Guest Author - Kelli Deister
Every victim of domestic violence should have a safety plan that is up to date and current, including child victims. There are several things that can be done to ensure the safety of a child.
For starters, children that are under the age of ten should agree on one word that only they and their guardian, or safe parent, is aware of. This way, should the abuser, or one of the abuserís friends, show up at the school to pick up the child, they will know to only go with that person if they say the secret word. The secret word needs to be decided upon together and should be one that the children will not forget easily. Establishing a secret word will help to assure that the child will not go with an unsafe adult, but will contact the guardian or safe parent. I encourage the safe parent of children to sit down and talk to their child on an age appropriate level. The child can also be made aware of stores and business offices to run inside of, should they feel threatened or in danger. As I said earlier, it must be on an age appropriate level.
For those children that are in their middle school years, it is okay to talk with them at a deeper level. Ask them to write out a safety plan that works best for them. Once everyone is done writing, ask them if they would like to share it with everyone. Doing this introduces the child to their support network, in the case of emergency. One option for those in middle school, is to purchase them a cell phone or a pager. Cell phones are available for children and their plans include a pay as you go method. In other words, the child pays for one hour and that is all they get, until the guardian purchases more minutes for them.. This way, the child feels safe, as does the protective parent or guardian.
With teenagers, they should also come up with a safety plan of their own, as well as having the basic knowledge of their resources in the community. Teens are also old enough to have a regular cell phone that entails a monthly cost for a certain number of minutes.
For all child victims of domestic violence, they should be taught how to find the safe places in their community, should they need that option. All children can come up with their own safety plan; however, children under ten may have a bigger problem creating a safety plan and knowing who to call and when. All children should have the cost of one phone call in their pockets. For example, if a child feels uncomfortable with someone and wants to come home, it is imperative that they have enough change in their pocket to make the phone call. Safety plans for children are just as important as those of adults. The older the child, the more information they are given and the more choices they make for themselves in regards to safety planning.