A single incident of abuse can cause a lifetime of pain and suffering for a child or vulnerable adult and perhaps your organization recently experienced or narrowly avoided such an incident. It is important to understand that if you do not have an effective plan in place, “You risk contaminating the witness, tainting the investigation or even worse, retraumatizing the victim. Remember, this is a justice issue and it is necessary to remain victim-centered by using a survivor forward approach when responding to any and all allegations.” – Mike Riley, Director at Praesidium
This approach becomes most important when handling historical allegations. As mentioned in our previous article covering the modifications to the Statutes of Limitations, the national legal landscape is changing to allow remedies for historical allegations that were previously unavailable. As you may know, many states are joining the growing trend to extend or eliminate civil statutes, so it is in your best interest to remain updated on the latest prevention training and continue to refine your organization’s response plan.
You want to make sure you are doing everything you can to keep those in your care safe. If you are contemplating your organization’s next steps, Praesidium’s incident investigations can help your organization map them out.
Using Praesidium to Investigate.
If a report has been made about someone within your organization exhibiting red flag behaviors, committing acts of abuse or simply not following policy and procedures — you will want to strongly consider hiring a third party to thoroughly investigate the incident. This will provide a non-biased approach when determining where faults occurred.
There are two types of investigations that can take place depending on the tenure of the allegation. In response to recent allegations, communication should be established and maintained with the authorities, as they will conduct a standard criminal investigation by collecting statements and preserving known evidence. On the contrary, oftentimes there is minimal assistance from law enforcement in response to historical allegations. Although authorities may not act, it is recommended that YOU do.
For this reason, hiring an investigator should be an immediate response when handling any and all reports of abuse and misconduct. Praesidium’s team of Investigators are trained specifically to gather evidential data, display complete transparency with all parties involved and follow all suggested procedures that may otherwise put your organization at risk if handled insensibly.
During the investigation is where gaps in your procedures and policies are discovered, potential risks will be addressed, and facts are unveiled:
Step 1) Notify & Provide Resources
- Notify your community that an allegation has been made and you are opening an investigation to ensure there are no more potential victims and to keep your program safe. Deploy a method for additional potential victims to come forward, like a reporting hotline and provide other support services for the survivor and their family (counseling services, listening groups, crisis communication website, etc.).
Step 2) Identify Scope & Purpose
- The size of the scope will be dependent on the extent of the outreach, the number of people involved, and the information gathered. For example, If the alleged offender has violated policies related to inappropriate behavior with youths in the past, this will greatly influence the severity of the investigation.
Step 3) Investigators Review Preliminary Evidence
- Praesidium Investigators review and document everything that is known or suspected about the situation including policies, member files, survivor’s complaints, victim statements, timecards, disciplinary records, and several other documents that may be relevant to the investigation.
Step 4) Investigators Develop an Investigation Plan
- It’s important for an investigator to determine who to interview and the order of the interviews. For current and recent allegations, the investigative process will be a collaborative effort amongst authorities and Praesidium Investigators. However, historical allegations will be handled solely by Praesidium Investigators. Typically, our team will start with the victim, expand to developing witnesses and finish with the perpetrator.
Step 5) Investigators Conduct Interviews
- A road map is created for the interviewee to develop rapport by formulating critical questions aimed at revealing the truth in the allegation. The goal is to systematically and objectively gather evidence.
- Critical questions are aimed to uncover neglected warning signs, identify the barrier for providing corrective action, and supply findings to substantiate the allegation: “Did staff have any concerns regarding the interactions between the alleged perpetrator and youths?”
Step 6) Investigators Evaluate the Evidence
- Documents such as personnel files, performance reviews, police reports, polygraph examinations, and statements from the victim and accused are reviewed by a Praesidium Investigator who will then visit the locations where the alleged incident occurred. Information is collected and relayed to the organization.
The final report presents the findings and recommendations relevant to each of the critical investigation questions to help correct systematic failures. Note that any information disclosed for public consumption should be released at the discretion of your organization, however, Praesidium recommends that you are as transparent as possible with your community. Although there is a standard process for conducting investigations, it is important to realize that, “every investigation is unique.” – Mike Riley, Director at Praesidium
At the end of this process, Praesidium can help guide you through a review of the data gathered from the investigation and perform a root-cause analysis using the Praesidium Safety Equation®. This will help to uncover potential policy, training, or feedback gaps that your organization has so that you can correct them and implement best-practice standards in your organization.
If you would like to learn more about what it means to take a survivor-forward response or how the changes in Statutes of Limitations may affect organizations, download our free 2020 Praesidium Report today.