Fortunately, false allegations are rare. But, in today’s climate, anxiety about false allegations can paralyze those who work closely with children. Don’t let the fear of false allegations interfere with your mission to work with children. Following these simple rules can establish healthy boundaries to help prevent false allegations:
1. Follow your organization’s code of conduct. The guidelines set by your organization are designed to keep everyone safe. If you follow the rules, you are less likely to be falsely accused, and you will be in a better position to defend yourself. Additionally, do not decide for yourself whether a policy is good or bad. If there is a rule then there is a reason. If you do not understand why a policy is in place, ask your supervisor to explain.
2. Keep boundaries with kids clear. It is your responsibility to set limits with children in your organization. Youth in your organization are not your friends or equal, so it is important to draw clear lines of interaction. Here are a few rules you can follow:
- Do not discuss personal details with children.
- Do not take kids to your home.
- Do not use inappropriate or suggestive language with children.
- Maintain appropriate physical interaction (side-hugs, no sitting on laps, no wrestling or tickling, etc.)
3. Avoid one-on-one situations through effective supervision. Generally, you should always have two adults on duty or in eyesight of each other to keep children safe from abuse and staff safe from false accusations. If you find yourself alone with a child, move to an area where adults, children, or people passing by can see you. Also, never go into a bathroom with a child alone. Instead, take two kids and stand outside the bathroom. Some programs within your organization may require one-on-one mentoring. To keep these activities safe, avoid physical contact, only go to authorized destinations, report activities and whereabouts to supervisors, and use appropriate language.
4. Give feedback and be open to receiving it. Do not hesitate to point out when someone is engaging in risky behaviors – he or she may not be aware of it. Also, be grateful when others do the same for you.
5. Apply your boundary skills in all forms of communication. Often, people are careless with their boundaries online. Written content can be misinterpreted, and intent is almost impossible to prove. Assume everything you say online or via text message is being viewed by the child’s parent and/or your supervisor.
6. Notify others of unusual circumstances. While we work hard to avoid risk situations, sometimes it happens. Letting your supervisor know can help protect you, and it can help identify where more staff is needed.
If you are interested in learning more, our Abuse Risk Management for Volunteers Armatus Online Training course goes into further detail on how staff and volunteers can protect themselves from false allegations of abuse. Contact us today if you would like access to a preview of this course.