- Help staff design the physical environment to promote safety.
- Identify actions that protect you and all staff members from false allegations of abuse or neglect.
- Describe how room design, center design, staffing, and standard operating procedures minimize the risk of child abuse and neglect.
Special Note: The narrative content of the LEARN section has been adapted from two sources developed under the direction of the DoD, Office of Family Policy for military child and youth programs:
- Koralek, D. G. (1993, Nov). Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect in Center Settings. Washington, DC: Teaching Strategies, Inc. Department of Defense Contract #MDA 903-91-M-6715 for Office of Family Policy Support and Services, Office of the Secretary of Defense.
- Koralek, D. G. (1994) Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect: A Training Module for Youth Program Staff. Double H Productions. Department of Defense Contract #DAE08-94-5011.
It has been cross-referenced and updated based on Unified Facilities Criteria (UFC 4-740-14)
The DoD is committed to protecting children from child abuse and neglect in all DoD-sanctioned activities. This includes child development centers and school-age programs. To help minimize the risk of child abuse and neglect, several steps are taken:
- All staff must complete criminal background checks. While background checks are being processed, new staff members must remain in line-of-sight-supervision by a staff member who has passed the background check.
- A Training and Curriculum Specialist is available to provide professional development and support around preventing child abuse and neglect. The T&C is supported by the installation’s Family Advocacy Program.
- Annual training on child abuse prevention, identification, and reporting is provided by the Family Advocacy Program.
- Facilities are designed to prevent opportunities for child abuse and neglect.
- Staff are expected to provide adequate supervision for children at all times.
- Policies and standard operating procedures are in place to prevent child abuse and neglect.
You will read more about the facilities, supervision, and standard operating procedures in this lesson. This lesson is intended to provide a broad overview, so all staff members (teachers, program staff, T&Cs) have consistent awareness of facility features.
How is Your Facility Designed to Keep Children Safe?
Child development and school-age programs operate in many different types of facilities. Your program might operate within a dedicated Child Development Center, in a renovated elementary school, a community center, or a variety of other settings. Regardless of floor plan or design elements, all programs share several key characteristics that protect children from harm. These features promote visibility and enable active supervision of children at all times (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.
- 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.
- 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. Art work 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.
- 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.
- Crib or sleeping areas are located in activity rooms. If the design of the building prevents this arrangement, crib or 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, working properly, and allow staff members, managers, T&Cs, and families to monitor program activities.
In School-Age programs:
- All program areas (rooms, hallways, parking lots, and outdoors spaces) are well-lit and visibility is good enough that staff members can supervise all spaces 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. This prevents children from entering unsafe spaces with each other or an adult who means harm.
- Closed circuit television systems are installed, and working properly, and allow staff members, managers, T&Cs, and families to monitor program activities.
- 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.
- Concave mirrors are installed where needed to improve visibility around corners or into difficult-to-see spaces.
- Doors to outdoor storage areas are visible from the main building so they can be visually monitored by adults other than those on the playground.
There are additional design elements that help ensure children are safe. According to Koralek’s guide to preventing child abuse and neglect in center settings (1993), these include:
- 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.
- Centers have alarms on all exit doors, other than the main entrance and the kitchen exterior entrance, that do not open to a fenced area.
- 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 Policies and Standard Operating Procedures Can Reduce the Potential for Child Abuse and Neglect?
MILWith guidance from the Department of Defense, yourPUBLICYour program 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 program 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.MIL An 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 two adults must be present in school-age programs at all times.
- 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 not be left unattended or under the sole supervision of teen volunteers.
- Children may be released only to a parent or legal guardian or an adult authorized in writing by the parent or legal guardian. Follow your program’s policies regarding the age at which pre-teens can sign themselves out of programs or into the teen center.
- Staff must match their supervision to the needs and abilities of the children. Younger school-age children will need more direct supervision. Make sure an adult is always close enough to respond if the children call for help. Help staff adapt supervision based on the needs of the children and the characteristics of the activity. Potentially dangerous activities like woodworking and swimming will require direct supervision for all children regardless of age.
- Ensure staff use sign-in and sign-out systems to monitor which children are in attendance and where they are in the program.
- Work with other staff members to make sure all areas of the program are adequately supervised. Staff will need to monitor indoor rooms, outdoor spaces, hallways, restrooms, etc.
Access to the Center
- 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.
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 program. MILAs a military child development employee, youPUBLICYou 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 or other staff members’ caregiving performance and learning ways to remain in control of your behavior
- Teaching about stages of child development so your expectations for children’s behavior are realistic and appropriate
- Teaching 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
You must also understand how to protect yourself and staff members from false allegations of abuse or neglect. Any adult who interacts with children should take steps every day to protect children from child abuse and neglect in your program. Although you have a different role from classroom or program staff, you still have an important responsibility to keep children safe. These same steps help keep you protected from false allegations from a child, parent, or co-worker. Take these steps seriously to protect children and yourself.
In their coursework, staff members will be expected to tour the facility with you or the facility manager. They will look for each of the features described in this lesson, and they will ask you to describe how it works in your facility. Take this opportunity to prepare yourself for this tour. Make sure you can explain all the ways your facility protects children from harm. Download and print the Facility Checklist. Make notes in the table about how the feature protects children from abuse and neglect.
Any adult who interacts with children should take steps every day to protect children from child abuse and neglect in your program. Although you have a different role from classroom or program staff, you still have an important responsibility to keep children safe. These same steps help keep you protected from false allegations from a child, parent, or co-worker. Take these steps seriously to protect children and yourself. Download and reflect upon the Prevention Checklist.
Koralek, D. G. (1993, Nov). Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect in Center Settings. Washington, DC: Teaching Strategies, Inc. Department of Defense Contract #MDA 903-91-M-6715 for Office of Family Policy Support and Services, Office of the Secretary of Defense.
Koralek, D. G. (1994) Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect: A Training Module for Youth Program Staff. Double H Productions. Department of Defense Contract #DAE08-94-5011.
The National Center for Fatality Review and Prevention. (n.d.) Child abuse and neglect fact sheet. https://www.ncfrp.org/