Safety as a Long-Term Commitment
It’s essential for you to understand the building blocks, tools, decisions, strategies, and resources that will help you create or strengthen your existing child sexual abuse prevention frameworks. But as any mechanic or carpenter knows, gathering those tools is different from using them to make a finished product. The same applies to organizational change, which seeks to influence how people behave. An employer can mandate the adoption of a child safety standard or child sexual abuse prevention framework, and require staff and volunteers to behave in certain ways around children, but that alone does not guarantee they will. Nor does it guarantee that even if they do at first, the mandated behaviors will continue.
That’s where sustainability comes in: the difference between a band-aid fix and a lasting solution. It requires the implementation of organizational change as a process that evolves over a period of time rather than as a single event that, once accomplished, can be assumed to be working properly to protect children. Instead, your organization should assume that not everyone will move toward the desired goals at the same pace. Successful implementation will depend on your strategy or “roadmap” toward the desired change, your organizational culture, and your leadership—an all-hands-on-deck approach to introducing, managing, and monitoring the progress of abuse prevention programs. Even well-structured programs run the risk of weakening over time if your leadership assumes that implementation is equal to accomplishment, and turns attention toward the many other issues and demands that daily leadership requires.
Your Framework for Sustainability
Because child safety and abuse prevention frameworks rely so heavily on influencing staff and volunteer attitudes and behaviors, your leadership plays a critical role in introducing, managing, and monitoring the implementation of your programs. You’ll need consistent involvement and collaborative, ongoing communication with all stakeholders— throughout and beyond your initial stages of implementation.
Systemic organizational change requires leadership to make the case for why a change is important—and provide mechanisms enabling the change and its assessment. Your leadership must then hold itself, all management, and all employees accountable to “be” the desired change in all their attitudes and actions. An important element for sustaining forward momentum in child abuse prevention initiatives is communication about how the effort is evolving, and feedback from leadership reflecting its ongoing commitment to the process.
Finally, no matter how small or large your youth-serving organization (YSO) is, creating a sustainable safety solution requires periodically asking questions about what is working in your child abuse prevention efforts, what isn’t working, and what needs improvement. And those answers require data. While there are many types of data that can be collected for analysis and review, Safe Kids Thrive provides you with key data collection strategies and tools: a Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Evaluation Tool, a Sample Self-Audit Form for YSOs, and a Sample Incident Report.
You can help to sustain positive outcomes by scheduling annual “self-audits” that collect data to measure forward progress and provide snapshots of your program implementation. These annual snapshots can, in turn, be used to provide ongoing feedback to staff, volunteers, parents, and all other interested parties. In addition, your Policies and Procedures themselves should be evaluated every 2-3 years to ensure they are up-to-date and reflect your organization’s current programs.
Finally, community partnerships offer vital resources to support your efforts to build robust, sustainable child abuse prevention programs. These and other collaborative efforts are essential for building relationships, sharing expertise, accessing services and training opportunities, and building legitimacy and advocacy in the communities you serve.