The OUR Children’s Project for Safety and Success

Strategies for Supporting
Child Safety

 

By Sara Kennedy, Colorado H&V

Our Colorado parent guides have gently shared the concerning news that our deaf and hard of hearing children face a three times greater risk of maltreatment (neglect, bullying, or abuse) than hearing children when we meet with parents or give presentations. Why? We know that parents, informed parents, can be a huge ally to developing empowering safety skills in a child and at the same time, keeping guard over a child’s environment, who interacts with them, what to watch for in terms of red flags, and how to quickly respond. The good news is that is it not the strangers we have no control over who might hurt or bother our kids. It’s the people they know. The other reason we think it is important to share the risks is that any child who is deaf or hard of hearing brings a parent into a whole community of deaf/hard of hearing children, and we want our H&V parents to be aware of this risk for their own children as well as the kids you will meet down the road.  

To this end, Colorado H&V GBYS parent guides have adopted the recently developed Seven Strategies for Keeping Your Child Safe from our partners at Kidpower to add to our welcome packet during home visits and to share at events. In that handout, Kidpower founder Irene van der Zande shares practical, easily understood strategies to build a relationship with a child and foster habits that promote awareness and safety. The steps are applicable for very young children to teenagers to young adults, and are never too late to adopt. To share just one example, the third strategy describes the importance of continually sharing with a child about unsafe secrets. Problems, touch, gifts, favors and activities should not be a secret. Parents can learn to ask occasionally (but routinely and in those one on one moments where closeness has been achieved) in an interested, calm way: “Is there anything you’ve been wondering or worrying about that you haven’t told me?” Kidpower notes that it is important to stay calm, caring and welcoming when kids talk with us about problems so that they feel safe coming to parents.

Also included in the flyer is a short instruction about calling 1-800-4 a CHILD or CHILDHELP if a parent has any questions or concerns about any child’s safety. The counselors on the toll free line can walk parents through what they might be seeing and what to do next should a concern arise. While this is a completely anonymous call, those counselors can also direct callers about where to call in their area to report or get more assistance.

Interested in seeing the Seven Strategies? Join the website at

http://deafed-childabuse-neglect-col.wiki.educ.msu.edu/ to find the document. Along with the article, you will find more just in time information, such as common signs and symptoms of abuse or neglect, how to bring this topic up at a meeting, and find many more supports from parents and professionals in the field alike all related to deaf and hard of hearing children.

The O.U.R. Children’s Safety Project also hosts a monthly teleconference call. Contact Harold Johnson at hjohnson4deafed@gmail.com or Janet DesGeorges at janet@handsandvoices.org for more information about this important project.  Thank you to Kidpower Teenpower Fullpower International for giving Hands & Voices, as a member of the O.U.R. Project, permission to use their copyrighted material from www.kidpower.org. 

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