Hello? I'm Home Alone . . .

Up to 10 million U.S. children are latchkey kids; hot lines are helping them battle fear and loneliness

"I'm home alone, and I think someone's in the house," the nine-year-old boy was saying in a shaky, squeaky voice on the telephone. "I'm hiding under the bed right now. I've got pillows piled all around." The boy under the bed is no Macaulay Culkin ready to outwit buffoonish burglars. His fear is real, and he is addressing it in a very '90s way: dialing a telephone hot line.

In recent months, news headlines have blared tale after shocking tale of child abandonment: last December's "Home Alone" case in St. Charles, Illinois, for example, or the fire in Detroit that killed...

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