Do Child Abuse Clearances Mean Children Are Safe?

Carolyn’s Online Magazine



Or Do They Lull Caregivers Into

a False Sense of security?



My husband and I recently attended a meeting where we heard one church, in order to fulfill legal requirement for the prevention of child abuse, had on file 188 child abuse clearances.

By fulfilling this legal requirement, many (if not most) parents and legal guardians believe their children are remain safe at that church.

Is this a reasonable assumption?

I do not believe it is.


I believe the fulfillment of this legal paperwork requirement lulls most persons—both child guardians and organizations—into complacency. After all, if paid and volunteer workers pass this clearance, the assumption is that they are safe caretakers of our children.

WRONG. Anyone who is not convicted of child abuse will be overlooked.

When my children were teenagers one parent allowed her daughter to stay overnight at our home. The parent knew nothing about us, except that my husband was a church pastor (who nowadays would be required to have child abuse clearance papers). When she arrived to pick up her daughter I asked her why she let her daughter stay overnight not knowing anything about us.

“Your husband is a pastor,” she said.


A pastor in one town was accused of molesting young adults who had just turned 18. He would climb into their sleeping bags on retreats and, I believe, at his home. He is only one of many clerics who’ve been convicted of child abuse. How many other clerics have NOT been convicted, or even accused?

Parents innocently make the assumption that certain categories of professionals are safe. A pastor is safe. Church is safe. Whatever it is, it’s safe, especially if all the persons involved in child care have papers on file denoting they are clear of child abuse convictions.

Unfortunately, child abuse clearances only exclude a small percentage of child molesters: those who are successfully convicted.


Everyone in another town felt that, though a certain man was slightly odd, he was no danger. Several years after my husband and I moved from the community we heard one woman’s story: this man would take her to the barn and commit beastiality with her. Monte heard the mother tell of the hardship it was not to know for years what had happened, and how difficult it was to deal with the aftermath in her adult daughter.

Fortunately, my children, their friends, and I followed our gut feelings and my children were never left alone with this man. If he knocked on our door and we weren’t home, the children would hide in a back room until he left.


A television show guest I heard in passing stated there is an average of 17 years of molesting activity before a child molester is caught.

The following reference, Interviews guaranteeing complete confidentiality and immunity from prosecution, conducted by Emory University psychiatrist Dr. Gene Abel , supports this statement (the number of years may vary, but is always large):

  • Male offenders who abused girls had an average of 52 victims each.
  • Men who molested boys had an astonishing average of 150 victims each.
  • Only 3% of these crimes had ever been detected.*

The case of a church organist, convicted of molesting several young teens in his home while teaching them piano, supports this point. After media announced he had charges against him three women in their mid-30s knocked on our door. They shared their story: this organist had molested them in the church basement when they were young teenagers.

Thus, I ask, Should the children in a church having 188 child abuse clearances on file be considered to be safe? How many child molesters enjoy freedom to abuse children because they have never even been accused of this behavior, much less convicted?


One reason child molesters have freedom is the perpetrator usually knows and grooms the child. Often this person is a family member. The reactions of many parents whose child is molested by a family member is to

  • protect their children from further abuse
  • protect the family reputation by remaining silent
  • preserve the family relationships


Only a fraction of those who commit sexual assault are apprehended and convicted of their crimes…

  • The National Crime Victimization Surveys conducted in 1994, 1995 and 1998 indicate that only 32 percent of sexual assaults against persons 12 or older were reported to law enforcement. There are no current studies on the rate of reporting for child sexual assault, but it generally is assumed that these assaults are equally under-reported… Most convicted sex offenders eventually are released to the community under probation or parole supervision…The low rate of reporting leads to the conclusion that more than 90 percent of all sex offenders are living in communities nationwide without ever having been charged for their crime.*


Remember, child abuse clearances only detect convicted sex offenders. If charges are not filed, there will be no conviction.

That’s the case in one other community where a man  is a well-known child lurer, but charges have never been followed through. Therefore, he is allowed to continue his behavior, even though he has a rap sheet a mile long that includes his child-luring attempts.


I asked Monte if he thought that having child abuse clearances of staff and volunteers on staff should make children’s guardians feel their children are safe.

I agree with his response: NO

“Along with the clearances there needs to be constant monitoring and education,” Monte said. “This monitoring far exceeds, in value, any legal paperwork.”


I acknowledge that the clearances will discover some convicted child molesters, which protects children. However, in general child molesters will not put themselves in that position.


Warning: do not let a false sense of security lull you into complacency. Be ever so vigilant…do not assume that children are safe.



NOTE: The   WordPress prompt for April 4, 2015 is IMHO: Link to an item in the news you’ve been thinking about lately, and write the op-ed you’d like to see published on the topic.

About carolyncholland

In several if my nine lives I have been a medical lab technician and a human service worker specializing in child day care, adoptions and family abuse. Currently I am a photo/journalist/writer working on a novel and a short story. My general writings can be viewed at My novel site is
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6 Responses to Do Child Abuse Clearances Mean Children Are Safe?

  1. merry101 says:

    interesting but sad subject. why??


    • During April I attempt to write about child abuse issues and share poetry, because April is National Child Abuse Preventio Month, and National Poetry Month. I also try to post more cheerful subjects.


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