POINTE-CLAIRE – For more than 40 years, the Block Parent Program was a comfort for parents; a red-and-white sign that everyone on your street was looking out for your children.
“We say it takes a village to raise children, but it also takes a village to watch over our children,” said Pina Arcamone, Director General of the Missing Children’s Network.
“The Block Parent sign, I think, is one of the icons that is well-known across the province.”
Over the years, Block Parent signs have slowly disappeared, but many in Montreal’s West Island are working hard to bring the program back to life.
“There were Block Parent signs pretty much on every street at that time,” said Pamela Santini, who was a Block Parent when the program first started back in the 1970s.
She remembers the relief children felt when they saw that red sign in her window.
“Mums were just starting to head back to work,” she said.
“It certainly was something that our children learnt that it could be a safe place.”
The Block Parent signs started disappearing in the early 2000s, but some residents insist their West Island neighbourhoods have never lost that community feel.
“Everyone kind of does look out for everyone,” said mother Kimberly Holt.
“They usually do know all the kids on the block.”
Grandmother Joyce Docherty admitted parents worry more about their kids now than they did be fore.
“I guess things have changed since my kids were small,” she said.
“We used to let them walk to school by themselves and come up to the park on their own, but now it’s not done.”
Bringing the Block Parent program back to the West Island is good news to the Missing Children’s Network, as a way to encourage parents to have that conversation about the importance of safety.
“We want to watch over our children, we need to watch over our children,” said Arcamone.
“Collectively we can protect children, and maybe even discourage perpetrators from committing crimes.”
For Santini, the return of the Block Parent Program is also a way to make sure children are aware of their surroundings.
“I don’t think children get as many chances to learn to make good judgments for themselves,” she said.
“We are protecting them so much. We drive them everywhere, few go on school buses. They don’t have as much awareness.”
Anyone who is interested in becoming a Block Parent is encouraged to apply online.
© Shaw Media, 2014