Our children have so many activities we barely have time for dinner. Allowing kids to explore a variety of interests is healthy. But check out that situation before you sign up. Carefully sizing up the youth-serving organization can help with abuse prevention in kids’ extracurricular activities.
PLENTY OF RESOURCES OUT THERE
If you are involved in youth activities, you might be concerned about what you or the organization should do to help protect kids. Take a deep breath. There are now plenty of resources available. The CDC has published a guide. Many organizations have a national umbrella organization. Many of these now have guidelines you can consult as well. Check out SafeSport as another resource.
LOOK FOR “TWO DEEP” ON SUPERVISION
Generally speaking, any situation where one adult or even one older kid is going to be alone with a child should be avoided. There is some degree of protection in numbers. Well-trained organizations follow a “two deep” rule – always making sure there are at least two adults around. This is true in all situations – traveling to and from events, at events, and at practices.
CHECK OUT THE SPACE
For building-based activities, environment matters. Classrooms should have doors with windows or be left open (Dutch doors or baby gates can corral young ones). Blind spots should be avoided. Many older buildings were not designed for this type of safety. In such buildings, it is especially important to ensure that other practices are built in to protect child safety. In this setting, unexpectedly dropping in to visit your child can provide a measure of protection also.
BACKGROUND CHECKS SHOULD BE DONE
All youth-serving organizations should do background checks on all people who will have contact with kids. This is the primary means of preventing child sexual abuse. Even volunteers should be background checked. In Oklahoma, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) and DHS will provide information on request. But just because someone has a “clean” background check does not mean they are safe. These reports will typically only provide information about convictions or confirmed child sexual abuse.
These organizations do not have information about suspected child sexual abuse or cases where confirmed child sexual abuse did not result in a conviction. Since a very small percentage of child sex abuse is reported, and an even smaller percentage results in conviction, a clean background check should be a preliminary step but not the only step. Employees and volunteers should also be interviewed. Employees’ references should be checked before hiring. Many pedophiles have a hard time distinguishing proper boundaries so asking the prospective hire about those issues is helpful.
TRAINING IS KEY
All youth-serving organizations should also train everyone within their organization on the prevention of child sexual abuse, recognizing child sexual abuse, and their duties as mandatory reporters. Written policies and procedures regarding child sexual abuse prevention should be adopted and widely shared. Many organizations now train parents and children, in age-appropriate ways, in prevention as well.
When placing your child in the care of a youth-serving organization, ask about their hiring practices. Find out if volunteers are also background checked. Ask about their policies and procedures. Go to the trainings if they are offered and ask for them to be offered.
The sad fact is that people engaged in serial child sexual abuse will go where they can get access to children. So youth-serving organizations must have their guard up. Parents who are alert and aware are part of that equation.
If your child has been abused while involved in a youth organization, know your legal rights. Contact Koller Trial Law today.