Step Six: Train adults to recognize and respond to abuse
Training the adults in the church is a vital step to keeping children safe. At a minimum every person who interacts with children needs training before interacting with youth in the church. Training includes:
- Signs of sex abuse and sex abuse prevention
- Abuse prevention awareness
- Clear expectations of behavior
- Mandated reporting requirements
- How to maintain control without touching
- Reporting inappropriate behavior
- Thorough review of the guidelines for working with youth
Training for adults working with youth should not be considered “evergreen,” in other words, once is enough. Training must be ongoing to keep competencies elevated.
Create a training guide that lists the training requirements for each position that interacts with youth. The church maintains a document on file for each youth leader that lists the required trainings and has spaces to notes the dates the trainings were completed. This ensures that the training guide is followed.
Parents of youth need to know the expectations the church sets for its youth leaders and the boundaries in place. They also need encouragement to report concerns that they may have about inappropriate behaviors observed. This training can be as simple as a parent letter or more involved with a meeting with all parents.
To be a safer environment for youth, more than just those who interact with youth need training. Educate as many people as possible about identifying red flag behaviors and empower them to intervene and de-escalate behaviors. When everyone understands the standards of behavior, norms are established and upheld across the organization.
Find ways to regularly educate all church members about the expectations the church set for interactions with children. Frequent communication keeps the topic fresh for everyone. This can be done with “Safe Church” posters, newsletter articles, and mentions in Bible class and church services.
Mandated reporting requirements vary by state, and each state creates trainings that are publicly available. Contact your county’s human services department and ask for a link to training materials. You may find that your state’s mandated reporting training also provides in depth information about identifying what constitutes abuse.
Freedom for the Captives offers an in depth, online training program that is applicable to all youth leaders.