Showing 80 posts in Child Abuse.
One question that I often hear from child care centers is whether we are required to report sexual play between children. As usual, the question is “it depends.” Some types of sexual play are normal and developmentally appropriate, and warrant nothing more than redirection and teaching about social norms. Other types can be signals of sexual abuse and require more formal intervention. We don’t want to miss signals of abuse, but neither do we want to overreact to normal child development.
Effective January 1, 2020, Georgia has enacted much-needed changes to its child abuse registry. First, only adults will be listed, rather than the old age limit of 13. It is not clear what will happen to the minors already listed on the registry.
One very important issue for youth-serving organizations is what factors help children recover from abuse or neglect. It is a complicated question, in part because children are at such varying developmental stages when they suffer maltreatment. A recent systematic review of several mental health studies offers possible factors that organizations can consider to help children overcome adverse experiences.
One side effect of the #MeToo awareness has been an uptick in belated claims of child abuse. I have had numerous clients call me with reports that an adult has claimed sexual abuse at the organization many years ago when he or she was a child. Sometimes the claim comes as part of a new lawsuit, in which case the lawyers and court system handle the allegation. Many times, however, the disclosure comes before any suit, or long after the statute of limitations has expired, in which case my clients simply want to know the right thing to do.
There are many issues to consider and each situation is different. There are some general principles, however, that apply to every historic claim of abuse.
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.
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 am always outraged by the stories of parents arrested for allowing their children to play in ways that earlier generations considered routine. But a recent court decision reminded me that the story is not always as clear as it first appears. Tammy Cooper made headlines when she sued over her arrest for leaving her children unsupervised. She said, “I took my lawn chair and put it on the sidewalk where I always sit and watch them outside when they’re playing." Nevertheless, a neighbor reported that the children were unsupervised and a police officer charged Ms. Cooper with child endangerment.
A recent court opinion, however, sets out a different scenario.
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