A coach is left alone with a young student in a locker room. A Sunday school teacher continues teaching with just one student. A day camp volunteer takes children to the bathroom alone. An older teen mentor takes a single child on an outing.
All of these situations are usually harmless with good intentions – except when they are not. Then they become nightmares. Each leaves children vulnerable and exposed to potential sexual abuse. While child sexual predators are always to blame for abuse, organizations that serve children have the opportunity and obligation to protect those children through strong policies, procedures and practices.
You may already know about Ray of Hope’s Stewards of Children training. This two-hour training is available to anyone and helps empower our community with the tools to help end child sexual abuse. These trained individuals are already in our community making a difference.
But what can our local organizations do to protect the children they serve? How can churches, sports groups, preschools, after school programs, daycares, school systems and camps ensure that they have policies and procedures in place to protect both children and staff against child sexual abuse?
First, we must acknowledge that, unfortunately, child-serving organizations can be a magnet for sexual predators. Second, organizations should create a Sexual Abuse Prevention Plan that includes screening and supervision of employees, policies regarding adult-child contact, training of staff and volunteers and a clear plan for reporting suspected abuse. Ray of Hope has team members trained and ready to partner with organizations and help you conduct a risk assessment, develop a plan or review current policies. Our agency can help bring an outside perspective to your everyday activities to enhance your organization’s safety.
As a starting point, the following Five C’s of Child Protection Policy can guide organizations as they move forward.
- Consistency: Policies and procedures should apply to everyone, staff and volunteers alike. Conducting a thorough risk assessment is a helpful tool to see which staff and volunteers will have direct contact with children.
- Consultation: Consulting with your insurance company and attorney can help you refine your policies to be in line with best practices. The Centers for Disease Control has helpful guides for child serving organizations to get you started or Ray of Hope can personally help review your current policies and help identify gaps.
- Confidentiality: Confidentiality during the screening process is essential to keep personal information private and secure.
- Comprehensiveness: Policies and procedures should incorporate the full range of tools available for creating safe environments.
- Communication: Simply creating a child protection policy is not enough. Communicating the expectations to staff and volunteers on a regular basis helps strengthen everyone’s understanding of the policies. Providing staff and volunteers with an opportunity to attend a Stewards of Children training is a great way to start the discussion about how to keep kids safe!
Parents also have a role to play. By asking questions about the policies of the organizations your children attend, we make a statement that we take child protection seriously. When parents and organization work together towards the safety of all children in our community, the entire culture of our community begins to shift and become safer for all children.