Is your child's activity provider safe?
Summer brings lots of opportunities for kids to engage in new activities, meet new friends, have new experiences. As you're planning your child's summer schedule, is safety on your radar?
FACT: Sexual predators gravitate to youth-serving organizations, especially those that don't have strong child safety policies and protocols.
Is your child's activity provider concerned about this? Put them to the test! Give them one point for each "yes" answer.
1. Do you see anything on the activity provider's website about child safety?
2. Has the activity provider earned accreditation/certification from their professional association? (Example: Quality Rated childcare provider)
3. Does the activity provider conduct background screens on all employees AND volunteers, including sex offender registry screening?
4. Do employees and volunteers participate in mandatory child safety training and does it include sexual abuse prevention training and mandated reporter training?
5. Does the activity provider have a thorough process for handling reports of abuse and does it comply with the law?
6. Do employees and volunteers sign a child safety code of conduct?
7. Does the child safety code of conduct include rules about online interactions with the children served by the activity provider?
8. Does the activity provider have a written policy that prohibits one-on-one interactions between staff members and children?
9. Does the activity provider have security cameras that record the activities on their premises?
10. Are the small groups of children supervised by at least two staff members at all times?
11. Are the restroom doors propped open?
12. Does the activity provider have rules for the children about their conduct with each other (i.e. personal boundaries, no unwanted physical contact, no bullying, etc.) and are these rules clearly communicated with all of the children and the parents?
13. Does the activity provider have a formal process for check-in and check-out?
14. Does the activity provider ask for a written list of people with permission to pick up your child?
15. Does the activity provider make their child safety policies and protocols available in writing upon request, or include them in the participant registration materials?
16. Does the activity provider's space "feel" safe, clean and comfortable to you?
How does your activity provider stack up?
16 points = this provider is doing everything they can to keep your child safe
11 - 15 points = this provider is making strides, look at where they're missing the mark and decide how much of a concern it is for you before enrolling your child
6 - 10 points = this provider is behind the curve and needs to do a better job, your child's safety may be compromised in this environment
0 - 5 points = this provider should not be serving children
If your provider has a great program but lacks strong safety
policy and protocol, we'd love to help them create a safer environment for your
child, please connect us (phone: 678.526.3335 | email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
The why behind the questions:
Having thorough child safety policy and procedure is one of the best ways to deter sexual predators from seeking employment or volunteer opportunities; predators need environments where no one takes notice of their interactions with the children.
Strong youth-serving organizations are up front about their child safety policies and procedures. They recognize the importance of protecting the children entrusted to them and they want families to know what they're doing. They will typically post their policies and procedures somewhere on their website, or in writing in other places. If you don't see anything, ask an administrator at the organization if they can share a copy of their child safety procedures. They should be able to easily produce it for you, and if they cannot, it's an enormous red flag.
Child safety procedures should always include background screening of prospective volunteers and employees. Most youth-serving organizations conduct cursory screens, typically a local search by the police department, because of the cost to conduct a more comprehensive screening. Do background screens identify sexual predators? Almost never. Do they serve a purpose? Yes! They serve as one more layer in a multi-layer process for child safety, and for that reason they are important.
Child safety procedures should include safe environments. Safe environments "feel" good when you're in them, the staff and the kids seem happy, there is structure, things seem organized and well-run. Always trust your gut when you're selecting your activity providers. Safe environments keep children from separating from their group and prohibit children from being alone with employees or volunteers. Safe environments have rules about how children engage with each other (did you know that 40% of sexual abuse is perpetrated by children?). Safe environments have open doors (including multi-stall restrooms) that allow interactions and activities to be openly viewed. Safe environments have video cameras that allow for reviewing of any questionable interactions or incidents. Safe environments have structure during drop off and pick up.
Child safety procedures should include well-trained staff (employees and volunteers). It's everyone's responsibility to create a protective system that not only keeps children safer, but recognizes and responds to child sexual abuse if it is suspected. Staff should be trained about the importance of never being alone with a child; staff should be trained to interact appropriately with the children in their care; staff should sign a code of conduct that includes policies for interacting with children in person and online (many sexual predators use texting and social media to groom their victims; any online interaction between the activity provider staff and your children should ALWAYS include you). Finally, staff should be trained to recognize predatory behavior and be emboldened to report it even if they are reporting a co-worker. The reporting process for a disclosure from a child or a suspicion from a staff member should be clear and should comply with the law (many organizations do not train their staff on mandated reporting laws). Did you know that a youth-serving employee or volunteer can face criminal charges if they don't appropriately report a disclosure or a suspicion? Learn the laws for your state at this link