Guidelines for abuse prevention programs and background checks

Abuse continues to be a widespread concern! The National Center on Child Abuse reports that 1 out of every 3 girls and 1 out of every 5 boys are victims of some form of abuse by age 18. This includes incidents involving adult-to-child and child-to-child. Data also shows that all social, economic and racial strata are susceptible. Developing a formal policy to address this exposure will benefit not only your organization but also the youth and clients you serve.

What should your formal policy include?
A formal (written), documented abuse prevention policy should include:

  • A mission / policy statement developed by upper management striving for zero opportunities for abuse to occur.
  • A sound screening process that includes background checks, reference checks, personal interviews prior to hiring, and applications that include questions about whether or not an applicant has been convicted of any crime.
  • Annual training (mandatory) for the staff to communicate the Abuse Policy (consider using local resources to assist in this training such as law enforcement, Department of Social Services, etc). This should include documented training for all staff and volunteers to learn how to identify symptoms or signs of abuse, precautions everyone can take, mandatory reporting requirements and remedies that can be utilized.
  • A plan of supervision that monitors staff in day-to-day relationships with clients/children--both on and off premises--with clear policies regarding isolated or one-on-one situations.
  • Clearly defined standards of behavior including a plan of direct supervision that monitors children by sight and hearing.This should avoid having a younger child left alone with an older child. It is preferable that supervision is “2 deep” (which means at least 2 staff present at all times) to avoid one-on-one contact.
  • Protocols on reporting incidences and suspicious behavior. Policy must make clear what behaviors may be inappropriate (verbal comments, touching, etc.).
  • A policy with restrictions on use of electronic devices and social media, including interaction with youth and clients outside of normal work hours.
  • A review of the facility to assure maximum visibility is maintained throughout the structure--provide for opportunities to design and redesign of layout to offer unobstructed visibility. Provide guidance to staff on controlling and restricting access to closets and secluded areas by children and to enhance supervision of these areas when children are present.
  • A review after any incident to determine if actions need to be taken to strengthen the controls and prevent any similar future incident.
A formal program to conduct background checks should:
  • Be written and developed specifically for your organization, its needs, and position specific requirements
  • Follow all FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) and other regulations
  • Contain criteria to evaluate information obtained--what will constitute disqualifying information?
  • Be performed on all owners, staff, volunteers, independent contractors, and others that will come in contact with minors, or other vulnerable populations (unless prohibited by law). This should include all new employees and volunteers (18 years and older) and be repeated every 3 years (unless mandated differently).
    • Include multi-state criminal search
    • Include checking the national sex offender registry
    • Checks should be compiled for a minimum 5 year history
    • Include a social security number identity verification, alias trace, and address
  • There are independent companies who will conduct a background check for insureds for varying fees. Markel Insurance, through a business partner, offers our insureds background checks at a reduced fee. To obtain this discount, insureds can go to the “Safety Resources” tab of the Markel insurance website. Details for background checks is also provided, on the Markel Risk Management Library website http://www.riskmanagementlibrary.com/Pages/Home.aspx under the appropriate link found in the “Additional Safety Resources” section.

The information provided in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as all encompassing, or suitable for all situations, conditions, and environments. Please contact us or your attorney if you have any questions.

For safety or risk management questions or suggestions, please contact Markel.

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