Kids safety is of utmost importance

As I always say, protecting our families is my number one responsibility as your county prosecutor. Part of that responsibility is to come alongside community partners like our local libraries to help educate our kids and give parents tools they can use to help prevent their kids and families from becoming victims of crime. All too often when reviewing a criminal case, as prosecutors we see early opportunities where our kids become, quite frankly, the ideal victims for predators. These can be online predators and bullies, or acquaintances and so-called “trusted” adults who seize moments to groom our kids and “test the waters” to potentially make victims of our children. These predators seize any moment that presents itself to ingratiate themselves to our kids, and as parents and community partners, it is our job to help guide our young kids to recognize those situations and also to know how to handle those situations when they arise and how to ask for help.

So, with all of that heavy-stuff out of the way, I am excited! We’re back for our third consecutive summer with our Schiffel’s Safety Scholars reading program. This is one of my most treasured opportunities to interact with our most important community members — our kids! If you have never had the opportunity to participate before, I hope you’ll join us this year.

Schiffel’s Safety Scholars is a program funded by monies seized from drug trafficking cases, and each year we partner with local libraries in Delaware County to bring safety-themed messages to the kids and their families. We tailor the program based on the local library’s desire, and this year I am proud to be back at Wornstaff, the Unity Community Center, Sunbury Community Library and our Delaware County District Libraries.

If you remember, I started this summer reading program because even I, someone who understands the need to have important conversations with our kids, would find myself at a loss sometimes to be able to open up a safety topic with my own daughter. But I’ve found that books can be a way for parents to open up that conversation and steer it the direction of their choosing. For example, one of my favorite books again this year is #Goldilocks. This book tells the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears through the lens of internet and social media safety. Goldilocks still breaks baby bear’s chair and climbs into mommy bear’s bed, but at the end of the day she is caught because she takes pictures and posts the escapades on the internet — concerned more about the “likes” then breaking the law.

At the Wornstaff Library and the Unity Community Center we will be providing safety-themed books again for parents to read and engage with their young kids on important topics like drug and alcohol awareness, cyber-safety, consent and gun safety. We also have many events planned around the county at the district libraries to participate in Storytime and hang out with our kids. Visit our website for a schedule of events — I’d love to see you and your kids this summer!

We are also bringing back our contests this year for a second time. “You Be the Author” is an opportunity for elementary aged kids to write and to illustrate their own book about the dangers of drugs and alcohol use. Just like last year, we will publish the winning books and have an author signing event at the end of the summer. We are also doing our billboard contest for our middle and high school aged kids to design a billboard around the same theme — the dangers of drugs and alcohol use. This year’s winner will be proudly displayed again on a billboard in the county, giving the young artist bragging rights every time he or she drives by!

We were at Delaware’s First Friday on June 2 getting our kids pumped up for the summer — and we will back in July in case you missed us. We will have handouts and information about the program and how to participate. You can always find out more information on our social media page and website, too. As always, if you have an opportunity we can help partner with you — please reach out. We love helping our community partners almost as much as we love helping our kids.

Melissa A. Schiffel is the Delaware County prosecutor.