Last year, more than 7,000 children were taken from child care centers without authorization. Hundreds are still missing. Here are 11 ways to keep the children in your care safe.
- Screen employees thoroughly. Verify references, check police records, and validate employment histories.
- Create parent data forms which include name, address, phone number, place of business, relatives’ names/addresses, custody arrangements, and other pertinent data.
- Never put a child into the custody of an adult without a designated employee formally releasing the child. Never let an unauthorized adult take a child from your center.
- Be sure all employees are familiar with each child’s parent or authorized adult.
- Consider making ID bracelets or nametags for inside children’s clothing or encourage parents to do so.
- Do not allow children to wait near entrances for their parents.
- Strengthen your transportation policy. If your center picks up and/or drops off children, create a system to checkout and check-in children.
- Meet with local police to discuss a safety/protection program. Safety posters and brochures are a great way to educate parents.
- Schedule times for the police to drive by or stop in. Doing so will familiarize children with authority figures and will deter criminal activity. Pick-up time is one of the best times to have police stop by.
- Remove overgrown shrubs and trees from around your center. Set up a 25-foot “perimeter of vision” so that you can easily observe who is outside. Check fences, gates, doors, and windows for damage. Make sure no child can leave the grounds without your knowledge.
- During outdoor play, place adult supervisors in the most vulnerable areas in the yard – near walls, fences, or gated areas. Do not allow children to play near areas accessible to unauthorized adults.
Richard Carr, nationally known child safety consultant, is founder of PEACE (Protection through Education and Awareness of Your Child’s Environment).