"One and Done" Training Not Enough To Protect Nonprofits From Child Predators

Written exclusively for My Community Workplace for Not-For-Profits Organizations

Police arrested a former employee of an Omaha child services organization and charged her with first-degree sexual abuse of a child. The woman worked at the agency at the time she first had sexual contact with the victim, who was then a 16-year-old boy receiving services from the agency.

During a police interview, the victim disclosed three incidents of sexual contact, one of which occurred at the agency. The agency is cooperating with police and has emphasized a continuing commitment to protecting the youth they serve. All employees undergo background checks and training on appropriate conduct and reporting sexual abuse.

The woman faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. Maggie Cunningham "Former Child Saving Institute employee arrested for first-degree assault of a client," www.ketv.com (Jan. 19, 2018). 

Commentary and Checklist

All organizations that serve youth have a responsibility to protect children from sexual abuse. However, those that work with at-risk youth, like the agency above, must be extraordinarily vigilant and intentional in their protection efforts. Children who are victims of a life filled with parental neglect, substance abuse, or physical abuse are particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse.

Child predators often seek out organizations that work with youth. For this reason, hiring procedures that incorporate a thorough screening process with background and reference checks is essential. That is only the first step.

Organizations must maintain vigilant observations of adults working with the youth. Only by monitoring adults in their interactions with children can children be protected.

Training is also a very important step. Staff training that is continual, not just “one and done,” is the best way to educate employees and volunteers on your behavior expectations. Because building relationships is a key element in helping at-risk youth, it is vital that employees and volunteers clearly understand when conduct becomes inappropriate.

Include the following in your staff training to reduce the incidents of misconduct:

  • Review staff conduct policies, emphasizing any changes that have been made. Be specific about what behaviors are inappropriate.
  • Detail the possible consequences of violating the conduct policy, including potential criminal charges.
  • Discuss multiple scenarios.
  • Provide information on how to recognize behaviors in both the predator and the victim that may signify sexual abuse.
  • Communicate your procedures for reporting suspicions of abuse.
  • Make sure everyone understands the responsibility to report any suspicious behaviors, regardless of who they suspect is engaging in misconduct.
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