local community. …