I will be speaking on February 11, 2016, at the 2016 American Camp Association National Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. My topic is, "Managing Risks: Helping Children Conquer Fear, Reassuring Parents, and Fending Off Attorneys." If you plan to be at the conference, or anywhere near it, let me know and we will plan lunch!
For more information please visit the American Camp Association website.
Hilton Atlanta 255
Courtland Street NE
Atlanta, GA 30303
Many schools and child care centers have video surveillance systems in place, but do not use them properly. As an attorney defending youth organizations, I have rarely found the footage to be useful. Nevertheless, parents value the systems, so many programs have them. If you decide to install a surveillance system in your building, be sure to pay attention to some important principles.
One question that always comes up when I advise organizations about youth protection policies is what sort of training to provide to children. Whether to include that training is simply a matter of your professional judgment about how it fits into your program's mission. Many programs claim to prevent abuse, but there is no mental health research supporting those claims. However, some program have demonstrated such benefits such as prompting children to disclose abuse earlier and lessening some of the self-esteem issues that accompany abuse.
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center has reviewed a number of mental health studies of programs for younger children, and has published a helpful guide to those programs. It is a good place to start in deciding whether to include such a curriculum in your program, and which one will be the best fit.
One important area of youth protection policies is a policy to prevent bullying. An effective policy must first correctly define the problem, and then focus on ways to empower the children involved.
Contrary to what many parents (and children) think, not every insult is "bullying." Negative feedback is a normal part of human interaction, and is one of the ways that we all learn not to be obnoxious. Wise adults don't get involved in developmentally normal disputes between children. True bullying that warrants adult intervention is a much more serious, and sustained, activity.
Even the best child protection policy is useless if no one follows it. Effective policies require constant training and a clear protocol for reporting violations of the policy.
Orientation and Training
Every employee should go through an orientation program that includes a thorough review of the child safety policy. Volunteers are not always willing to give up the extra time for an orientation session, but you should at least require them to affirm that they have reviewed the written policy and agree to abide by it.
Once you have decided the goals of your youth protection policy and what to include, then you need to decide who is covered and where to publish it.
Who is Covered
You do not have to include every employee or volunteer in every aspect of your policy. For example, maintenance people who are not routinely on the premises and never have unsupervised access to children may not need not to be screened as thoroughly as other staff. On the other hand, a cook who sometimes substitutes in a day care class should be vetted just as thoroughly.
Whatever your program, there are a few things that you absolutely must include. The details of the components may vary, but you must have them in some form or another.
First, require criminal background checks for anyone working directly with children. The background checks rarely turn up anything, but they operate on the same principle as immunizations—if we omit them, then predators will start applying to our organizations.
The beginning of a new year is always a good time to review and strengthen internal policies. This is particularly true of child protection policies, where a few simple precautions can yield important benefits. Best practices in the industry include such policies, and many insurance companies require them. This series of posts outlines some principles that I recommend to my clients.
What Is a Child Protection Policy?
The main purpose of child protection policies is to protect children from harm while in your program, whether from staff or other children.
I almost missed a very important article in Psychology Today, describing the serious challenges that colleges face in dealing with students who lack resilience to deal with everyday life:
Recent examples mentioned included a student who felt traumatized because her roommate had called her a “bitch” and two students who had sought counseling because they had seen a mouse in their off-campus apartment. The latter two also called the police, who kindly arrived and set a mousetrap for them.
The author, Dr. Peter Gray, believes that this trend is a serious problem:
Speaking of over-protection and resilience, I will be presenting a session on those topics at the upcoming ACA Southeastern Fall Camp Conference in Jacksonville, FL. If you are there, be sure to come by and say hello. I will be speaking on Tuesday afternoon, October 6, and the topic is "Managing Risk: Encouraging Children to Conquer Their Fears, Reassuring Parents, and Fending Off Lawyers."
- Speaking Engagement
- Risk Avoidance
- Child Abuse
- Criminal Law
- Mental Health Research
- Public Policy
- Employment Issues
- Zero Tolerance
- Expert Witness
- Litigation (Discovery)
- Mandated Reporter
- Child Witness
- Day Care
- Personal Injury
- Youth Camps