Effective reporting structures rely on staff and volunteers’ recognition of signs and symptoms of sexual abuse. The Youth-Serving Organization (YSO) should require ongoing, in-depth training on the signs and symptoms of abuse and actions to take when staff or volunteers suspect or hear disclosures of abuse. Training should include information on how to connect with your local Department of Children and Families (DCF) area office.
To educate members of your organization:
Train all staff and volunteers at least annually on how to recognize the signs and symptoms of abuse in children and grooming behaviors in adults. Review the physical and behavioral indicators of child abuse with all staff and volunteers. They should all understand the importance of recognizing the signs and symptoms of sexual abuse, as well as concerning behaviors in adults.
Ensure staff and volunteers understand their responsibilities to hold each other accountable in all interactions under Massachusetts law and your polices and procedures. Communicate to staff and volunteers their responsibility to follow all policies and procedures. This includes the duty to report if another staff member or volunteer is behaving in inappropriate or harmful ways.
Review signs and symptoms of child abuse and neglect at staff meetings, professional development days, and in supervision. Discuss markers of sexual abuse with your staff and volunteers while clarifying any questions they may have. It is critical they can recognize symptoms of abuse as in many circumstances these signs are the only thing to indicate the child’s maltreatment.
Provide ongoing training to staff and volunteers, both in-person and online. Frequently provide up-to-date information regarding signs of sexual abuse as well as reporting procedures with your staff and volunteers. This training should also include the best way to respond to disclosers of abuse by children.
Connect with your local DCF office and other child abuse prevention organizations in your community. Partnering with local organizations can help your organization provide more complete trainings with up-to-date information. These partnerships can also help to clarify legal standards for reporting and build awareness of your safety program in the community.
Recognizing the signs of abuse is critical in your YSO’s mission to keep children safe. Staff and volunteers will be better equipped to uphold this mission of safety.
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