As A Return to Activities Approaches, What are the Best Practices for Organizations to Keep Kids Safe?
As A Return to Activities Approaches, What are the Best Practices for Organizations to Keep Kids Safe?
As COVID 19 vaccinations continue to roll out, many of us have growing hope at seeing the gradual return to social life and activities on the horizon. For children, this will mean a return to friends, school, sports, group performances, perhaps summer camp, and more. Now is an excellent time for parents and caregivers to learn what questions to ask of organizations in order to keep their children safe from sexual abuse.
In December 2020, the Moore Center for Child Sexual Abuse Prevention, part of Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health, published an accessible new guide, Preventing and Addressing Child Sexual Abuse in Youth Serving Organizations: A Desk Guide for Organizational Leaders, to clarify to organizations the principles and goals that lead to effective child protection practices, from a national to individual level.
Reviewing hundreds of best practices, the team at the Moore Center found that while many organizations now have long-standing child protection practices, they can become layered and complex in a way that reduces their implementation and enforcement. In other instances, typical best practices might not fit the organizational culture, for example an organization offering 1-on-1 mentoring while seeking to minimize children being alone with a single adult. Without compromising safety, finding ways to accomplish child protection goals that align with an organization’s identity ultimately helps in achieving those goals.
The Desk Guide identifies 8 overarching goals that best practices need to serve. Below are those 8 principles in brief:
- Focus on child wellbeing and safety above all else
Creating a truly child-safe space starts with establishing strong policies and practices that reinforce caring and professional adult relationships with children.
- Make training a cornerstone of Youth Serving Organizations’ practices
Education and training designed for leaders, staff, volunteers — as well as modified training for parents, children and teens — is an essential component of every organization’s prevention efforts.
- Increase the monitoring of adult-child interactions in Youth Serving Organizations’ programs
Organizations should create regulations and re-design physical spaces when possible to enhance monitoring of all adult-child interactions as much as possible.
- Collaborate with children and parents
Parents and children should be regularly surveyed and interviewed about their interactions with leadership, staff and volunteers.
- Identify safety concerns and generate solutions to specific organizational Child Sexual Abuse safety risks
Every organization must first identify their setting-specific safety concerns, from environmental factors to daily routines that may create risky situations. They must then generate, implement and monitor solutions to those risks, with input from key stakeholders.
- Increase Youth Serving Organizations’ evaluation and accountability
Creating child-safe spaces requires consistent implementation of policies and practices, strong oversight and the active participation of everyone in the organization.
- Address youth sexual behavior
Organizations must develop separate measures to address sexual behavior between the youth in their care, as policies meant to prevent adults from abusing youth will prove inadequate.
- Strengthen human resource management
Any organization is ultimately defined by the people within it. Creating a child-safe space becomes easier by refining recruitment processes to lessen risk, while helping new staff and volunteers truly embrace their role in protecting children and teens.
Children & Inappropriate Electronic Images
By Jeff Bathurst
Director – SC&H Group Technology and Advisory Services
Board of Directors – No More Stolen Childhoods
Inevitably, if your child has a mobile device or is on the Internet, they will probably have some interaction with sexually inappropriate electronic images. The Cyberbully Research Center collected (unpublished) data in April 2019 from a national sample of nearly 5,000 youth between the ages of 12 and 17. They found that 14% had sent and 23% had received sexually explicit images. These figures represent an increase of 13% for sending and 22% for receiving from what they previously found in 2016. These images can be distributed via text messages (sexting), open and anonymous chat/video rooms and mobile applications like Discord and Omegle, some social media applications like Snapchat, or directly from one mobile device to another.
What to do before you find out that your child has sent or received an explicit image?
- Discuss the matter as a family. It is important to ensure everyone in the household is aligned regarding how to handle such incidents when they occur.
- Ensure your child tells parent/care provider/trusted adult. This is a serious matter, and it requires a calm, supportive conversation.
- Help them understand that once something is “on the Internet,” it’s permanent, no matter what anyone says to the contrary.
What to do if your child receives an explicit image?
- Again, this is a serious matter, and it requires a calm, supportive conversation! Remember, your child may/may not have asked for this photo.
- If your child has received any nude pictures on their phones, have them delete the photos. Your family does not want to run the risk of having what could be deemed “child pornography” on any of its devices.
- Do not re-send/forward the picture to anyone. You can get it as much trouble, if not more, by doing so.
- If your child knows who sent the content, and you are comfortable reaching out to that family, address the issue with that child and their parents/care providers.
- Some experts advise that you report the photo to your local police. In some states, teachers and other school staff are required by law to report sexting photos to law enforcement.
- If malice or criminal intent or an adult is involved, you may want to get some legal advice. As child-pornography charges could be filed against anyone involved.
What to do if your child sent an image to someone else?
- Talk about the situation with your child. It will be uncomfortable, but this is a serious event. Again, help them understand that once something is “on the Internet,” it’s permanent, no matter what anyone says to the contrary.
- Avoid shaming your child, instead teach and discuss with them the importance of self-respect, self-worth, and how sending such images does not support a healthy sense of self. Discuss the psychological impacts…what does the situation say about how the child sees and feels about themselves.
- Discuss the legal consequences of their action. Each state has its own laws regarding child pornography and the exploitation of minors. Sending an inappropriate image of a minor, even if it’s one teenager sending it to another teenager (sexting), regardless of gender, is a crime in many states. The laws are created to protect minors from sexual predators, but sometimes, they can affect two under-age people sexting consensually. “Federally, it is ‘illegal to produce, distribute, receive, or possess with intent to distribute any obscene visual depiction of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct.’ That means, if you are under 18 and you are sending or receiving a sexual picture, you are violating the Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to end the Exploitation of Children Today (PROTECT) Act of 2003.”
- Explain the long-term consequences of these action; legal, social, familial. It takes a long time to build a good reputation and one inappropriate photo to ruin it. Family, friends, and classmates’ view of your teenager would change and potential legal ramifications may result that will follow your teen throughout high school and college.
NMSC’s Latest Resource Update
At No More Stolen Childhoods, we try to offer a range of resources best suited to the different people who reach out to us to better understand and support child sexual abuse prevention, awareness, and recovery.
For that reason, our Resource page is divided into sections for
In each of these sections we periodically update links to videos, podcasts, books, and websites, and we’d like to highlight a few of the recent updates here.
You can see the full lists in the links above.
Life with My Idiot Family: A True Story of Survival, Courage and Justice over Childhood Sexual Abuse
By Kathy and Gary Picard, 2017
Written for survivors, their families, and professionals, Life with My Idiot Family is a true story – ultimately of hope and justice – that begins with difficult accounts of Kathy’s childhood experience of sexual abuse by her father and the disbelief of the abuse by her family. Engaging and heartfelt, Kathy offers an education to readers unfamiliar with abuse and its long-term impact on survivors. As her story unfolds, Kathy is able to share the evolution of her marriage and family, her career, and how her drive to speak up led her to become one of the voices that successfully advanced the reform of criminal and civil statutes of limitations for cases of child sexual abuse in the state of Massachusetts.
By Kimberley Brubaker Bradley, 2020
To the resources for teens and young adults, we’ve added a link to the award-winning 2020 novel Fighting Words by Kimberley Brubaker Bradley. This is a middle-grade novel dealing with intense and difficult subject matter that is nonetheless vitally important. Fighting Words offers the story of a powerful sisterhood that is repeatedly impacted by trauma, strained by sexual abuse, and ultimately sustained through love and the speaking of truth.
By Janina Fisher, PhD., 2017
For those who provide support and services to families and survivors, one of the resources we’ve added is Healing the Fragmented Selves of Trauma Survivors: Overcoming Internal Self-Alienation by Janina Fisher, PhD. A leading contemporary voice on working with trauma survivors, Dr. Fisher brings together understanding of neurobiology, traumatic attachment, and dissociative symptoms to offer therapeutic tools for safety and connection leading to resolutions of issues of guilt, shame, self-loathing, etc.
Changing the conversation around child sexual abuse requires that we understand the many ways it impacts on society. By providing an array of information for a range of audiences, we seek to continue breaking down stigma and fostering important discussions. Take a minute to review the links at the top of this page to familiarize yourself with resources that might be helpful to you or others in your network.