JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – "She thinks she's independent and that she's a big girl," explained Megan Denk about her 3 year old daughter, Bailey, who has figured out how to reach the key that unlocks the deadbolt to Denk's front door.
"If she decided she wants to go out and play, she'll grab one of her chairs, pull it over here and climb up herself," demonstrated Denk using a toddler chair her daughter will drag out of her playroom into the hallway to climb high enough to reach a box on a table where the key is stored.
The Denk's started locking the front door from the inside when they discovered Bailey could unlock the deadbolt to their front door. "She's been doing that since she was 2 years old," explained Denk.
"She's big enough and tall enough to reach (the deadbolt) and she'll go outside and get on her bike without a helmet. It scares me," she explained.
The Denk's are like many parents who have discovered their child can
"escape" without warning. They worry about her wandering into the street, or worse, they live across from a creek.
"We tried to teach her at a young age how to swim, but she's one of those kids who didn't love it and so we're trying it again this year, but God forbid she gets out, who knows what could happen," said Denk.
Drowning is the number one killer of children under the age of 5 in Florida. Sadly there have been local cases of children slipping out of the house and drowning. Often times their parent or care giver, didn't realize their child was capable of unlocking a door.
Denk allowed us to set up hidden cameras in her home, to test her daughter to show our viewers how young children can be little escape artists.
Day after day, we watched Bailey unlock the door that connects the family home to the garage. One time, the 3-yea
r-old ran after her mother who had locked the door behind her. Her daughter unlocked it, and tried to catch up with her mother. Megan was testing her daughter, so fortunately, she had not pulled out of the driveway yet. Bailey ran straight to the car. Had a parent not known their child was capable of unlocking the door, the child could have been run over by an unaware parent backing out of the driveway.
Another day, Bailey was seen playing quieting in the kitchen when unprovoked she unlocked the same door that leads to the garage and then opened the door leading to the street. At no time during the test was she ever in danger, her parents were hiding and watching her. Bailey later told her mom she had left the house to watch the rain.
A different day, Bailey ran out of the house, unlocking the door, to help her father who was working in the yard. Again, this can be dangerous, since one parent might assume the child is with the other and not know their son/daughter has slipped
Megan Denk and her husband are thankful that the first time their daughter unlocked the door, they caught her early enough to protect her from any danger. Denk works for Wolfson Children's Hospital, she sees tragedies all the time involving children who have managed to get out their family's home unnoticed. She hopes by showing us what their daughter is capable of doing, it will help other parents protect their children from tragedy.
Safe Kids of Northeast Florida led by THE PLAYERS Center for Child health Wolfson Children's Hospital, the Florida Swimming Pool Association and the Department of Children and Families have partnered to provide free pool alarms to families who are at risk for drowning and are working with DCF. They will install the alarm, provide education about at- home drowning prevention and leave a reminder cling on the door that leads to the water.