According to Darkness to Light, one in ten children will be sexually abused before the age of 18 with approximately 20% of those children experiencing sexual abuse before the age of 8. Perpetrators of sexual abuse may target childcare facilities as an opportune location to engage in “grooming” which can lead to inappropriate sexual activity with young children. Grooming is a process whereby an offender works to gain the trust of a child and/or caregiver to allow them to engage in abuse. Some stages of grooming are: Targeting the child Gaining the child and caregiver’s trust Isolating the child As childcare providers, you can help reduce the risk that a child becomes victim to a predator. Consider implementing the following preventative strategies into your childcare facility to reduce the risk of abuse: Mandatory background checks for all owners, directors, staff, and volunteers who provide direct care to children. Enhance onboarding processes to include personal interviews and background checks. Eliminate isolated, one-on-one situations between children and adults, as well as children and other youth. Create indoor and outdoor environments where all interactions among children are observable by all. Establish policies for training staff on how to prevent, recognize, react, deal with suspicious situations, and reporting. Engage in and promote awareness of child abuse and prevention campaigns during the month of April. By sharing information and resources with families, you are raising awareness that extends beyond your center and into your community. Mandatory Background Checks Idaho Administrative Code (16.06.02 309.01) states that Criminal History and Background Check for Daycare Centers and Group Daycare Facilities are necessary for each of the following groups: Owners, operators, and staff; All other individuals thirteen (13) years of age or older who have unsupervised direct contact with children; or All other individuals thirteen (13) years of age or older who are regularly on the premises. All staff and volunteers should require a completed background check. While volunteers can play an invaluable role in your childcare program in assisting with daily routines and learning activities, it is imperative for the well-being of children to screen all volunteers and never leave them unsupervised with children. Currently, the CDC is providing the following guidelines for allowing visitors or volunteers onto the premises during the COVID-19 pandemic: “Limit any nonessential visitors, volunteers, and activities involving external groups or organizations as possible – especially with individuals who are not from the local geographic area (e.g., community, town, city, country).” Enhanced Onboarding Processes Though a background check is a vital tool to help identify if someone has a prior history of child abuse or neglect, it is only one way to identify a potential perpetrator. In addition to mandatory background checks, consider implementing the requirement of personal interviews and reference checks for all adults (staff and volunteers) who will be providing care and/or will be around children in your facility. Use this as an opportunity to get to know the person and learn more about their prior conduct and history working with children. Eliminate Isolated Situations According to Darkness to Light , more than 80% of sexual abuse cases occur in isolated, one-on-one situations. You can reduce risk by: Thinking carefully about the safety of any isolated, one-on-one settings. Make sure interactions with children can be observed and interrupted. Choose group situations when possible. Think carefully about the safety of situations in which older youth have access to younger children. Make sure that multiple adults are present who can supervise. Set an example by personally avoiding isolated, one-on-one situations with children other than your own. Understand that abusers often become friendly with potential victims and their families, enjoying family activities, earning trust, and gaining time alone with children. Observable Indoor/Outdoor Environments Take the opportunity to walk through your facility, both indoor and outdoor, and look for potential environments where isolated, one-on-one interactions could occur. Determine if you can change or rearrange those environments to reduce visual barriers. If you are able, make those changes to your indoor and outdoor environments. If you would like support with reviewing and changing your environments to improve prevention efforts, you can reach out to your local CCRC for assistance. Develop Training Policy Consider implementing a staff training policy for all owners, directors, teacher, staff, and volunteers to watch the Recognizing and Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect video as part of their onboarding. The video can be accessed through your provider account in RISE. You may also consider having staff complete a training through an outside advocacy agency, such as Darkness to Light . The Idaho Children’s Trust Fund has partnered with Darkness to Light to provide their Stewards of Children training for only $3. This training teaches adults how to prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. Click here to access more information and register for the training. Reporting Under Idaho law, everyone in Idaho is required to report child abuse, neglect, or abandonment. As a childcare provider, you are required to report any signs of child abuse or neglect, whether it may have occurred at your facility or if it occurred when the child was at home/away from the facility. You can file a report by calling 2-1-1 and stating your intent to report a case of child abuse or neglect OR call 1-855-552-KIDS (5437).