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Stand Up for Children: Child Abuse Prevention

April has been declared National Child Abuse Prevention Month by presidential proclamation each year since 1983. During this time of year, child abuse prevention activities are highly promoted.

As we hear in the news all too often, churches and nonprofit organizations are not immune from incidents of child abuse, such as the sexual abuse of a child. During this year’s National Child Abuse Prevention Month, check that your organization has the following measures in place to minimize the risk of an incident of child sexual abuse:

  • Six-Month Waiting Period — Require that volunteers be actively involved with your organization for six months before being allowed to work with children and youth. This should serve as a deterrent to predators who want quick and easy access to children, while also allowing your organization time to observe and get to know the prospective volunteer before placing them in a position of trust with minors.
  • Screen Workers and Volunteers — Screening is an important part of any abuse prevention program. It is the first line of defense in making sure potential offenders don’t have access to the children you serve. Prospective workers or volunteers should complete an application form that provides information about their experience working or volunteering with children, references, and criminal convictions. The organization should then follow up with personal interviews, reference checks and a review of the applicant’s criminal history. GuideOne policyholders can obtain discounted background checks through our GuideVantage alliance vendors.
  • Training — Provide training to your workers and volunteers. Training should consist of both specific information on your organization’s policies and procedures, as well as general information on abuse prevention and mandatory reporting. GuideOne customers can obtain discounted training programs through MinistrySafe and Abuse Prevention Systems. These organizations are among the leaders in abuse prevention and can provide online training that is easily managed through an included dashboard. More information about these discounted programs can be found at our Abuse Prevention page.
  • Avoid Isolation — Most child abuse occurs when one adult is allowed to be alone with one child. Establish guidelines so that no adult is alone with one child (except in very limited circumstances, such as counseling or mentoring where there is parental permission and other safeguards in place). Some organizations strictly follow the “two adult rule,” which provides that two unrelated adults must always be present when minors are cared for. At a minimum, for the safety of both the child and the worker or volunteer, avoid isolated one-on-one situations, including those that might occur inside a vehicle.
  • Identify Grooming Behavior — More than 90% of abuse situations involve someone the victim knows and trusts. Offenders work to build trust with both potential victims and the gatekeepers who control access to them. Employees and volunteers should be trained to identify and report signs of grooming behavior. This training should take place when they begin working with children and at regular intervals thereafter.
  • Supervise Children and Workers — Make sure that an adequate number of workers or volunteers are present in ratio to the number of children. To determine what’s an appropriate ratio, you might want to check to see how local daycares and schools staff similarly aged classes and provide at least as many workers as they do. In this way, your organization can be said to be following the community standard of care. Also, make sure that the workers/volunteers are under some form of supervision themselves. This is especially important if your organization utilizes teens or other minors to care for younger children, as these workers should always be under adult supervision.
  • Response Planning — Have a plan in place in case an allegation of sexual abuse arises. Some basic response steps include removing the alleged perpetrator from their position with minors until an investigation is complete, notifying authorities and your insurance company, keeping the lines of communication open with the victim and his/her family, following your state’s law on mandatory reporting of child abuse, and cooperating with an investigation by law enforcement and/or your jurisdiction’s child protective services agency. In addition, organizations should have a plan regarding response to the media and who is designated to speak on behalf of the organization.

By taking the steps outlined above, your organization can be better prepared to prevent a child from becoming a victim of sexual abuse. And that’s exactly what National Child Abuse Prevention Month is about.

© 2023 GuideOne Insurance. GuideOne® is the registered trademark of the GuideOne Insurance Company. All rights reserved. This material is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to give specific legal or risk management advice, nor are any suggested checklists or action plans intended to include or address all possible risk management exposures or solutions. You are encouraged to retain your own expert consultants and legal advisors in order to develop a risk management plan specific to your own activities.