March 23, 2010 at 6:30 pm Leave a comment

These past few weeks, a stream of news stories nationally and across Europe have revealed staggering numbers of child sexual abuse cases.  The damage that pedophiles and abusers cause in the lives of girls and boys is deep, lasting, and tremendously harming. What about the policies and practices of the institutions and organizations responsible for the youth?  How damaging can these be?

A current case against the Boy Scouts of America for keeping secret “perversion files” documenting sex abusers is an example of failed policies that have the effect of protecting the organization over the needs of youth.  Sadly, we’ve seen story after story in the Catholic Church and many institutions in which abuse and violations have been kept hidden from the law.  These secrecy policies have not only added to the devastation in the lives of the kids who’ve been abused, but also prevented agencies of effective screening of abusers and prevented or constrained the work of police and authorities to stop abusers from accessing more youth.

The following is a message on our website regarding how to protect youth from abuse: Whatever the setting in which you work, please be sure you know the policies and protections in place for youth and where there are concerns or gaps in these policies, please make a point to address the policies with your co-workers and administrators.

How do you protect youth from potential abuse?

We recommend that every organization, school, or community setting that provides Girls Circle or Boys Council groups follows standard safeguard practices to protect all children and youth from any type of abuse or crime. Protective measures are essential steps to any solid program’s successful implementation.

Agencies should require all adults, staff and volunteer, who work with children and teens to obtain fingerprint clearances, to receive child abuse prevention and response training, including how to recognize signs of possible abuse, responsibilities as mandated reporters, and procedures to report suspicion of child abuse.

In every setting, we recommend that children and youth are never alone and isolated with one adult. Ideally, two adults or young adults co-facilitate the groups, or, when there is not capacity for two facilitators, at least one other responsible adult is on site and available before, during, and after each session. In addition, the on-site adult should have permission to come and go freely, albeit respectfully, from the group room.

If your setting’s policy is unknown to you, or inadequate, contact your state’s child welfare department to request recommended guidelines for staff and volunteers. Children’s and teen’s rights and safety policies should be posted, spoken, distributed, and reviewed with children, parents, and all staff on site. Administrator contact information should be given to all participants and families to report any concerns or problems.

The CDC has a downloadable resource guide for developing prevention policies within youth serving organizations:

Take Care!



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