Staff and volunteers at the YSO (Youth-Serving Organization) should be proficient in discussing abuse and responding to disclosures of abuse. YSO leadership should create environments in which staff and volunteers feel safe to discuss and report suspicions and allegations of abuse without fear of negative consequences.
To support appropriate responses:
Maximize opportunities to talk with staff about child protection issues and policies to build comfort with the topic of child abuse. It is critical that conversations about child abuse prevention occur frequently to increase children safety as well as staff and volunteer comfort with the subject. Open conversations with staff and volunteers can help encourage asking questions about responsibilities of safety and reporting.
Use supervision to support staff in coming forward to discuss concerning behaviors, or to report suspicions, observations, or disclosures of child abuse. Leadership should continuously discuss child safety with staff and volunteers and clarify concerns or questions they may have. Encourage observations and support staff and volunteers in coming forward when there are concerns, suspicions, or disclosures of sexual abuse.
Reinforce and remind staff that how adults respond to a disclosure of abuse can impact the recovery of the child. In-depth training should be provided to support staff and volunteers in responding properly to disclosures of sexual abuse. Adults should respond by validating and supporting the child when they disclose sexual abuse.
Certify that staff and volunteers know reporting suspected abuse affords protections for the reporter under Massachusetts law. All staff and volunteers should be aware of the protection they are given when they report suspected abuse to DCF. Without concerns of personal liability, the reporter is more likely to come forward.
Ensure staff and volunteers who report suspected abuse will not be subject to any adverse action by the organization or their colleagues. Mandated reporters should also be afforded protection from any negative action at the organization. Staff and volunteers should feel safe to report, without retaliation from the organization or from others at the organization.
Appropriate responses to disclosures or suspicions of sexual abuse increase the likelihood of safe outcomes for children at your YSO. Leadership should train and frequently discuss responses to potential abuse with staff and volunteers in order to upkeep the YSO’s mission of safety.
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