Five Days of Action: Protecting Children from Sexual Abuse

 In Early Childhood Education

Five Days of Action: Protecting Children from Sexual Abuse

By Michael Reisman, M.Ed.
Director, HCYMCA Early Childhood Education

It is not easy to openly discuss child sexual abuse in any setting, let alone in the childcare environment. I have served in the early childhood field for 15 years, as a teacher for six years and a director for two in Seattle, followed by seven years directing in my home state of New Jersey. It has only been here at the Hunterdon County YMCA that I’ve observed and been part of such a specific commitment to the prevention of child sexual abuse. Our employment policies and practices are ongoing, but during one week in April each year, we sharpen our focus on all that you and I can do to keep our children safe from this brand of predation.

The 5 Days Of Action (April 22-26) is a coordination of YMCA leaders across the country and our partners at Praesidium and Darkness to Light to educate families on how to protect their children from abuse, as well as to share what we do as YOUR community service organization to prevent abuse within our walls. There are few in our Association more aware and vigilant to this calling than the early childhood professionals who engage young children in our preschools and childcare centers. That is why we:

  • ALWAYS take children to the bathroom in groups
  • ALWAYS change diapers in clear view
  • ALWAYS work, walk and play with children in groups, or one-on-one in the classroom in clear site of the group and colleagues
  • ALWAYS avoid being alone with children out of site from others

By policy, our staff may not babysit or visit our families’ homes. Not only is this professional behavior, we believe it is in the best interest of both our families and our staff. While we teach children about healthy boundaries and personal space, we reinforce it in our practices and our classrooms. As a man in a field sometimes subject to unfair biases or stereotypes, it is quite comforting to know I work in a place that, by policy, protects me from raised eyebrows and ignorant questions on this topic.

At tables at the Child Learning Center and Milford Preschool (next week), we have information and stickers to help you keep your children safe including:

  • Information for Parents of Young Children (about body safety and recognizing inappropriate behavior)
  • Tips for Protecting Youth (from offenders)
  • Checklist for Safe Sleepovers
  • Talking to Kids (about sexual abuse)

As Co-Chair of New Jersey’s YMCA Professional Network of Early Childhood Directors, I know I speak for all of us when I say that health and safety are our highest priorities for the children in our care. From the rigorous background and reference checks within the staff recruitment process, to regular classroom observations and diligent HR practices, we understand that without the security of an abuse-free environment, we cannot accomplish any of the teaching and learning that sets us apart.

Please stop by the information table at either preschool to pick up the hand-outs and stickers, and sign your commitment to protect children from sexual abuse. More information can also be found at www.fivedaysofaction.org and our website, www.hcymca.org/five-days.

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