Safe Homes is a program organized by Lake Placid-Wilmington Connecting Youth and Communities (CYC) and school officials. But parents play the biggest role.
“The concept is that you would get parents to make a committment to putting their name out there that their home is not going to be a place where kids can get or use drugs or alcohol and they make a public pronouncement to that effect,” said high school principal Dave Messner.
Parents who agree to sign a contract stating their home is a safe and supervised, (including supervised computer use) alcohol-and-drug-free gathering place for teens would receive a decal to place on their home that lets other parents know they are part of the coalition. Participating parents also have their name and contact information added to a list that is distributed to parents, making it easier for them to communicate and network with each other.
According to student support counselor Tina Clark, the number of Essex County high schoolers that use alcohol is above average.
“We would like to reverse that trend,” she said.
She said the Essex County Youth Bureau conducts anonymous surveys every other year regarding drug and alcohol use of high schoolers.
Tina expects 90 percent of the district’s roughly 350 families to sign on to the Safe Homes program.
One reason instances of teenage drinking is high in Lake Placid, Messner speculates, is because the town is a resort community.
“Our kids see drinking more often than a typical community because of the nature of our community,” he said. “People from other places come here to play and we try to accomodate their ability to play.”
CYC Coordinator Monica Clark says Safe Homes is a slightly different approach to the age-old challenge of keeping kids safe in the modern world.
“As things change from generation to generation, parenting can change with it,” she said. “We support a more community-oriented parenting network. We just want to give parents the forum to talk to other parents.”
Monica said one of the goals of CYC is to reduce the environmental circumstances that lead to drinking or using drugs, and that means eliminating opportunities for kids to do those things at home. She said parents who provide an environment for teens to drink, thinking they will be safer at home that on the streets, is “just really flawed thinking.”
“It’s illegal,” Monica said. “It’s sending the wrong message to their kids. It’s a slippery slope. You can’t rationalize that.”
School officials recognize that, ultimately, the responsibility for the success or failure of Safe Homes rests in the hands of the parents. The contract is not legally binding and there are no prohibitions on adults drinking; Safe Homes is basically on the honor system.
“It’s only as good as the weakest link,” Messner said. “The minute somebody says they are are going to do it and they don’t, the credibility goes out the window. You have to be able to walk the talk. This is a case where it is most critical.”
For more information, visit www.connectingyouth.com.
Haley Brander, in blue, Savannah Teierce, sitting, and Christina Stanton check the combinations to their lockers Wednesday during Locker Day at the Lake Placid Middle High School.