Child Safety...


What to Consider When Children Participate in Door-to-Door Sales

THE MURDER OF I I -YEAR-OLD EDWARD WERNER OF Jackson Township, New Jersey, is a tragic reminder that children are at risk even when they sell items door to door in their own neighborhoods.

On the afternoon of September 27, 1997, Werner was peddling candy for his school by himself. He went to a house in his neighborhood and was invited inside. The occupant allegedly sexually assaulted and strangled him, and Werner's body was later discovered in a wooded area.

While sending children door to door to collect money for school, extracurricular activities, or the local newspaper is a common activity, adults may want to consider other forms of solicitation.

For instance, in Palm Beach County, Florida, it is "strictly prohibited without exception" for elementary-school students to participate in door-to-door solicitations and "strongly discouraged" but left to the principal's discretion for middle- and high-school students, according to Nancy McRride, executive. director of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC)/ Florida branch. This policy also prohibits "street" soliciting in which students are asked to stand in medians of busy highways to collect money.

Parents and school administrators need to be sensitive to the safety hazards imposed by either method of solicitation, and seek out creative ways to raise funds without endangering children. In Palm Beach County, the Girl Scouts sell cookies at the local Publix supermarkets with the supervison of their troop leaders. It's convenient for shoppers and safer for the girls.

There are also ways to raise funds in which the parents might actually do most of the work, but the students are still involved and are better safeguarded. Such ways include parents selling catalogued items to co-workers while children handle the order and fulfillment process. Children should always be under direct line-ofsight supervision by a parent or other designated adult when participating in any type of solicitations and adhere to the same basic safety rules that they should follow in every other aspect of their lives.

In addition, while most school solicitation is competitive in nature, schools should consider more team-oriented solicitations, so that individual students can
work together instead of competing against one another. If a parent chooses to take his or her child to someone's home, the person should be someone the parent knows well, and the parent should be there to supervise the activity. The ideal scenario, though, is for all solicitation to be group oriented with adult superviision and a common goal. This encourages teamwork and reinforces the safety rules.

For more information on safety in specific situations, please call the NCMEC/Florida branch at 561-848-1900 to request a complimentary copy of "Back-to School Safety Tips," "Safety Tips for Halloween," "Safety Tips for the Holidays," and "Summer Safety Tips."

reprinted from FRONTLINE, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Oct 1998