Showing 41 posts in Youth Camps.
Organizations that work with teenagers face questions of sexual behavior in several different situations. The most common issues that I see are (1) “sexting,” or sending sexually explicit photos to each other, (2) horseplay that turns sexual, and (3) consensual sex. Whether these require a report to authorities or only an internal response depends on several different circumstances.
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.
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."
I just ran across an excerpt from a new book, “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success,” that I hope gets wide circulation. The author, Julie Lythcott-Haims, served as Dean of Freshmen and Undergraduate Advising at Stanford, and believes that helicopter parenting harms children. The part that caught my eye was an outline of recent mental health research suggesting that overly-protective parenting causes significant mental health problems:
A volunteer who reported child abuse to church administration in Illinois now is facing defamation charges. The case illustrates the difficulty that organizations face in dealing with in-house reports of child abuse. According to the Illinois Court of Appeals opinion, a member of a Catholic parish wrote to the parish pastor, alleging that a child in the church had sexually touched another child. The mother of the alleged perpetrator filed a discovery action against the church, seeking the name of the letter-writer and alleging that the letter was false. According to the mother, the letter had caused her son to be ostracized in the community. The court decided only that the mother set out a claim of defamation and that the clergy-penitent privilege did not cover the letter.
The court’s description of the letter, however, illustrates the dilemma that faces organizations that deal with children.
The recent news about measles outbreaks has prompted several clients to ask me whether they can require children to be vaccinated before enrolling them in their facility. The short answer is, "Yes, probably." I know, lawyers can never give a straight answer, but in this case, the law is not all that straight.
Georgia law requires vaccinations for all children entering school or attending a day care center. It allows only two exceptions -- medical necessity and religious objections. Other states allow an exception for philosophical objections to vaccines. However, most of those laws only require public schools to accept the exceptions. The laws allow private schools and day care centers to accept the exemptions, but do not require them to do so. In general, then, private facilities can place whatever requirements they want on the children they enroll.
There are, however, important limits on that general rule.
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- Teresa E. Adams
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