Children are vulnerable to child abuse. That’s why as children’s ministry leaders you have the responsibility of doing all you can to protect those in your care. It’s a big task, but up-to-date information and suggestions can help assist your organization reduce risk and increase child safety.
What to Know
Unfortunately, whenever children gather together on a consistent basis it will attract predators. Many organizations go to great lengths to provide the highest level of safety because current statistics surrounding child abuse are alarming. For example:
- Over 859,500 registered sex offenders in the U.S. alone
- Only 3 percent of sexual offenders have a chance of getting caught
- Over 80 percent of child victims know their abusers
These statistics illustrate that predators are everywhere, and the problem shows no sign of slowing down. Oftentimes, organizations work off a set of false assumptions, and the “It’ll never happen here mentality” becomes the norm. False assumptions include:
- Childbuse will never happen in our facility. It only happens in places like [X], you insert the descriptor.
- I know everyone around me. They’re friends, coworkers, family, people I see almost every day.
- Our facility is safe for kids, why would someone target us?
- Predators are monsters! I’d know one if I saw one.
It’s these false assumptions that cause organizations to put their guard down and become a possible target for someone wanting to harm a child.
So how can organizations take a proactive stance to protect themselves and communicate clearly they will not be passive about child safety?
Key Steps in Protecting Children
- Establish a Child Protection Policy that outlines the policy for reporting child buse and any other policy violations.
- Complete a background check on everyone that comes in direct contact with children. For long-term employees or volunteers repeat the check every 18-24 months.
- Be consistent and follow the organization’s established policies. Make no exceptions, no matter how well you know the adult.
- Become familiar with mandated child abuse reporting laws in your state.
- Educate staff and volunteers.
- Always have a secure check-in & check-out process.
- Watch over children that are more vulnerable.
- Take children’s comments, feedback, observations seriously.
- Remove points of isolation. Predators count on privacy.
- Create highly visible child areas. Glass in the main door and windows create open viewable areas.
- Never put a minor in charge of other minors. There should always be a supervising adult present at all times.
- Keep good records of attendance. This helps to protect all involved.
- Follow the Rule of Two—no fewer than two adults and two children must be present at all times.
Red Flags Include
- Someone who continually tries to get access to children, even if they don’t have a child in the program.
- Someone who asks to take pictures of or with children that aren’t theirs.
- Someone giving gifts or paying special attention to a specific child.
- Someone who lingers outside the children’s area.
- Someone who frequently offers favors to “help you out” with the children, but is not a screened employee or volunteer.
- Someone who repeatedly enters a bathroom or locker room where children are changing or showering and does not respect a child’s need for privacy.
Everyone Has a Role to Play
It’s impossible to eliminate all child abuse. However, by taking a deliberate approach to reducing the risks you take one step closer to protecting the children in your care. If you suspect child abuse or have observed any odd behavior report it immediately to a supervisor.