It's 11 o'clock on a Friday night. Do you know where your children are?
If they're teen-agers, chances are they're at a party. Although weekend parties are a fact of teen-age life, a program in four county high schools will help worried parents ensure their children attend supervised parties that are drug- and alcohol-free.
Parents who become part of the Safe Homes movement sign a pledge that they will supervise any party at their home and will not allow any drug use or under-age drinking. Those pledges will be compiled and a list will be made available to any parent who wants one.
"If a kid is going to a party, a parent can access the list" and determine whether the party their child is invited to will be held in a "safe home," said Dr. Movita Pickens, the school department's coordinator of guidance and counseling.
Through a partnership of the county schools, the County Council of PTAs and county government, the Safe Homes program is starting this year at Annapolis, Glen Burnie, Meade and Northeast high schools and their feeder middle schools. If it works, it will be expanded to all county secondary schools next year.
"We're trying to get the pledge out by Homecoming," said Carlene Heilman, president of the Northeast High School PTSA and the coordinator of the program.
Parents of every student in the 10 participating schools will receive copies of the pledge by mail within the next two weeks, just in time for the fall festivities. Organizers also plan a major push during the holidays and at prom time, the major party seasons.
The thrust of the program is to help parents resist the temptation RTC to give in to the demands of their teen-age children that they be allowed to throw parties with alcohol and without supervision "because everyone else does it," Dr. Pickens said.
"Some parents want to be a buddy instead of a parent," Dr. Pickens said. Therefore, an important aspect of the Safe Homes program is "to set up a parent support network so parents realize it's OK, it's absolutely OK for them to be present at parties."
Ms. Heilman, whose son is a sophomore at Northeast, said she realized a safe home list was necessary after a parent called her last year worried about a party her child was going to attend.
"She asked, could I do something?" Ms. Heilman said. "And I said, 'No,' she was the one who needed to contact that parent."
She was also concerned about the practices of some parents.
"You do hear of people serving alcohol and taking the car keys, to make sure kids don't drink and drive," she said. "I just thought it was appalling that a parent would do that and think it was OK."
The program is being funded this year through a Drug Free Schools grant.
Organizers are seeking corporate funding for next year's expanded program.