How to Become an Advocate for Child Safety
Never underestimate the difference one adult can make in the life of a child. Take a moment to read through our list of 40 Ways to Help Homeschool Kids in Bad Situations. As this list makes clear, the smallest, simplest action or step can make a world of difference in the life of a child struggling with a troubled home life. This page helps equip you to make that difference.
On this page, we will also discuss how you can equip and protect your children, as well as how you can become a resource on child safety for your homeschool community.
1. Work to unlearn your childism.
Childism is a prejudice against children. Most adults hold at least some childist views. At CRHE, we reject all forms of childism. We believe that children are independent entities with their own rights, and not mere extensions of their parents. We embrace the radical idea that children are people. Take a moment to read our Bill of Rights for Homeschooled Children. It is important that you unlearn any internal bias against children, and learn to see children as full human beings with their own agency and rights.
Children can tell when an adult respects them — and when an adult values their opinions and their welfare. As you unlearn your own internal childism, the children in your orbit will come to recognize you as a safe, supportive person. Be a mentor and a safe resource; ask children their point of view and empower them to make their own decisions; offer to provide tutoring and resources; and encourage children to dream and pursue their interests.
As you work to be a safe and supportive person for children in your homeschool community, you may find that you need to start with adjusting your approach to your own children. Our society frequently does not offer parents the tools they need to parent positively. To learn how to parent in a way that is consistent with your children’s dignity, start with Aha Parenting.
You may find that some parents in your homeschool community hold harmful ideas about children. In many communities, it is considered socially acceptable for parents to share mocking or demeaning images of their children on social media; as a society, violence against children is often the punchline of a joke. We stand with the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation that parents not use corporal punishment in any form.
Never underestimate the difference one person can make in changing the tone and culture of a community. Speak up when you hear childism, and correct harmful misinformation or bias. Share information from our Bill of Rights for Homeschooled Children, and work to create community norms that are positive toward children.
2. Educate yourself on child abuse and child welfare.
Take some time to equip yourself with information about child welfare and abuse prevention. You can find a general definition of child abuse or neglect, as well as your state’s laws governing abuse and neglect, in this PDF from Child Welfare Information Gateway. Familiarize yourself with these definitions, and with your state’s law.
While understanding legal definitions of abuse is important, being a positive presence for children in your community does not start or end with these definitions. Actions that do not rise to the level of legal abuse may still be harmful to children. In homeschool settings, this is particularly true of emotional abuse. Definitions of child abuse help you understand the point at which the state is empowered to step in and intervene, but they do not necessarily tell you when a child is struggling and needs support.
It is also important to be aware that child abuse can take on particular characteristics in homeschool settings. If you have not already done so, please read Understanding Abuse in Homeschool Environments and Themes in Abuse in Homeschool Settings.
Next, take some time to educate yourself on how the child welfare system works. While our nation’s child welfare system is not perfect, you may have encountered misinformation about its purposes, or how it functions. For example, even when a child welfare case is opened, children are not usually removed from the home. Also, child welfare workers often connect families with services such as access to housing or food assistance. Even when a child is removed from the home, the focus is typically on family reunification.
As you work to educate yourself, make sure that you are using reputable sources. One side effect of our open access information economy is that misinformation can flourish. Always take time to learn the qualifications and motivations of the organizations or people creating content.
Some reputable sources include:
- RAINN: Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network
- GRACE: Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment
3. Complete mandatory reporter training.
Mandatory reporters are individuals required by law to report suspicions of child abuse or neglect. In some states, all adults are mandatory reporters; in other states, only adults in specific professions are mandatory reporters. In all fifty states, however, teachers are mandatory reporters and are required to take mandatory reporter training courses. We believe home educators should hold themselves to the same standard.
Every state offers mandatory reporter training; this training typically provides detailed state-specific information about recognizing and reporting child abuse. In most states, mandatory reporter training can be completed online and is freely available to any adult who is interested in completing it. You can find your state’s mandatory reporter training here.
Why should you complete mandatory reporter training?
- You need to know what to do if a child divulges abuse to you. While you can get a brief tutorial on this in our Dos and Don’ts When a Child Divulges Abuse page, mandatory reporter training typically covers this topic much more thoroughly.
- You need to be able to recognize warning signs of abuse and neglect. You can find some basic information regarding this on our Warning Signs of Abuse and Neglect. However, mandatory reporter training generally offers more depth.
- You need to know how to report abuse and neglect in your state. Once again, we do have a page that covers this: How to Report Abuse and Neglect. However, mandatory reporter training will provide information on this that is specific to your state.
Mandatory reporter training will introduce you to the child welfare process in your state and to the various agencies involved. Remember, children who attend school are around trained mandatory reporters every day; you may be the only adult with mandatory reporter training some children in your homeschool community come in contact with. Having mandatory reporter training will also allow you to serve as an informational resource for other parents in your homeschool community, especially when you are part of a homeschool group or co-op.
4. Bring child safety training to your home and community.
Public schools provide children with abuse prevention education as part of their social and emotional learning programs. Because your child is homeschooled, you will need to cover this material with them yourself. The Kidpower Book for Caring Adults can serve as a template for creating an abuse prevention curriculum; there are other resources available as well, such as these guides for parents by the Committee for Children. Some of the resources listed as reputable sources above offer materials parents or teachers can use with children.
Of course, your children are not the only children in your community who need access to child abuse prevention programming. You may want to consider offering abuse prevention workshops or classes for other homeschooled children alongside your own children. Another option is to hire a professional educator to provide this training to children and other children in your community, possibly through a homeschool co-op or group.
Don’t forget to read the other articles in this section!
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