Only a handful of parents made it to the first two hours of the #EveryParentExpo Saturday morning at Blackhawk Technical College, but those who did said they learned more about the dangers teenagers face today.
Presented by Janesville Mobilizing 4 Change for the first time, the three-hour exposition featured about 15 booths that provided various tips to parents on maintaining safer households and recognizing the early signs of drug and alcohol use in teenagers.
Diane Cummins, a Beloit native, said she was shocked by the Hidden in Plain Sight exhibit, which presented a mock bedroom equipped with everyday items such as hairbrushes, sunscreen and tampons.
Upon closer inspection, the items in the exhibit were actually storage containers for alcohol and illicit substances. Most of the items were purchased at a retail store in Janesville.
“I’m shocked at my age that there’s so much out there that can tempt the children and that the parents may not be aware of,” Cummins said. “I believe that all parents should be here, because I was one of those naive parents. Everybody thinks it’s not going to happen to your kid. But it can.”
Jeff Reif lives in Milton, and he came to the event to learn more about what to look for on a teenager’s social media.
Reif, who has a 14-year-old and a 12-year-old, said he wants to “stay current.”
“You don’t know what you don’t know,” he said.
Janesville police officer Chad Sullivan gave a presentation on P3 Tips, an app that allows students to anonymously send tips to the police.
Sullivan told the small crowd of parents that because of tips through the app the department has prevented suicides.
Ashlie Downing and Maggie Sors gave free haircuts to guests who visited the Hidden in Plain Sight exhibit.
Downing, a hairstylist, said many customers tell her about family members who are affected by the heroin epidemic.
Just last week, Downing said three customers confided in her about drug-related issues.
She has never known what to tell them.
But on Saturday, Downing took several flyers that contained drug-addition recovery information, and she’s going to have them available at her shop.
“I’m set. I grabbed a lot of this stuff,” she said.
Erin Davis is the director of Janesville Mobilizing 4 Change, an organization that focuses on reducing substance use and promoting mental wellness. She said one of the expo’s goals is to stop drug and alcohol problems in homes before they ever start.
“The first time I saw (Hidden in Plain Sight), I was completely floored,” Davis said.
She said parents who missed the expo missed an opportunity to “see what could be hidden in their child’s bedroom.”
But there’s always next time, she said, and she hopes to have another expo event next year.
In the meantime, Davis said parents should feel free to contact Janesville Mobilizing 4 Change at jm4c.org. The group will walk parents through any information needed.
Cummins said the expo was great community service for education.
After she looked at the Hidden in Plain Sight exhibit, Cummins said she felt naive about the opportunities kids have for hiding drugs and alcohol.
“It’s scary to me that it can’t be stopped in some ways,” Cummins said. “You never know which kid is going to cross the line and not be able to come back. All you can do is try to impact those in your own home.”