Funding cuts kill London's 50-year-old Block Parent program

After founding the Canadian children's safety organization almost 50 years ago, the London Block Parent branch was unable to secure funding from the city to continue operations.

'It is with heavy hearts that we confirm London Block Parent Program will be closing'

Block Parent signs are to be placed in volunteer homes' windows when someone is home over the age of 18 is there to answer the door if a child needs help. (Alyson Hurt/Flickr)

The founding chapter of the Block Parent program, one of Canada's most recognizable symbols of safety and refuge for children, is being forced to close its doors after almost five decades due to lack of public funding. 

The London-based organization announced on its website Monday that it is ending its program that is easily identified by its orange-and-white residential sign. The organization will also end its walking school bus initiative within the southwestern Ontario city.

"It is with heavy hearts that we confirm London Block Parent Program will be closing after almost 50 years of serving the London community," read the post signed by the board of directors.

A major blow to the program came when the City of London, the group's main funding provider, did not approve community grant application, which would have sustained Block Parent until 2019.

"We've certainly taken a look at how we fund all our program and service providers as part of our granting program," Mayor Matt Brown said.

"We want to make sure there's clear alignment within the strategic plan. That said there's no question in my mind that the block parent program here in London was something that really made a difference over the decades it has operated."

Dwindling numbers

Block Parent started the Walking School Bus Program to help keep current (Block Parent)

Block Parent numbers in London have been steadily decreasing in recent years. 

"Over the last number of years, we have seen our program change from having thousands of homes participating to hundreds of homes participating," according to the statement from the board of directors. "It was becoming more obvious to us that change was imminent." 

The Canadian version of Block Parent was formed in 1968 in London after a series of crimes against children, including the murder of a young boy named Frankie Jenson.

Police forces and school boards have strongly supported the residential signs program, which grew coast-to-coast and indicated to children in distress that a home was safe. 

At its height, the organization said it had thousands of homes in London alone serving as a place of safety and refuge.

"We are honoured to have been part of this incredible legacy," the board said.