Choosing Child and Youth Programs: A Guide for Parent

During soccer practice, tutoring sessions, and music lessons, your child regularly interacts with different adults. Taking a proactive stance and addressing youth-serving organizations in your community empowers you to ensure the safety of your child and protect numerous others from the potential threat of child sexual abuse.

Organizations should be forthcoming about their preventive measures. The following are some constructive inquiries to initiate a dialogue:

  • Does the organization have a child protection policy? Child and youth-serving organizations should have well-defined child protection policies.
  • Does the policy address limiting isolated one-on-one situations? While one-on-one time is crucial for a child’s emotional development, it does not necessarily have to occur behind closed doors. Such interactions should take place in open, observable, and interruptible settings.
  • How are employees and volunteers screened? Best practices for employee screening involve a comprehensive application, personal and professional references, a criminal background check, and an extensive interview.
  • How do older and younger children interact? Supervising interactions between children of different age groups require structure and adult supervision. Separate areas and activities for distinct age groups should be established, and it should be communicated that an adult presence is always desired when interacting with your child.
  • Are there clear procedures for reporting suspicions or incidents of abuse? Advocate for organizations to provide mandatory reporting training for their staff. Many mandated reporters fail to report suspicions due to confusion or lack of information about their responsibilities. You can contribute by disseminating this information and, if you suspect abuse within an
    organization, trust your instincts and make a report.

Here are some additional questions to ask child and youth serving organizations

  • Is there an open-door policy for parents to visit at any time?
  • Can parents take a tour of the facilities?
  • Are your staff and volunteers equipped with training in sexual abuse prevention and response?
  • Is there a code of conduct in place, and could I review it?
  • How are your policies communicated, and to whom?
  • Are the rules clear to the children?
  • What measures are in place for screening, monitoring, and supervising older youth?
  • Do you provide training and empower your staff and volunteers to report suspicions of sexual abuse?
  • In the event of a staff member or volunteer violating the child sexual abuse prevention policy, what procedures and penalties are implemented?

Should you deem any of the answers to these questions unsatisfactory, you are under no obligation to keep your child in that particular environment.