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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I just finished the letter from the emergency room nurse regarding the dangers of leaving children home alone. While she is justified in her reaction, she apparently has no children of her own, or she wouldn't have made the comment, "How difficult would it be to find a teen-ager who would be willing to earn a few dollars to be with Amber for a few hours after school?"

I'll tell you how difficult it is: Impossible! As a university instructor, I am in the fortunate position of having flexible part-time hours. Two years ago, I was offered a full-time position that I had to turn down. Why? Because I couldn't find anyone to care for my daughter two hours a day, three days a week.

I sent letters to every high-school counselor, community college and university child development department in my area. I offered $8 per hour, well above minimum wage. Guess how many replies I got? None! Guess where I live? Los Angeles. If I can't find one teen-ager for a few hours a week in this metropolis of more than 9 million, I can only imagine how difficult it must be for parents who live in smaller cities. Thankfully, I had a choice. -- FRUSTRATED IN L.A.

DEAR FRUSTRATED: Sometimes child-care resources are right under our noses. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I am proud to work at my local YMCA in Tucson, Ariz.

My advice to the mother who leaves her 10-year-old daughter home alone after school -- and to any other parent with a similar problem -- is to contact the local YMCA. The YMCA is the largest child-care provider in the United States. We have formed collaborations with schools and churches nationwide to provide child care for any parent who needs it. We offer financial assistance for those who can't afford it, and we are virtually everywhere in the world.

The YMCA provides proactive programs for kids at risk -- swimming lessons, sports programs, exercise classes, teen leadership, Youth and Government, Black Achievers, etc. While the YMCA began for Christian men (Young Men's Christian Association), we offer programs for men, women, and boys and girls of all ages. We are nondenominational and welcome everyone. Our programs are based on teaching honesty, caring, respect and responsibility. We build strong kids, strong families and strong communities.

Thank you, Abby, for letting me pass on the word. -- KAT HAFLER, TUCSON

DEAR KAT: Thank you for reminding me about the wonderful services the YMCA (and YWCA) provides. It is celebrating its 150th birthday this year. There are 2,372 YMCAs throughout the United States and facilities in 120 countries. Readers, to locate the nearest Y, call 1-888-333-9622, or visit the Web site at www.ymca.net.

Before this topic is put to rest, I must correct some misinformation contained in the letter from the emergency department nurse on Feb. 8. She stated that it is against the law in Pennsylvania for children under age 12 to be left alone. Several readers have written to inform me that there is no such law in the Pennsylvania criminal code. When complaints are received about children at home alone, they are evaluated on a case-by-case basis, depending on the maturity of the child and the preparation the parents have made for emergencies that might arise in their absence.

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