Do You Know Who's Watching Your Children?

TALLAHASSEE – As summer begins and children spend time in new settings with unfamiliar caregivers, it’s an important time for parents to arm them with information to keep kids safe from sexual abuse.

That’s why the Florida Department of Children and Families and Lauren’s Kids teamed up to provide new educational tools for parents, children and youth-serving organizations.

The summer safety push includes launch of a free online parent toolkit (
www.parenttoolkit.laurenskids.org) to help parents talk with their children about how to stay safe through videos, interactive scenarios and parent and kid tips.

Also available is online web training (www.youthserving.laurenskids.org) and handbooks(www.dontmissthesigns.org/materials) for youth-serving organizations to teach their staff and volunteers how to spot and report abuse, and
protocols to keep children, staff and volunteers safe.

“Summer is an important time to open up the lines of communication and make sure children know they can come to their trusted adults with anything,” said Lauren Book, M.S. Ed Founder and CEO of Lauren’s Kids. “It’s very helpful to run scenarios by children and help them imagine how they would handle different situations.”

Parents also can benefit from the resources of the “Don’t Miss the Signs” campaign, a comprehensive public awareness campaign that launched earlier this year that aims to educate Floridians about the signs of child abuse as well as their obligation to report suspected abuse. The campaign can be accessed online at www.dontmissthesigns.org.

Ninety percent of child sexual abuse victims know their offender in some way.

“Sex offenders seek out places where children are, so youth-serving
organizations need to keep their guard up and learn how to be a strong
first line of defense against sexual abuse,” said Department of Children
and Families Secretary David Wilkins. “These resources give parents and caregivers important, new tools to help keep children safe.”

To promote a safer summer experience, Florida requires all owners,
operators, employees and volunteers who work more than 10 hours a month to undergo background screening for state and criminal histories. DCF wants to remind summer camp operators of Florida’s background screening requirements and encourages them to add their summer camp listings to DCF’s statewide database.

Summer camp has long been a tradition for kids and is an important part of child development. It is crucial that parents ask questions and make sure any summer camp personnel are appropriately screened. Parents can also search DCF’s database of summer camps whose personnel have confirmed background screenings. For more information and to search DCF’s summer camp database, go to www.dcfbackgroundscreening.com.

Lauren’s Kids is a non-profit organization that works to prevent abuse and help survivors heal. The organization, headquartered in Aventura, Florida, was started by Lauren Book, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse who endured abuse at the hands of her nanny for six years. Her organization offers a 24-hour crisis hotline, elementary school prevention curriculum, an annual 1,500-mile awareness walk, legislative advocacy and speaking engagements. For more information, visit laurenskids.org.


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