USAG Japan asserts importance of following child supervision policy

Andrea Muniz, 3, swings at a playground at Sagamihara Family Housing Area, Japan, with her mother, Keyla Rodriguez, Sept. 30. (Photo Credit: Wendy Brown, U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public Affairs)
Andrea Muniz, 3, swings at a playground at Sagamihara Family Housing Area, Japan, with her mother, Keyla Rodriguez, Sept. 30. (Photo Credit: Wendy Brown, U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public Affairs)

USAG Japan asserts importance of following child supervision policy

by Wendy Brown
U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public Affairs

CAMP ZAMA, Japan (Oct. 2, 2019) -- Staff Sgt. Curtiss McLeod, a military police officer, has some advice for parents on why it is important to follow the U.S. Army Garrison Japan child supervision and babysitting policy.

"Sometimes the stars just align, and everything goes wrong, so we want to make sure we prevent any kind of incidents and give people clear guidance," said McLeod, who is the military police desk noncommissioned officer in charge at Camp Zama.

The garrison updated the policy this spring, and Col. Thomas Matelski, who took command of USAG Japan in July, signed the current version Aug. 30. The policy provides guidelines for the supervision of children and adolescents from birth to age 15, and says people who see unattended children and adolescents within USAG Japan need to refer the matter to the military police.

Parents can save themselves a lot of trouble by knowing and following the policy, McLeod said.

For example, sometimes parents think that because Camp Zama is a small community, it is OK to run into a store "just to grab a couple of things" and leave children inside a running vehicle, McLeod said.

"The next thing you know, the kids are outside, and maybe they start messing around with the car, put the car in reverse or something like that, and cause a traffic accident, injure themselves--any number of things," McLeod said.

The child supervision policy, however, based on years of officials' experience with various incidents, states that children ages 0 to 6 should never be unattended in a vehicle, and details under which conditions parents can leave children ages 7 to 15 in vehicles.

McLeod said it is important for parents to know the policy, because if they follow it and something still happens, they can point to the provisions in defense.

Although the policy is not punitive in nature, violating it may constitute child neglect and potentially violate the Uniform Code of Military Justice and host-nation law, according to the command policy memo. Violations may lead to disciplinary actions and adverse administrative actions.

Magnets that outline the policy are available at the military police station in Building 229, or at Army Community Service in Building 402, McLeod said.

In addition to information about child supervision in vehicles, the magnets also spell out when parents can leave children home alone (never before the age of 10, and only under specific conditions for children older than that); when adolescents are allowed to babysit (never before the age of 13, and only under specific conditions for children older than that); and when children can be unattended outside (never before the age of 6, and only under specific conditions for children older than that).

When it comes to babysitters, the command requires babysitters to complete the American Red Cross babysitter certification training and strongly recommends that they register with the Child and Youth Services referral list before babysitting for anyone other than siblings or immediate family members, according to the command memo.

Parents can find a list of American Red Cross-certified babysitters at the CYS Parent Central Services.

McLeod said another important point the policy makes is that children with a history of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, developmental delays, behavioral problems, impulsivity, psychiatric problems or other impairments should not have the same degree of self-management and responsibility the policy allows for other children and adolescents.

"Even if they're in that age bracket where they're a little bit older, if you know for a fact that your child is not able to be trusted and might run off … then as that child's caretaker, you should take it upon yourself to make sure they are being properly supervised," McLeod said. "That way they don't injure themselves or become a danger to the community … or go missing."

To report child supervision issues to the Camp Zama military police, call (DSN) 315-263-3002 or locally at 046-407-3002, or call the Family Advocacy Program at ACS at (DSN) 315-263-4610 or locally at 046-407-4610.

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