child protection, holidays, nonprofit, parent resources, safety, Training, Uncategorized

Holiday Hulabaloo: Tips & Tricks for Keeping Kids Safe

Holidays are here, bringing joy, cheer, and lots of time with family and friends. While they are a great time for celebration, we at Baltimore Child Abuse Center also want to remind families that the holidays can also be a risky time for children. While there are no statistics saying that the risk for abuse increases at this time of year, circumstances surrounding the holidays make it easier for abuse to occur. Extended family and friends are in and out of our homes, kids are running around, and it is easy to be distracted by activities going on around us and lose sight of the safety of our children.

Here are some of BCAC’s tips and tricks for keeping your kids safe this holiday season:

  1. Don’t Force Hugs: Respect your child’s decision to protect their body and space.
  2. Create a Family Safety Plan: Print out BCAC’s family-safety-plan & complete it with your kids.
  3. Talk Body Safety: No matter the age, it is important to use developmentally appropriate language and help children understand boundaries. Try this video from our friends across the pond at NSPCC.
  4. Don’t Keep Secrets: Tell your children that there are no secrets kept in your family, and what they can do if someone asks them to keep a secret.

Remember that while the holidays are joyful and fun for most, they can also be stressful and risky time for children. Read the signs your child may be giving you, and stay in regular communication with them.

Wishing you a safe and happy holiday season,

Drew & all of BCAC

 

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child protection, internet safety, parent resources, Uncategorized

Pokemon Go: Should you play, or Should you go?

The ever changing world of the internet has thrown its latest hurdle to parents of cell-phone wielding children and teens: Pokemon Go. Coverage on Pokemon Go has been excessive, and unless you have been hiding like Pikachu, chances are you have heard of it (but just in case you haven’t click here). Like every other app this game comes with pluses and minuses, and as our Executive Director Adam Rosenberg says “I am not saying no, but I am not ready to say yes.” So here are some things to think about before you or your kids go out and play.

What’s great about Pokemon Go is that the game encourages children to get outdoors and move around – not just sit on the couch. It encourages “IRL” (in real life) meet ups and interaction with other players. However, there have already been reports of the game being used to commit crimes and causing accidents: one player sexually assaulted at a game stop; a “PokeStop” in California located at a facility housing sex offenders; armed robbers “lure” victims; and police patrol car sideswiped by a driver playing the game. These stories illustrate the more concerning safety issues at play – not just with Pokemon Go, but with social media and technology in general.

When playing Pokemon Go, children unintentionally give real life location information which allows the game and other users to identify where they are while playing. Just like on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, Pokemon Go relies on geo-tagging data to be able to place players in the game. Geo-tagging draws a virtual map of your life. It allows others to see your child’s daily habits and routines, and gives them potentially dangerous knowledge of you and your child’s coming and goings. The game also utilizes your phone’s camera to superimpose the image of Pokemon characters onto the real world. Previous incidents with camera hacking, have allowed access to computer cameras and video which recorded people unbeknownst to them and without permission.

Additionally, players can set a “Lure” to draw more Pokemon and ultimately players to a single location. As if the name wasn’t creepy enough, this function can easily be used to attract potential victims to a single space. Equally troubling is that “PokeStops” can sometimes be in unsafe or risky locations. In BCAC’s neighborhood, there is a “PokeStop” and a “Training Gym” next door to a substance abuse treatment center and another in a vacant office.

So what can you do to keep your kids safe? BCAC recommends that parents check out the Social Preference Caps (the settings which can allow parents to set limits on both the chat and trade functions). Make sure that the location services are turned off when the game is not being used, and consider turning off location services for other apps like Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and Facebook. Most importantly, BCAC recommends parents:

  1. Take Charge: set ground rules with your kids and understand the Privacy Policies
  2. Monitor: look at what your kids are doing, what sites are they going to, who are they talking to
  3. Communicate: talk to your kids about the very real risk games and social media can pose

Don’t want your home or business to be a PokeStop? BCAC felt that as a space which helps heal traumatized children, it was not appropriate for our center to be one. Therefore, we submitted a request to be removed from the game. You can submit a request to be removed as a stop by clicking here.

So should you “catch them all?” Before we shut the door on Pokemon Go, consider using it as an opportunity to get out there and play as a family. Do not let your kid stumble over sidewalks and walk into standing objects alone while looking for Vaperon or Mewtwo. Explore the game with them, and don’t be afraid to set ground rules on when and where they can play. Or if Pokemon Go or online gaming isn’t for you, grab a ball and a mitt and have an old-fashioned catch, or go for a walk in your local park IRL with your kid, not looking at a phone.

For more information visit BCAC’s website  OR to get training for your child’s school or local PTA on internet safety please contact BCAC by email at training@bcaci.org or by phone at 410-396-6147.

Drew Fidler, LCSW-C is the Policy and Program Development Manager and a Forensic Interviewer at BCAC. Drew interviews child victims of crime and works with Youth Serving Organizations to analyze their systems relating to protecting children, conducts trainings, and writes policy on keeping the kids in their care safe. In her spare time, Drew prefers to play Candy Crush and Words with Friends.

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child protection, Summer camp, Training, Uncategorized

Pick a summer program that will keep your child safe 

Summer is coming and there are no better ways to enrich your child’s summer with a great summer camp or summer program. But out of school time poses risks as well. 

What can parents ask to make them better consumers when selecting programs? What follows is a quick guide to help you be proactive in choosing a safe summer program that prioritizes child protection along with fun. 

1. Is the program is licensed or accredited?

2. How are employees and volunteers screened?

3. Is there a child protection policy and how is staff trained?

4. Are there clear reporting procedures for suspicions of abuse?

5. Observe the program & Follow your instincts?

Amazingly not every camp does this. And what we are seeing in the child protection community is that even foundations are starting to place a priority on these issues before continuing to find programs. 

If camps or programs don’t meet your standards or don’t leave you feeling comfortable and safe, don’t leave your kids there. Use your gut instinct and advocate for better policy and better systems. 

And if you’re a camp or summer program reading this and wondering if you can say yes to all these questions, contact us for an assessment of your program. Our expert staff can help you keep the kids in your program safe and happy all summer. 

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Uncategorized

Help Us Raise Awareness and Funds in Honor of Child Abuse Awareness Month

Baltimore Child Abuse Center is looking for community partners to help us raise funds and awareness in honor of Child Abuse Awareness Month this April.
We’re calling on members of the Baltimore community to create activities to benefit Baltimore’s most vulnerable inhabitants – its children.
Currently, groups throughout the region are hosting bake sales, film screenings, donation boxes at cash registers in local shops, dining nights at local restaurants, benefit performances, happy hours, bingo & trivia nights, and so much more. Get creative!
In exchange for your participation in Child Abuse Awareness Month, throughout the month of April, we’ll promote your event or business on social media, on our website, and in e-communications to our supporter list.
Contact Melissa at 443-923-7009 or mjencks@bcaci.org with any questions and to get involved.
Thank you for joining us in our mission to protect children in Baltimore from sexual abuse, trauma, and other adverse childhood experiences!

CHILD ABUSE AWARENESS MONTH

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child protection, failure to report, legislation, Uncategorized

Failing to Protect Children by not Punishing the Failure to Report

I’ve been calling for penalties for the failure to report child abuse for years now in Maryland. Maryland remains the only state without a penalty or formal mechanism to pursue such a violation of the duty to protect children in one’s care. And for years myself and a few others have called for the enactment of such a penalty for a willful and knowing failure to report abuse. However, this bill has consistently died in the Maryland Senate and Maryland House of Delegates at the hands of legislators focused on professionals and not children and advocates less concerned with children than they have been with their own special interests. You know who you are.

Today’s allegation that a child informed a teacher about his own abuse and was told to sit down just underscores the need for a penalty for the failure to report. Penalties are not designed for the mistake or the confusing situation, but for moments like the Deonte Carraway case in Prince Georges County where not just the principal but multiple teachers in the school knowingly and willfully failed to report abuse.

A prosecutor needs to have the mechanism to pursue justice for those who abrogated their responsibility to protect the children in their care. This incident is no different and no less heinous that what occurred at Penn State where leadership at all levels turned a blind eye towards the abuse of children. When mandated reporters fail to adhere to their duty, abuse continues, pedophiles remain unaccountable, and regrettably even children die. The lack of a penalty in Maryland diminishes the significance of the crime of child abuse and the value of those lives impacted. This omission is truly one of the only incidents in Maryland law where there is a mandate required without any penalty.

A 2008 study published by the Journal of the International Society for Child Indicators concluded that the passage of effective mandatory reporting laws across the United States has clearly shown success in increasing the number of reports made to child protective services (Kesner, John. Child Protection in the United States: An Examination of Mandated Reporting of Child Maltreatment, Child Ind Res (2008) 1:397-410). Unfortunately, Maryland is the only state without any formal and enforceable remedy for the failure to report abuse – a distinction glaringly pointed out in reports issued by the United States Department of Health and Human Services and other national agencies on mandatory reporting. Without a penalty for the failure to report suspected abuse, the basic legal principle of ubi jus ibi remedium – for every wrong, the law provides a remedy – is violated.  There are no teeth to encourage or enforce this basic requirement that mandatory reporters report abuse. Having a penalty for the failure to report abuse is the national standard, and Maryland must do the same to ensure and underscore the importance of reporting abuse.

Without a penalty for the failure to report suspected abuse, the basic legal principle of ubi jus ibi remedium – for every wrong, the law provides a remedy – is violated.

Review the recent history in Maryland of bills introduced to examine the failure to report penalty and system of reporting. Even task forces to examine the issue have been shot down in committee and received dissent among advocates. Review the votes of members who voted against these bills, and read the testimony of advocates and professions who rallied against a penalty. Perhaps it’s too late for this legislative session to do any good, but it’s never too late to protect children. 

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child protection, internet safety, social media, Uncategorized

Tweens & Technology – WYPR Extended Edition

Today, Drew Fidler & I spoke on 88.1 WYPR about the topic of twees and technology – how do we keep our children safe in the online world. It’s in preparation for our 3 part series on the same topic at Wee Chic Boutique at Greenspring Station this weekend and next.

Over the last hour today, we discussed the threats presented online with phones, social media, and the internet as well as some strategies to be a pro-active caregiver. As I’ve often opined, I stated that Facebook & social media are not the enemy, but rather where the enemy and lurk and cause trouble.

Children, and the bad guys, know far more about how these systems work that we do as parents and caregivers. We hope this series helps level the playing field.

Most importantly, it’s about starting an ongoing dialogue with your children; recognizing that location (of the device and your child’s access to it) matters; and that by reading and understanding privacy policies and settings you can build that protective fence around our community.

And if you want a good laugh but also to drive the point home as a great conversation starter, view these videos from our friends in England at the NSPCC about being share aware:

Alex Share Aware
Lucy & The Boy – Share Aware

Here are some resources so you can create your plans and learn a bit more.

A wealth of resources from NCMEC:

Social Media Contracts:
Teen Social Media Contract Example 1

Teen Social Media Contract Example 2

Sign up and join us at Wee Chic and share our material and continue the conversation!

Let’s stay safe,

Adam

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Uncategorized

Building Bridges to Mental Health Care

With a new year upon us, we have a fresh opportunity to review our past and see what BCAC can do in the coming year to improve the responses we provide for children who have experienced abuse and trauma. 2015 provided more than its share of unwelcome challenges and we continue to address those issues uncovered every day. One of those challenges is the increasing need to make successful mental health care referrals for the children our Center provides assistance to every day.

Perhaps you’re not aware of this, but BCAC is not in the position to directly provide every child with ongoing mental health services. The need is simply too great. However, we’re pleased to be able to work with a wide network of referral agencies: Advanced Therapeutic Connections, Baltimore Counseling Center, Change Health, Chesapeake Treatment Center, Empowering Minds Resource Center, Family & Children’s Services of Central Maryland, Hopkins Bayview, Kennedy Krieger Family Center, Key Point Health Services, King Health, Pro Bono Counseling Project, Therapeutic Living for Families, THRIVE, Time Organization, Turnaround, the University of Maryland Care Clinic, and private providers. But success is not merely defined at BCAC as sharing a name and number with a family. Among the rated criteria for all Centers to maintain accreditation with the National Children’s Alliance is to ensure that “specialized trauma-focused mental health services, designed to meet the unique needs of the children and non-offending family members” are routinely made available, and there is consistent case tracking for each client that includes the status or outcome of medical and mental health care referrals. BCAC’s team of Family Advocates works hard to make successful connections for each family. And if the first referral doesn’t work, our team works with the family to try again.

And while upon reading this, you may assume that the suggestion of mental health care services for children is always well received by caregivers, I am sorry to report that it is not always the case. Unlike a physical injury or illness where the impact and symptoms are apparent, mental health is often unrecognized by the families visiting us. So much so, that researchers found in a recent study at an urban children’s advocacy center like BCAC, that Caregivers who did not link to services believed they were not necessary for their children. The most common reason cited was because the caregiver did observe behavioral symptoms in their children. Other reasons included the fear that therapy would re-traumatize or stigmatize their children, and a mistrust of the mental health system. (Caregiver perceptions about mental health services after child sexual abuse. Child Abuse & Neglect, Volume 51, Issue null, Pages 284-294 Hiu-fai Fong, Colleen E. Bennett, Valerie Mondestin, Philip V. Scribano, Cynthia Mollen, Joanne N. Wood). Compounding the lack of perceived need are issues in finding transportation, the cost of mental health care services, and difficulty in finding the right provider.

BCAC aims to address this issue directly in 2016. We’ve created a concept to help build bridges for mental health for each family who has been identified as having a need. But we cannot accomplish this on our own. Current funding only covers our core forensic crisis services, and many thanks to those of you who stepped up and joined our Campaign for Baltimore’s Children to help address this gap.

Additionally, BCAC is looking to create new and strengthen current partnerships with  referral agencies, foundations, schools and governmental agencies who can help, so we can ensure every child gets a completed mental health care services referral. Success in such a completed referral will result in reduced future negative outcomes from these Adverse Childhood Experiences which impact children’s health, school performance, neighborhood safety, and crime.

2016 is a new page in Baltimore’s history. To turn that page is not to forget Baltimore’s recent (and not so recent) past and work to address issues facing children throughout this city and region. As we turn that page here at BCAC, let’s be on the look for ways and solutions to not just report when a child reports abuse, but also to respond to send children and families down a road towards healing.

Share with me your thoughts and solutions for mental health recovery and to build bridges for each child who needs help.

Let’s stay safe,

Adam

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