Showing 14 posts in Protection Policies.
The Americans with Disabilities Act and Sec. 504 prohibit discrimination against a child with a physical or mental impairment that “limits one or more major life activities.” In general, a facility must make “reasonable modifications” to its programs to accommodate a child’s disability. There are three important exceptions, namely that a program (1) can exclude children who pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others, (2) need not make accommodations that would fundamentally alter the program, and (3) need not take steps that place an undue burden on the program.
One thing that struck me about the recent college admissions scandal is the way that the parents abused disability laws to get more time for standardized tests or a specific test center for their children. Most mental health professionals are people of integrity, but many mental health diagnoses depend entirely on subjective criteria. It is hard for honest patients and professionals alike to know what diagnosis is the correct one, much less what accommodations actually will help a patient. It also is difficult to know when accommodation of a child’s psychological disability requires giving him or her a pass and when it requires encouraging the child to push their limitations.
One vexing area for youth organizations is how to accommodate children with disabilities. It can be a complicated question, such as when a child’s disability harms other children or simply cannot be accommodated without completely changing your program. Even programs with the best intentions must balance and care for the needs of all of the children in the program.
Suicide is one of the leading causes of death among teenagers, and depression and anxiety in that age group have skyrocketed. Any group that works with older children and teenagers is likely to encounter a client who expresses suicidal thoughts. The good news is that there are many resources that will help you respond.
Once you have established your policies, you must make certain that you know of any violations of the policy, and that you respond appropriately to those reports. Even the best policy is useless if you cannot enforce it. Reporting and responding to violations are an essential part of any good child protection policy.
The next important policy for keeping children safe is supervising children and staff. Supervision policies include not only supervision during your program, but recognizing when you cannot supervise interactions.
Rules for behavior is what most people think of when they hear child protections policies—the guidelines for interaction among children and between children and adults. Of course you need to prohibit harsh treatment and actual abuse, but you also need to address “boundary” issues. In other words, decide where to draw the line on behavior that, while not actually abusive, may lead to more inappropriate interactions. Consider the following areas when developing your rules.
One thing that you must do in your program is criminal record and background checks of the adults working in your program. The specific details, however, can vary based on the needs of your program.
Organizations often think of a child protection policy as a single self-contained document. The better practice is to include portions of the policy throughout your documents and communications. Potential employees, volunteers, and parents need to know from the beginning that you have a child protection policy and that you are serious about enforcing it. Start thinking about child protection from the time that you start looking for employees or volunteers.
The recent USA Gymnastic and Catholic Church scandals illustrate the need for child protection policies in all organizations that serve young people. It is tempting to look for a policy that you can simply copy from another organization, and some companies will promise to sell you a policy that they have developed. Either route can be a good starting point, but you need to tailor any recommendations to your program. This series of posts outlines some starting principles that I recommend to my clients.
- Staff Training
- Child Protection Policies
- Protection Policies
- Speaking Engagement
- Risk Avoidance
- Child Abuse
- Criminal Law
- Mental Health Research
- Public Policy
- Employment Issues
- Zero Tolerance
- Child Witness
- Expert Witness
- Litigation (Discovery)
- Mandated Reporter
- Day Care
- Personal Injury
- Youth Camps