I’m having a CRB Check. Half of me is frustrated: all I want to do is help out with the reading in little Max’s class, and as a veteran helper-outer and art teacher at the kids’ primary school in Trinidad I was used to knowing their friends, their friends’ dogs names, the mums, what the favourite stories are and the fact that little Johnny doesn‘t like cheese.

At the primary school here in the UK I can’t even walk in to read a story without having my criminal history checked.

It seems a little overboard to me, having come from a country where “the village rears the children” in a very real sense. I remember being in the checkout line at the grocery, with a crabby toddler. He was working himself up to a tantrum, but an elderly man in the other checkout line gave him “The Look” and raised an eyebrow. Then the checkout lady gave him one of the crisp packets I was buying, to crinkle. It was enough to make my little grouch think twice until we got to the car, where I could tuck him into his seat and give him a piece of cheese and a cracker to appease him, a scene averted.

A Look from a complete stranger may sound like a very small thing, but in a country where kids are taught to respect their elders it works. My kids have grown up used to the idea that you CAN be told off by a complete stranger, in the same way that you can be looked out for, and learn from, and be comforted by a stranger. The general idea is that adults are generally safe and kind, and might very well be related to Grandma. If you are throwing sand on the beach, SOMEONE is going to yell “STOP THROWING SAND YOUNG MAN!” but if you fall off your bike somewhere in the village, everyone will stop to hug you, dust you off and make sure you can get home safely. If there’s a Mum applying sunblock, every passing child will be nabbed and pasted whether they like it or not. I love this. It works in a small society such as Trinidad, where everyone knows everyone and word gets around.

Of course, this trust opens the kids up to possible danger. We know that all adults are not safe and kind. We have all heard the horror stories, some of them close to home. In every country, there is a problem with child abuse. We just deal with it in different ways. Me, I have always tried to keep the boys communicating. I’m lucky so far, and my kids are pretty savvy. Our “Village” has been relatively safe. Any small traumas have been discussed. Some negative influence is almost welcome, because then we can discuss what might have been and see that some grownups are Strangers, and some are Strange. Even some children are Strange. Some may seem very very nice, but they lie. Oh yes, use your common sense and your instincts, child. And we as parents have to be instinctive too, and vigilant in keeping tabs on who is close to our kids.

Camila Batmanghelidjh has written a great article in Thursday’s “The Times” discussing just why ending violence and abuse toward children is so important. It’s a vicious cycle, with kids who have been abused often growing up to become abusers, and it’s a good thing that the authorities here are doing everything in their power to break this cycle. In many countries we just whine that Something Ought To Be Done.

It is a relief to me that, since I can’t be at the kids’ school (yet) to get to know their friends and teachers, everyone else there has been checked out. There are, in theory, no sickos working at school. In theory. But I worry that kids are not being exposed to adult influence outside of school and home. It’s a very insular upbringing if all strangers are to be mistrusted, and to me, a lack in a child’s overall education. A child who accepts only what goes on at home and in school as “Okay” is missing out on a world of experience. My kids have played in the village where we lived in Trinidad, fed the ducks, eaten with Hindus for Divali, exploded bamboo cannons (and singed their hair and eyebrows), and dug in the dirt under shacks. They have learned much more about snakes than I would ever have taught them. They have had long conversations with wild-looking men with names like “Lion” about bush medicine and survival, and tasted some very weird foods. There is no way they would have had these experiences if some trust and respect of strangers wasn’t involved. They bring all of this new information home, and then discuss it with their family and friends who add to it. As a result, the kids are a storehouse of culture, botany, biology, pyrotechnics, farming, cookery, mechanics, language and a myriad of trivia. I am grateful to all of the wise adults who have answered my kids’ questions, welcomed them in and helped them to grow up.

Of course, as we’ve seen this week in the news, some children may be less safe at home with their mummies and daddies than they would be with most strangers. We don’t need to have a CRB Check to become parents; in fact, we don’t need anything at all.

Here in Bournemouth just this week, in the checkout line at the grocery, a small boy with a huge smile waved at me. I wiggled my fingers back at him and we were soon chatting about the Bonfire Night fireworks: the highlight of his young life! His parents were not impressed, made absolutely no eye contact with me and I am sure that he got a lecture on not talking to strangers on the way home. I hope that my little friend’s day was as enriched by our chat as mine was; I miss that sweet age. I was so sorry for the obvious disapproval of his parents. Now I know better, and will not be encouraging small children to talk to strangers. Or maybe, as my husband suggested, I should get a T-Shirt emblazoned “CRB CHECKED!” Would that make a difference? I know, anyone who passes their CRB Check should have it officially tattooed on their foreheads! Then we would all know the Strangers from the Strange, and all would be well.