Home Children's Ministry Leaders Articles for Children's Ministry Leaders Gaining Leadership Support for Improving Child Safety

Gaining Leadership Support for Improving Child Safety

child safety

How do I get leadership to support child safety initiatives for improving child safety?

While sometimes difficult to tackle, it’s an important step to help make your kids area a safe place. Support for your child safety initiative may be less about what you’re proposing and more about how it’s presented. Get prepared to help convince those making the decision.

Define Why Leadership Should Care

Defining the “why” of your child safety efforts sets the foundation. Take the needed time here as it drives effort, actions, outcomes. Know why you’re going down this road. Clarity gives strength to overcome objections.

Child abuse brings indescribable pain, however, you can play a vital role in working to protect the children in your care. Clearly defining the goal of your efforts creates a positive domino effect. There is great value – stay the course.

Lead With Expert Data

Child abuse and prevention are sensitive topics. Familiarity with current facts provides a platform for conversation and helps remove emotion.

Seek out data that helps define the need and paints a picture of the landscape. Use data that speaks directly to your action plan to help garner support, plus give leadership talking points for defending the course of action. For example: 

  • 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 4 boys will be sexually assaulted before the age of 18
  • Over 80% of child victims know their abusers
  • Greater than 90% of convicted offenders consider themselves religious or highly religious
  • There are over 859,500 registered sex offenders in the US alone
  • There are more than 100,000 sexual offenders who fail to report every year

Helpful websites for child protection trends include: stopitnow.org, childrenssafetynetwork.org, safelyeverafter.com.

Create Alliances

Before you present, find a champion in your organization that understands and supports your initiative. Someone who will back you up, ask good questions, defend your request, and have both influence and credibility. Consider current board members, executive leadership, those in peer positions with regular contact with leadership, or positive external influences.

Know Your Audience 

Meet with your champion to gain an understanding of how your request fits into the overall goals and vision. Be prepared to listen more than you speak. Come equipped with questions that help:

  • Identify obstacles you may face
  • Uncover changes or suggestions to make your request more relevant and effective
  • Advise how to further build your case

Answer Questions With Confidence

Preparation is key. Before the leadership meeting, be sure to anticipate questions that may arise and how to answer. This helps you answer with confidence. Questions may include:

  1. Can abuse happen in our organization? Everybody knows everybody.
  2. Child predators aren’t like us. Why would they target us?
  3. Our facility is safe. Why do we need to do more to protect kids?
  4. What’s your primary purpose for making this change?
  5. Will the new policy discourage people from volunteering or becoming involved?
  6. Will the new policy require a different screening protocol? What is the existing process? What will change?
  7. How often and to what level will background checks be performed? Is the cost in your budget? If not, what are you going to cut?
  8. How will we know if the initiative is successful? What metrics will you use?

Communication Is Key

After presenting and successfully receiving buy off, or perhaps while still waiting for a decision, share what you’re trying to accomplish. Educate staff, volunteers, and the member community on steps you’re taking to improve child safety. Give regular progress updates to champions and those supporting you.

Communication vehicles may include meetings, newsletters, social media, emails, bulletins, inserts, flyers, etc. You want the message to go far and wide.

Continue the conversation even after approval. Leadership needs to see you’re holding to your commitments. Communicate at least once a month the positive effects. Share parent and child feedback. Offer to present periodically on the success.

Wrapping It Up 

Do

  • Research and know your position well
  • Communicate regularly about what you’re trying to accomplish and why
  • Be prepared to answer questions at any time
  • Continuously meet with those who might champion your efforts
  • Make training and communication top initiatives
  • Focus discussions on prevention efforts and both moral and legal responsibilities

Don’t

  • Second guess your effort to make safety and abuse prevention a top priority
  • Buy into “false assumptions” your organization is safe, no one would target us, we’d know a predator
  • Give up. Change isn’t easy, but this is worth fighting for and pursuing
  • Think proposed changes will be a slam dunk. Use opposition as an opportunity to start conversation
  • Forget your responsibility is the safety of the children, not the board member or parent who doesn’t agree with what you’re doing
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asmith@churchleaders.com'
Alex Smith is CEO of KidCheck, secure children’s check-in solutions. He is a data security and child safety expert, church safety team leader, former police officer, and consultant to the Air Force and FBI on data security and cyber terrorism.