Over the past few years, we at Heritage Defense have dealt with several cases where small children and children with special needs have gotten out of their houses without their parents noticing.
In each of these cases, someone safely discovered the child. However, the person who found the child then called the police, which then called child protective services. Thankfully, we were able to resolve all of these situations without any children being removed from their homes.
In handling these kinds of cases, we inform families that child protective services is going to have two main questions:
- How did this happen?
- How are you going to keep it from happening again?
Of course, the answer to the first question varies from case-to-case. To answer the second question, though, we have a number of suggestions for families. We hope that these ideas can help families be proactive in preventing these kinds of situations while keeping your children safe.
Securing the House
- Door Knob Covers — Putting these on your exterior doors keeps small children from opening them, while still allowing adults and older children easy access without a lock. You can also get covers for deadbolts that make it much harder for small children to unlock them.
- Door Chimes — In one case we handled, an exterior door was opened by an older child and left ajar. Obviously, even door knob covers will not prevent this. Door chimes let you know that a door has been opened and also helps remind the older children to close the door behind them. When you hear the chime, you can check to make sure the door was closed securely. If you are really high-tech, you could use a Smart Home system to alert you (even on your phone or smart watch) if a door is opened or left open.
- Automatic Door Closers — If a door gets opened, this closes it. This prevents doors from being left ajar.
- Door Guardian — If they are determined enough, toddlers can often reach and unlock even deadbolts (as was proven in one of our cases). A Door Guardian is a simple lock that is placed higher up on the door. They are easy for adults to use, but out of the reach of smaller children.
Securing the Yard
- Good Fences — If you have a wood fence, make sure that all of the slats are secure. If you have a chain-link fence, it should be well-clipped all the way around to keep it from being pushed up if a child tries to slide under it. If you have a wrought-iron or similar metal fence, the pickets need to be close enough together that a child cannot get through.
- Gate Latches — Gates for all fence types should have secure latches. One inexpensive way to lock most of these latches is with a carabiner. However, if someone forgets to replace the carabiner after opening the fence, they do not do much good. For an automatic option, there are self-locking latches that require someone to be a certain height to reach the mechanism to unlatch it (many hotels use these around their pools). Also, like the automatic door closer discussed above, there are devices you can get which close your gate for you automatically.
Do What Works Best for You
Not all of these suggestions may work for your situation, but we hope that you can use these ideas as a springboard to implement a plan that works best for your family. These devices can go a long way toward preventing the most vulnerable members of your family from getting out unattended. Of course, none of these devices are a substitute for diligence and attentiveness by parents, but they certainly can be a helpful supplement.
Even when parents are attentive, though, nothing provides an absolute guarantee that a child will never get out unattended. If they do, and if child protective services contacts your family, we encourage our members to call us immediately.
If you are not yet a member of Heritage Defense and want to have attorneys available 24/7 to defend your parental rights if a situation like this ever arises, become a member today.