A safety education program provided free to school children in Lawrence, Eudora and Baldwin will end because of a tight budget at Headquarters Counseling Center.
Budget problems will close a program that annually teaches 3,000 Douglas County school students how to deal with strangers and the pitfalls of being a latchkey child.
Jan Arado, director of children's programs at Headquarters Counseling Center, said the agency's safety education program would end this month after a decade of service to Lawrence, Eudora and Baldwin elementary schools.
There is no similar program offered free of charge in Douglas County, she said.
"Like so many other social service agencies, we've been feeling a tight funding crunch for some time," Arado said. "This is an important program for kids in the county, and it's going to disappear."
Arado will leave the Headquarters staff and won't be replaced.
Deerfield School counselor Kristi Willhite said she was concerned about the pending demise of the agency's safety program.
"The result, ultimately, is for children to be less safe," Willhite said. "This is a program that emphasizes what you can do yourself to stay safe."
Willhite said it was disappointing that outside funding sources couldn't continue to provide the $12,000 a year necessary to keep the program alive at Headquarters.
"It's just one more example of people saying kids matter, but they don't put their money where their mouth is," she said.
Arado said Kansas had no law that set a minimum age that a child could be left alone in a home.
"There are a lot of second-graders at home alone ... even some first-graders," she said.
Her talks in public and private schools typically deal with challenges children might face while home alone -- what to do if a water pipe breaks or the odor of gas emerges. She also talks to children about making safe decisions when approached by strangers and how to be a savvy Internet user.
-- Tim Carpenter's phone message number is 832-7155. His e-mail address is email@example.com.