Two years ago, a handful of community members got together with a vision of a healthier Braidwood. Today, the Braidwood Area Healthy Communities Coalition (BAHCC) remains small, but active in the community and looking to grow.Members of the BAHCC met on Tuesday, Sept. 7 to discuss a busy fall schedule working with the Reed-Custer School District. The coalition will take part in the Reed-Custer High School open house tonight (Wednesday). One of the main programs the coalition will focus on again will be additions to the Safe Homes directory.
Safe Homes is a community-wide network of parents. That network is listed in a pledge-based directory of students and their families. In that directory, parents pledge to supervise gatherings of youth at their homes, to set appropriate expectations and consequences for their children, to know where their children are and who they are with, and most importantly to pledge to provide a drug and alcohol free environment for children.
Safe Homes creates a way for parents to interact with one another and to make sure that they and other parents are on the same page as far as expectations for their children and keeping kids safe. For the students, the directory and pledge sends a clear and consistent message that alcohol, drug and tobacco use are not acceptable, and breaking the rules have consequences.
According to the 2008 Illinois Youth Survey, 18 percent of Will County sixth graders admitted to alcohol use in the past year, and 65 percent of high school sophomores said the same. In that same survey, 26 percent of sophomores and 40 percent of seniors in Will County admitted to using marijuana in the past year. More than a third of both sophomores and seniors said they aren't worried about being caught by their parents when drinking.
So far, the directory is gaining a lot of support from families in the high school. Math teacher Carol Evans collects those pledge forms from parents and records it in the directory. Evans said the popularity of the directory is growing."We have close to 50 [families] and that's pretty sizable," Evans said, noting that currently, the directory only covers the high school and not the middle school. Evans said that when it comes to signing the pledge, for a lot of parents, it's just common sense."It's a pledge that they sign and say that they're going to supervise the youth that come to their homes, and supervise their children and know where they are at all times and not allow them access to drugs and alcohol," Evans said. "Most parents are very willing to sign the sheet."
Once the pledge is signed, the names are added to the directory, which is then put out twice a year. Evans said the directory empowers parents to take a stand with their kids at a time when children are striving to be independent but still need direction. The directory give parents an added tool when confronted with decisions about where, when and with whom their children associate.
"I think it's a fabulous way for parents to be able to network and say, we as parents agree on these points, and we know that these are other homes that are also going to abide by these rules in the community," Evans said. "It gives parents such power to say, no you can't go to that kid's house because they are not in the directory, or at least let me talk to them first because we feel strongly that we only want you in places where you're not going to be allowed access to drugs and alcohol."
Another issue of safety for students discussed at the BAHCC meeting was post-prom festivities. The coalition and the school are working together to create and supervise an after-prom event that will be both safe and fun for all in attendance.
Principal Tim Ricketts told members of the coalition that post-prom activities would be one of the topics of discussion at the year's first Parental Advisory Link (PAL) meeting.
"I've already got a group of senior girls.... I've already met with them," Ricketts said. "Then we're going to try to get a parent committee together for post-prom."
The goal of the post-prom discussions will be to try and come up with valuable and attainable ideas for safe post-prom activities, including games, prizes, contests, rules, vendors, set-up, community resources and local sponsors. The post-prom ideas are just in the early stages for now.
"I'm sure that will... grow over time," Ricketts said of the parent committee and the post-prom festivities. "Ideally what I'd like to do is get some junior and some senior parents, so every year we have some parents from the previous year since it is a junior and senior prom. So we'd like to get maybe a dozen parents, five or six junior parents and five or six senior parents, that's our goal."
The PAL meeting immediately follows the open house. The RCHS open house is Sept. 8 from 5-7 p.m. More information on the BAHCC and the Safe Homes program will be available to all parents at the event.