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October 8, 2021

in2vate’s Risk Management Approach to Child Sex Abuse Programs

By Roger Duffield, President

Many years ago, I was working with an expert on employment practices risk management, and I noticed they often conducted basic training with managers and supervisors. When I asked why the training did not seem to evolve, they explained the majority of liability comes from front-line managers and supervisors that are not well-versed in employment risks. In my mind, this was basic training, but for these managers, it was essential training!

Taking this same principle for sexual abuse risk management, we see that many organizations implement a stand-alone abuse prevention program. At in2vate we believe if you are working with youth, addressing a risk like sexual abuse prevention, it should be part of your overall employment practices and compliance programs.

The essential steps of reducing risk can be accomplished by educating on the risk, reporting abnormalities, and addressing reports in a timely fashion. Education starts with leadership and works its way down through the organization to managers, supervisors, team leaders, employees, and volunteers, and then moves its way down to even vendors/partners.

Much of abuse prevention training centers around what to do when abuse is suspected. This is too late. We encourage all organizations to train on appropriate and inappropriate behaviors, also known as boundary violations. These boundary violations are in line with grooming behaviors. Boundary violations and/or grooming behaviors do not equal abuse, they should be immediately addressed like any other employment situation. Of course, at any point, if abuse is suspected it needs to be reported to the authorities. Our approach is to stop the subtle and eroding behaviors that can lead to abuse before it happens.

When I think of boundaries, I remember hearing a story about a parent that stepped in to referee a children’s soccer game since the referees were running late. By the end of the first half, the kids were becoming more physical; parents and coaches were getting angry; and the parent referee realized he did not understand the rules well enough to manage the game properly. The referees showed up for the second half and all went back to normal.  The parent referee who was telling the story opined that rules were there to keep everyone safe and to allow the players and coaches to have the freedom to excel.

Consider using this example when working with youth. If everyone is educated on appropriate and inappropriate behaviors or rules, when an “infraction” of the rules happens and it is addressed immediately much as a coach or referee would do, services can continue running with healthy relationships. In our abuse prevention program, we correct these boundary violations before they escalate into bigger issues.

I believe the rules are there in the workplace to help keep youth safe by setting expectations and correct behaviors before they escalate into bigger issues that require a proverbial “red card”

Take Aways:

If you are a leader with a youth-serving organization, you can ask yourself these two simple questions:

  1. Do we have a policy on appropriate and inappropriate behaviors “rules”, and does it include a reporting methodology
  2. If the answer is yes and we have a policy on appropriate/inappropriate boundaries, I am confident that the following groups are well-informed on our policy and know where to report inappropriate behaviors:
  • Staff
  • Educators
  • Volunteers
  • Youth
  • Parents
  • Vendors

By answering these two simple questions, you have already begun creating an action plan for how to better keep children safe. Together we can make a difference!

If you would like to learn more about how in2vate can help your organization or policyholders reach out to me at rduffield@in2vate.com!