“It takes a village to raise a child,” the National Education Association says. “The whole community has an essential role to play in the growth and development of its young people.”
Just like parents and family members have an essential role in a child’s life, the community also plays an all-important role in the safety and well-being of children. According to Lakia M. Scott, Ph.D., an assistant professor at Baylor University’s School of Education, children who are the most at-risk of being trafficked lack access to education, are homeless, grow up in lower socioeconomic backgrounds, or come from single-parent households.
Parent Education Programs
Parent education programs advocate positive parenting practices that help reduce the risk of child abuse and neglect. They also promote permanency, well-being, and safety for children and their families. Excellent parent education programs will have the following objectives:
- To help parents learn where they can get support from within the community by outlining available services.
- To teach parents how to develop and practice positive discipline techniques.
- To promote positive interaction between parents and children.
- To teach parents the various child development milestones that should be expected based on age and ability.
Parent education programs are a core prevention service that a community can provide to decrease the risk of child maltreatment. Better educated parents can help build healthier families and communities.
Teaching Children: ‘Who Is Safe’
Teaching children which adults in their community are safe should start at home. However, the community should offer support in this endeavor.
Teaching children about the possible dangers they may face can be a double-edged sword — it alerts them to potential safety hazards. Still, it may dampen their curiosity to explore the world.
According to the National Center of Missing & Exploited Children, it is more important to help children build self-confidence and self-esteem so that they can feel empowered to keep themselves away from potentially dangerous situations.
Community talks with parents and children should be age-appropriate when discussing “what if” scenarios. However, these discussions should start at a young age, and the content can then be adjusted as the children get older.
The following are strategies that can be employed with kids of different ages:
Children younger than five are naturally curious and more focused on themselves. They can be more easily fooled by adults.
Preschoolers should be taught basic information about their names and addresses. By using role-playing games, they can be taught about expected behaviors.
Young children, elementary-aged, naturally want to be cooperative and please adults; this makes them easier to manipulate. Teaching basic safety rules is best done through repetition, role-playing games, and by offering concrete examples.
Tweens and Teens
As children age into young adulthood, they become better judges of potentially dangerous situations. They must go into this stage with a solid foundation as they are more likely to be left without adult supervision and are also more heavily influenced by their peers.
No matter their age, it is crucial to open up the lines of communication between children and the safe adults in their lives.
Keeping the Community Aware of Human Trafficking Risks
The more people aware of human trafficking, the safer a community will become. Every community should have at least one active anti-trafficking resource within its midst.
The local library is often an excellent source for resources to help educate parents and children. Multiple training events are held each year by various groups advocating for the safety of children.
It is also essential that communities elect leaders who make the needed policy changes to end child trafficking and abuse. It takes everyone in the community to keep its children safe.