A Parent's Guide for Selecting Youth Serving Organizations

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As a parent, you are one of the most important links in the chain of prevention. By stepping up and speaking out to youth serving organizations in your community, you have the power to protect countless children against child sexual abuse.

How Can I Take a Stand?

BEING A PARENT is an enormous and wonderful responsibility. Most parents cannot keep their children under constant supervision every minute of every day. Between softball practice, tutoring sessions and piano lessons, your children are frequently under the care of many different adults. You cannot assume that all youth serving organizations take proactive measures to prevent child sexual abuse.

You have the power to protect children against this epidemic. You can make prevention and child protection a societal norm. 

Select Youth Serving Organizations that Take Child Protection Seriously

BE PROACTIVE and ask the right questions when you are evaluating youth serving organization options. Ask questions, even though it may feel uncomfortable.

How Are Employees and Volunteers Screened?

CAREFUL SCREENING AND SELECTION of potential employees and volunteers is not convenient or easy, but it will ensure that the most qualified candidates are hired. Pre-employment screening should evaluate the candidate's qualifications, personal and professional background.

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Protecting Our Children

CANDIDATES SHOULD BE SCREENED in a variety of ways. Each candidate should complete an in depth application, list personal and professional references, submit to a criminal background check and complete an interview.

Remember that most pedophiles are never caught or prosecuted. Proper screening will close the many cracks that a perpetrator could slip through.

Do not accept excuses. "We know and trust our staff well..." or "We do not have the time or money to screen..." simply are not acceptable answers. Don't be afraid to speak your mind. Tell the service providers, "I simply do not want any adult who has not been properly screened caring for my child."

Important Questions You Can Ask:

  • "How are your staff and volunteers selected?"
  • "How are applicants screened before they are hired?"
  • "Do you check each applicant's personal and professional references? What is the process?"

Is There a Policy Limiting Isolated, One-On-One Situations?

AFTER AN EMPLOYEE IS HIRED, they should be monitored to ensure they keep in line with all protection policies and do not engage in high risk behaviors. Youth serving organizations should also have clearly defined child protection policies.

Over 80% of abuse incidents occur in isolated, one-on-one situations. One-on-one time is important to a child's emotional growth and development, but it doesn't have to happen behind closed doors. One-on-one interactions should take place in an open, observable setting.

Staff should have advanced training for activities such as toileting, diapering, driving with children, and overnight activities.

The organization should welcome you to visit your child at any time. Make it a habit to drop in unexpectedly.

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YOU MAY HEAR, "Sexual abuse would never happen here." But remember, 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. In over half of those cases, the families knew and trusted the perpetrator.

Important Questions You Can Ask:

  • "Are your staff and volunteers trained in sexual abuse prevention and response?"
  • "What type of protective policies do you have in place to prevent child sexual abuse?"
  • "Do you have a policy for one-on-one time between adults and children? What is the policy?"

How Do Older and Younger Children Interact?

OLDER OR LARGER YOUTH are perpetrators in at least 40% of all sexual abuse incidences. Supervising contact between children and older/bigger youth requires structure and adult supervision.

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ALL TEENS WORKING at the organization should undergo the same preliminary screening process as employees. There should be separate areas and activities for different ages groups. Make it clear that you would always like an adult present with your child.

Important Questions You Can Ask:

  • "How are older youth screened?"
  • "Are older youth monitored when supervising younger children?"
  • How are interactions between children and teens structured?

Are There Clear Procedures for Reporting Suspicions or Incidences of Abuse?

ALL 50 STATES REQUIRE that professionals who work with children report reasonable suspicions of abuse. Youth serving organizations should have clear reporting procedures. Any violations of child protection policies should be taken seriously and evaluated by multiple parties. Employees should know and feel comfortable with these guidelines.

PUSH FOR ORGANIZATIONS to provide mandatory reporting training for their staff. Over half of all mandated reporters fail to report suspicions of abuse. In most cases, they are simply confused or uninformed about their responsibilities. You can help by sharing this information.

If you have reason to believe abuse is or will occur at an organization, trust your intuition. Make a report.

Important Questions You Can Ask:

  • "Do you train, allow and empower your staff and volunteers to report suspicions of sexual abuse?"
  • "When a report of abuse is made, are parents notified?"
  • "If a staff member or volunteer violates the child sexual abuse prevention policy, what are the procedures and penalties that follow?"

Step Up and Speak Out About the Prevalence and Dangers of Child Sexual Abuse

Be Persistent

Make suggestions and check on the progress of those suggestions. Be visible and involved in child protection efforts over time. Insist on change.

Be Cooperative

Use care and creativity when uniting with youth serving organizations. Not only are you encouraging organizational change, you are creating a cultural shift. If you initially experience resistance, don't be discouraged. Educate your peers on the prevalence and enormity of child sexual abuse.

Be Determined

Be a voice, be an advocate. Child sexual abuse is 100% preventable. Your prevention efforts mean the world to the children you will protect.

Insist on Change

Your insistence and perseverance will build momentum, begin to shift culture and eliminate this evil from our society.

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Spread the Word

Spread the Word

Pass this information on to another adult. In a survey of attendees of the Stewards of Children training program each participant estimated that they could better protect at least ten children from child sexual abuse. Encouraging a friend to take the training will have an exponential effect.