Police Investigate Child who was Duct-taped

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98,500 children were sexually abused in the US in 1999, the last year for which data is available. As many YMCA 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 YMCA. 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, focussing on one real, recent, public event…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.


“Police Investigate Child who was “Duct-taped”

LARGE PENNSYLVANIA TOWN - June 6, 2002: [Town] police are investigating a complaint that a 2-year-old girl had her wrists and ankles duct-taped at a child-care center earlier this year.

Two employees at the YMCA Child-Care Center allegedly taped the girl's wrists and ankles and then swung her back and forth, officials said.

A third employee in the room saw what was going on and told the employees to stop, said [Executive Director], who heads the YMCA.

The employees removed the tape from the toddler and she was not injured. Management at the YMCA found out about the incident in mid-April and immediately started an investigation, [Executive Director] said.

“It was inappropriate and poor judgment,” he said.

Police said they are interviewing two employees. No charges have been filed.

The employees, whose names were not released, were suspended for two weeks without pay while the YMCA conducted an internal investigation and notified the Department of Public Welfare, [Executive Director] said.


What we do know:

  • The YMCA of the USA’s suggested Code of Conduct clearly states that “staff shall not abuse children.” While this specific behavior is not cited in the examples of abuse provided in the code, it clearly falls within the realm of physical abuse.
  • although the action itself was intentional, the abuse apparently was not (i.e., the intent of the action does not appear to have been to abuse but to amuse…whether the staff or the child cannot be determined from the published information)…in either case, the two involved staff members used extremely poor judgement.
  • another staff member
    • had better judgement
    • intervened in the inappropriate activity
    • prevailed over the abusive behavior
  • when the local YMCA’s management heard about the incident they
    • suspended the involved staff members
    • initiated an internal investigation
    • notified the appropriate jurisdictional authority

What we don’t know:

  • the extent of practical training the staff members received regarding abuse prevention
  • the amount of direct supervision given the involved staff (i.e., was the intervening staff member their manager, or as it appears from the article, an equal co-worker)

What we can learn (how we can help prevent a similar incident):

  • make certain all employees receive adequate practical abuse prevention training that
    • does not neglect non-sexual abuse forms such as neglect, mental, verbal, and physical abuse
    • is provided at the time of hire and at least annually thereafter
    • is properly documented with regard to attendees, topics reviewed, and service dates
  • make certain all employees have adequate experienced supervision
  • make certain that all incidents are reported to the appropriate authorities in a timely fashion

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 YMCA risk management issues.

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