I’ll be honest: Inviting caregivers onto our prevention team can feel awkward. But sometimes, the awkward conversation is necessary to protect our kids.
I enrolled my son in a week-long summer day camp where I wouldn’t meet the director until 8:00 the morning of camp when I arrived to hand my son over for a day of sports.
As I drove my son to the fields, we reviewed his body safety rules and talked through a couple of “what if” scenarios. But I knew I needed to have a conversation about body safety with the adult in charge in order to advertise that my son is “off limits.”
After checking in and sending my son to warm-up with the other kids, I asked the director for a minute of his time and decided to be as direct and to the point as I could.
“I know you’re busy and this is kind of an awkward question, but I wanted to ask what steps you take during camp to keep kids safe from sexual abuse?”
The director looked surprised but was immediately receptive. “Wow. I don’t usually get asked that question, but it’s so important. ” He went on to share their policies that ensure children aren’t alone with adults and explained their bathroom protocol designed to keep kids safe from the hypothetical stranger-lurking-in-the-bushes near the port-a-potties.
I pushed back to let him know I was less concerned with strangers and more concerned about other children or adults involved in the program being alone with my son, sharing the statistics about how often abuse is committed by those known to a child. He listened sincerely and then addressed those concerns, explaining in detail the structure of the day to assure me that the kids and adults remain together as a large group without opportunity for alone time.
Satisfied with his answers and knowing I’d communicated that our family is aware and paying attention, I left much more comfortable than I’d arrived. And in the end, the conversation was far less awkward anticipated.
About a year and a half ago, we moved out of state to an area where Parenting Safe Children is less prevalent, which means I no longer enjoy the benefits of my previous town’s ever-growing prevention team. I’m having to establish a new safety net for my kids at every turn, which is why I’m particularly excited about the new “Conversation-Starter Cards.” Having a tangible tool linked to a professional organization will lend credibility and authority to the conversations I initiate with teachers, coaches, and friends, providing a context for my "awkward" questions.
And who knows? Maybe one day I’ll be able to arrange for Feather to teach a workshop here in Texas so we can begin to create another “off limits” community.