Know the Rules
Know The Rules
The "Know the Rules" series is distributed by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Excerpts are provided by the Port Orange Police Department by permission, in accordance with the NCMEC Reprint Policy.

The publications in the "Know the Rules" series are designed to provide accurate and authoritative information regarding the subject matter covered.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children distributes these publications, and the Port Orange Police Department reproduces their content, with the understanding that neither agency is engaged in rendering legal or other professional services.

If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought.

General parental tips to help keep children safe
While many parents feel that they are faced with new and unprecedented challenges when trying to keep their children safe in today's fast-paced and increasingly global society, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children offers these common-sense, general safety tips to help parents put these challenges into perspective.

Make sure you know where each of your children is at all times.
Know your children's friends and be clear with your children about the places and homes they may visit. Make it a rule that your children check in with you when they arrive at or depart from a particular location and when there is a change in plans. You should also let them know when you're running late or if your plans have changed so that they can see the rule is for safety purposes and not being used to "check up" on them.

Never leave children unattended in an automobile, whether it is running or not.
Children should never be left unsupervised or allowed to spend time alone or with other in automobiles, as the potential dangers to their safety outweigh any perceived convenience or "fun." Remind children to never hitchhike, approach a car or engage in a conversation with anyone within a car that they do not know and trust, or go anywhere with anyone without getting your permission first.

Be involved in your children's activities.
As an active participant, you'll have a better opportunity to observe how the adults in charge interact with your children. If you are concerned about anyone's behavior, take it up with the sponsoring organization.

Listen to your children.
Pay attention if they tell you that they don't want to be with someone or go somewhere. This may be an indication of more than a personality conflict or lack of interest in the activity or event.

Notice when someone shows one or all of your children a great deal of attention or begins giving them gifts.
Take the time to talk to your children about the person and find out why the person is acting in this way.

Teach your children that they have the right to say NO to any unwelcome, uncomfortable, or confusing touch or actions by others.
Teach them to tell you immediately if this happens. Reassure them that you're there to help and it is okay to tell you anything.

Be sensitive to any changes in your children's behavior or attitude.
Encourage open communication and learn how to be an active listener. Look and listen to small cues and clues that something may be troubling your children, because children are not always comfortable disclosing disturbing events or feelings. This may be because they are concerned about your reaction to their problems. If your children do confide problems to you, strive to remain calm, non-critical, and nonjudgmental. Listen compassionately to their concern, and work with them to get the help they need to resolve the problem.

Be sure to screen babysitters and caregivers.
Many states now have a public registry that allows parents to check out individuals for prior criminal records and sex offenses. Check out references with other families who have used the caregiver or babysitter. Once you have chosen the caregiver, drop in unexpectedly to see how your children are doing. Ask your children how the experience with the caregiver was, and listen carefully to the responses.

Practice basic safety skills with your children.
Make an outing to a mall or park a "teachable" experience in which your children can practice checking with you, using pay telephones, going to the restroom with a friend, and locating the adults who can help if they need assistance. Remember that allowing your children to wear clothing or carry items in public on which their name is displayed can bring about unwelcome attention from inappropriate people who may be looking for a way to start a conversation with your children.

Remember that there is no substitute for your attention and supervision.
Being available and taking time to really know and listen to your children helps build feelings of safety and security.

Parental guidelines for using babysitters
Whether you work full time outside the home or are simply going out for the evening, you want the best possible care for your children while you are away from them. Before you hire anyone to watch over your children, make sure that he or she is a mature, experienced, and capable individual who truly cares about the welfare of children. Check all references, and make sure to observe the babysitter with your children.

Above all, ask your children whether or not they like and trust the babysitter and what activities took place during your time away. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children has prepared the guidelines noted below to help you as a parent find and train a babysitter and prepare your home for temporary child care. Also included here are important safety tips for your family.

Finding a Babysitter
The best source of information on child care are the recommendations of family, friends, and neighbors. You may also advertise for a babysitter through your local high school, church, civic organization, or other sources you trust.

If you are new to the area, check the yellow pages of the telephone book (under "Sitting Services") for a list of child-care services. Certain sitting services advertise that their sitters are "bonded." This means that the babysitting service has purchased an insurance bond that will cover certain damages or loss of your property; however, the bond most likely will not protect your children in any way. Determine whether the sitting service has made a criminal-history check on or has otherwise screened its employees.

In some states you may be able to obtain a listing of child-care services through the County Office for Children or even the police department. Look in your telephone book under " County Government" or call your local police department. Child-care services are licensed, and you may be able to receive recommendations or check references through the licensing body.

Hiring the Babysitter
Once you have made a list of possible babysitters, carefully check their references. Contact the sitter's past employers, teachers, counselors, relatives, friends, or neighbors, and ask them about the sitter's child-care qualifications. Most importantly, interview several prospective sitters personally and observe their interaction with your children. Look for mature and responsible people who listen and respond well to your children and appear relaxed and happy with them.

Last, outline the babysitter's duties and responsibilities and discuss an imagined emergency situation and how he or she might react. When you decide on a babysitter who meets your high standards, discuss the hours and fees for service. Also verify and write down his or her name, home address, and telephone number. In addition, ask for and write down any other key identifying information such as a driver's license number. Many states provide access to sex-offender registries and criminal-history checks. Check with your state law-enforcement department on how you can access this information.

When the Babysitter Arrives
Ask the babysitter to arrive at least 15 minutes before you depart. Make sure that you let the sitter know exactly where you will be and how you can be reached. Write down the address and telephone number of the place where you will be. Also make a list of emergency telephone numbers for a friend or relative, the children's doctor, the police department, the fire department, an ambulance service, and the poison-control center.

Carefully go over any family rules and daily routines, paying special attention to eating and sleeping arrangements. Take the sitter on a tour of the house, showing him or her any first-aid equipment and all doors and possible exits. It is a good idea to discuss the family rules regarding television, snacks, and bedtime with both the babysitter and the children present. It is your responsibility as a parent to let your children know what rules are to be obeyed when you are out of the house. Before leaving your home, share the specific instructions noted below with the babysitter.

  • Lock all doors when left alone with the children.
  • Carefully watch the children while they are awake, and be sure to keep them away from dangerous objects or chemicals and protected from household accidents.
  • Sitters in our home are not allowed to have visitors or guests, nor leave the children alone in the house at any time.
  • Regularly check the children when they go to sleep, and be sure to stay awake during your entire stay in our home to allow for such periodic checks.
  • Do not tell anyone who calls the house that the children are alone with a babysitter. Ask the caller to leave a message for us.
  • Do not open the door to anyone unless we have given prior permission. Again, ask to take a message.
  • Carefully watch the children when going outside to the yard. This list contains the name of children who may play with or visit our children when they are outside, if the parent of the other children agree.
  • When in a public place, carefully watch the children, and do not permit them to wander. Avoid sending the children to public restrooms alone. Make sure that you lock all windows and doors before you leave the house. If something seems suspicious when you return, such as a broken window or door, immediately call the police form another house.

Your Return Home
As a parent, when you return home, ask the babysitter if the children are safe and if anything unusual happened - telephone calls, visits, and so on. Make sure that the babysitter is escorted home, and wait until he or she is safely inside before you leave.

Most importantly, when the babysitter has left, talk to your children about what happened while you were gone. Ask them what games they played and about any other activities. Ask your children if anything happened that made them feel uncomfortable or afraid.

Safety Tips for your Children
Your children should be reminded of the safety instructions noted below, that apply to babysitters as well as others.

  • If someone wants to take your picture, tell mom and dad or a trusted adult.
  • No one should touch you in the parts of the body that would be covered by a bathing suit, nor should you touch anyone else in those areas. Your body is special and private.
  • Trust your feelings about what is right and wrong behavior.
  • No one should approach you or touch you in any way that makes you feel uncomfortable.
  • You can be assertive, and you have the right to say NO to someone who tries to take you somewhere, touches you, or makes you feel uncomfortable in any way.

As a parent, above all, be sensitive to changes in your child's behavior, and find out from your child what caused the changes. Your home should be a place of trust and support where your children can feel safe in discussing fears and other sensitive matters and in relating experiences that made them uncomfortable. Good and healthy communication with your child can go a long way toward preventing child exploitation and abuse.

Detecting Sexual Exploitation
Sexual exploitation should not be confused with physical contacts that are true expressions of affection. A warm and healthy relationship can exist if adults respect the child and place reasonable limits on their physical interaction. The reality of sexual exploitation is that often the children are confused, uncomfortable, and unwilling to talk about their experience to parents, teachers, or anyone else. But they will talk if you have already established an atmosphere of trust and support in your home, where your children will feel free to talk without fear of accusation, blame, or guilt. Parents should be alert to these indicators of sexual abuse.

  • Changes in behavior, extreme mood swings, withdrawal, fearfulness, and excessive crying.
  • Bed-wetting, nightmares, fear of going to bed, or other sleep disturbances.
  • Acting out inappropriate sexual activity or showing an unusual interest in sexual matters.
  • A sudden acting out of feelings or aggressive or rebellious behavior.
  • Regression to infantile behavior.
  • A fear of certain places, people, or activities, especially being alone with certain people. Children should not be forced to give affection to an adult or teenager if they do not want to. Be alert to signs that your child is trying to someone, and listen carefully when your child tell you how he or she feels about someone.
  • Pain, itching, bleeding, fluid, or rawness in the private areas.

There is always a chance that a child may disclose past acts of exploitation or general feelings of fear. If this happens, we want you to be prepared to help your child. Follow the guidelines noted below if your child indicates that he or she may have been the victim of sexual abuse or exploitation.

  • DON'T panic or overreact to the information disclosed by your child.
  • DON'T criticize or blame your child.
  • DO Respect your child's privacy, and make sure you're in a comfortable place when you talk.
  • DO Support your child and the decision to tell the story.
  • DO Explain to your child that he or she has done no wrong.
  • DO Seek out appropriate medical attention.
  • DO Alert the child-protection, youth-services, child-abuse, or other appropriate social-service organizations. The police, sheriff's office, or other law-enforcement agency must also be notified.
  • DO Consider the need for counseling or therapy for your child, and seek referrals for qualified individuals from the other professionals who are helping you.
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Children who are home alone after school
Each day millions of children go to an empty home and are alone for an hour or more. Experts estimate that nearly 5 million school-aged children spend time without adult supervision during a typical week1. Although the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that school-age children, ages 5-12, be supervised, for many parents this isn't possible. When faced with this situation, the AAP states that maturity - not age - should be the determining factor in whether a child should be left alone2.

There are a number of important points parents should consider prior to allowing their child to be unsupervised after school. Parents need to assess their child. Does he or she have the personality, self-confidence, and judgment skills to accept this responsibility? Will the experience be positive and help build and enhance the child's self-image, or will the experience promote additional anxiety in the child who may be afraid to stay alone? Having a family conference to discuss the arrangement is a good place to start. House rules, expectations of both parent and child, and a daily routine can be defined. At the end of the day, parents can also use the experience to have regular family meetings to help ensure that the arrangement is still working and identify any alterations that need to be made. Here are some steps that you and your children can take to help ensure a positive after-school experience.

Before allowing your child to go home alone, you should...

  • Determine if there are any other community resources or organizations providing after-school care or support.
  • Ask your child how he or she feels about being alone. Is your child afraid to be left alone, or does he or she have the maturity and initiative to want to assume that responsibility?
  • Decide if you feel that your child can follow directions and solve problems on his or her own.
  • Determine how long your child will be alone, how accessible you or another trusted adult will be in case of an emergency, and how safe the neighborhood is by contacting your local police department and checking the incidence of crime in your neighborhood.
  • Make sure you've set specific rules that are to be followed by your child while he or she is alone and give your child specific instructions on how to reach you at all times. This should also include information on what to do if your child needs assistance and can't reach you right away.
  • Remember that you're in charge, even if it is from a distance.
Once you've decided to proceed, you should check to make sure your child knows...
  • His or her full name, address, and telephone number.
  • Your full name, your work telephone number, and any pager or cellular telephone numbers that you may have.
  • How to make a telephone call to request help in an emergency using 911 or the appropriate number(s) in your area.
  • How to carry his or her key so that it is hidden and secure. Your name and address should not be on the key, and it may be wise to leave an extra key with a trusted friend or neighbor.
  • What to do if he or she is being followed.
  • To always check out the house before entering, looking for doors that may be ajar, windows that may be broken, or anything that doesn't look right, and to go to a safe place to call for help if something doesn't seem right.
  • To always lock the door after entering and make sure that the house is secure.
  • To immediately check in with you upon returning home to let you know that he or she has arrived safely.
  • To tell callers that you can't come to the telephone instead of letting people know that he or she is home alone and offer to take a message.
  • Not to open the door for or talk to anyone who comes to the home unless the person is a trusted family friend or relative, he or she feels comfortable being alone with that person, and the visit has been pre-approved by you.
  • To stay alert for true emergencies such as a fire or gas main leak that would require the need to leave the home.
  • To check with you or a trusted adult if he or she is in doubt about anything.

As a parent, you should make sure you have...

  • A daily schedule of homework, chores, and activities for your child to follow.
  • A list kept close to the telephone that includes numbers for you, the police, the fire department, an ambulance service, your doctor, a poison control center, and a trusted adult who's available in case of emergency.
  • Written instructions about which, if any, appliances may be used, what to do in case of fire, and how to get out of the house if there is a fire.
  • A plan if you are detained and what to do if your child's plans change.
  • Instructions about watching television, using a computer, talking on the telephone, and inviting friends over when you aren't home.
  • Time to discuss the day's event with your child. Make sure he or she knows that it is okay to discuss anything with you, especially something that may have made him or her feel uncomfortable in any way.
  • End Notes
    1. Fact sheet on School-Aged Children's Out-of-School Time, Wellesley, Massachusetts: National Institute on Out-of-School Time, Center for Research on Women, Wellesley College, 1998, page 1.
    2. Caring for Your School-Aged Child, Ages 5-12. New York, NY: American Academy of Pediatrics, 1999, page 42.
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Safety at amusement and theme parks
Family outings are occasions that can be wonderful times for bonding and spending quality time together, and family outings to amusement and theme parks can be special times that leave children with lifelong memories of "meeting" their favorite cartoon character or having their own "real-life" action adventure. It's a "family-favorite" vacation that is enjoyed by millions each year. In fact, nearly 161 million people visited the nation's theme parks in 1997, and that number is expected to rise more than 182 million park-goers by 20101.

As a parent, you know that such outings can also be sources of stress and concern for family members visiting an area with so many new sights and sounds. It's easy for both adults and children to become distracted by all the excitement and attractions. Taking the time to plan your trip and including your children in that process will help make your outing in the park a more enjoyable one from start to finish. Here are a few steps that you and your children can take to help ensure those happy memories.

Before going to the park, tell your children...

  • To enjoy their outing while paying careful attention to where they are and who they are with at all times.
  • That they should not be alone in the park or become isolated with anyone, even characters in costume. Also tell them not to accept any prizes, offers, or gifts from anyone until they have checked first with you. Children should also be cautioned not to engage in conversation with or offer assistance to anyone until they have checked with you first.
  • To tell you if anyone approaches them or makes them feel uncomfortable. Tell your children that if they are approached by anyone who tries to take them away to yell, "This person is not my father (mother)!"
  • That if you become separated while in the park to go to the closest "Help/Information Center" to ask the people there to "find my parents and bring them to me here at this Center" or, in the case of older children, make the "Help/Information Center" the spot where you can "meet up." Make sure your children understand that they should never search for you outside the park, especially in the parking lot.
  • That these rules also apply when they are taking part in a field trip through their school or youth group, and if you are not joining them for that trip, they need to check first with and tell the responsible adult in charge or a designated chaperone if anything is wrong.
As a parent you should...
  • Get information about the park prior to your trip, and review the park guidelines, particularly those regarding lost children. Discuss the information as a family, including what to do if you become separated. Ask your children what they would do in certain situations, and practice appropriate actions and responses with your children.
  • Get a map of the park immediately upon arriving, identify the "help/Information Centers" throughout, and reinforce the idea that these are the places for children to go to in case you become separated in the park. Making a plan beforehand of what to do in case you are separated should greatly speed a reunion.
  • Talk to your children about who can help them if they become lost, need assistance, or are in trouble. Examples of these people may be park personnel with nametags or mothers with children. Children should never go off alone with anyone.
  • Not allow your children to wear clothing or carry items on which their names are displayed.
  • Make sure that your children carry some form of identification and family/emergency contact information with them in case they become separated from you or need assistance.
  • Consider dressing your children in or asking them to wear brightly colored clothes so that they may be more easily spotted in the park.
  • Accompany young children on rides in the park. Older children should stay in groups and take a friend with them wherever they go in the park. If you decide to let young children go on rides without you, wait with them in line, watch them enter the ride, and immediately meet them when they exit the ride.
  • Always accompany younger children to restrooms in the park. Older children should not go in the restroom alone.
  • Immediately report any suspicious or inappropriate behavior to authorities.
  • Make certain that your children have change to use the telephone. If you have a cellular telephone or pager, make certain your children know those numbers and that these devices are activated so your children may call you if they become lost. Parents may wish to use two-way radios while in the park, so that family members can stay in touch with each other.
  • Immediately report your children as being missing if you become separated in the park, and be prepared to give an accurate and detailed description of your children. You should carry a current photograph and be able to accurately describe the clothing that the children are wearing.
  • Make certain that there is going to be qualified supervision of the children by responsible adults, if you are considering granting permission for your child to take part in a field trip to an amusement or theme park.

End Notes
1. Gegax, T. Trent. "Booming Amusement Parks: The Theme is Extreme Forever Young." U.S. Edition, March 30, 1998, page 12.

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Going to and from school more safely
Every day millions of children take to the streets and roadways to get to and from school. They walk, ride their bicycles, take buses, and arrive in automobiles with one purpose...getting to and from school safely. Every year approximately 440,000 public school buses travel approximately 4.3 billion miles to transport 23.5 million children to and from school and school-related activities1. For many children this experience is a new one, and they may not understand the safety rules. Young children do not have the same frame of reference for safety as adults do. They may not look before they leap, which is why it is so important for parents to supervise young children and practice safety skills with their older children. The tips noted below will help parents prepare their children for a safer journey.

1. Instruct your child to always TAKE A FRIEND when walking or riding his or her bike to and from school. It's safer and more fun to be with your friends. Walk and ride in well-lit areas, and never take shortcuts. Follow all the walking and biking rules, especially the ones about riding on the right-hand side of the street and facing traffic when walking where there is no sidewalk2.

2. Even though there is safety in numbers, it is still not safe for young children to walk to and from school, especially if they must take isolated routes before or during daylight. Always provide supervision for your young children, whether it's you as a parent or an older sibling, to help ensure their safe arrival to and from school.

3. Your child should stay with a group while waiting at the bus stop. If anyone bothers your child while going to or from school, you should teach him or her to get away from that person, and TELL a trusted adult. If an adult approaches your child for help or directions, remember that grownups needing help should not ask children for help; they should ask other adults.

4. You should visit the bus stop with your children and learn the bus number. This will avoid confusion for your child about knowing which bus to ride.

5. Instruct your children that if someone they don't know or feel comfortable with offers a ride, say NO . Children should never hitchhike or accept a ride from someone unless you have told them it is okay.

6. Tell your children that if someone follows them on foot to get away from him or her as quickly as possible. If someone follows them in a car they should turn around, go in the other direction, and try to quickly get to a spot where a trusted adult can help them. Advise them to be sure to TELL you or a trusted adult what happened.

7. Teach your children if someone ever tries to take them somewhere, they should quickly get away and yell, "This person is trying to take me away," or "This person is not my father (mother)."

8. Children should be taught to never leave school with someone they don't feel comfortable with or know. They should always CHECK FIRST with you or another trusted adult. If someone they don't know or feel comfortable with tells them that there is an emergency and they want your child to go with them, your child should always CHECK FIRST before doing anything. Make sure your children understand to TELL a trusted adult if they notice someone they don't know hanging around the school.

9. Walk the route to and from school with your children, pointing out landmarks and safe places to go if they're being followed or need help. Make a map with your children showing acceptable routes to school, using main roads, and and avoiding shortcuts and isolated areas. The map will be a good guide if your children ever need help finding their way.

10. Remember to practice these safety rules with your children to make certain that they really know and understand them. Make the walk to and from school a teachable moment and chance to put their skills to the test.

For more information about school safety or other child-safety topics, visit NCMEC's web site at or call 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678). For additional information about specific modes of transportation to and from school, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's web site at

End Notes
1. School Bus Safety: Safe Passage for America's Children. Washington, DC: Natioanl Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1998, page 3.

2. A Kid's Guide to Safe Walking, U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Washington, DC, Publication No. FHWA-SA-96-057, April 1996.

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Child safety questions & answers
What are the most important things a parent should know when talking to a child about this issue?
  • Don't forget your older children. Children 11-17 are equally at risk to victimization. At the same time you are giving your older children more freedom, make sure they understand the important safety rules as well.
  • When you speak to your children, do so in a calm, non-threatening manner. Children to dot nee to be frightened to get the point across. Fear can actually work at cross-purpose to the safety message, because fear may be paralyzing to a child.
  • Speak openly about safety issues. Children will be less likely to come to you, if the issue is enshrouded in secrecy. If they feel that you are comfortable discussing the subject matter, they may be more forthcoming to you.
  • Do not confuse children with the concept of "strangers." Children do not have the same understanding of who is a stranger is as an adult might. The "stranger-danger" message is not effective, as danger to children is much greater from someone you or they know than from a "stranger."
  • Practice what you talk about. You may think your children understand your message, but until they can incorporate it into their daily lives, it may not be clearly understood. Find opportunities to practice "what if" scenarios.
  • Teach your children that it is more important to get out of a threatening situation than it is to be polite. They also need to know that it is okay to tell you what happened, and they won't be a tattletale.

What are the most important things a parent should tell a child about this issue?

  • Children should always check first with you or a trusted adult before they go anywhere, accept anything, or get into a car with anyone. This applies to older children as well.
  • Children should not go out alone and should always take a friend with them when they go places or play outside.
  • It's okay to say no if someone tries to touch them or treats them in a way that makes them feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused and to get out of the situation as quickly as possible.
  • Children need to know that they can tell you or a trusted adult if they feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused.
  • Children need to know that there will always be someone to help them, and they have the right to be safe.
What is the biggest myth surrounding this issue?
The biggest myth is that the dangers to children come from strangers. In the majority of cases, the perpetrator is someone the parents or child knows, and that person may be in a position of trust or responsibility to the child and family.

What advice would you offer a parent who wanted to talk to their child about this issue?
Parents should choose opportunities or "teachable" moments to reinforce safety skills. If an incident occurs in your community, and your child asks you about it, speak frankly but with reassurance. Explain to your children that you want to discuss the safety rules with them, so that they will know what to do if they are ever confronted with a difficult situation. Make sure you have "safety nets" in place, so that your children know there is always someone who can help them.

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Child safety in youth sports
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics report titled Sports and Your Child, 26 million children in the United States participate in school or community-based sports programs.(1) The benefits of these extracurricular athletic activities are many and varied. For instance, children can learn about discipline, responsibility, respect, and good sportsmanship. They can also develop self-confidence and a positive self-image, while learning new skills. So, with all of these positive reasons for children to participate, why is there such a sharp decline in participation in sports between the ages of 10 and 18? At the age of 10, 45 percent of children say that they participate or intend to participate on a non-school team, but among 18 year olds, the figure is 26 percent.(2) According to Martha E. Ewing and Vern Seefeldt, in their study titled American Youth and Sports Participation, it is because children either aren't having fun or they feel pressured or anxious about their performance.(3)

What can parents do to protect their children and assure both their children and themselves that the experience remains positive and productive? First and foremost, parents should have expectations about the coach and the program. Parents have expectations that when their child goes to school, the teacher will have the training and expertise needed to teach their child and the school will have the standards and guidelines in place to run efficiently and effectively. Their is a tendency to lower the expectations for sporting activities in which the coach is a volunteer and may be a fellow parent or neighbor. Good intentions and a willingness to spend time with children just aren't enough when you're talking about the safety and well-being of children. Parents need to understand that most of the people who volunteer as coaches truly care about children and mean them no harm. The risk comes in the small percentage of volunteers who see the coaching experience as an opportunity to gain access to children for the purpose of exploiting them. Couple that with the trust, respect, and authority that the word "coach" implies, and you've got a lethal combination if the coach chooses to betray that relationship with the child. Children may also be reluctant to discuss their feelings with their parents, especially if they've been taught not to be a "tattletale" and to respect adult authority.

The questions and answers below offer guidelines by which parents can assess their child's sporting activity., including the coach, and help ensure their child's safety and fun in the sport.

Does the sports or youth-serving organization do a background check on coaches?
This should include a fingerprint/criminal-history check (both state and federal), a check of sex-offender registries, and reference checks. Parents should inquire whether the club or organization has a harassment/abuse policy and whether the coach is certified or a member of a coaching association that has an ethics or conduct code.

What is the coach's philosophy about winning and sportsmanship?
Children should be given the opportunity to have fun while playing the sport, and emphasis should be placed on individual accomplishments. Children should be praised for playing fairly and trying their best. Parents should be wary of a coach who advocates winning at any cost.

Are there other adults who supervise off-site travel?
If the coach plays favorites with gifts or treats, or uses his or her authority to be alone with children, that should raise a red flag with parents. The coach should not be alone with children during team sleepovers or trips. You as a parent should know the other adults who supervise or have access to your child.

Do children use a locker room to dress, and are there multiple adults present in the locker room when children are using it?
If the children are of the opposite sex, there need to be at least two adult supervisors of that sex present. Locker rooms should not be closed to parents, and children should be afforded privacy, but still be supervised by responsible adults.

Do you as a parent have input into the sporting activity?
Parents should be kept informed through such things as meetings and newsletters. You should be given the opportunity to offer suggestions, particularly on developmental issues. You should be concerned if your child's practices are closed or private. Parents who are involved and attend their child's sporting events not only show support for their child, but also have the opportunity to monitor the coach and the coach's interaction with children. If there is something that troubles you as a parent, your should first talk to the coach about it. If you are still concerned, discuss that concern with the organization's management or administration.

Does the coach promise to make your child a champion player or want to spend time alone with your child outside of scheduled team activities or events?
Parents should be cautious of such promises or private meetings, because they may be a smoke screen to win the parent's trust or gain inappropriate access to your child. Once parental trust is obtained, the coach then believes that he or she will have unlimited access to your child. Single parents should also be careful about a coach who appears to want to "take the place" of the absent parent.

Do you as a parent talk to your child about how he or she likes the coach or the sport?
Parents should always listen carefully to their children. If your child says that he or she doesn't "like" the coach or want to play the sport anymore, it may be a signal of something more serious than a personality conflict or loss of interest in the sport. As a parent, you should encourage your child to express his or her feelings and keep the lines of communication open. You should be able to speak to your child about personal-safety issues and reinforce the safety rules with your child. Children should be taught that it is okay to say "no" to adults who make them feel uncomfortable, frightened, or confused, and parents should reassure their child that it's okay to tell them if anything happens that makes them feel that way.

End Notes
1. Sports and Your Child. Elk Grove Village, Illinois: American Academy of Pediatrics, 1992, page 1.
2. Ewing, Martha E., and Seefeldt, Vern. American Youth and Sports Participation. North Palm Beach, FL: Athletic Footwear Association, 1988, page 2.
3. Ibid., page 4.

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Safety tips for the holidays
1. When in a public facility always supervise your child, and ALWAYS accompany your children to the restroom. Make certain your children know how to stay with you at all times while shopping and always CHECK FIRST with you or the person in charge before they go anywhere. It is important to know where our children are and who they are at all times.

2. If older children become separated from you while holiday shopping, have them meet you in a pre-designated spot, such as the sales counter of the store you were in or the mall's information booth. For younger children, teach them to look for people who can be sources of help within the store or mall, such as a uniformed security officer, salesperson with a nametag, the person in the information booth, or a uniformed law-enforcement officer. They should NEVER leave the store/mall or go to the parking lot to look for you or your car.

3. Make visits to the mall opportunities for your children to practice these safe shopping skills. Teach them how to use a public telephone; locate adult sources of help within the mall or a store; and, for older children, go to the restroom with a friend. Practice having them CHECK FIRST with you before going anywhere within a mall or store. Leave clothing with your children's names displayed at home, as it can bring about unwelcome attention from inappropriate people who may be looking for an opportunity to start a conversation with your children.

4. Parents should not leave children alone at public facilities such as video arcades, movie theaters, or playgrounds as a convenient babysitter while they are holiday shopping. Never leave children in toy or specialty stores expecting store personnel to supervise and care for your children. They are not trained in this role, and it is not a function of their employment.

5. If you allow your older children to go to the mall or other activities without you, they need to TAKE A FRIEND. It's more fun and much safer. Older children should check in with you on a regular basis while they are out. Make certain a clear plan is in place to pick them up including where, what time, and what to do in case of a change in plans.

6. Nothing takes the place of your supervision when you are in a public place with your children. If you are going holiday shopping and feel that you will be distracted, make other arrangements for the care of your children. It's easy for you and your children to get distracted with all the sights, sounds, and crowds of holiday shopping, so make certain they stay with you at all times.

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Safety tips for Halloween
1. Do not allow a child to go Trick or Treating alone. Be sure older children TAKE A FRIEND and an ADULT accompanies young children.

2. Be certain to accompany young children to the door of every house they approach.

3. Be certain that parents are familiar with every house and all people from which the children receive treats.

4. Children should be cautioned that they should NOT enter any home without prior permission from their parents.

5. Children should be cautioned not to approach any vehicle, occupied or not, unless they know the owner and are accompanied by a parent.

6. Make sure that all children carry a glow stick or wear reflective clothing.

7. When using facial masks, make sure that children can see and breathe properly and easily. Click here to view this publication in Adobe Acrobat.

8. All costumes and masks should be clearly marked as flame resistant.

9. Children should be warned to NEVER approach any house that is not well lit and does not have a porch or outside light on.

10. Children should be cautioned to remember any suspicious incidents and report them to their parents and/or the proper official.

11. Children should be cautioned to run away from people who try to trick them with special treats.

12. Children should be instructed to scream and make a scene if anyone tries to grab them or force them, in any way, to go with them.

13. Parents should inspect all treats and dispose of anything that seems to have been tampered with, has been opened, or is not wrapped.

14. A good alternative to Trick or Treating is for parents to organize parties at home, in schools, or in community centers.

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