Safe Kids Thrive a True Resource for Primary Prevention
May 23, 2023
Last month, the Boy Scouts of America began distributing victim compensation payments as part of a $2.4 billion settlement agreement to more than 82,000 survivors of child sexual abuse. This is the conclusion of a legal action that commenced in November 2020. For decades systemic sexual abuse and subsequent cover-ups led to ongoing abuse within the organization, tarnishing the reputation of one of the leading youth organizations in the nation. Since the surge of litigation, there have been a number of changes within Boy Scouts focusing on preventing sexual abuse. These changes include “mandatory youth protection training for volunteers and employees, a screening process that includes criminal background checks for new adult leaders and staff, and a policy requiring at least two youth-protection trained adults to be present with youth at all times during scouting activities.” The Boy Scouts of America, after 110 years, enacted a major policy shift which should become the standard in every youth- serving organization.
In the 25 years that Children’s Cove has served children and families on the Cape & Islands, we have worked to stem the tide of child sexual abuse and reduce its stigma through our community engagement and education programs. We worked with hundreds of youth-serving organizations across the Cape & Islands, including the Boys Scouts of America’s Cape Cod Chapter, to provide training to recognize, respond, and report child abuse. We have also helped many organizations streamline their own reporting processes.
As part of our training there is a very important message we feel is important to share with every youth-serving organization: where children are, those who seek to take advantage of children will also be there. Organizations cannot afford to take the risk that everyone in their employee or volunteer pool will act in good and moral character. Because of this, we have provided feedback and suggestions on how to reduce instances of abuse within their own organization. This is a critical part of our mission as the Child Advocacy Center (CAC) for Cape Cod, Nantucket, and Martha’s Vineyard.
We also want to share that in addition to our training, there is a website that can help organizations adopt best practices to prevent child sexual abuse. It was created by the Massachusetts Task Force for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse. This task force used a multidisciplinary approach to develop guidance and resources for best practice guidelines for the prevention of child sexual abuse in youth serving organizations. Utilizing evidence-based information, research and experts in the field, in 2020 the task force launched a first of its kind website, SafeKidsThrive.org.
This resource, coordinated by the Office of the Child Advocate and Children’s Trust, allows youth-serving organizations of every size to assess and improve the safety of their programs at no cost. For many years, each youth-serving organization had to develop their own safety policies and procedures. Unfortunately, child sexual abuse rarely makes its way to the top of the list of priorities, not through malice or meaningful intent, but from the lack of easily obtainable resources and information. Now, all the information an organization needs to form comprehensive child abuse prevention guidelines is available.
We believe that with comprehensive prevention planning all youth-serving organizations can develop clear zero-tolerance guidelines which will make their organization unattractive to those looking to harm children. “
Through this website any youth-serving organization can develop their own toolkit for prevention, focusing on elements of prevention. These include an organizations policies and procedures, volunteer and employee screening, hiring and criminal background checks, codes of conduct, education and training (for adults and children), sustainability of best practices and more. Their toolkit and website offer outlines and examples for organizations to develop their own policies or review the ones they currently have in place to improve them. The instructions and examples are clear, simple, and easy to understand.
We believe that with comprehensive prevention planning all youth-serving organizations can develop clear zero-tolerance guidelines which will make their organization unattractive to those looking to harm children. And, in instances where there is alleged sexual abuse, the community will know it will be taken very seriously. These policies and changes need to come from organizational leadership, and conversations surrounding sexual abuse and children’s safety should be encouraged. And, more so, our community and parents need to ask youth-serving organizations what policies they have in place to prevent child sexual abuse in their organizations. The more we bring these discussions to light, the closer we can get to a future free from the sexual abuse of children.
The community engagement and education program at Children’s Cove is available to provide direct support in developing toolkits for youth-serving organizations using the Safe Kids Thrive program, offering professional training to employees working with children, and supporting the development of effective reporting protocols. There is no cost to these services. If you would like to learn more about developing a child sexual abuse prevention toolkit for your youth-serving organization, please visit SafeKidsThrive.org, or reach out to our Community Engagement and Education Program Manager Jacob Stapledon.