Ex-counselor accused of abuse
Approximately 87,000 children were sexually abused in the US in 2001, according to the Children's Bureau of the U.S. Department of Human Services. As many JCC professionals know, abuse, sexual and otherwise, occurs nearly everywhere. Yet, there is a natural inclination to believe abuse won’t happen in our own communities, not to mention our own JCC. Awareness of the threat is key, and reinforcing proven abuse prevention strategies is an essential element in protecting the kids in our programs. Both are the goals for our “Abuse Alert” program. Each is a brief treatment of the topic, focusing on one real, recent, public event, gleaned from the media… reprinting the article about the event in its entirety (omitting names and identifying references to the YMCA) and providing a few important teaching points for you to share with your staff. As always, if you need additional guidance on this topic, please call us at 800-463-8546.
“Ex-counselor accused of abuse”
SMALL SOUTHERN CITY: 07/11/2004 – A 17-year-old YMCA counselor accused of sexually assaulting a 9-year-old boy was ordered held without bond Friday after a Recorder's Court hearing. [Accused molester], of [name] Street, pleaded innocent to one count of aggravated child molestation. He was arrested Thursday after turning himself in at the Public Safety Center.
The alleged incident was reported to police after the boy told his parents about two incidents on Monday and Tuesday, when he said he was asked to perform oral sodomy on [accused molester]. Police Detective [name] said the incidents occurred in an equipment room and in a shower at the [name] YMCA on [street].
The boy told his parents he complied with the counselor's requests because “he was an adult and [I]was asked to do so,” [detective] said.
In a taped interview, [detective] said the teen admitted to the acts.
“He said it was a mistake and was sorry he did it, sorry if he had hurt anyone,” [detective] testified.
Following the hearing, [accused molester] was officially terminated from his position, YMCA official [name] said.
What we don’t know:
- how old the accused was when he first began working for the YMCA
- the extent of the application, reference check, criminal background check, and interview used by the YMCA when the accused was hired
- if the accused has a history of such acts, discovered or undiscovered…i.e., are there other victims yet to be discovered at the YMCA or elsewhere
- the extent of policies in the YMCA to prevent such activity, e.g.,
- abuse prevention training for all staff members
- sign-in, sign-out, and access policies for children who are on premises but are unaccompanied by an adult…ways to know where each child is at all times
- locked doors to service areas and programming space not immediately in use
- locker room monitoring
- cameras in hallways, etc.
What we do know:
- The accused turned himself in to the authorities, but apparently only after the incidents had been reported to them by the victim.
- The accused admitted to the acts in a taped interview, but pled innocent before the court.
- In many states a criminal background check would not reveal anything because of the age of this offender.
- Most children do what is asked of them by whom they consider to be an authority figure…”[I complied because] he was an adult and was asked to do so.”
What we can do:
- Implement protocols (see above) that will protect both children and staff.
- Implement effective feedback controls for participants, parents, and staff to identify and expose inappropriate and unacceptable behavior. An effective feedback process includes sharing your JCCs staff and volunteer rules (no time alone with a child, no babysitting, no gift-giving, etc.) with the parents of all program participants at the beginning of every program, asking the parents to report directly any violation of the rules and surveying parents of all program participants asking them if the rules were followed and if their child experienced any problems during the program.
- Strictly enforce protocols and rules…remember that they should apply to everyone, from new-hire to CEO. In this case, the abuser was alone with the child, in violation of the JCC Code of Conduct.
- Observe and monitor staff behavior…correct any observed special treatment or special attention shown to children by staff members and deviations from protocols.
- Monitor locker and shower rooms constantly and in an irregular manner. Staff should walk through these areas many times each day, recording the time and what they find on a “Sweep sheet” posted in the room. Any problems they encounter (standing water, picture-taking, unruly kids, etc.) should be addressed immediately.
Please call us at 800-463-8546 to discuss this or any other risk management safety tip, or visit our web site at www.redwoodsgroup.com to learn more about JCC risk management issues.