The Open Stories Foundation will not tolerate the physical, emotional or sexual abuse of children or young people. The OSF Child Protection Policy consists of an Abuse Prevention Policy and an Abuse Response Policy. The Abuse Prevention Policy is to be adhered to by staff, volunteers and community members at all times. The Abuse Response Policy is to be followed in the case of reports, allegations, or reasonable suspicions of abuse. All staff and volunteer caregivers including volunteers who work with youth will be presented a copy of the OSF Child Protection Policy to include the Abuse Prevention Policy and the Abuse Response Policy. By participating in OSF sponsored events, community members agree to abide by and support caregivers in the implementation of these policies.
The Child Protection Policy, to include the Abuse Prevention Policy and the Abuse Response Policy, has been approved and endorsed by the foundation board.
Abuse Prevention Policy
Prevention of child abuse is in the best interest of children. Abuse prevention is of paramount import because abuse can be emotionally, psychologically, physically and mentally devastating and can have a lifelong impact on victims. Educated, prepared and watchful communities can work together to protect children and consequently prevent the harmful effects of abuse.
The OSF Abuse Prevention Policy utilizes a tripartite approach to the prevention of abuse based on the assumption that abuse will not happen if perpetrators do not gain access to children. First, it seeks to educate community members as to the techniques perpetrators use to gain access to children. Second, it sets forth specific policies that will prevent abuse by making it difficult for perpetrators to gain access to children. Third, it seeks to help caring community members understand what they can do to make children safe by ensuring that no adults gain access to others’ children. Community members can demonstrate their commitment to child protection by following these policies.
1) Techniques perpetrators use to gain access to children:
- Perpetrators gain the trust of parents by appearing to be upstanding community members and citizens.
- Perpetrators will most often target children in communities where the offender is known and trusted.
- Perpetrators most often target children with which they are familiar and have an existing relationship of trust.
- Perpetrators may also seek trusting communities that will allow them access to children; they work to gain the trust of the children and adults in these communities; they may volunteer to work with children or youth.
- Perpetrators can be involved in healthy intimate relationships with other adults.
- Perpetrators can be male or female and can have children of their own.
- Perpetrators often target vulnerable children they perceive will not report or will not be believed if they report. This may include children with behavioral issues, special needs, or unique or alternative family situations.
- Perpetrators will often engage potential victims by giving gifts or providing special treatment.
- Perpetrators engage in grooming behavior meant to break down physical barriers and allow the offender physical contact with the child. This type of behavior can be manifest through tickling, wrestling, horseplay, or other seemingly innocuous situations.
- Perpetrators may abuse with others present or nearby.
- Perpetrators work to prevent children from reporting abuse through threats, lies and other abusive techniques. They are often successful in stopping children from reporting.
- Perpetrators will often make victims of abuse feel a shared responsibility in the abuse which prevents the child from reporting the abuse.
- Perpetrators sometimes work together and/or appeal to friends and other adult community members for protection. Married perpetrators sometimes work together.
- When perpetrators are caught, they make excuses for their actions, falsely minimize their crimes, and make false promises that they will never abuse again.
- Perpetrators will rely on the techniques above to attack the believability of a victim.
2) Policies that will prevent abuse through making it difficult for perpetrators to gain access to children:
- All childcare and classes for children and youth should take place in spaces that allow for visibility from the outside. Many churches and other facilities are now equipped with classroom windows either on doors or walls. If rooms do not have windows allowing for outside visibility, doors must be left open at all times. Child gates can be used to keep younger children in rooms with open doors.
- No child will be alone with another adult during childcare and classes for children.
- No child will be alone with another child during childcare and classes for children.
- A child will never share a blanket with an adult.
- Children who require help with toileting will receive assistance from their parents. OSF staff, volunteers and community members will not assist others’ children with toileting. Caregivers should arrange with parents or legal guardians ahead of time as to how parents or guardians will be contacted should children need to use the bathroom or receive a diaper change.
- Children will not be taken on trips or outings into secluded outdoor or indoor environments. Children are safer when many people can see them simultaneously. Any outings and trips should be to locations with public visual access. For example, going outside to play on a public playground is appropriate; going outside to explore a secluded corner of a wooded grove is prohibited. Taking children into a large, open gym is appropriate; taking children into a cleaning closet or an office without a window on the door is prohibited.
- OSF and MS sponsored childcare will not take place in a home or facility that is separate from the location where parents are meeting. No such arrangements will have any affiliation with the OSF and will not be advertised through OSF publicity channels.
- Sleepovers necessitating that children or youth sleep away from their parents and families are prohibited. Children and youth are required to sleep in the same accommodations as their parents and families at all OSF events.
- All staff and volunteers who work with children on a recurrent basis will submit themselves to background checks.
3) What community members can do to help ensure that children are safe:
- Educate others about the OSF Abuse Prevention Policy.
- Volunteer to work with children and youth so that positions are not available to perpetrators.
- Be watchful. Make a fun habit of working together as a community to ensure that no adults are alone with others’ children. A prepared, watchful community can make it difficult or nearly impossible for perpetrators to succeed in their abusive intentions.
- Resist the inclination to be offended by the fact that you are not allowed to be alone with others’ children. In order to be effective, the Abuse Prevention Policy must be applied indiscriminately.
- Help others understand that the stringent protection policies are not intended to unnecessarily incriminate good community members, but to prevent potentially abusive community members from gaining access to children.
- Remember that the best way to ensure children’s safety at Open Stories Foundation/Mormon Stories events is to follow The Abuse Prevention Policy indiscriminately. It can be very difficult or impossible to distinguish a safe adult from a perpetrator. The Abuse Protection Policy has consequently been written to prevent perpetrators from successfully gaining access to children.
- Copies of the Abuse Prevention Policy will be distributed to all staff, parents and volunteer caregivers and will be available to all community members.
Abuse Response Policy
- For the purposes of this policy, abuse is defined as any sexual contact or sexual communication with a child, any physically, mentally, or emotionally harmful contact or communication with a child, or any neglect of a child.
- Board members, staff, and volunteers will take reports, allegations, and reasonable suspicions of abuse seriously.
- Any person who reasonably believes that a minor is or has been the victim of physical and/or sexual abuse are required to immediately report abuse to legal authorities and parents (when parents are not implicated) regardless of the laws of the state or country in which the abuse occurs. Witnesses of emotional abuse are required to report abuse to parents.
- Reports shall be made immediately by telephone or in person and shall be followed by a written report within 48 hours.
A written report shall also be submitted to the Open Stories Foundation within 48 hours after learning of the potential abuse.
- Reports shall contain:
- The names and addresses of the minor and the minor’s parents or the person or person having custody of the minor, if known
- The minor’s age and the nature and extent of the minor’s abuse, child abuse, physical injury or neglect, including any evidence of previous abuse, child abuse, physical injury or neglect
- Any other information that the person believes might be helpful in establishing the cause of the abuse, child abuse, physical injury or neglect.