Learning from Mistakes: Strengthening Youth Safety with Research-Based Screening Practices


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The past several months has seen multiple reports of respected and trusted adults accused of inappropriate sexual contact with children and youth. Friends for Youth has also seen an increase in the numbers of inquiries about our resource, SAFE (Screening Applicants for Effectiveness): Guidelines to Prevent Child Molestation in Mentoring and Youth-Serving Organizations) that many program staff use in screening and assessing their volunteers. This webinar takes a closer look at Red Flags during the application and monitoring process – and how to use recommended tools to your advantage to uncover more information. This presentation will cover qualities and characteristics of perpetrators of child sexual abuse that we’ve learned from research on convicted child molesters and from our own 30+ year history of providing safe and effective mentors to vulnerable youth.

Program Director Sarah Kremer is joined by Executive Director Becky Cooper, who co-authored our resource and first began looking into how to assess volunteers even before background checks were available.

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Learning from Mistakes: Strengthening Youth Safety with Research-Based Screening Practices

  1. 1. Learning from Mistakes:Strengthening Youth Safety with Research-Based Screening Practices Becky Cooper Executive Director Sarah E. Kremer, ATR-BC Program Director February 2012 Webinar
  2. 2. Webinar Logistics: Adding Comments•  All attendees muted for best sound•  Type questions and comments in the question box; responses will either be direct to you or shared with all attendees•  “Raise your hand” to be unmuted at end to ask question live during webinar •  Works best for telephone or headset-to-computer connections •  Please monitor background noise
  3. 3. Panelists Becky Cooper Sarah KremerExecutive Director Program DirectorFriends for Youth Friends for Youth’s Mentoring Institute
  4. 4. Link to slides and recordingof webinar will be posted tohttp://www.friendsforyouth.org/Webinars.htmlResource links included infollow-up emailSurvey as you exit webinar
  5. 5. Research•  Mentor screening is applicable to all types of programs, practices, organizations, settings that serve youth –  Provide introduction and access to highly vulnerable children –  Gain trust of parents and legitimize relationship
  6. 6. “ A percentage of predators will target child-service groups because they provide access to samples of highly vulnerable children and often there are opportunities for isolated access. Many of these children have already been molested, making them more vulnerable to the predator.” Dr. Perry Sirota
  7. 7. Case Study•  01/11 Baltimore, MD B-Moor Youth •  11/09 Grand Rapids, MI Public School Services Executive Director mentor/advocate•  12/10 Monterey, CA BBBS mentor •  11/09 St. Paul, MN Public School•  10/10 Baltimore, MD Friendship coach/mentor Academy mentor •  10/09 Buffalo, NY caseworker/mentor (registered sex offender)•  08/10 Franklin, NJ residential home •  08/09 Lakeland, FL church mentor counselor/mentor (female) (informal)•  08/10 Mobile, AL Mobile Youth •  07/09 Tulsa, OK Big Brothers Big Advocate Program mentor Sisters mentor•  05/10 Bartow, FL career mentor •  06/09 San Diego, CA church minister/•  02/10 Danbury, CT Jericho music teacher/volunteer Partnership Executive Director •  01/08 Nashville, TN Big Pal Little Pal•  01/10 DC Peaceaholics Counselor/ •  12/06 Boulder, CO Boulder County Mentor Partners mentor
  8. 8. Challenges•  No evidence-based guidelines•  Denial of issue•  Pressure to conceal incidents –  Potential liability –  Loss of credibility•  Many incidents of child sexual abuse go unreported
  9. 9. Challenges•  No mandated standard•  Inconsistencies across agencies•  Patchwork of state and federal statutes complicates process of obtaining information authorized to research•  Errors and inconsistencies in databases•  Background checks may not indicate problems with either safety•  Youth mentors need different process
  10. 10. Research•  None found to evaluate effectiveness of screening and monitoring practices –  One study focused on one specific tool used to identify potential physical abusers and concluded to be insufficient on its own –  Second study surveyed tools/processes without analyzing effectiveness –  Research behind The Diana Screen is unavailable to general public, as more transparency increases chance for tool to be compromised
  11. 11. Research•  Significant ethical problems to conduct research and potentially violate confidentiality•  Borrow from related allied fields: psychology, social work, education, youth development•  Recommendations also based on practitioner knowledge, another form of research
  12. 12. Perpetrators•  90% are men; number of women growing but still perceived differently•  Most of these recommendations based on male perpetrators who sexually abuse boys because of this prevalence
  13. 13. Perpetrators•  Cannot be identified by comparison to profile or checklist or criminal background check•  Diverse in socio-economic background, level of education, religious preference, ethnic heritage, and age –  Oprah: Conversation with Child Molesters, parts 1 – 3, Winter 2010 –  Oprah: The Secret Life of Child Molesters, Summer 2002 –  Chicken Hawk: Men Who Love Boys, 1994, Adi Sideman, Director
  14. 14. Perpetrators•  Relate better to children, including listening•  Talk to children as if equal partners•  Seek as many opportunities to have access to youth of specific preferences•  Feel misunderstood and discriminated by society•  Usually intelligent enough to recognize problem•  Rationalize act by emphasizing positive impact on child
  15. 15. Perpetrators•  Employment in menial work•  Passive personality•  Low self-esteem and interpersonal inadequacy•  Lack of empathy•  Fear of intimacy•  Inability to form relationships with adults•  History of -  Sexually abused as child -  Alcoholism -  Depression -  Frequent moving -  Poor parent-child relationships
  16. 16. Dynamics of the Abuse“Grooming” oneself: convince self ofinterest and justification-  Majority of child molesters have been molested as children themselves-  May know it is not acceptable
  17. 17. Dynamics of the Abuse“Grooming” community: becoming known andtrusted by community, as well as family and/ormembers of youth organization-  Parents chosen for being vulnerable and lonely, too, and may not wish to end relationship even after abuse is revealed-  Families and communities may “discount” what they see, hear, and feel
  18. 18. Dynamics of the Abuse“Grooming” child: developing relationshipin order to win trust, becomingindispensable, isolating from family, andapproaching to see if sexual contact ispossible-  Child may receive pleasure or other benefit from perpetrator-  May involve threats, bribes, trickery
  19. 19. Informed Intuition•  Judgment that appears quickly in consciousness•  May not be fully aware of underlying reasons•  Strong enough to act upon•  In conjunction with having relevant knowledge
  20. 20. Informed Intuition “I have investigated hundreds of child predator cases involving thousands of victims. In the case of every single victim,there was a woman -- mother, agency staff, teacher -- who looked back and said, “I thought something wasn’t right. I had a funny feeling about him.” Detective Steven McEwan, SJPD Child Exploitation Unit
  21. 21. HighlyRecommended Written materialsby Research:Creating Informed Intuition External Holistic Final documents DecisionPortraitofApplicant Observations Impressions
  22. 22. Red Flags: Extreme Behavior Examples: •  Very impatient with process •  Overly cooperative •  Secretive about activities or is too busy to talk for very long
  23. 23. Red Flags: Focus on Personal Needs Examples: •  Describes desired match specifically •  Recently experienced major life change and needs friends in life •  Wants to terminate position suddenly without reason
  24. 24. Red Flags:Problematic Background Indicators Examples: •  History of being abused, neglected, or sexually victimized •  Police record, even if seemingly unrelated to crimes against children •  Applied/was not accepted or “didn’t like” other local youth-serving programs
  25. 25. Red Flags:Over-Involvement with Children Examples: •  Overly-involved in teaching, scouting, church youth groups, etc. •  Over-indulges child/youth; unable to set limits •  Involves other boys/girls on outings when not expected
  26. 26. Red Flags:Under-Involvement with Adults Examples: •  Upon examinations, adult connections are superficial •  Lack of adult dating experiences or relationships •  Difficulty providing references that know him/her well
  27. 27. Red Flags: Unhealthy Attitudes Examples: •  Believes children should be treated as equals to adults •  Wants to be one to teach child/youth about sex education •  Overstates problems with child’s family; tries to get agency involved
  28. 28. Red Flags:Problematic Personal Interests Examples: •  Gives vague answers when asked about interests (i.e., hang out . . .) •  Expresses strong interest in camping, hunting, hiking, backpacking, etc. •  Child/youth complains about too much sedentary time (i.e., watching TV)
  29. 29. Learn from Failure•  Critical view of mentor and mentee – why did it fail?•  Reexamine application materials – were there any flags missed?•  Apply new knowledge – how will you do things differently in future?
  30. 30. Webinar Special Order SAFE online at www.mentoringinstitute.org and use promo code SAFEMENTOR to receive 20% off!
  31. 31. Thank you!Link to slides and recordingof webinar will be posted tohttp://www.friendsforyouth.org/Webinars.htmlResource links included infollow-up emailSurvey as you exit webinar
  32. 32. March 15, 2012 Innovative Matching Strategies This months webinar will begin with an introduction from Dr. Tim Cavell, review best practices for matching mentors and mentees, then go beyond best practices to feature innovative matching strategies from mentoring programs all over the country - programs that strive to not just make matches but make effective matches that lead to meaningful, long-lasting relationships. Date: Third Thursday of every month Time: 10:00 am - 11:15 am PST Registration details: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/24560500932
  33. 33. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Friends-for-Youth/ 105093182858863http://twitter.com/friendsforyouthhttp://www.friendsforyouth.blogspot.com/http://www.youtube.com/user/FriendsforYouthOrg