Child advocates urge safety for children this summer
Attorney General Beau Biden has joined representatives from the Siegel JCC Delaware, YMCA of Delaware, Darkness to Light Foundation, and Prevent Child Abuse Delaware to discuss steps summer youth programs can take to help keep children safe from harm and announced progress in the Stewards of Children child abuse prevention program, a statewide public, private, non-profit partnership to train adults to recognize and respond to signs of child sexual abuse.
Over the next few weeks, schools across Delaware will complete their academic year, and parents have been hard at work making arrangements for their kids to participate in safe and constructive summer activities. Because pedophiles are drawn to employment and activities that put them in direct contact with children, Biden noted that criminal background checks are a critical tool to help ensure that kids are safe from predators.
“I strongly encourage parents to check with their summer camp programs to make sure that they conduct background screenings of their staff, and to find out what policies camps have about interactions between staff and children, including whether they allow one-on-one contact between adults and kids,” Biden said.
Many summer youth programs in Delaware conduct background checks on their staff and have formal policies governing contact between adults and youth. For example, if camps are sponsored by child care centers or other facilities that are licensed and regulated by the state, they are required by law to subject their staff to a background check. Other organizations, such as the Siegel JCC, the YMCA, and other youth-serving organizations, require background checks as a matter of policy.
“It is my responsibility to do everything I can to ensure the safety of the children in our programs and in our community,” said Ivy Harlev, executive director of the Siegel JCC. “This means hiring high quality staff, performing background checks and mandatory training to empower all my staff to protect our children. We are pleased to partner with Attorney General Biden and the Stewards of Children Child Abuse Prevention Program, which provides adults the tools to recognize when a child is in danger.”
Secretary Jennifer Ranji of the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families said her agency will partner with the Attorney General’s Office to educate parents about asking the right questions when choosing a summer camp for their children. “We’re pleased to partner in this effort because we want to help parents make informed choices. Asking questions about staff training and whether staff background checks are conducted is an important and simple step.” Ranji said she and Biden are working to create radio public service announcements to air on stations statewide.
In the fall of 2011, Biden’s office announced a partnership with Prevent Child Abuse Delaware and the YMCA of Delaware to educate 35,000 Delaware adults within five years about recognizing the signs of child sexual abuse and reporting suspected crimes. The program, which employs the nationally-recognized Stewards of Children sexual abuse prevention curriculum, highlights facts about abuse, common situations in which it occurs, ways to talk to children and adults about it, and simple and effective protection strategies
Michael Graves, former CEO of YMCA of Delaware and currently national director of Partnering in Prevention for the Redwoods Group Foundation, which supports YMCA programs and Stewards of Children training in Delaware and nationally, recommended several policy practices youth serving organizations should establish to ensure the safety of the children they serve, including not allowing a child to be alone with a staff member, prohibiting giving of gifts to children by staff members, providing visible organization-issued identification for staff to wear on-site and prohibiting staff members from transporting children in personal vehicles
Graves directed parents and camps to a complete list of child abuse prevention tips found on the Redwoods Group Foundation website at redwoodsgroup.com/static/media/resources/documents/pdf/abuse-prevention-information-for-parents-ymcas.pdf.
Under Delaware law, every adult has a mandatory obligation to report suspected child abuse to authorities. All reports of child abuse and neglect in the State of Delaware should be made to the 24 hour Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 1-800-292-9582.
“The goal of the Stewards of Children Program is to empower adults to talk to children about what’s going on in their lives and identify potential risks to their safety,” said Karen DeRasmo, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Delaware. DeRasmo invited individuals and organizations to learn more about Stewards of Children and schedule a training session by calling Prevent Child Abuse Delaware at 302-425-7490 or go to www.pcadelaware.org.