Read the scenario below, and reflect on how the program leadership and staff incorporate the various strategies and principles outlined in this course. Complete the chart outlining some suggested response steps and note where you may have proceeded differently or would have wanted staff to proceed differently.
A homeroom called the training & curriculum (T&C) specialist at 11 a.m. During the accountability check in the arts classroom, 7-year-old Dari could not be located. The T&Cs on duty began searching the building. After searching for approximately 10 minutes, the T&Cs observed a 6-year-old child, James, coming out of the boy's bathroom followed by Dari. The T&Cs asked them what they were doing in the boy's bathroom. James said he went into the bathroom and Dari was using the bathroom, and he told her hi. Dari said they were just playing. Both children returned to the lunch area. The T&Cs let the supervising staff members know that Dari may need more supervision during independent trips to the bathroom. For peace of mind, the T&Cs and program administrator watched the closed-circuit television from that morning and observed Dari and James entering the boy’s bathroom together. This did not match what James had originally said.
A different staff member reported a second incident that involved Dari in the girl’s bathroom with two other children, Nya and Kendra. The three children were in the bathroom when the staff member entered. She spoke to them, and Nya and Kendra said Dari asked them to show her their private parts. The administrator spoke to Nya and Kendra, and they reiterated what they told the staff member.
James was asked to come to the administrator’s office and speak more about what really happened. He started crying and said, “Dari made me kiss her privates.” The administrator called Kendra and Nya back to her office and asked what really happened. Kendra said Dari had asked them to show her their private parts and to kiss her or she would not be her friend. The administrator asked her, “Kiss you, where?” Kendra pointed to her private parts. The administrator made a report to the Family Advocacy Program and made phone calls to parents of all children involved.
|What Would You Do/Want Staff to Do?
|1. Staff members remain calm and collect their thoughts.
When encountering the children and when speaking to them, maintain a calm, non-accusatory demeanor. Show that you care for them and want to make sure they are always safe.
|2. “In the moment,” staff members redirect the behavior and ensure that all children are safe.
When children or youth have been involved in concerning situations or if something seems off, staff should make sure they are OK. A general question to these children such as, “Is everyone OK?” provides them the opportunity to share if they need something or if something is not OK. If the children confirm they are OK, make sure they each return to their designated program rooms and are appropriately supervised. If a child is visibly upset or injured, make sure they receive individual support.
|3. Work with staff members and the children involved to understand the incident.
When an incident has occurred or there is a possible concern, staff should inform someone from program leadership, who may then decide to speak to individual children. When speaking with children about sexual behavior concerns, two adults, including someone from leadership, should be present. Even if you are the program administrator, it is best practice to have a colleague present when speaking with children about sexual behavior incidents. It may be helpful to discuss with the second adult what you plan to ask, before you speak with children. Speak with children individually and in private, and use open-ended questions. If a child refuses to speak or you suspect, or can confirm, that they are not telling the truth, do not push them to speak against their will or threaten them with consequences. Avoid re-questioning children or asking them to re-tell what they have already shared. Regardless of what a child reports, if you know concerning behavior occurred from watching closed-circuit television, engage FAP.
|4. Appropriately document the incident and behaviors and brainstorm whether a short-term support plan or preventive plan is needed.
Document what happened from the perspective of the children or youth involved and what happened from the perspective of the adults involved. If you spoke with children in private, provide details about who was present, direct quotes, time, date, and location. If including information based on closed-circuit television, indicate this in your documentation. If you create a short-term support plan (to bridge the gap between the incident and FAP’s input), document this in detail.
|5. With relevant staff members, lead engagement with FAP or appropriate outside supports as relevant.
Program leader will initiate assistance from FAP or other agencies.
|6. With relevant staff members, lead communication with families.
A member of leadership should communicate objective factual information to families in a confidential and respectful way. For example, “Dari was observed coming out of the boy’s bathroom with another child today. She said that she and the other students were, ‘just playing.’ When reviewing the closed-circuit footage, we observed Dari in the bathroom with her pants down and the other student touched her genital area with his mouth. The other child stated that Dari made him do this. Additionally, a different child, found in the bathroom with Dari on a separate occasion, stated that Dari asked her to show Dari her private parts and kiss her. It is our program’s policy that we must engage the Family Advocacy Program anytime there is a concerning sexual behavior in our program. This is done to support everyone involved, including Dari.”
|7. Communicate with the applicable leadership members.
Follow your program’s policy on who is to be informed when there are sexual behavior incidents and when FAP has been engaged.
|8. Lead the action planning process for your program’s more immediate response, until you have concrete guidance from FAP or specialists. Work with the relevant staff members to create a short-term support or prevention plan.
While staff may be instrumental in creating short-term support plans, it is the role of the program leadership to ensure that this has been done and is being implemented. Review all short-term plans and check in with the staff responsible for implementing.
|9. Support multi-disciplinary teams so FAP specialists, staff, and families know each other’s roles and responsibilities.
Program leadership will need to coordinate the communication between various individuals. If you are the point person in your program, make sure relevant individuals are informed when there are updates.
|10. Work with FAP or other professionals on strategic responses in the program to best support the children and families.
If you or staff need more extensive help to support individual children and families or your program community as a whole, engage FAP or other professionals for assistance.
|11. Follow up with staff to ensure support plans are implemented appropriately, and if needed, additional documentation is complete.
A program leader should check in with staff who are implementing a support plan to ensure it is carried out as intended and if additional support is needed. Also, document the effectiveness of the support plan. Has the behavior occurred again? If so, how often? Where? How did staff respond?
|12. Review prevention plans for the program as a whole to ensure that all staff know how to implement appropriate prevention techniques.
Staff may benefit from refresher trainings on prevention techniques, and new staff may need more guidance on sexual development and behavior. Work with your program’s coach in meeting these needs.
|13. Work with a specialist for guidance on when law enforcement, child protective services, or other agencies should be involved.
If you are unsure if you should contact child protective services or law enforcement, engage FAP or another specialist for guidance.