Children who stay home alone, either for a few hours after school during the
school year or for the summer months, are commonly referred to as "latchkey children."
The phrase "latchkey" originates from the early 19th century, when children in a similar
situation would wear the key to their home tied to a string they wore around their neck
and were responsible for their own care.
Families living on one income is a rarity, making it almost unperceivable to think
of a parent being home on a daily basis to greet their child when he/she comes home from
school. The birth of the two income household was the beginning of the Latch Key Kid.
Many parents are forced into this situation due to various reasons. One of the most
common reasons is when a child becomes too old for a babysitter, usually when they
become a preteen.
According to the After school Alliance's recent study 14.3 million children
(4 million of them being in middle school) head home after school each day to empty
houses. Our elementary schools are great about providing after school programs for
their students, and there are always day cares willing to get children off he bus and take
care of them until parents arrive. But, what about the middle school children, those
children in grades 6th-8th ages 10 - 14? When school is out many of them go home to
an empty house, fix a snack and then "veg out".
The hours between 3-6pm. on school days (referred to by law enforcement
officials as a "danger zone") juvenile crimes are most likely to take place as well as
children are most likely to become victims of violent crime, be involved in all kind of
accidents, experiment with drugs or alcohol, and become pregnant. According to the
website After-School All-Stars a disconnected community is in jeopardy of becoming
an unsafe community. Criminologist Robert J. Sampson aserts, communities