A Comprehensive Resource to Keep Children Safe from Sexual Abuse
Safe Kids Thrive is based on Guidelines and Tools for the Development of Child Sexual Abuse Prevention and Intervention Plans by Youth-Serving Organizations in Massachusetts, a report created from a two-year collaboration by the members of the Massachusetts Legislative Task Force on the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse. The original report, available here in its entirety, fulfills the task force’s legislative mandate by highlighting the realities of child abuse, neglect, and exploitation—with an emphasis on child sexual abuse. This full report contains the highest level of detail, guidance, and context for the prevention concepts and frameworks we recommend on this website. It guides youth-serving organizations (YSOs) through organizational policies and procedures, interventions, and strategies that can protect the children and youth from harm. And it gives YSOs the tools to recognize abuse and intervene appropriately and effectively at the earliest possible time.
There’s no “one-size-fits-all” approach to keeping children and youth safe. That’s why we took an inclusive approach to creating this resource, addressing the child protection needs and concerns of any organization, establishment, facility, small business, or club that provides services and activities for children and youth. With this inclusive focus, we present an evidence-based process with the building blocks that YSOs of every type need to create a comprehensive child sexual abuse prevention program. In this way, each YSO can assess and strengthen their current safety practices, or craft a safety program that applies to their community, function, culture, and circumstances.
A preventive approach
We know that child sexual abuse can be prevented—so our approach emphasizes prevention by establishing an understanding of what abuse is, how to recognize it, and how it occurs. We begin with a basic tutorial on the numbers and types of child sexual abuse victims—both nationally and in Massachusetts—and provide state-specific definitions of the different kinds of child abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
In addition, we highlight the physical and behavioral symptoms exhibited by children and youth who are being subjected to physical, sexual, or emotional abuse. Since the onset of these symptoms typically occurs when abuse has likely already taken place, prevention strategies must account for precursor or “grooming” behaviors exhibited by those who would harm children and youth—a prime focus for intervention.
Actionable guidance and tools
Our prevention and intervention practices and tools can be applied by individuals or groups and tailored to meet the wide-ranging needs of YSOs of every type, size, and function. They include:
- Abuse prevention policies and procedures
- A screening and hiring process to detect and deter prospective employees and volunteers who should not be placed in positions of trust with minor children
- A code of conduct detailing expected and prohibited behaviors and interactions between employees, volunteers, children and youth
- Methods that help to create and maintain a safe physical environment, and establish safe boundaries for the use of social media and technologies
- Protocols for employees and volunteers in the event a child/youth discloses abuse, or when abuse is suspected or observed
- An onsite and/or online child sexual abuse prevention training and education program for all staff, employees, and volunteers
A leadership imperative
The organizational changes and policy initiatives we recommend require leadership—not only in making the case for the new safety initiatives, but in ensuring a wide collaboration among all those who will be affected by them: managers, supervisors, employees, volunteers, parents, and children and youth. Such collaboration must account for both the necessary strategies and the organizational culture in which the changes and new processes are going to take place. Maintaining forward movement in your safety program depends on monitoring, assessment, feedback, open lines of communication, encouragement, and sustained engagement—all focused on that one important outcome: our children’s safety.
Build Your Prevention Toolkit
Customize child sexual abuse prevention guidelines to meet the unique needs of your organization.
- Research-based guidance
- Actionable prevention steps
- Comprehensive, customizable method
- Adaptable for YSOs of every kind