Tough Questions For Caregivers About Child Sexual Abuse


Question MarksFinding the right caregiver for your child is a parenting decision not to be taken lightly.  In our society, caregivers can include hired sitters, family members, neighbors, churches, schools, daycares, camps, tutors, coaches, you name it.  The list goes on and on!  When you choose to leave your child in the care of others, it’s important to know that those individuals and organizations are just as devoted to keeping your child safe as you are. 

Unfortunately, as parents we often shy away from asking important safety questions to potential caregivers because the topic feels too uncomfortable.  Embarrassing.  Accusatory.  But the new round of media coverage about Penn State and the findings of the Freeh Report last week really got me thinking.  What policies do the people and organizations that care for my children have in place to keep them safe?  Have I ever truly asked the right questions to know their procedures for my child’s safety? 

What we’ve learned from the child sexual abuse survivors of Jerry Sandusky is that we MUST ask difficult questions to anyone who is going to care for our children.  We cannot assume that our children are protected from child sexual abuse without asking about it directly.

When selecting a caregiver for your child, or evaluating ones you already use, try asking questions like the four offered below.  Consider what responses you’d like to hear from your caregiver.  Talk about these issues with other parents and community members to learn from their experiences.  There is no time like the present to protect your child from sexual abuse.

1.  Do you have a written policy that describes how you keep my child safe from sexual abuse while in your care?  If not, why?  Many schools, daycares, churches, and organizations have written policies that they can provide you.  Read them and observe your child in the environment to be sure that the policies are implemented to your satisfaction.  If your child’s caregiver or potential caregiver doesn’t have a policy, don’t despair.  Your question can be the start of a good discussion about their role in keeping your child safe from sexual abuse.  If they’re hesitant to talk about this issue or don’t want to be an active participant in your child’s protection from sexual abuse, then your gut will probably tell you that they’re not the right caregiver for your child.     

2.  Do you conduct background checks on all of your employees and volunteers?  If not, why?  You don’t want individuals caring for your children who have been convicted as a sex offender or of a violent crime.  Right?  Well, if background checks aren’t done on all employees and volunteers there is no way to know their criminal history.  Period. 

3.  Are all of your employees and volunteers trained on how to prevent and respond to child sexual abuse?  If not, why?  If all the employees and volunteers at Penn State had been trained in how to prevent and respond to child sexual abuse, then things would have likely turned out very differently there.  It’s as simple as that.  If all of the caregivers are adequately trained, then everyone will know how to keep your child protected.   

4.  Are there any situations that my child will be one-on-one with an adult or another child?  If so, why?  More than 80% of child sexual abuse occurs in one-on-one situations.  If we work actively to reduce one-on-one situations then the likelihood of child sexual abuse will decrease.  If your child’s caregiver does have one-on-one time with them, is that time observable by others or able to be interrupted?  Can you stop by unannounced?  If not, speak with them about why that’s a must for your family.

Have you ever asked your child’s caregivers about their child sexual abuse prevention and response policy?  What tips do you have to share?  We’d love to hear from you on this important topic.

Dr. Polly Dunn is a child psychologist, mom of four, and blogger.  For more of her ‘Perfectly Imperfect Parenting Solutions’ you can find her at, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

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