Training Best Practices
To protect the children/youth you serve, your organization needs a comprehensive framework: a set of abuse prevention policies and procedures, enhanced screening and hiring practices, safe physical environment and safe technology standards, codes of conduct, and reporting requirements. But implementing these safety elements and announcing that they are in effect isn’t enough. That is why Safe Kids Thrive recommends that you also provide some form of initial and periodic follow-up training on your prevention strategies for staff and volunteers (and possibly children/youth) at all levels.
To help you get started, we’ve created best practice guidelines so your leadership can think about the elements of effective workplace training programs, and how to adapt and integrate training programs into your environment, culture, and circumstances.
Here’s a set of minimum required safety standards that your organization should consider when thinking about training your staff and volunteers:
- All employees and volunteers need some form of annual awareness training about child abuse and neglect. Options include:
- Handouts, flyers, brochures, fact sheets
- Onsite presentation/discussion (facilitated by in-house personnel or external agency)
- Online training (individual or group)
- Partnering with local youth-serving organizations/agencies already conducting training
- Your staff and volunteers need to understand the specifics about child abuse and how to recognize it:
- Statistics about prevalence
- Physical and behavioral symptoms of abuse
- Offender patterns (grooming)
- Long term impact on child development
- Your staff and volunteers need to understand and agree to comply with your child protection policies and procedures, including:
- Safe environment and safe technology policies
- Code of Conduct
- Screening and hiring procedures
- Reporting procedures (including both the Massachusetts mandated reporter requirements and your own reporting chain)
- Your staff and volunteers need to know how to respond to children/youth they suspect are being abused and how to handle direct and indirect disclosures.
What Makes an Effective Training Program?
When selecting or designing a training program, it’s important to build or to look for products that reflect good teaching and learning practices, and offer participatory, interactive problem-based learning experiences that actively engage the learner. Effective programs present information from a positive viewpoint, encouraging healthy behavior rather than forbidding poor behavior, help participants to feel responsible for dealing with the problem, and teach and encourage intervention behaviors. They sometimes even use role-playing to help trainees find comfortable and appropriate ways to express their discomfort with another’s behavior, or to come forward and report suspected child maltreatment.
Whether your organization is large or small, one of the best ways to get started is to seek out and consult with local area social service providers like the Department of Children and Families, the regional Child Advocacy Centers, the Children’s Trust, the Office of the Child Advocate and others included in our Resources. These agencies and others can provide a wealth of local expertise about training options, informational materials, and curricula that have demonstrated effectiveness—and can help save a lot of time as you formulate a training strategy that’s right for your organization.
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