Choosing Safe Caregivers

In most cases of child sexual abuse, the abuser is alone with the child, has authority over the child, and takes advantage of the child’s trust. With this in mind, how can you choose safe authority figures and activities for your child?

It starts with screening. Just as you would take the time to vet a new pediatrician, it’s important to carefully screen caregivers and invite them onto your prevention team.

Hiring Nannies & Babysitters

Start by checking references and driving records. Also do a background check and consider checking the National Sex Offender Registry, but please note that these tools only reveal people who have been formerly charged – and only a small percentage of abusers are ever arrested and convicted.

During the interview process, talk about body safety.

  • Share your family’s body-safety rules (e.g., “Levi knows that he’s the boss of his body: no one is allowed to touch his private parts and he’s not allowed to touch anyone else’s. He also knows that we have a “no secrets” rule in our home.”)
  • Ask, “What would you do if my child asked you to keep a secret from me?”
  • Discuss, “How would you respond to my children grabbing each other’s private parts while bathing?”

Listen carefully for an open response, both verbally and through body language—and be sure to trust your instinct.

Screening Coaches and Youth Programs

In the aftermath of Penn State/Sandusky, there is no excuse for running a sports program without clear, publicly available child sexual abuse prevention policies—and monitoring to back them up.

The best way to choose a safe program is to ask. Ask the administrator about their interview and screening process; ask to see their written prevention policies; and ask how the environment is set up to reduce the likelihood that a child could be sexually victimized. Check out this Parenting Safe Children Screening Video where a parent screens a coach, by inviting him onto her prevention team.

Screening Schools

Treat schools and day care facilities just as you would any other caregiver. Speak with the principal, and have conversations with teachers. When talking with school administrators, find out if staff receive child sexual abuse training. Also ask about policies for

  • Adults spending time alone with children (2 adults to 1 child)
  • Appropriate and inappropriate touch of children by adults
  • Appropriate and inappropriate touch of children by other children
  • Diapering, toileting, showering, and changing clothes

Check out this Parenting Safe Children Screening Video where a parent shows how to invite a principal onto her prevention team!

Published on: April 16, 2014
About the Author
Photo of Feather Berkower

Feather Berkower has been a leader in child sexual abuse prevention since 1985. Her highly regarded workshop, Parenting Safe Children, empowers adults to keep children safe from sexual abuse. Feather is also the co-author of Off Limits: A Parent's Guide to Keeping Kids Safe from Sexual Abuse.

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