Are my child’s special needs care providers at risk to abuse my child?
Dear Stop It Now!,
My 14-year old son has cerebral palsy and requires around the clock care. I use several different care providers, though all of them are women. I felt secure that he will not be sexually abused because of this fact, but now I’m not sure and I’m wondering what I should do to make sure that my son is kept safe.*
Dear Concerned Parent,
Although statistics tell us that the majority of individuals who sexually abuse are men, women can sexually abuse children as well, both boys and girls. Safety planning is important, regardless of gender, ability or any other characteristic.
Safety planning is a combination of education, including healthy sexuality development education and setting up appropriate rules and guidelines for you family around privacy, boundaries and communication. For help in designing safe environments for your son, review the collection of tip sheets in our packet on Safety Planning for Families of Children with Disabilities.
"Sex Education for Physically, Mentally and Emotionally Challenged Youth" from Advocates for Youth is also a very helpful article on helping children with disabilities and their parents to tackle sex education with support and information.
Working with others
It is best to ensure background checks are completed on all care providers as well as a review of multiple references. Become aware of the program's policies about staff hiring, monitoring, training and response to parents concerns. How do they deal with parents who have questions about their child's safety?
Get to know your providers. Make sure they are aware of your family’s safety plan, emphasizing their role in the plan. They should not only understand the privacy and boundary rules, but also understand your son’s disability.
What is their plan for guaranteeing safety, especially during activities such as assistance with toileting and/or dressing? Be sure you have set up clear guidelines about what is and is not in the plan of care. Part of your plan of care could also include unannounced visits.
A preventative tool is to also become aware of warning signs that there is an at-risk situation for abuse. By knowing what these signs are, you can respond more quickly and if the signs appear to conflict with your safety plan, you will hopefully feel confident to speak up about any contradictory actions to the safety plan.
I hope this information is helpful, and wish for the best for your son.
Stop It Now!
*This question was submitted in part by the Chicago CAC, and is a sample question that parents with children with disabilities have asked.
Last edited on: May 28th, 2021