Mom’s goal for kids: ‘More aware than scared’

By Melissa Hirschl

If you’re anything like me, you wish you could place a bubble around your children whenever they’re out of sight. Unfortunately, that imagined scenario is getting more frequent as the children get older and want to pursue more activities.

Since my children were born, the world has become a much more ominous place for me and I’m sure millions of other mothers. Potential danger looms everywhere, and I say a special prayer ever time the kids walk in the door safe and sound.

Human relations specialist Stephanie Angelo shares my concerns; in fact, she wants everyone in the community to be actively involved in children’s safety.

Angelo says her new business, Kidzweyes, was established to provide awareness and safety programs for children, parents and the professional community. Her mission, she says, is to prevent the abduction, endangerment and sexual exploitation of children. 

“My programs are rich in content, interactive and I deliver the information in a down-to- earth, fun and approachable manner,” says Angelo.

“I want kids to be aware more than scared.”

Chandler mom Jody Peterson says the program works:

“I have attended the Alert Parents, Safer Kids class, and I feel it was a wonderful program.”

“It was a real wake-up call for me. I am a very trusting person, however the class taught me certain things to look for that I normally wouldn’t.”

Angelo says she had an epiphany two years ago when she realized that domestic abuse and children’s safety are where her passions lay. To further her ideals she developed her comprehensive safety program.

“The name is really a play on words--being ‘wise’ with your eyes,” she said.

“Much of what I talk about is observation and using our inner antennae; we’ve forgotten to use our instincts and gut feelings with people who are unsafe to our children.”

According to Angelo, when children have been coerced into a sexual relationship with someone, it most often will be someone the child knows, whether it’s a relative, coach, clergy or neighbor.

What happens, she says, it that we have come to ignore the precursor signs, and typically we are shocked because we trusted that person.

Angelo says she spent six months engrained in researching child safety issues, before launching her company. She interviewed personnel from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Virginia, as well as the Polly Klass Foundation.

In addition she interviewed an entire crime-prevention unit from a Phoenix police force. After getting feedback from these organizations, she started promoting them to the public.

“I still network like crazy,” said Angelo. “I sometimes get some 10 to 15 e-mails a day on missing kids.”

Angelo’s programs teach information supported by security specialists, law enforcement agencies and authorities from missing persons organizations. The program is aimed at four target groups: teens, children, parents/caregivers and businesses.

Clients include associations, organizations (such as Scouts), faith groups, parent groups, children’s clubs and community education venues, such as parks and recreation, community colleges and school districts.

 A sampling of Kidzweyes programs include: “I Can Be Safe! This class is tailored to teaching parents and kid’s tricks used by unsafe individuals. They also learn about choices as they practice skills for their own safety in a fun and age appropriate manner.

“Alert Teens” – This program helps teens to be safer and to have healthier relationships by empowering them to make safe choices about people they meet, date and communicate with via the internet.

“Alert Parents/Safer Kids” This program focuses on child predator behaviors. Parents learn techniques and tricks predators and abductors use to get your guard down.

In addition to these groups, Kidzweyes is also aimed at enlightening businesses; Angelo recently gave a seminar at Arizona Small Business Association entitled “It’s Who’s Looking That Makes All the Difference.” One of the essential elements offered in the course was the importance of having a business block watch to protect everyone – including children. “I help companies realize how they can be involved in children’s safety; everything from their on-site premises to the assisting of parents who have had children abducted or run away from home,” explains Angelo. You can’t expect it’s going to be ‘business as usual’ for that person; they are a secondary victim who has been traumatized. They need support to be a productive worker again.”

For parents, kids and teachers interested in taking Kidzweyes programs, visit the website at www.kidzweyes.com. for calendar listing.

Prices vary according to venue. The next local workshop (Alert Parents, Safer Kids) will be from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 26 at Kiwanis Recreation Center, at 6111 S. All American Way, Tempe.

Information: (480) 350-5200.