When it comes to child abuse, the statistics are startling. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, approximately 675,000 children are reported to be victims of child abuse annually, with 9 percent of those incidents involving sexual abuse. While the effects of sexual misconduct are devastating to the victim and their family, the damage doesn’t stop there. One incident can destroy the trust, credibility and reputation of an organization for years to come. Continue reading to learn about effective sexual misconduct prevention procedures to safeguard the children in your congregation.
Screen Employees and Volunteers
One of the first steps in preventing sexual misconduct is the proper screening of all employees and volunteers. Legitimate workers won’t be offended, and the process often scares off unwanted individuals. The following are general guidelines for performing employee and volunteer screening:
- Complete a criminal background check. All employees and those volunteers who work with minors should sign an authorization form allowing criminal background checks to be completed.
- Complete a screening application. This can be used to acquire references, learn about previous employment and check on any criminal record information.
- Verify all information provided. It is a good idea to contact references, especially from organizations in which the applicant has worked or volunteered with minors in the past (for example, scouts and other churches).
- Resolve any irregularities before the candidate begins work.
Establish Organizational Procedures and Policies
Organizations should establish written policies and procedures as part of its child protection program. Once policies and procedures are established, they must be communicated to the staff and the rules have to be consistently enforced. Here are several examples of policies and procedures to include:
- Include a procedure in which you ask if the employee or volunteer has ever been accused of, participated in, or been convicted of sexual misconduct.
- Have documented procedures in place on how to respond to a sexual misconduct allegation.
- Require six months of service before a volunteer has direct involvement with or supervision of children.
- Do not allow activities to take place in private rooms, offices or isolated parts of a building. Keep all remote areas, such as closets and unoccupied rooms, locked.
- Have a responsible supervisor randomly monitor all children’s activities. Supervisors should make frequent, unannounced visits.
Educate your Employees and Volunteers
Education can be targeted at employees and volunteers to inform them on how to identify and avoid potentially dangerous situations. Effective education can include courses on how to properly work with children and adolescents. Three key safety strategies for children’s ministry volunteers include Awareness, Communication, and Taking Action. These can be remembered with the acronym ACT.
Through effective employee and volunteer screening, internal policies and procedures, and education, your staff can develop or further enhance its sexual misconduct risk management program to address the organization’s specific needs. As a result, the entire organization and everyone in it will be safer from the nightmare of sexual misconduct.