If you’re a regular reader of The Gazette’s “Police Blotter,” you know that Delaware police have been called several times in recent weeks to corral toddlers who have wandered away from their homes, unbeknownst to their parents.
An incident of this type will usually result in the Delaware County Job and Family Services agency getting involved to determine whether a family household is safe.
So what’s going on?
Police Capt. Adam Moore said while the recent incidents have mostly involved parents falling asleep while watching their children, there really is no pattern to this type of occurrence.
Delaware police are urging parents to play it safe with their children and be extra attentive. Fortunately, none of the recent incidents have resulted in harm to any of the wandering children.
“Toddlers are curious by nature and want to explore the world,” Moore said. “Curiosity coupled with ability and an opportunity puts them at risk of leaving home without a parent. Multiple factors could affect ability and opportunity.”
Moore said some factors that have led to instances of children wandering from home have included: unlocked doors, children figuring out how to unlock door locks, children waking up from a nap earlier than their parents, distracted caregivers or, in some cases, risky or illegal activity involving drugs or alcohol.
After the children are returned home, a report is prepared and forwarded to Delaware County Job and Family Services, police said.
Director of Job and Family Services David Dombrosky said that, once his department receives reports from police, it meets with families and makes recommendations on how to prevent future events.
Dombrosky said every case is different and every course of action depends on the family. In some cases, a worker from Job and Family Services will simply meet with the family and assess if the situation warrants an investigation. Dombrosky said that if the worker believes an investigation is warranted, the worker will help the family come up with a case plan and determines changes the family needs to make.
“It really is family-specific,” Dombrosky said. “Once we do an investigation, we will work with the police as they do a criminal investigation. We work collaboratively to keep kids safe.”
Dombrosky said workers sometimes will give families door alarms or child-proof door knobs to decrease the likelihood that a child will be able to leave without parents knowing.
Moore recommends taking extra precautions by locking doors, using electronic monitors for nap time, using gates within the home to prevent children from accessing doors or stairs, and thinking about the home from a child’s perspective and what children might be curious about.
Dombrosky said that if residents are concerned about the well-being of a child they know, they should contact Job and Family Services at 740-833-2300.