Introducing Project Latchkey

A latchkey kid or latchkey child is a child who returns from school to an empty home because their parent or parents are away at WORK or a child who is often left at home with little parental supervision.

First Priority
Latchkey’s first priority is to provide an educational environment which is conducive to the children’s safety, health and welfare.
Parent Satisfaction

Latchkey welcomes and encourages parent input. We strive to meet the needs of as many parents as possible.

  • 25% of Texas’s youth are responsible for taking care of themselves after school. These children spend an average of more than 7 hours per week unsupervised.
  • 82% of voters agree that more after school programs are needed and 72% feel Congress should increase funding for these vital programs.
  • Studies show that children are most at risk during the hours after school when juvenile crime triples and children are most likely to be involved in risky behavior.
  • 77% of mothers with school age children are employed.
  • While the work day grows longer for working parents, the school day has not. The gap between work and school schedules amounts to as much as 25 hours per week.
  • 87% of working parents say they are most concerned about their children’s safety in the hours after school. This “after school stress” leads to distraction, resulting in lower productivity, high turnover, and absenteeism in the workplace.
Effects on children

The effects of being a latchkey child differ with age. Loneliness, boredom and fear are most common for those younger than 10 years of age. In the early teens, there is a greater susceptibility to peer pressure, potentially resulting in such behaviors as alcohol abuse, drug abuse, sexual promiscuity and smoking. The behaviors might stem from "unspent energy, peer pressure to misbehave, or hostility because of the lack of appropriate adult attention". However, some children can exude positive effects, such as an early development of self-reliance, adaptation to difficult situations, and a desire to contribute to a visible need in the household.

Socioeconomic status and length of time left alone can bring forth other negative effects. In one study, middle school students left home alone for more than three hours a day reported higher levels of behavioral problems, higher rates of depression, and lower levels of self-esteem than other students.

Children from lower income families are associated with greater externalizing issues (such as conduct disorders and hyperactivity) and academic problems, while children from middle class and upper class income families are no different to their supervised peers. In 2000, a German PISA study found no significant differences in the scholastic performance between "latchkey kids" and kids in a "nuclear family".

Positive effects of being a latchkey child include independence and self-reliance at a young age. Deborah Belle, author of The After-School Lives of Children: Alone and with Others While Parents Work suggests that being left home alone may be a better alternative to staying with baby-sitters or older siblings.

Legal issues

The legality of the latchkey children's "alone time" varies with country, state and local area. In the United States, state and local laws typically do not specify any particular age under 18 when a child can be legally left without supervision. Texas has no age restriction, most commonly if a child is capable of taken care of himself or herself (eat, drink, understand fire safety, and knows how to call 911) then the parent can make a decision on each child’s ability.

Parents can be held accountable by child welfare organizations or law enforcement if children come to harm while left without supervision if, in the opinion of the agency, the children's age or other considerations made such a choice inappropriate. Legal issues also continue to be important concerns for those who work in libraries. They worry about the potential liability should an unattended child be hurt, molested or abducted while at the facility. This issue becomes critical, particularly at closing time when "parents who are late picking up their children also create safety and possibly legal problems."

Do and Don’ts

Do

  1. Teach children the importunateness of being safe at all times.
  2. When they get off bus go straight into the house.
  3. Check area from bus to house, make sure it’s safe.
  4. Lock door
  5. Don’t come to or answer the door to anyone. Have special knock that you and the child knows, that will let the child knows it you
  6. Tech phone use in case of emergency (your number and 911).
  7. Teach basic food tips.

Don'ts

  1. Don’t play outside
  2. Don’t answer the door to anyone.
  3. Never tell anyone your home alone.
  4. Don’t light or start any kind of a fire.
  5. Never let your friends come over while you’re alone.
  6. Don’t be a fool, stay cool