FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Considering input from parents at a monthly Worthwhile Information Needing Distribution meeting, post leadership recently made changes to the Fort Rucker Child Supervision Policy after detailed analysis.

Col. Brian E. Walsh, Fort Rucker garrison commander, said the changes were made to give parents flexibility in making decisions on what responsibilities their children can and can't handle.

"The changes make sense," the commander said of the policy changes that, in certain age groups, lower the ages in which children can be left alone at home, watch other children, and play outside or walk to school unattended. "If parents are responsible and doing what they're supposed to be doing, then there is no reason not to make these changes.

"The safety of everyone on Fort Rucker is one of our top concerns, especially when it comes to the safety of our children," Walsh said. "The child supervision matrix is a guide for parents, and I feel the changes give parents the greatest flexibility we can give them to make individual decisions on what is best for their children, while maintaining a safe environment for everyone at Fort Rucker. Parents need to make a decision based on each child's personality, ability and maturity level -- can they handle the responsibilities you are giving them?

"And parents aren't alone in this -- Fort Rucker Army Community Service has programs and experts in place to help educate parents and their children, and also point them to additional resources to help them make the decisions they need to make to keep their children safe," he added.

One of those ready to help is Luticia Trimble-Smith, Fort Rucker Family Advocacy Program manager, who advised all parents and children on post to attend ACS' Home Alone class.

"The class focuses on safety, and can give parents a good idea of where their children are at and also the different threats that are out there," Trimble-Smith said, adding that parents need to consider the what-ifs and if their children are prepared to handle them. "It talks about things like what happens if the children are home alone and someone knocks on the door. Do they let them in? What if they get hungry? Are they allowed to cook? What if the child is walking to school and is getting bullied?

"Parents need to consider how their children have made decisions before," she said. "Do they make good decisions? Do they follow the rules? Children should be earning their parent's trust -- showing their parents that they are listening, they're obeying and that they can be trusted to handle these responsibilities."

She said that family advocacy staff members stand ready to help parents with all the information, resources, training and face-to-face counseling they need to make solid decisions on what they should allow their children to do.

Trimble-Smith added that parents are ultimately responsible for their children's safety and are also accountable for them.

"Parents are the best ones to determine what is best for their children," Trimble-Smith said. "They're responsible for their children and know what is best for their children. You won't go to jail if you violate the matrix, but you may go to jail if you act in a way that puts your child at risk and something happens."

The Fort Rucker Child Supervision Policy and accompanying matrix is on the Fort Rucker intranet. For information on the policy, call Trimble-Smith and the family advocacy team at 255-3898. For more information on the Home Alone class, call 255-9812 or 255-1867. The next class is scheduled for Oct. 1.