Child Abuse Prevention
Here at the Illinois Valley YMCA, we are working with kids to develop their potential, while helping them to learn, grow, and thrive. It is our responsibility to ensure the kids in our care are happy and free to learn and grow at every turn. And so our YMCA has comprehensive child protection policies and procedures that are reviewed regularly and part of conversations at the Y. Beyond that, it is in the interest of others to know these policies. Together we can be vigilant and look for signs of abuse and neglect.
The Y staff, members, parents, community members and volunteers need to build on the work we’ve done and develop the three habits in child abuse prevention:
- We Know: when we understand the common practices of those who harm you and the best practices to stop them.
- We See: when we can recognize the warning signs or behaviors that signal abuse or risk for abuse.
- We Respond: when we take action in response to behaviors we recognize as being inappropriate or questionable.
As we see and interact with these three habits and their corresponding images in various ways at our YMCA’s throughout the day, they remind us of our responsibility to safety and what we can do as individuals to protect youth from abuse.
Together, let’s commit to protecting the youth in our YMCA and our communities by practicing the three habits of child abuse protection each day.
Because when we know and understand how abuse happens, see the warning signs, and are prepared to respond quickly to prevent it, we create a culture of child abuse prevention that results in even safer environments for kids to reach their full potential.
KNOW how to recognize boundary violations and how offenders operate. It’s up to us as adults to do all we can to prevent child sexual abuse and create safe environments for children. Teaching children about their bodies, recognizing warning signs, and responding to any concerns are important first steps. Even very young children can learn some skills to help keep themselves safe from sexual abuse, but it’s up to parents to help them learn what they need to know. Here are some important things you can teach that will help you help your child stay safe.
Teach Your Child Rules About Touching Their Body
Preschoolers understand the idea of rules, such as rules about playing nicely with others and rules about being safe, like wearing seat belts. So as you teach these rules, just add rules about touching their bodies.
First, talk to your child about body parts, including private parts. This will give your child words to use when he/she needs to tell you anything about his/her body, like an injury or rash or other problem in that area.
Then add rules about private parts, like “Never let other people touch your private parts unless Mommy or Daddy knows about it.” Children also need to know what to do when someone breaks the rules about touching. Teach them:
- What to say to someone who breaks the rules about touching
- To move away from someone who is breaking the rules about touching
- To tell you or another adult if someone breaks the rules about touching
- Phrases so he/she can tell others to stop and practice saying them with your child
- Teach your child to say this anyone who invades their privacy (other children as well as to adults)
- To move away from anyone who is breaking the rules about touching
- Tell your child that it’s ok to get out of someone’s lap or pull away from a hug, even if an adult asks them not to
- To tell you or another adult, like a teacher or caregiver, if someone breaks the rules about touching them
SEE. Keep your eyes and ears open for signs of abuse and talk with your child, asking them about your concerns. If something is wrong, you may see a sudden change in your child’s behavior, or you may hear unusual comments. If you see or hear these things, follow up. Find a relaxed time to talk with them.
Child Abuse Warning Signs
- Frequent or unexplained bruises or injury
- Unkempt or malnourished appearance
- Bathing frequently; obsessive cleanliness
- Disturbed sleeping or eating patterns
- Inability to stay awake or concentrate for extended periods
- Abrupt changes in behavior, anxiety, clinging, aggressiveness or withdrawal
- Sudden, dramatic changes in activities or personality
- Sexually transmitted diseases and infections
- Fear of a certain person (this can include other minors) or place
- Discomfort with physical contact
- Fearfulness or depression
- Aggression toward adults or other children
- Abuse of other children
- Nervousness around adults
- Low self esteem
- Displays knowledge or interest in sexual acts inappropriate to his/her age
Watch for these things in adults that may signify potential abuse. Remember, offenders seek access, privacy & control.
Emotional Boundary Violations
- Making them feel important, cared about and understood
- Spending too much time with them
- Choosing favorites
- Giving gifts
- Acting possessive
- Sending excessive or inappropriate text messages
- Pretending to be the child’s friend on social networking sites like Facebook
- Sharing personal information to make the child feel like they have a special relationship
- Promising extra coaching time, a college scholarship, a place on a national team or even an Olympic Team spot!
Physical Boundary Violations
- Going overboard with affection
Behavioral Boundary Violations
Offenders manipulate kids into doing things they wouldn’t otherwise do, such as:
- Sneaking around by saying they will be in one place when actually they are in another
- Keep secrets with the offender
- Look at pornography
- Use drugs or alcohol
RESPOND. If you see warning signs from your child or you hear about something that sounds like abuse, report it immediately.
If your child tells you about sexual abuse or inappropriate behavior, your response plays a big role in how your child understands abuse and how he/she recovers.
- Stay calm.
- Comfort your child.
- Listen carefully.
- Ask for examples.
- Do not threaten or criticize the person your child is accusing.
REPORTING CONCERNS OR RULE VIOLATIONS
Child predators break rules to gain privacy, access, and a relationship with children. People who do not follow child safety rules put all children at risk.
WHAT ARE “RED FLAG BEHAVIORS?
- violations of Code of Conduct
- allowing children to sit on his/her lap
- tickling, wrestling, or touching that seems odd
- giving participants gifts
- being one-to-one with a child where they are not visible and interruptible by others
- violations of rules/boundaries in general with children
- neglecting or leaving children unsupervised
- touching participants in their bathing suit area
- contacting minors via phone, online or in person outside of the Y
- accessing/referencing child pornography
- taking pictures of minors on his/her personal devices
- making excuses as to why the rule violation is okay
- ANY GUT FEELING REGARDING THE WAY AN ADULT IS INTERACTING WITH MINORS.
IF YOU OBSERVE RULE BREAKING RED FLAGS OR HAVE ANY CONCERN:
- Interrupt the behavior and explain the rule
- Let a YMCA program director or branch director know about your concern
- Let YMCA Management know
- Illinois Valley YMCA CEO, Chris Weittenhiller, 815-223-7904 ext. 015
REPORTING SUSPECTED ABUSE
Illinois law states anyone who thinks a childis being abused, neglected, or exploited, must report it to DCFS. All reports are confidential. These incidents should be handled professionally, confidentially and immediately.
- If the person is in immediate danger/harm, call 911