Child Protection Policies
The beginning of a new year is always a good time to review and strengthen child protection policies, where a few simple precautions can yield important benefits.
Goals: The goals of child protection policies include (1) accident prevention; (2) abuse prevention; (3) anti-bullying measures; and (4) mandated reporter responsibilities (including recognizing harm that occurs elsewhere). Also assess other risks that your program may face, such as parental abduction or custody disputes.
Who Should be Covered: You do not have to include everyone in every aspect of your policy. For example, maintenance people never have unsupervised access to children need not be screened as thoroughly as teaching staff. Volunteers who work unsupervised with children, on the other hand, should receive thorough screening and training.
What to Include: There are many aspects to a good policy, but the minimum requirements include (1) background checks for applicants, including criminal records and references; (2) policy summaries in application; (3) clear guidelines in employee handbooks; (4) thorough orientation; (5) periodic training in various aspects of the policy, including mandated reporter duties; (6) rules on physical contact on-site; (7) clear rules about off-site contact, including social media; (8) workable procedure for adult access to children, such as outside visitors and pick-up protocols; (9) clear consequences for violation; and (10) a transparent procedure for reporting violations of the policy.
Consistency is Key: The best-written policy is worth nothing if you do not enforce it. Stick with simple and clear guidelines that you can enforce consistently.
Other Resources: Sample protocols are available at (1) Preventing Sexual Abuse in Youth-Serving Organizations (available for download from www.cdc.gov); (2) the Safe Sanctuaries program of the United Methodist Church; (3) Child Protection Resources from the Adventist Risk Group, Inc.; and (4) Safe Church program from Guide One Insurance.
If you need help evaluating and enhancing your child protection policy, or providing training to your employees and volunteers, Taylor English has the resources to help. Our Youth-Serving Organizations industry group and Employment practice group have decades of expertise and experience in this field. We stand ready to help you protect the children in your care and your organization.