Keeping kids safe by choosing the adults in your child’s life: External caregivers – Part 2

How to thoughtfully decide which adults are safe to be around and care for your child.

A woman reading a book to children.

Most people have a hard time thinking and talking about child sexual abuse, but if we are going to prevent it, education is key. A parent's top priority is the safety and well-being of their child. Therefore, letting go of the reins and letting someone else care for your child without your supervision can be very scary for parents, especially when they are outside of your family or close circle. Not only are you picking adults to keep your child safe, but also choosing the role-models in their life. Ensuring that your child is surrounded by safe adults is a key protective factor in your child’s development and safety.

Taking the proper precautions while choosing external adults to care for your child can help alleviate some of the risk and fear of this process. Use these tips from Michigan State University Extension to think thoughtfully about choosing external caregivers to care for your child. Check out the first part of this article series, "Choosing the Adults in Your Child’s Life - External Caregivers Part 1."

Evaluating centers and agencies

When your child is interacting with adults through an agency or center like a school sport’s team, summer camp or childcare center, it’s important to stay engaged to make sure your child is safe. Centers and agencies have more criteria, rules and qualifications compared to individual caregivers, therefore are often easier to evaluate.

Check their screening policies. What types of screenings do the agencies run on their employees? It is important to be aware of what criteria, rules and qualifications the agencies expect of their employees. RAINN recommends asking if they are licensed in the local jurisdiction, question their hiring criteria, certifications and other relevant information.

Consider an interview or orientation. Hosting an interview is still recommended in order to make sure this individual will be the best caregiver for your child. Additionally, it provides an extra layer of relief knowing that you have also conducted a thorough vetting process to ensure your child is protected.

Attend the facility. Planning a visit to the facility before you decide to enroll your child is crucial in assessing if it is truly a safe environment. You can also plan on visiting or dropping in expectedly to get a sense of what the environment is like when staff or volunteers are not expecting you.

Always assess. Deciding whether an adult is safe isn’t a one-and-done decision. An individual can lose their status as a “safe adult” at any time. It is really hard for parents to think about a loved one hurting the child. Child predators are skillful in grooming families in order to hide their actions, gain access, and decrease the risk of being found out and stopped. It is important to always be looking out for the warning signs of abuse in order to protect your child. One way you can assess is by having a daily check-in with your child. Ask them how they are feeling? If they feel safe? Make sure they know the difference between what is appropriate and inappropriate.

Trust your gut

The last component of assessing safe adults is trusting your gut intuition. Things can feel “off” or unsafe even if there are no apparent red flags. As the primary caregiver of your child, you know what they need to be safe more than anyone. It can be challenging to follow your intuition and set boundaries, especially with family members and other close individuals. However, if you don’t think someone is a safe adult to care for your child, or something just doesn’t feel right, don’t overthink it—trust yourself.

Although it would be easy to trust everything individuals say to you or write on paper, it is important to be proactive and fact check in order to understand if this individual is truly safe for your child. Making these personal connections with your child’s possible future caregiver is a great first step in keeping them safe.

Find out more

To find out more about keeping kids safe, check out these other MSU Extension resources:

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