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Making The Center A Safe Place For Children

Your program is committed to protecting children from harm. In this lesson, you will learn about the features of your facility that promote safety. You will also learn about the policies and procedures that prevent child abuse and neglect in the center.

  • Design the physical environment to promote safety.
  • Use active supervision to minimize the risk of child abuse and neglect.
  • Identify actions that protect you from false allegations of abuse or neglect.
  • Describe how your room design, center design, staffing, and standard operating procedures minimize the risk of child abuse and neglect.



The Department of Defense is committed to minimizing the potential for child abuse and neglect in center settings. Training on child abuse and neglect is provided shortly after a caregiving employee is hired and annually thereafter. Staff members participate in training programs that help them gain the skills needed to understand children’s behavior and to provide developmentally appropriate care. Training & Curriculum Specialists at installations make sure that all staff receive appropriate training and visit classrooms frequently to offer hands-on technical assistance. Policies and procedures are established to set standards for appropriate staff behavior and caregiving practices. Facilities are designed or modified with prevention of child abuse and neglect in mind.

What Design Features Help Keep Children Safe in MILDoD Child Development Centers?

MILThe DoD’s child PUBLICChild development centers are designed to ensure that parents and administrators can observe the daily care of children at all times and to ensure the facility and outdoor play areas are safe. The following design features help ensure visual monitoring of child care services (depending on the age and design of your facility, it may not have all of these features):

  • There are windows in the doors to all rooms and areas used to care for children (except for adult and school-age toilet rooms), allowing activities in the room to be viewed from outside the room.
  • There are vision panels between activity rooms and hallways to provide visual access.
  • Doors on toilet stalls are removed, except for toilets used by children over age 5 and adults; or there are half walls that allow line of sight supervision for children under age 5.
  • Walls around toilet stalls are reduced to half the normal height, if possible, to permit better viewing of toilet areas.
  • There are no draperies or blinds that obstruct the view into areas in which children receive care or areas where someone might take a child. Artwork is not hung on windows.
  • There are sinks for handwashing in activity rooms rather than in toilet areas so children can be observed more easily.
  • Storage areas are designed so the hardware on the doors is operable from both sides. Doors on closets can be opened from the inside without a key. This prevents a child from being locked in a closet or storage area. In some Services, vision panels are required in the doors for all storage areas.
  • Diapering areas are separated from activity rooms by either half walls or walls with glass. Ideally, buildings are constructed with no walls between diapering areas and activity rooms to increase visibility of caregivers and children during diapering. Navy programs do not permit diaper changing in preschool activity areas.
  • Sleeping areas are located in activity rooms. If the design of the building prevents this arrangement, sleeping areas are separated from activity rooms by half walls or walls with glass.
  • Concave mirrors are installed where needed to improve visibility.
  • Rooms used for evening care are located near the front door so staff and parents have easy access.
  • Outdoor play areas are constructed so all parts can be viewed from inside the center and from outside the playground fencing. There are windows in the walls between activity rooms and outdoor play areas to permit viewing of both areas.
  • Doors to storage areas are visible from the main building so they can be visually monitored by adults other than those on the playground.
  • Play structures such as lofts and play houses are built so that children can be viewed while at play in the structure.
  • Closed circuit television (CCTV) systems are installed, and working properly, and allow staff members, managers, T&CSs, and families to monitor program activities.

Some design features ensure that outsiders cannot enter the building and gain access to children. For example:

  • The reception desk is located so that the entrance can be viewed by reception desk staff.
  • Large centers have alarms on all exit doors that do not open onto a play area.
  • One central entrance area serves all wings or modules. This reduces the number of ways to enter or exit the building.
  • A system at the main entrance, such as a buzzer system, restricts entry to the building at night when only a few caregiving employees are on duty.

What Operational Policies and Procedures Can Reduce the Potential for Child Abuse and Neglect?


MILWith guidance from the Department of Defense, your PUBLICYour center has established operational policies and procedures that can reduce the potential for child abuse and neglect. These policies and procedures address staff and supervision, supervision of children, access to the facility, and use of volunteers, interns, and students in training. Some examples of policies and procedures that may be similar to those at your center include the following:

Staff Conduct and Supervision

  • No adult should be alone with a child or group of children in any part of the center, at any time during the program day. MILAn adult may be alone under certain circumstances if he or she has had a successful background check and cameras are operational in the program.
  • At least one staff member at a supervisory level must be present in the center at all times.
  • Staff must wear nametags or apparel that visually identify them to parents and visitors as employees who are responsible for the program and the children enrolled.
  • Use of corporal punishment or other discipline procedures in violation of center policies is grounds for immediate dismissal in accordance with service personnel policies.
  • Center staff may not take a child or children enrolled in the program to their home or in their own vehicle without permission of the child’s parent and the center director.

Supervision of Children

  • Children must be accompanied by a staff member when returning to the center from the playground.
  • Visual supervision of children must be maintained at all times. No child can be left unattended at any time whether indoors or outdoors, asleep, resting, or awake.
  • Children may be released only to a parent or legal guardian or an adult authorized in writing by the parent or legal guardian.
  • Indoor and activity spaces must be arranged so children can be visually supervised by staff at all times.
  • Gates to playgrounds should have closure hardware that cannot be operated by children under age 10.

Access to the Center

  • Parents must take their child to and pick up their child from the room in which the child receives care.
  • Parents must have access to all areas of the center during the times when their child is present in the facility.
  • Visitors to the center must be accompanied by a staff member at all times while they are in the facility or outdoor play area.
  • Entry to the center should be limited to one entrance and exit.
  • All persons other than staff and parents bringing children to and from the center must sign in and out at the reception desk or with appropriate personnel. For example, a food service delivery person who enters through the kitchen would sign in with the cook. 

Volunteers, Interns, and Students-in-Training

  • Volunteers, interns, and students-in-training may not work alone with a child or group of children.
  • Volunteers, interns, and students-in-training may not work in the center after violations of the program discipline policy or allegations of child abuse or neglect.
  • Volunteers, interns, and students-in-training must comply with regulations for background checks and training related to recognizing, reporting, and preventing child abuse and neglect.


What do safe facilities look like? Watch this video to find out.

Facilities that Protect Children from Harm

Learn how your facility has been designed to keep children safe


When abuse or neglect occurs at a center, the results can be devastating to the employee involved, to the children, to the families, and to the entire child development program. You need to know how to prevent child abuse and neglect. Your prevention role includes the following:

  • Recognizing when high levels of personal stress are affecting your caregiving performance and learning ways to remain in control of your behavior
  • Know when to reach out and ask for support. You are not on this journey alone.
  • Learning about stages of child development so your expectations for children’s behavior are realistic and appropriate
  • Learning about and using positive guidance techniques that help children develop self-discipline
  • Trying to understand the reasons for a child’s behavior
  • Recognizing the signs at your center that indicate a potential for child abuse and neglect
  • Following MILService regulations that minimize the potential for child abuse and neglect



Print the Facility Features Checklist below and tour your facility with your trainer, coach, or administrator. Look for the features listed and ask them to describe how it works in your facility. Make notes in the table about how the feature protects children from abuse and neglect.


There are steps you can take every day to protect children from child abuse and neglect in your program. These same steps help keep you protected from false allegations from a child, parent, or co-worker. Review and complete the Protecting Yourself from Allegations of Child Abuse and Neglect below.


Corporal Punishment:
Inflicting physical pain upon a child as a consequence for behavior. Examples are spanking, whipping, or paddling


You look out on the empty playground. You see a visitor sitting alone on the bench. You do not know her, and there are no staff members on the playground. What should you do?
Your new co-worker can’t believe that you don’t cover the windows when the children nap. She says there is too much light in the room. Based on this lesson, what should you tell her?
True or false? You and a volunteer are supervising a group of children. The volunteer offers to take a small group outside by herself since your co-teacher is running late. It is OK for her to take the children outside alone.
True or false? You are supervising a group of napping children. You really need to use the restroom. Since the children are all asleep, it’s OK for you to step out of the room to use the restroom.
True or false? A child’s uncle arrives to pick her up. You have never met the uncle and he is not on the list of people authorized to pick the child up. The child is very excited to see him and tells you that she knew he was coming to pick her up. She says her mom planned it because she had to work late. You can release the child to her uncle.
References & Resources

Note: the narrative content of the Learn section of this lesson was prepared by Derry G. Koralek, Teaching Strategies, Inc., Washington, DC., in November 1993 under Department of Defense Contract #MDA 903-91-M-6715 for Office of Family Policy Support and Services, Office of the Secretary of Defense. It has been cross-referenced and updated based on Unified Facilities Criteria (UFC 4-740-14)

The National Center for Fatality Review and Prevention. (n.d.) Child abuse and neglect fact sheet.