child protection, parent resources

Communicating Healthy Boundaries

As a parent or a staff person at a youth serving organization, do you find it difficult to talk with children about their bodies and staying safe? Below please a guideline on how to communicate healthy boundaries.

What do I say? 

Bodies, Healthy Boundaries, and Touching

  • Teach your children the anatomically correct names for their body parts.
  • Teach them that no one should touch their private parts except to keep them clean and healthy.
  • Teach the difference between secrets and surprises, and that touching is never secret.
  • Talk matter-of-factly about private parts.  If your child sees that you are comfortable talking about sexuality, they are more likely to come to you if someone makes them feel uncomfortable or if they have a question.
  • Keep explanations basic and at the level of the child’s age.

Establish Family Rules about Boundaries and Touching

  • Everyone should have the right to privacy in dressing, bathing, and toileting.  If any adult or child breaks these rules, there should be a discussion with repercussions.
  • Teach your children that they can say “No” to any type of touch, and that their “No” will be respected.
  • Demonstrate boundaries and how to say “No” in your own life.
  • Learn more about establishing family rules from the CDC

What are “don’t’s” when talking to my children about sexual abuse? 

  • Avoid discussing “stranger danger” when talking your children about child sexual abuse.  Ninety percent of the time a child is victimized by someone the family knows and trusts.  Explain to your child that no one, not even a friend of mom or dad’s, should touch your child’s private parts and if anyone does the child should tell more than one safe adult right away.
  • Avoid using the terminology “good touch” and “bad touch,” as this can be confusing for a child.  Sometimes inappropriate touching may feel good, so use words like appropriate, inappropriate, safe, or unsafewhen teaching rules about touching.
  • Try not to scare your child by overwhelming them with too much information at once.  Instead, incorporate family rules and messages about boundaries into your every day discussions about basic safety, this way they will understand that personal safety is as basic and important as other safety rules like “Never play with fire” and “Never play with guns.”
  • Avoid making your child feel ashamed or embarrassed for asking a question about his/her body, private parts, or touching.  If your child asks you a question at the wrong time, let him/her know his/her question is important and address it as soon as you can, or in more appropriate setting.

How do I start a conversation? 

  • Use these suggested reading books to start a conversation about bodies and boundaries.
  • Watch for signs that your child is interested in sexuality.
  • Recognize teachable moments and use these as opportunities to start a conversation.
  • Be an “Askable Adult.”  Let your child know they can ask you anything!

To Learn More:

  • Schedule a workshop about communication in your home, religious center, organization, or at your child’s school.

For additional resources, visit the following websites:

Darkness To Light 

Kid Smartz – a program of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children


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. 


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 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 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. 

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,



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,


causes, child protection, nonprofit

Raise Your Voice for BCAC

Raise your voice for Baltimore Child Abuse Center (BCAC) and Children’s Advocacy Centers nationwide.

Funding for the Victims of Child Abuse Act is at risk.

The Federal budget deal that was just approved took $1.5 billion from the Crime Victims Fund/VOCA, which in turn, could impact the funding for the Victims of Child Abuse Act. CVF/VOCA funds are sustained by fines and fees levied against Federal criminal offenders, not your tax dollars, and 800 Child Advocacy Centers nationwide, including BCAC, rely on $20 million in funding for the Victims of Child Abuse Act to provide critical intervention services to children.


BCAC was able to help over 1,000 child victims of abuse, trauma, and Adverse Childhood Experiences last fiscal year alone thanks to crucial funding from the Victims of Child Abuse Act. Without this funding, we are unsure if we will be able to provide the same level of care and services to any child in Baltimore who may need our help.

Be a voice for children by contacting your U.S. Senators and Representatives. Let them know that children deserve the child-friendly, trauma-focused approach to abuse and trauma that only BCAC provides to children in Baltimore.


Raise your voice for BCAC

Alternatively, please call your Maryland Representatives who sit on the House Appropriations Committee:

Congressman, Andy Harris at 202-225-5311;

Congressman, C.A. Dutch Rupersberger at 202-225-3061; and

Vice Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Barbara Mikulski, who is also ranking member of the Commerce, Justice, and Science Committee at 202-224-4524.