Have a happy and safe Christmas

Christmas is the time for peace and joy. It’s a time for feel-good movies and animated children’s shows. We feel warm and fuzzy inside knowing that Santa Claus and his reindeer will be arriving on our rooftops with a bag full of gifts. For most people, it’s a wonderful time of life.

By now, it’s very likely that our children have already made their wishes known to some Santa somewhere. It may have been in the mall. It may have been the Santa at the local library. It may have been the guy in a big red suit at your normal Santa stomping ground.

In any case, do you know who the Santa is that handles children for those photos and hugs? Most parents probably didn’t give that a second thought this season. One community in Texas didn’t but they decided they needed to find out.

Parents in Cleveland, Texas, were outraged when they found out their children had been posing for pictures with a Santa volunteer who was a registered sex offender. The community’s reaction inspired the city manager to change Cleveland’s policy regarding background checks.

Emily Collins told KTRK-TV about her experience with the Santa at a city Christmas celebration.

“A friend of mine recognized the Santa Claus and informed me this morning of his name and that he is a registered sex offender,” Collins said.

Background checks have become pretty standard for many youth centers, churches, schools and other volunteer groups that work directly with children. As parents, we need to feel some sort of security that our children are in good hands, literally and figuratively. Liability insurance even often requires them.

Until now, the community of Cleveland ran background checks on library employees, but it did not screen volunteers in other city departments. The city manager said the municipality is “reviewing this information and is taking action to prevent this from happening again.”

The man was 12 years old when he was convicted of a sex crime, so his records are sealed, and Texas police refused to release his identity. The “Santa Sex Offender,” as he’s been called in Texas, has served time and was not deemed a threat to children by the Texas Sex Offender Registry so it’s unclear whether a background check would have kept him from being hired for his job.

Child-on-child sex-abuse statistics are difficult to determine because the news is almost never made public. It sometimes can occur when a child with little or no sexual knowledge is first victimized by an adult and then similarly abuses another child, according to the journal Psychology in the Schools.

In this case, the fact a registered sex offender of any kind was in proximity to their children without their knowledge naturally terrified parents in the Cleveland area.

A Child Is Missing alerts the community that a predator is living in their neighborhood. I speaking with parents/guardians we advise them to check the Sex Predator Register on the Internet and see where they live.

To donate, log on to: www.achildismissing.org/donate.asp