How to keep your kids safe in the care of others, including school, camp and sports.

As parents, we must do our own due diligence and not rely solely on others to keep our kids safe. Youth-Serving Organizations, including schools, after-school programs, camps, sports, and businesses that cater to children are Mandatory Reporters and must report any suspected or disclosed abuse. However, parents cannot and should not rely on that to protect their children.

First, I have taken the California Mandated Reporter training and it barely touches on prevention. It makes me sad that mandatory training on predicting (grooming behaviors) and prevention (setting boundaries) isn't required by all states, it is suggested in some but not required. The Child Molestation Prevention and Research Institute says 95% percent of abuse can be prevented through education and yet very few adults and youth-serving organizations take it upon themselves to be proactive. I get lots of calls after there has been an incident.

Second, in my direct experience, although the mandated reporters are required to take the training annually, they are still not reporting everything per the penal code nor do they have accurate knowledge of the CANRA (Child Abuse Neglect and Reporting Act) laws in place. 

Third, although all youth-serving organizations are required to run background checks, more than 90% of child molesters are never reported, therefore there isn't anything on record that would show in a background check. A lot of schools and youth-serving organizations actually "pass the trash". Passing the trash is a term used to describe the practice of letting an accused person quietly leave their job without any report to the authorities. This allows the organization to continue doing business as usual without ruining their reputation. The bad part is, it also allows the alleged perpetrator the ability to go work somewhere else with kids. This is against the law but happens all the time, google the term "passing the trash" and it will be eye opening. 

What can parents do to make sure your kids are safe? 

  1. Take child sexual abuse prevention training yourself. It will teach you how to predict, prevent and react to child sexual abuse. It will teach you how to set firm boundaries with your kids and everyone else, and I do mean everyone. 90% of sexual abuse is done by someone you know, love and trust.
  2. Teach your kids what you learn in training and/or have them take child abuse prevention training specific to their age.
  3. Ask every teacher, school, youth-serving organization your child attends if their staff has been trained on child sexual abuse. Let them know you and your kids have. According to Carla van Dam, Ph.D., author of the book "The Socially Skilled Child Molester," child molesters deliberately target adults and employers who do not get training and are too polite to ask questions or set boundaries.
  4. Take the California Mandated Reporter training yourself so you are knowledgeable of the laws. 
  5. Check many sites for more background information. Here are some suggestions:
    1. Search the Megan's Law Website for registered sex offenders. Be sure to read all of their disclaimers. Note that approx 95% of those registered took plea bargains for lesser sentences so the crime they actually committed isn't always what is registered. 
    2. California Commission on Teacher Credentialling - takes a long time for items to post, I would also call. 
    3. California Department of Social Services - Care Facility Search - search for licenses and complaints for all types of care facilities.
    4. Better Business Bureau - remember organizations must pay to be a member so not all are members. 
    5. Google - Search for the name of the organization, search the name of the Principal, Executive Director, Board of Directors, Owners, Founders, CEOs. Then search for the name and add the words, lawsuit, complaint, alleged, convicted, misconduct, violation.
    6. Social Media - all platforms - Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, NextDoor - look for reviews, look for missing information. On Facebook, if you belong to any mom, parent, or community groups, I suggest posting a question asking for feedback about where you plan to send your kid. I find a lot of people know way more than is reported. You have to make your own judgment call on what to believe. On LinkedIn, look up the Principal, Executive Director, Teachers, anyone you can. Look for lots of changes in employment, geographical changes, look for recommendations or lack of recommendations and common connections who may be able to shed some light.

What I would NOT rely on are websites like greatschools.org and other school rating websites. I can tell you from my own personal experience that you will not find comprehensive information. Believe me, I was so proud when I sent my daughter to "one of the best schools in Carlsbad". It was a 10/10 on the greatschools website. It had earned the California Distinguished School Award.  Those awards and ratings mean nothing when it comes to the actual safety of our kids. When the teacher at Pacific Rim Elementary plead guilty to molesting my daughter and two other girls, the first place I went to was greatschools.org to report on that teacher so that other parents could beware. That website refused to put any information even though it was not alleged, it was verifiable public information. I immediately lost all respect for all of those school rating websites and those award programs. Not to mention, the Principal who had many people report the molesting teacher to him over a seven year period and did nothing but put a note in his file, received a Principal of the Year Award shortly after the teacher was sentenced to prison. In my opinion, a Principal who let this happen on his watch should not receive such an award, nor should the school receive a CA Distinguished School Award and should definitely not be rated a 10/10 on any website! 

Parents, it is up to us to protect our kids. I love teachers and I love schools. I love camps, sports and after school programs. I love all youth-serving organizations. AND they are all businesses, they are all jobs. They are all charged with keeping our kids safe but at the end of the day, it is the parents' responsibility to protect their kids and to be proactive in the safety of the environment they place them in.