Protecting Your Kids From Sexual Predators

Protecting Your Kids From Predators

The “Me too” movement has given voice to many women/men/children who have been the victim of sexual abuse for many years. They have been victimized by trusted teachers, religious leaders, coaches, neighbor, babysitters and neighbours.  These and many other stories are classic examples of how individuals have misused their position of trust and authority to abuse kids. Unfortunately, there are far more victims who have never told anyone, and so they suffer in silence fearing that they would never be believed among other reasons.

Parents and guardians are left wondering what we can do to prevent our kids from becoming victims

In the Home Alone and Babysitting Courses, we teach children about what is appropriate and inappropriate touch. We also teach them how to protect themselves from predators and take charge of their safety.

The following ideas may protect your child from the tragedy of sexual abuse and its lifelong devastating effects.

Talk about it

The best prevention against child sexual abuse is to have an open and age-appropriate conversation about it.  Speak to them in a manner that does not instill fear. By speaking about it they will know what to look for. It will also give them the confidence to speak up if someone tries to make inappropriate advances towards them.  Make it clear to them that there are to be ‘No secrets”, and what to do if someone tries to get them to keep a secret. Teach them about their bodies, and calling private parts by their proper names.

What does a sexual predator/abuser look like?

Also, in the Home alone course, we teach children that people who may want to hurt them may not look weird or mean. Often, they are very generous, friendly and look quite “normal”, they do not stand out from the crowd. These strategies are used by predators to make you trust them and feel comfortable with them before they try to touch you inappropriately or hurt you physically.  

Here are a few signs to look for with sexual predators:

They are often the most unsuspected people because they are often not strangers. It may be a close relative, teachers, another parent (step-parent), coach, any person in authority.

  1. Many abusers begin to groom their victims.  They befriend the child as a way of gaining their trust in order to take advantage of their child for sexual purposes. They give their victims gifts, which often advances to a gentle touch (arms around the neck), they create a sense of caring/affection, making the victim feel special. Make it a priority to question your kids about gifts or new toys that you did not buy.
  2. Be aware of new people in your life and the amount of time they spend with your children/family.
  3. They prey upon trusting and vulnerable people as they seek opportunities to isolate the child in order to be alone with them. They may offer to do nice things for them e.g. take them to the park or other outings for you especially those who are single parents.

Make sure you know what someone is doing with your kids.

Keep in mind that anyone can be a sexual predator. We can’t discriminate them just by their looks. About 30% of sexual abuse occurs in a relationship with a family member, and 60 percent of abuse takes place with someone else known by the victim.

Sometimes as parents we let our guard down especially with those who are paid to provide a service e.g. a therapist, coach, youth leader, dance teacher, etc. Don’t trust people so easily because they are the “professionals”. Trust your instincts, if something feels uncomfortable, pay attention and do not ignore it.  Parents need to help children understand that if someone makes them feel uncomfortable in any way, including those in authority, they can confidently resist that person and tell their parents.

Watch for change in behaviour.

Make sure that your child knows that they can talk to you about anything and that you are available to listen and validate their feelings.

Does your child demonstrate strange behavior or conduct or resist spending time with a person? Has he suddenly withdrawn or performing poorly in school? Has there been a change in his/her sleep pattern? These are all telltale signs that something is wrong. Investigate and show lots of love and attention and encourage your child to open up.

Prepare your kids to take charge of their safety.

  • We do this by talking about the prevalence of sexual predators and educate them using the language they can understand.
  • Develop a safety plan
  • Educate them about keeping secrets
  • Do role plays and practice skills with them

Street Smarts: Following the Rule of the Road

Street Smarts

Whether they are walking to the bus stop, walking in the parking lot or walking with friends to school, all kids are pedestrians at some time or another during the school day.

It gets more complicated as their safety can be compromised as they are more preoccupied with electronics/social media devices.

In our Home Alone Safety Course, we teach kids about pedestrian safety.

Here are some tips:

  • Heads up and electronics down while crossing the road. Distracted walking is one of the leading cause of pedestrian injuries. We teach kids not to have their electronics out while crossing the street.
  • Stop and look both ways before crossing the street.
  • Do not walk between parked cars.
  • Make sure the vehicles are at a complete stop before entering the crosswalk
  • Make eye contact with the driver to be sure that the driver sees them.
  • Remind them to walk on the sidewalks or paths and cross at the street corner, obeying all traffic signs. If there are no sidewalks, walk facing the traffic.
  • Pay special attention to vehicles turning at the intersection, vehicles backing out of driveways.

 

Fire Safety

Fire Safety
  1. Install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms on each floor and inside and outside of every bedroom.
  2. Check the vents for the dryer, furnace, stove and fireplace outside
  3. Keep matches and lighters away from young children and teach your kids the danger of playing with them.

Take care of your smoke alarms according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Below are some general maintenance tips. 

  1. Replace the batteries at least once every year.
  2. Replace the entire smoke alarm every 10 years.

Practice an escape plan regularly with your family; there should be two ways out of every room and how to respond to the sound of a smoke alarm.

 

Facts About TV And Furniture Mishaps

Facts about TV and Furniture Mishaps

Every day a child is either seriously hurt or dies from a television tipping over.  Every day more and more children are seen in an emergency because of a TV tip-overs.

We can help keep our children safe from tipping TV’s and other furniture when we:

  1. Securely mount flat -panel TVs to the wall with studs and ensure that the panel can handle the weight of the TV.
  2. Recycle old TVs, arrange to have a charity organization pick it up once you have decided that it is no longer needed.
  3. Keep heavier items lower to the ground to avoid a child from climbing to reach for an item.
  4. If your TV sits on a stand, make sure it is sturdy enough to hold the weight. Secure the TV to the stand and the stand to the wall.
  5. Keep remote controls, toys, and other items that might attract children off TV stands or furniture.

Always Supervise your children!

Keeping Children Safe Online

Keeping Children Safe Online

TIPS:

  1. Remind children not to post anything online without your permission e.g. family pictures,
    email address, phone numbers, and videos.
  2. Remind them information posted online cannot be removed, it is there permanently.
  3. Keep your privacy settings as high as possible.
  4. Never give out your passwords.
  5. Don’t befriend people you don’t know.
  6. Don’t meet up with people you’ve met online.  Speak to your parent or care-giver about people suggesting you do.
  7. Teach them about online predators. Remember that not everyone online is who they say they are.
  8.  If you see something online that makes you feel uncomfortable, unsafe or worried, leave the website, turn off your computer and tell a trusted adult immediately.
  9.  Set house rules. Decide how much time you are comfortable with your children being online and which sites they may go to.
  10.  Parents know what your children are always doing. Supervise! Supervise! Supervise!

Home Safe Home

Home Safe Home

Who is at risk?

Children from birth to five years old are among the most vulnerable family members. More than 20, 000
children each year are seen in emergency departments across Canada with injuries that occurred in the
home. They are at risk for injuries at every stage of their development. The risk factors are their
exploratory and innate curiosity, limited cognitive perception, experience, mobility and coordination.

What types of injuries occur in the home?

Falls account for most of the common injuries in the home. Falls occur from beds, stairs, high surfaces
such as tables, chairs etc. These falls can result in broken bones and or head injuries.

Some of the physical environments that puts them at risk are, stairs, bathtubs, pools, basements, play
pens, electric sockets, furniture, water temperatures (not an exhaustive list). Although these things are
good and helpful in their rights, they are also very dangerous when it comes to our children if they are
not supervised carefully.

For example, play pens are necessary tools for the parents, however, if not used correctly or stored
properly when not in use, can be become hazardous for all of us including our children, putting them at risk. Also, if the playpen is second-hand, it is critical that parents ensure that there are no missing parts and that it is operationally safe.

Baby walkers with wheels-Many parents use baby walkers to help their children get some exercise or
even help them move around on their feet. However, many children have suffered serious injuries while
in a walker. The types of injuries included head injuries, falling down the stairs causing broken
bones, broken teeth etc.

Canada banned baby walkers in 2004. Possession of a baby walker can lead to fines up to
$100,000 or six months in jail. But in some countries, more than 75 percent of babies still use
walkers– and the injuries continue. Instead of a walker, consider an activity saucer that doesn’t
move.

Baby bath seats with suction cups– Research shows that bath seats with suction cups creates a false sense of security. Parents have stepped away for brief moments and have returned to a drowned baby or near drowning situations. The seats are known to tip over and have
trapped infants under the water. Ensure careful supervision when you are bathing/changing children.

In the babysitting course we emphasize the following:

  • Never leave a baby or infant unattended during diaper change or bath. They should always be
    within arm’s reach.
  • Gather everything you will need for a diaper change or bath so do you do not have to leave the infant/baby for any reason

Child safety gates-There are many benefits to having a baby gate for example, they are a safety gate that prevents the child from roaming into unsafe areas of the home such as the kitchen, balcony, and away from harmful products etc. They are often installed at the top or bottom of an open stairways. The top of the stairs is the most critical place. Parents should ensure that they have a hardware- mounted sound and sturdy gate that can withstand shaking and pressure. Also, make sure that the bars on the gate is safe enough for your little one as children tend to push their heads and arms through openings where they could become stuck and possibly choke. If possible, refrain from buying a used gate as you cannot be certain that it still meets safety standards.

Minimizing injuries-Parents, you are on duty all the time and keeping your children safe in the home is a priority. Many of these injuries are predictable and preventable. As parents, you are task with the responsibility to childproof and make changes to the home environment as your children grows and develops to keep them safe. Therefore, planning for children’s safety is the most effective way to prevent injuries.

Here are a few practical suggestions:

  • Supervise! Supervise! Supervise! And pay attention to home safety.
  • Don’t put your child at risk to answer the phone. If it is important, the caller will call back or leave a message.
  • Learn CPR and or take a safety course.
  • Keep emergency phone numbers close at hand.
  • If accidents happen, stay calm and call for help immediately

Winter Safety Tips For Children

Winter Safety Tips for Children

Winter weather offers children the chance to enjoy all kinds of fun outdoors. Make sure your children
are dressed for outdoor play so that they can enjoy all that the season has to offer.

Here are a few things to consider:

Winter dressing: Dress them in several layers of clothing and make sure their head, neck and hands are
covered. If they get too hot, they can remove a layer at a time. Babies and younger children will require
one more layer than an adult would wear. Remind them to come indoors when they are wet or cold.
Make sure that they are wearing a warm water-proof boots that are roomy for them to wiggles their
toes. Be aware of clothing hazards and remove drawstrings for their clothing. Use Velcro instead and a neck
warmer instead of a scarf. Not only is it safer, but it is also less cumbersome and prevents strangulation.

Sunscreen: Is needed in the winter. Yes, both children and adults should wear sunscreen because we
can get sunburn during the winter as the sun reflects off the snow.

Head gears: children should wear a proper fitting head equipment when playing ice-hockey, snow-
boarding, sledding, skating and skiing.

Humidifier: Having a cold-air humidifier in your child’s room help to prevent nose bleeds especially if
they get nose bleeds on a regular basis.

Hydration: ensure that children drink lots of hot drinks, (hot chocolates, soups etc.) as they tend to lose
more water through breathing.

Frostbite: Is freezing of the skin and tissues below the skin. Keep children’s skin from being exposed to
harsh temperatures to avoid frostbite. Some common signs are pale or gray or blisters on fingers, ear,
toes and nose. If frostbite is suspected put the affected area in warm (not hot) water for about 30
minutes. For more serious situations please consult with a physician.

Playing safe: Keep children away from snow removal equipment. Also, direct them to play a safe
distance from water, where the ground is semi-frozen and away from the road. The driver of a snow
plow may not be able to see a child playing in the snow.

Enjoy the winter & stay safe.!

How do you know when your kids can be left unsupervised?

The following Article was provided by the Children’s Aid Society “Home Alone: How do you know when your kids can be left unsupervised?” handout.

Your six year old awakens from a bad dream. Padding into your bedroom, he sees you’re not there. Searching the house in vain, he realizes he’s home alone. And unlike the movie, there’s nothing funny about it.

Leaving a child unsupervised is dangerous. It can lead to disaster and it’s against the law. Although the legal term abandonment implies leaving a child with no intent to return, it’s more common for parents to leave their children alone for short periods of time.

There is no law in Ontario that dictates a specific age at which a child can be left unsupervised. The law is purposefully vague when it comes to choosing a specific age, because there are many variables to take into consideration. One eleven-yearold may feel comfortable being left alone, and knows what to do in case of an emergency, while another eleven-year-old may feel nervous and unsure of himself.

When leaving children alone for the first time, parents should speak with them to see if they feel comfortable on their own. Explain to the child where you are going, and specify how long you’ll be gone. Make sure that the child is emotionally and physically ready to be left alone.

Potential household hazards that threaten children’s lives are everywhere. They lurk in the kitchen, the bathroom and the playroom. They come in different shapes, colours and sizes, and they can creep up on children even when parents are at home. These threats can be poisonous substances, unguarded stairwells, or balconies made accessible due to open doors and windows. Children, especially very young children, are not able to remove themselves from hazardous situations. In fact, even if children can remove themselves from danger, they may not realize when something poses a threat, and so it is important for parents to pay close attention to their child’s development.

When parents decide that their children are mature and responsible enough to be left unsupervised, that judgement should be accompanied by a safety plan, so that children know how to respond to different scenarios when home alone. Children should know how to dial 911, and what to do in case of a fire. Other rules should be in place in case someone phones, or comes to the door. Children shouldn’t answer the door, and if someone calls, it’s wise to say that their mom or dad is in the shower or unavailable at the moment. These are simple tactics to teach children, but may prove very useful. If someone can’t be in the house with children when parents aren’t home, neighbours can help by keeping an eye on the house, and parents should always leave a phone number where they can be contacted, in case of emergency.

Five patterns of suspicious behaviour

Parents who leave their children unattended base their decision on the maturity level of their own children, and must ensure that their children will be safe. If they are referred to a children’s aid society (CAS) and if police deem that children should not have been left alone, they can be criminally charged with abandonment.

If a CAS is called to investigate, child protection workers look for patterns:

Has the parent left the child unattended in the past?

Is the parent likely to leave the child unattended in the future?

What is the parent’s reaction when he or she is confronted about leaving the child alone?

Does the parent understand the dangers that their actions posed for the health and safety of the child?

How long was the child left unattended?

If neighbours know for certain that a child has been left unsupervised they should immediately phone for help. They can contact us or their local CAS. If it’s a high risk situation, say a toddler’s been spotted on a balcony, we will call the police and they will send a car over immediately. Neighbours should call their local CAS or the police, if they suspect that a child’s been left alone, and is in imminent danger.

Unlike child supervision or lack there of, wandering occurs by accident, usually when children escape the watchful eye of parents, or parents are not mindful. A parent may fall asleep, and a door or window is accessible to a child who is able to crawl or walk itself into a dangerous situation.

There was the case of a five-year-old girl, who was found wandering in her apartment complex. Her mother took some medication, and fell asleep. Parents and caregivers must always be on alert when watching children. Parents should also be aware when on new medication, and watch for side effects such as drowsiness. If a parent is feeling ill, or drowsy, they should call a friend to supervise the child for a short period of time.

Babysitting is the age-old alternative to leaving children alone. Although the law doesn’t designate when a young person is old enough to baby sit, parents can do their part in safeguarding their children, by hiring people who have experience, references and training. Services like St. John Ambulance, teach a babysitting course, which includes first aid and emergency procedures.

Parents can get information from community services when searching for a daycare provider. Local schools are a good source, secretaries know all the local mothers who watch kids. Parents need to look for someone responsible, who knows how to react to all situations and health concerns.

Leaving children alone for the first time can be overwhelming for both parents and children. Knowing when children are emotionally ready for this responsibility, and putting safety strategies in place, is all part of the important planning.

For more information please call The Children’s Aid Society of Toronto at 416-924-4646 or inquiries@TorontoCAS.ca