These comments got me thinking. There were people pointing out that a 7 year old should not be left unsupervised roaming the streets. A German friend of mine mentioned that at that age though, he is pretty sure he was allowed to go placed unsupervised all the time.
So, how young is too young for this kind of freedom? Besides, how safe is your area really?
One common issue I find locally is the false sense of security that is laid all over the island, like a thick blanket of hushed facts that if ignored for long enough, they might just go *poof!* and vanish. There are people who are under the impression that homelessness and poverty, for example, are non-existent on this rock. In truth, both issues are very much a reality here! Sweeping such social issues underneath the proverbial rug won't make them go away. It will just lead to further problems as one can never know where they truly stand.
Everyone knows that in this country, there are always eyes watching you from behind the balcony's shutters, or behind curtains - and ears listening out for your every word, along with tongues ready to wag about every single tidbit in your life. Nosey neighbours are a staple of the Maltese diet as much as bread and cheese are. How willing are they to stick up for you, or help you out by giving you previous information should things go wrong though?
A while back I had stumbled across this video.
Be honest - what would you do if you were to witness such an event? Would you ignore it, like so many people did? Would you pick up the phone and report the suspicious incident? Or would you act upon it, there and then?
How about if it were YOUR child? What would you prefer bystanders to do?
People in general seem unwilling to be nosey when it actually is needed.
It will be yet a few more years before I have to face the decision of when to allow Creature to go somewhere unattended. My concern right now is to decide who is reliable enough to spend time with my child when I'm not available. Believe me - it is harder than you would think.
I did mention Childcare Centres in the blog prior to this one [which you can check out here] - however, there is also the matter of which family member is reliable and trustworthy enough. How would they react should something go wrong? What will they choose to do if they are faced with a fight-or-flight scenario?
Be aware of who is around your child, no matter how qualified or how close a relative/friend they are. Make sure you are able to get answers, no matter how silly the question might be, and make sure the answers are honest. Most importantly - trust your instinct. I don't care how long you've known Mr X or Ms F - nor how many people praise that particular Childcare Facility or Child-related Professional. If you're not convinced, move on. Find someone else. This is just about the one thing you really cannot afford to mess up.
If, Gods forbid, you are ever in a situation where you fear your child may have been abducted and taken to some other country, there are steps you can take. Here is a link to an FAQ about what steps to take, how much it costs etc. This other link is for the Interpol Website detailing information regarding missing children legislation in Malta. This link, on the other hand, shows an up-to-date list of missing people in Malta.
Contact 119 or 2122 4001-9, Emergency services on 112 or the nearest Police Station should you see a person that is reported as missing or have any information on them. All information is kept under strict confidentiality.
Should you need to file a Missing Person's Report locally, you need to allow 24 hours to go by from the last time you'd have seen the person in question. This can be nerve-wrecking, however it does not have to be a wasted 24 hours. Contact family, friends, acquaintances - spread the word on social networking sites such as Facebook or Google+. Get the word out that you're looking for the person in question. Once the person is found please remember to inform everyone ASAP - it would not be fair to allow them to worry unnecessarily.
Bottom line? Prevention is better than cure - take every possible precaution to prevent similar cases from happening to you and to others. Start by educating your child not to trust strangers - be it children or adults. Make sure they fill you in with the details of what they got up to when you weren't around - as much as it might bore you to tears, listen attentively. You never know what free information you might pick up.