Each April, Shepherd’s Watch joins the movement to promote Child Abuse Prevention Month to raise awareness that child abuse is preventable. Shepherd’s Watch partners with thousands of churches and organizations to ensure that kids stay safe through training, affordable background check screening, safety information and best practices. Child abuse and neglect is 100 percent preventable; we all share in the responsibility to help keep kids—and ministry—safe.
Throughout the United States, a report of child abuse is made every ten seconds. Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education. National research suggests that one in four girls and one in six boys are subjected to some form of sexual abuse by 18 years of age.
Abuse in the ministry setting is often a result of excessive discipline or physical punishment that is inappropriate or unnecessary, by untrained teachers placed in an unsupervised role. Training is key to establish proper policies and procedures for those who work with children.
Here are four actions you can take to protect the kids at your church:
- Know the warning signs. Make sure those who work with kids learn about the risk factors and warning signs of child abuse. Distribute copies of the article “Symptoms of Child Abuse” from the Shepherd’s Watch website and check with the Child Abuse Prevention Council in your area for training opportunities. They often offer free classes.
- Report child abuse and neglect when you become aware of it or suspect it. Statistics show that most victims are abused by someone known to them. Which means the abuser may also be known to you as well. If you see something, say something. It’s also important that everyone in your ministry understands that state laws mandate that abuse is reported.
- Raise awareness in your church. It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes awareness and collaboration from the whole congregation to create a safe environment. Designate children’s ministry spaces for only those with staff ID badges and have a check-out and check-in system. Keep everyone on the watch for who’s in the building, and what they’re doing.
- Ensure families are equipped with resources. Let the families in your church know about the resources available in your church and community. Share articles and information to train them in appropriate approaches with discipline, health, and safety. The California Center for Abuse Prevention has a great booklet you can download and distribute to parents. Click Here
Ministry leaders can make a difference in the lives of kids. With your help we can create safer churches, stronger families and healthier children. We appreciate your partnership!
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