Case Studies

These are all true case studies but we have changed details and names to protect the organizations where the incidences or stories occurred.  We have both shared these stories and have identified lessons learned from the case studies, believing that by sharing stories that happened in the past, we validate the pain experienced from past and our hope is that we will minimize history repeating itself. 

July 2013 - Stalking youth
August 2013 - Releasing Children from Program
September 2013 - Registration and Supervision
October 2013 - Overnight Sleepover
November 2013 - Classroom Management & Reporting and Response



January 2014 - Investigations & Reporting and Response
February 2014 - Financial Discretion and/or Abuse of the Elderly
March 2014 - Restrictions on Convicted Pedophiles
April 2014 - Screening of Candidates From Overseas
May 2014 -  Reporting of Historical Abuse
June 2014 - Immunizations
July 2014 - Inappropriate Games 
September 2014 - Lack of Staff/Volunteers
November 2014 - Communicating With Youth Outside of Scheduled Programs



February 2015 - Investigations



June 2016 - Gender Identity
September 2016 - Refugee Settlement - Fighting the System!
November 2016 - Small Groups/Care Groups



April 2018 - Children learning to take responsibility in school in England
August 2018 - High School Teacher - What Would You Do?


November 2018 - Firing a Volunteer




July 2013 Case Study - Stalking Youth

Twice in the last week I have heard stories of individuals stalking and harassing young people, both on Facebook and onsite. Some call it befriending and harmless, while others call it interference and harassment. How do we really know how and when to react?  At what point do we protect the child rather than the individual crossing the line of appropriate behaviour with children and youth.  
 
In both situations the individuals were warned to cease and stop interfering, however the warnings have been ignored, and shrugged off.  The interference has escalated and concern has been voiced by the community.  
 
What we have learned:  According to legal counsel if an individual does not respond to verbal warnings, this warrants our "Duty to Report" to child protection agencies and/or the police.  This is an immediate duty to report, a direct duty to report, and an on-going duty to report.  As of today one of the individuals has been arrested, convicted of harassment, and put on a two year probation, restricted access, and was strongly admonished by the Judge.  
 
You and/or others may wish to minimize stories like this but the courts do not!  What is your Plan to Protect®?
 
I was recently asked the question, "How many hoops do we have to go through with Plan to Protect®?"  My response, "Let's ask the children and youth .... better yet let's ask the victims of abuse, that same question?" Children deserve our very best!  

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August 2013 Case Study - Releasing Children from Program 

A camp called me and told me one of the six year old children never made it back to the family trailer after program.  The children's leaders were frantically looking for the child, as you can imagine  grandma was distraught.  No one recalled seeing the child leave the program area.  In the process of searching for the child, they did find a pile of cigarette butts two feet beyond the tree line, hidden from sight.  The search team feared the worst outcome.  

After about 30 minutes the child was found, happy and content, with a full belly of chocolate chip cookies.

Good ending! Whew!  Child found!  She had been invited into someone else's trailer for chocolate chip cookies and a game of dominos.  It could have been much worse!

We recently heard of another outcome that was not near as positive.  A young child was picked up by a sibling a few years older.  On their way down the stairs, the youngest child fell and received permanent brain damage from the fall. A liability claim has been filed in this situation. The injury may have been avoided if it was a parent carrying the child versus a sibling.  

How do these accidents or errors happen?  Plan to Protect® strongly recommends and insurance companies require sign-in and sign-out for all children under the age of six.  However, parents complain!  They don't think it is necessary when the children feel so at home and comfortable in their surroundings. Parents complain that is, until their child goes missing.  Over the course of the last few years I have had to discipline myself not to let my guard down, when I hear complaints about policies and procedures.  It is not enough to sign in children yourself, and allow parents to give verbal or written consent for children to leave on their own when they are under six years of age.  Camps, schools, churches, and clubs must be vigilant to protect the children in their care.  It is true, you will hear some complaining and grumbling as parents and caregivers have to go out of their way to pick up the children.   We recommend that only parents, caregivers and/or siblings 16 years of age and older do the pick-up of young children.  Speaking from experience, the grumbling and complaining occurs for a few weeks, and then everyone involved gets on the same page. 

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September 2013 Case Study - Registration and Supervision

This case study demonstrates the need of a strong recruitment and supervision process: 

The leaders in this program used a paging system to notify parents when infants were crying.  Each parent was assigned a number that would be flashed in the sanctuary, with the anticipated outcome being that the parent would notice their number and come to the nursery and retrieve their child. 

On one occasion a young infant was crying and nothing seemed to help quiet the young one.  The childcare leaders posted the number and immediately "dad" came to the rescue the crying infant.  The leaders were happy to hand the crying baby over to "dad".  He graciously thanked them for their care and headed towards the exit. At the same time the baby's true father came to pick up his child in the childcare area (he had not immediately observed his number posted).  You can just imagine his alarm when he saw a stranger with his child in his arms leaving the building. 

Are you prepared to protect your organization from the dangers we hear about every day?

Click here to read the full article that this case study came from "Plan to Protect® REGISTRATION AND SUPERVISION 8 Tips for Success in providing a strong Plan to Protect®"

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October 2013 Case Study - Overnight Sleepover

A youth leader held the annual 24 hour sleep over "Lock-In" at the Youth Centre.  Fifteen youth (males and females) ages 14-20 attended the event.  The minors were required to bring a permission form signed by the parent granting permission to attend the event where they would be playing board games, watching PG rated movies, eating and sleeping.  Two male sponsors were assigned to the event, including the paid staff member.  

The Staff member decided at midnight that he could not sleep on the floor and went home to his own bed.  

The remaining youth sponsor granted permission to the youth to go outside and create a Youth Ninja obstacle course in the dark.  He was disinterested in the physical sport, so joined a few remaining females watching the movie inside where it was warm.  

In the morning, the staff Member returned to the Youth Centre at the same time as parents arrived. They found the Youth Sponsor on a pull out couch asleep with four females. The remaining youth were asleep on the floor, however parents were immediately alarmed when they discovered their kids were covered with cuts, bruises and minor injuries resulting from the obstacle course and horse play during the evening. 

What we learn from this case study: 

When planning events leadership (Board members and Senior Leadership) of the organization should be made aware of activities with elevated risk.  Insurance companies should also be consulted to confirm that the insurance policy covers these activities I.e. Ninja Obstacle Courses and full contact sports.  

Letters of Informed Consent should include all activities of elevated risk that will be included.  Parents should never be surprised or uninformed.  

Plan to Protect® recommends that all overnight activities where there are mixed genders have two sponsors of each gender.  There should be separate sleeping arrangements for females and males.  

Remember: Risk increases, supervision should also increase! Risk increases when isolation increases! Risk increases when accountability decreases!  Risk increases when there is an imbalance of power, influence, authority and control!   (Reducing the Risk)

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November 2013 Case Study - Classroom Management & Reporting and Response


Jordon was an 11 year old boy with what had been described by his parents as a slight learning disability.  He was enrolled in a Drama Camp.  Vincent, the head instructor, knew he was on a time clock to help the students all learn their parts for the community performance on Friday evening.  Jordon seemed distracted and was now successfully distracting other children.  Vincent called the children to attention.  With a four page script in hand, Vincent tapped Jordon on the head and said, “Jordon pay attention, and focus.”  Jordon, yelled out “Ouch, you aren’t supposed to hit me.”  Vincent rolled his eyes, and said, “Jordon that wasn’t a hit, it was a slight tap.  Please pay attention we have lots of work to do.”  

By 11:00 p.m. Jordon’s mom had contacted Child and Family Services, reporting her son had been hit in the head by a leader at the Drama Camp.  A protection worker was at the Drama Camp door the next morning with the report in hand.  The protection worker recommended for the protection of the other students, the Camp and Vincent, that Vincent should be suspended with pay until the investigation was complete.  

The Board of the Drama Camp could hardly believe that this small incident had been reported to Child and Family Services.  After conducting an internal investigation which took less than two days, the Drama Camp Board came to the opinion it was nothing that they would call “abuse” and called Vincent back to work.  Three weeks later the external investigation was still in process.  Child and Family Services challenged the Drama Camp for bringing Vincent back to work prior to the official investigative report being completed.  In the meantime, Jordon’s mom had taken the complaint to media and was spreading the word to other parents of the abuse that her son had experienced at the Drama Camp.

What we learn from this case study: 

This is a true case study which unfortunately drew media attention to the organization and has negatively impacted their reputation.  In our efforts to protect children, personnel and the organization we can learn from this incident that what one person deems as a “tap” another individual (parent or child) may label it as abuse.  In 2013 we must be very careful to use appropriate forms of discipline and interaction with children.  This week I received a phone call from a client that had a similar situation come up where a Sunday School teacher was using a “plank activity” as an illustration with students.  Illustrating the activity the teacher had the students get down on the ground and do the exercise.  The teacher “tapped” one student on the lower back to correct his form and positioning.  Within hours the parent was claiming abuse, inappropriate touch and spanking.

My advice to the organization is that all incidences should be documented and parents should be notified.  As soon as the child said “ouch you hit me”, personnel should document the claim.  We should take the lead in contacting Child and Family Services seeking their guidance and advice when a parent or child voices an allegation of harm or abuse.  We should also include in our training a caution that children and parents have different definitions of abuse, so personnel should be very careful when guiding children and youth that in activities that involve touch. As it relates to the Drama Camp, when an external investigation begins by police or Child and Family Services, you must leave the investigation to the experts and not conduct an internal investigation that could influence the external investigation.  Employees and volunteers should be removed from programming (prohibited from having access to children or youth) until they are cleared of any and all charges.  Organizations should cooperate with those conducting the external investigation.

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January 2014 Case Study - Investigations & Reporting and Response

When Pastor Jon found out about the inappropriate behaviour of one of his church youth group volunteers, he could not stay silent. This man was involved in various capacities at the church, including youth trips that required chaperones. Although the church alerted the authorities about the individual at the beginning of the year, the police decided there was not enough information to lay a charge and closed the case in June. They suggested the man’s actions were "inappropriate, but not actionable".

The leadership of the church was not satisfied with the closure of the official investigation. They decided to do their own investigation. They suspended the volunteer from church-related activities beyond attending services while there in-house investigation was underway.

The internal investigation resulted in close to a dozen males coming forward to accuse the volunteer of sexual abuse, starting as early as 25 years prior. At the time of the alleged abuses, the victims ranged in age from pre-teens to teenagers. With this new information, the church reported back to the police who decided there was now sufficient grounds enough to pursue further investigation, arrest and a conviction. 

Lessons learned from this case study:  

I was pleased to see that the leaders of this church initially reported their suspicions and concerns to the local Child Protection Agency and police.  Initially they did not do their own investigation and waited to hear the outcome of the official investigation.  As we teach in our seminars on Reporting and Response, reports should be immediate, direct and on going; meaning that nothing should hinder or delay persons from reporting abuse, the individual who either hears the allegation or has the suspicion of abuse must be the one who makes the report.  They should not rely on anyone else to report on their behalf.  This allows the investigator to gather pertinent details from the first hand observer and prevent any delay in the commencement of the investigation. Individuals also have an ongoing obligation to make a further report if new or additional information comes to light.  

One of the lessons we learn from this case study, is that the outcome of the initial reporting may not end up with the outcome we expect.  The initial investigation by police did not verify abuse and so the case was closed. That is why it is very important to report new information and concerns to the authorities if it becomes available.

In this case study, the church leaders were not satisfied with the outcome of the external investigation.  We don't know all the details of this situation, but perhaps additional inappropriate behaviour was observed, or the church leaders were not satisfied a thorough investigation was done.  Whatever the reason, persistence and concern revealed the truth and individuals came forward with stories of their own abuse resulting in a new investigation, arrest and conviction. Crimes had been committed and the victims of abuse were able to be provided care and hopefully find healing. 

Please, do not do your own investigation as it could compromise a professional investigation, court case and testimony.  The professionals have the specialized training in interviewing children and adults and in conducting forensic interviews. Continue to report your concerns and suspicions to the police and to your local Child Protection Agency.  You can consult with the Authorities about the things to be looking out for that might be reportable.

In this case both Police and Child Protection Agencies were involved.  In many jurisdictions child protection and police work together to investigate serious physical and sexual abuse. Their roles are different in the investigations.  Police are investigating to determine if a criminal offence has occurred and child protection workers are investigating to ensure the safety, well-being and protection of the child.

In this case study the church leaders suspended the volunteer from church related activities beyond attending services during their investigation.  We would agree with this position.  If you have concerns about the interaction and behaviour of any volunteer /staff you should be confronting them about their behaviour and even removing them from their service if concerns persist. You do not need a charge or verification of abuse to do so.  It can be part of a disciplinary process. 

Remember wise words from Don Hepburn, Plan to Protect® Protection Specialist, Trainer and Advisory Board Member, (Retired Branch Director, CAS Toronto), "I would rather report and be wrong, than not report and be right."

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February 2014 Case Study - Financial Discretion and/or Abuse of the Elderly

Mrs. Robinson was an elderly woman who lived in her own home. She had the support of a homemaker that would come by a few hours each day.   The wife of the Minister of the church was an attentive friend who took her shopping, cooked meals and took her to doctors’ appointments. One day the minister called requesting an "urgent" home visit from the case manager of Community Care. He indicated that his wife reported that a boarder had moved into Mrs. Robinson’s basement and Mrs. Robinson did not know who he was or how he had come to be there. Her long lost "daughter" had also surfaced. At the same time as these two people appeared, a pension cheque, tea service and other valuable items were missing. This puzzle took months to put together. Eventually the Community Care Case Work discovered pieces of the puzzle - both of them unexpected. The minister had power of attorney for the client and was going to inherit a substantial amount of money. In addition, they had "borrowed" $10,000 from this woman and was attempting to pay it back with services rendered.

We were called by the Chairman of the Board of the Church who learned details of the Minister’s involvement and loan after the fact.  He called Plan to Protect® to ask what policies the church should put in place to avoid a conflict of interest in the future or an accusation of abuse.   

Lessons learned from this case study:

Our organizations have invested time and resources into having child and youth protection policies in place.  It is as important to have policies in place for the care of Vulnerable Adults.  The definition of a vulnerable adult is a person who 18 years of age or older, because of his/her age, a disability or other circumstances, whether temporary or permanent, is in a position of dependence on others or is otherwise at a greater risk than the general population of being harmed by a person or persons in Positions of Trust or authority relative to him/her.

Along with the forms of abuse that children and youth encounter, (physical, emotional, sexual and neglect), vulnerable adults can easily be subject to financial abuse.   

The principles for mitigating risk with children are similar with vulnerable adults.  We encourage organizations to include in their policies guidelines for screening those that work with vulnerable adults.  The screening procedures would be similar to those working with children and youth and those working in leadership and staff roles.  Protection procedures would include but not be limited to travelling in teams of two unrelated adults, avoiding isolation, completing incident reports, and reporting to police suspected crimes against vulnerable adults.  Organizations such as churches may wish to include policies in their staff handbook, or in their protection policies, a restriction or guidelines on taking on roles of Power of Attorney, borrowing money from clergy members and serving in roles of Executors of Estates.   

In situations like this, policies are always a friend not a foe!  Policies protect the organizations and protect staff, volunteers and constituents.

At the current time Plan to Protect® does not include a module on protecting vulnerable adults. We do however offer consulting services and policy writing services and training for organizations that work with vulnerable adults.  For more information contact us at info@plantoprotect.com.

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March 2014 - Restrictions on Convicted Pedophiles

A convicted pedophile was recently released from jail with probation restricting him from being in close proximity to children.  His wife continued to believe that he was wrongly accused.  She is a school teacher, and during the winter months found it difficult to take the city transit to and from school. One week this winter, she asked her husband to pick her up from school, due to the terrible weather. When a few parents recognized him in the school parking lot, they called law enforcement, he was re-arrested for breaking his parole.  The parents also started picketing the school demanding the teacher (wife of the convicted pedophile) be removed from the staff of the school, believing she let her guard down, placing their children at risk and was not acting in the best interests of the students.  With legal advice, she was temporarily suspended, and has since been transferred to a desk job in the school district office.   

This story brings to mind a number of phone calls we have received recently from our faith members who are striving to protect the children but also questioning how to accommodate convicted pedophiles attending church services, wanting to come into membership or serve within the church.  

Lessons learned from this case study: 

  1. Often convicted pedophiles who have recently been released from jail do have restrictions and terms of their parole.  Some of these terms may include a restriction or distance they must stay from children and children's programs, schools and parks; 
  2. Spouses could let their guard down and place children at risk; 
  3. Parents are very protective of their children, rightly so, and will demand leadership to do everything they can to protect their children; 
  4. The individual was re-arrested, and his sentence was extended, and legal counsel and the Board disciplined the teacher, resulting in consequences of temporary suspension of teaching and a desk job assignment.  

At Winning Kids® we strongly recommend organizations consider the following steps when dealing with individuals who have a history of crime against children:  This may be someone who has been accused and convicted of crimes against children who is attending your services or has access to children through family members that are volunteers or staff of your organization.   

  1. Carefully screen all volunteers who are being considered for leadership roles, or would have any access to children or youth; 
  2. Identify levels of risk and access to the vulnerable sector within all activities of your organization including Bus drivers, worship leaders, greeters, kitchen staff, photographers and videographers; and
  3. Develop an Offender's Covenant between all parties inviting them to participate in public services but committing to the following: 
    • Transparency with all conditions and status of the parole including a joint meeting with the parole officer; 
    • Refraining from contact with children and minors while attending services; 
    • Restricting access of the convicted pedophile from volunteering, chaperoning or participating in events that involve high enrolment children or youth;
    • Restriction to befriend families within the organization that have children/youth under 16yrs old; 
    • Transporting youth or children as part of the programming of the organization; 
    • Increased supervision and accountability and family members that are screened volunteers/staff; 
    • Having a minimum of two agreed upon persons who are "covenant partners" .... At least one of these individuals will accompany this individual at all times when on the property of the organization;
    • On-going counselling and progression reports; and
    • Clear understanding that information of the conviction will be shared on a need to know basis, along with notifying other community partners (I.e. Church transfers if they relocate).
  4. Share information on a need to know basis only 

For more information and a sample Offender's Covenant we recommend you purchase Smart Justice (Predator-Proof Your Family Series #8) by Diane Roblin-Lee. Available on our website:  CLICK HERE

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April 2014 - Screening of Candidates From Overseas

A client called to ask how to manage screening on an individual who would be teaching Jr. High age students.  The candidate had been working in Asia as a school teacher for a number of years and the client was concerned that the Canadian Criminal Record Check would not be valid considering he had not been living in Canada. Our recommendation is to conduct an overseas Criminal Record Check where the candidate has been working.  The client was reluctant to do this because of the cost.  Under the umbrella of Plan to Protect®, clients can access Criminal Record Checks from many countries worldwide through the agreement we have with SterlingBackcheck.  The cost for the Criminal Record Checks varies based on the country.  It is well worth the cost though as Criminal Record Checks are an important component of screening.  Do not depend solely on the Criminal Record Check as applications, interviews, references, training, supervision and evaluation are also important aspects of a comprehensive screening process. 

This week in the news was the story of a former Canadian school teacher who spent five years in a Thai prison for sexually abusing children.  Christopher Paul Neil taught in Asian countries before being first arrested in 2007.  He served for five years and returned to Canada in 2012.  He was allowed to return to Canada under strict conditions but has been arrested again for ten new charges.  He pleaded guilty to breaching a condition last year after police found him with a laptop in breach of his conditions.

I continue to be concerned that clients may be taking short cuts in screening and training.  In our training sessions, we encourage you to follow the policies set out by your organizations, and to take the necessary steps (even if it involves additional cost) to fully screen and train your staff and volunteers.  An international Criminal Record Check may prove to be critical in screening the "Christopher Paul Neil’s" from having access to your children or youth.  A Canadian Criminal Record Check may turn up CLEAR, however, if a candidate has worked internationally, you may be made aware of convictions internationally.  An internet search may also reveal information or allegations against individuals who have served internationally.  In the past, it was all too common to dismiss individuals from positions of trust when allegations were made and no formal charges were made.  An internet search will broaden your screening and open your eyes to issues of concern.

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May 2014 - Reporting of Historical Abuse

A client called Plan to Protect®, voicing her concern that she felt she had a duty to report child abuse that had happened 13 years previously, but her Supervisor instructed her not to report. 

Our client was mentoring a young woman in her late 20’s who had been abused by a family friend.  At the time nothing had  been reported, the girl’s parents knew about the abuse but did not want to draw attention to what had happened.  Their hope was that it would be forgotten.  At the age of 28, the young woman had not quickly forgotten and was dealing with painful memories from the trauma and was impacting her relationships.  Striving to cope with the pain from the abuse, she found comfort in coping with the pain through substance abuse.  She came to my client, confiding about the abuse because she had recently heard that the male that had abused her had recently become a foster parent to three young girls.  Needless to say, she was concerned about the girl’s safety.  

My client knew she had a responsibility to encourage the young woman to report the abuse and voice her concern about her abuser becoming a foster parent.  She told her employer that she wanted to report the abuse! Her employer told her that she was not to report, “don’t get involved, it was many years ago.  It may hurt relationships with people in our community if they think we will report abuse when they confide in us.” 

I received the phone call at this point in the story, when she tearfully said, “I feel I have a duty to report this abuse even though it was year’s ago.  However, I am being told not to report!  What should I do?” 
 
These calls come in more times than you can imagine.  Year’s ago policies were written stating that teachers must report abuse to Principal/Administrator, Sunday School teachers to the Church Pastor/Priest, camp counsellors to the camp director, etc.  However, the most important law in Canada that relates to child protection is provincial Acts of Child Protection.  Though they are provincial statutes, what is common among all of them is the Duty to Report!  The law states that it is the duty for everyone in Canada to report if a child is in need of protection. Though professionals may have an elevated duty (they can be fined and imprisoned) all of society has a duty to directly report the abuse.  It is also an immediate duty to report abuse or suspicions of abuse.  

What we learn from this case study:

From this case study, we can be reminded  again that we have a legal duty to report abuse ourselves.  We must revise child protection policies to remove reference that would hinder or delay reporting of abuse, or that the reporting must be made by someone in a leadership position.  The reporting can be done with another person, but nothing should delay the reporting I.e., Board meeting, an internal investigation, or the availability of another person. We strongly recommend that you include a statement in your policy that would restrict any interference in reporting.  Plan to Protect® recommends the following wording:  “No persons, including organizational leadership, are to assume the function of assessing, substantiating or investigating the need for intervention or interpretation of suspected child abuse.  The organization and its individuals must avoid any undue interference when a report of child abuse has been filed with the Department of Social Services or the police….”  Also, one could interpret that the abuse happened year’s ago and she is now an adult.  However, as there is no statute of limitations on child abuse, the victim now has found her voice to report the abuse.  Also, the individual whom she is claiming abused her is in a position of trust with other minors (as a foster parent).  

In conjunction with our Advisory Council, we counselled our client to immediately report the abuse. A conference call was initiated by her employer who was still reluctant to report but with additional input that we were able to contribute, agreed to the report. A report was made!

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June 2014 - Immunizations

A client recently called to tell us one of the children in their pre-school program has Hepatitis B. The mother of the child, who is an active volunteer in the pre-school program, also has Hepatitis B. The mother is refusing treatment. 

The question was asked should the child be allowed to continue in the program and should they allow volunteers with known communicable diseases to volunteer? Here are our recommendations based on our Health and Safety policy, and additional information on Universal Blood Pathogens, and input from the Public Health Agency of Canada


In Plan to Protect® we recommend that any child who is ill and could therefore expose others to illness not be admitted into the program. In this scenario, the virus is spread through the blood and body fluids. Extra care is to be taken when dealing with universal blood pathogens. In the case of a cut or injury involving blood, no other children or personnel are to have contact with any of the blood from the cut or injury, so special care must be taken. 

In relation to the above scenario, one of the Parish Nurses we consulted with said:

My first initial response is if they have acute Hepatitis B it is a reportable communicable disease to the public health unit and they should be receiving information and counselling from the public health unit. It may cause serious liver damage or cancer. Immunization is something that you get before you have hepatitis and is not treatment for it. The Doctor might have wanted to provide treatment with immune globulin. Universal precaution should be used with wearing of gloves by volunteer and staff if they are handling stool, urine, blood, or body fluids. Good hand washing technique is necessary. I would suggest that they call their local health unit or go in and get information from the public health nurse. People with Hepatitis B have a responsibility to educate themselves to know what they can safely do without infecting other people. During the active stage or if it becomes chronic they need to take precautions to protect others from their body fluids. Vaccination with TwinRix should be encouraged for family and others as a preventative measure.

A document from the Public Health Agency of Canada is helpful on this topic.  CLICK HERE

If there is a breakout, some basic steps/guidelines to follow (as suggested by the Public Health Agency of Canada) are:

  1. Inform all parents of any kind of break out of a disease or contagious illness;
  2. Request that all children who have not been vaccinated stay home from the programs until such time as the break out has been cleared;
  3. Any child who is showing signs or symptoms should not be admitted into the programs, until they have been seen by their doctor and cleared of any disease, or contagious illness;
  4. Any child with the contagious disease or illness should not be admitted back into the programs until they are treated and the doctor has declared that they are no longer contagious.

I do not believe that a church can restrict access if someone is not vaccinated.  You could ask for a Doctor’s note (legal exemption form either medical or conscience or a Religious Belief Affidavit), but you could be taken to court for discrimination if you made it a requirement.  I do think that it would be wise to notify parents that there are children that are not vaccinated, and how critical it is to restrict access to programs if a child is ill.  

I would recommend you consult your local Public Health Agency and follow the recommendations from Plan to Protect®, Health and Safety Policy. 


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July 2014 - Inappropriate Games 

When Ross arrived at work on Monday morning, he saw the message light flashing on his telephone.  He called in to pick up messages, and there were two calls that had been left, one on Friday evening and one early Monday morning.  The call on Friday night was from a mother of two siblings (Bobby and Brianna) that were registered at Day Camp.  The mother was agitated and said that her children had revealed to them at supper some of the games that had been played at Day Camp.  According to the kids the summer staff had been playing “Fear Factor” with the campers.  The Dares had escalated to grotesque activities including drinking out of the port-a-potty, running around camp in their underwear, sucking Kool-Aid out of the counsellor’s belly buttons and licking in between the counsellors toes.  Needless to say, the mother was upset.  She had called other parent’s of children that were registered at the Day Camp and together they were calling Child and Family Services (Children’s Aid) to report the camp and the counsellors.  Ross then listened to the second message on the machine.  This call was from a Case Worker with Child and Family Services.  They called to say they wanted to meet Ross within the hour at the camp setting. Ross jumped in his car and drove to the camp location to meet the case worker.  He was greeted by the teen staff members that were running the Day Camp.  They had no idea why they had visitors coming to the camp on a Monday morning. 

What we learn from this case study: 

In hearing this story, we learned that the parents of Bobby and Brianna had casually asked their children what they had done at Day Camp.  The children answered by saying they were not allowed to tell what happened at Day Camp, “What happens at Day Camp stays at Day Camp” they rhymed off together. This was not an answer the parents were willing to hear.  They pressed their children for details about the day and the games they played.  When they called around to other camper families the information, they heard was confirmed.  Parents were irate, and they tried to call the Day Camp to report to Ross but when the office was closed on a Friday night they immediately called Child and Family Services.  They also called the local newspaper.  

We also learned that the children at the camp loved playing the game, and they considered it exciting. They had even begged the counsellors to play.  

The team at Plan to Protect® was called in to provide consulting and auditing services to examine the existing policies, training, job descriptions  that were in place.  Over the course of the next year, we also assisted in writing new job descriptions, and recruitment and screening procedures to identify the competencies needed to provide leadership and supervision of summer day camp staff.  

This case study reminds me of the importance of our key principles and guidelines for protection.  These guidelines have been adapted from Reducing the Risk.  Summer day camps, residential camps, retreats, sports camps are all elevated risk activities.  

As risk increases supervision should increase.  Young people make great summer staff for these programs.  However, youth need adult supervision.  Ratios should be adjusted for high risk activities.  We recommend a minimum of 2 leaders for every 10 campers.  

Risk increases when isolation increases.  Avoid isolation, always have two adult leaders or adult supervision on-site.  

Risk increases when accountability and adherence to policies decrease.  When we worked with this client in identifying key competencies needed for their summer staff, we sought out individuals who were mature, responsible and respected by their peers and those in leadership.  We also sought out individuals who demonstrated an understanding and knowledge of policies and could envision the consequences that would occur if policies were not adhered to. We also noted no one felt accountable to parents (campers were told not to tell their parents what had happened at camp) and counsellors were afraid to be whistleblowers on their team members who were not adhering to policies.  

Risk increases when there is an imbalance of power, authority, influence and control.  In this case study, there was an imbalance of power, and the campers held it.  They successfully influenced the summer staff who were not much older than they were in playing games that put their health and safety at risk.  We recommend a five year age difference between the personnel and the children or youth that are in the program.  The less mature counsellors willingly agreed to play the game.  Other counsellors that were reluctant were influenced not to say anything.   

The demonstration of due diligence is maintaining good documentation.  There was a Program Plan and Agenda in place for the camp but after an investigation and audit had been conducted, it was apparent the summer staff had ignored the program plan and agenda.  When leadership looked back at the Log for the day of the activities and incidents, the game Fear Factor was not listed.  

In the months following this incident, the community all became aware of the allegations and activities that had happened at the camp.  It made the front page in local newspapers; enrollment and revenues were impacted, and the reputation of the camp took a great hit. Lawsuits were filed against the camp and the counsellors.  Today the camp is probably one of the safest camps in the community as they have learned the difficult way to ensure the staff, training, policies and procedure are all in place to ensure safety is their number one value.  Let’s all learn from their story, so history is not repeated.

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September 2014 - Lack of Staff/Volunteers

Kristen called me a few weeks ago, she asked if she could have a moment of my time.  She was a volunteer director for the Nursery in the parish where she was a member.  It was her responsibility to not only to recruit and screen the nursery workers, but also to ensure that the nursery was equipped with volunteers, furniture, toys and resources.  She was also responsible for the cleaning and sanitizing of toys.  
During the summer she found it very difficult to recruit enough workers.  She had made dozens of phone calls, but she could not secure the help she needed.  She shared with me how she had brought her concerns before the Parish Council and Pastors referencing the church policy that was in place that supported her concerns.  She had suggested that for a few weeks they post a sign on the nursery saying it would be closed due to lack of staff.  However, she was informed by Parish leadership that that was not an option, they must offer nursery each week.  
Kristen ended up working alone many Sundays.  Some Sundays she told me there were 8 infants and babies in the nursery and she was alone.  One Sunday a mother had dropped off her three year old son and her eight week old infant.  Kristen had another seven children in the nursery and again she was on her own in the room.  
That Sunday had been a disaster for Kristen.  The three year old (who was actually too old for the nursery but the mother wanted the two children together) was driving the riding cars at ‘high speeds’ around the nursery, banging into young children, knocking over furniture and causing little ones to cry.  The worse incident was when a two year  old girl leaned over and bit the 8 week old infant on the cheek.  Kristen had no where to turn.  There was no one else in the Nursery caring for the children, no one she could send to notify the parents, no phone in the classroom, nor was there a hall monitor on duty. Kristen was at her whits end. At the end of the day, by the time she released the children from the nursery, cleaned up the toys, she was the last person to leave the building.  
On Monday morning Kristen called me, asking for advice on how she could communicate her concerns to her pastor and to the Parish Counsel.  


What we learn from this case study: 

There are many issues wrong in this case study.  
Many times this summer I have heard stories similar to Kristen’s.  Understaffed programs, in need of more volunteers and staff, and organization leadership placing unreasonable demands on their committed volunteers. It is better for an organization not to hold a program than to put the children and youth in their care at risk.  Ensuring that your organization is a safe place for children is a legal requirement.  
 
My recommendation to Kristen was to notify church leadership of her concerns in writing.  I also recommended that she only allow the number of children in the nursery that reflected the recommended ratios.  Once the nursery was full, she would communicate to parents that the nursery was full.  I communicated to Kristen the risks she was facing herself if she continued to not follow church policy, even though church leadership was ignoring policy.  
This case study supports the importance of training for volunteers and staff.  Also, this case study supports the importance for organization leaders to annually review policies, conduct policy audits and gap reviews. 
Organizations have a responsibility to demonstrate duty of care to their volunteers.  Duty of Care is a legal "concept that identifies the relationship that exists between two persons (e.g. two individuals, an individual and an organization) and establishes the obligations that one owes the other, in particular the obligation to exercise reasonable care with respect to the interests of the other, including protection from harm. The duty of care arises from the common law, as well as municipal, provincial, federal and international statutes."

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November 2014 - Communicating With Youth Outside of Scheduled Programs

A mother called us and said she noticed one night at midnight that the light was still on in her daughter’s bedroom.  She knocked gently and opened the door and found her daughter propped up on her bed, eyes fixed on her laptop. She was only wearing her baby-doll pajamas.  When she instructed her daughter to go to bed and shut off her computer and light, her daughter told her she was meeting with her teacher on Skype planning a social justice project.  Mom was enraged as she felt she had caught her daughter’s teacher in bed with her 14-year-old.  

What we learn from this case study:  

Parents and organization leaders … we can’t emphasize enough the importance of closely supervising the activities of caregivers and teachers.  We can’t emphasize enough the importance of having strong policies in place setting in place parameters for when and how staff and volunteers can communicate with students outside of program hours.  We can’t emphasize enough the importance of annual training to communicate your policies. Strive for the highest standard of protection of your children and youth. 

Our recommendations for policies, include: securing parental written permission to communicate with youth outside of programs; that leaders are to copied on the text, or that communication be posted on a public wall or group page. We also would recommend that your restrict personnel from texting and online communication with Youth via Social Media to daytime hours (8:00am-11:00pm) and that Online communication will not involve video messaging (Facetime, Skype, etc) in any form, unless it is a training post or conference call approved by leadership.*

Dr. Robert Shoop, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus, Kansas State University, is a nationally recognized forensic expert in the area of legal issues, with a focus on sexual harassment and abuse prevention, employment law and risk management. He is the former director of the Cargill Center for Ethical Leadership, and founder of Kansas State University's School of Leadership Studies. He has served as a forensic expert in over 100 educator abuse cases. He recently reviewed a new book that is soon to be released by author, Andrea Clements "Invisible Target".  

“Invisible Target is an important book. It is an honest and compelling memoir that takes the reader inside the mind of a young girl who was molested by her teacher and vividly describes the psychological and physical trauma she overcame to tell her story. It embodies the triumph of the human spirit.

In the past most targets of educator abuse have been unable to tell their stories. Some were convinced that they were at fault, that they will not be believed, or they were unable to talk about the horror they experienced. Andrea describes how her teacher groomed her, how the abuse began, and how she found the courage to share her story. Invisible Target will help other youngsters in similar situations know they are not alone.

Tragically, Andrea's story is not an aberration. Hundreds of teachers are molesting hundreds of children on a daily basis in our nation's schools. Although the topic is obviously very disturbing and disheartening, Andrea's story is one of hope.”

Watch for the upcoming release of Andrea’s book. 

* We provide policy writing as a service at Plan to Protect®.  Email us at info@plantoprotect.com to request a quote.

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February 2015 - Investigations

A higher education university recently contacted me to ask how they should handle historical abuse within their institution.  Since the alleged abuse occurred, the Board and Administration had turned over numerous times.  New policies and procedures had been put in place during the past decade.  The abuse had occurred in the 1960’s – 1980’s. 

The organization’s leaders were now divided on how to proceed.  A number of the Board members felt that they were not responsible because there were different laws and leadership in place at the time of the abuse. Other Board members felt they did indeed have a responsibility to discover if the abuse took place. 

What do we learn from these incidences:

Often the abuse is not reported or discovered until years after the abuse occurred.  Disclosed abuse allegations, even when it is years later, can cause significant harm to an organization’s reputation.

We would recommend you consult with your insurance company and legal counsel immediately when abuse allegations arise.  They in turn can speak to the action steps you could take.  In some States and Provinces, there is no Statute of Limitations as it relates to child abuse.  If there is no Statute of Limitations in place, the organization can still be held liable for the abuse, and the accused can still be convicted in a court of law.

Plan to Protect® recommends that you report all abuse claims to Child and Family Services and/or the police.  We also recommend that once an official investigation takes place by child protection workers or the police, that the organization considers conducting their own External Investigation.  During an investigation, the organization will discover and determine the scope of the abuse as it may impact the relationship you have with the alleged individual i.e. position and/or pension. Also, an External Investigation will provide the organization an objective and thorough investigation of the allegations and injuries and provide facts and recommendations. 

The dictionary defines an investigation as:
1. The act or process of investigating.
2. A detailed inquiry or systematic examination

During an investigation, the organization will work with the Investigators and legal team to determine:

  • What policies/guidelines apply to this situation?
  • What is the Institution’s obligation? (Legal / Moral / Spiritual
  • How have similar incidents been handled in the past?
  • What interim action (such as a suspension or duty to report) is necessary?
  • What legal duty to report was and is in place?
  • Does the potential for further harm or violence exist?
  • What special expertise do you need?
  • Who will Investigators interview?
  • What questions will Investigators ask?

Critical questions that the organization will need to determine are:

  • Will you keep the outcomes and report confidential? 
  • How will you manage the report?


The following steps are often taken when an investigation takes place:

  1. Identify and announce the Investigation team – secure buy-in
  2. Agree on the scope and sequence
  3. Communicate how the findings will be unveiled
  4. Gather pertinent documentation and a list of witnesses
  5. Conduct Interviews / Document Quotes / Record testimony
  6. Assess Credibility
  7. Review reference material
  8. Determine Interim Action
  9. Identify Standard of Proof
  10. Write Report with Facts and Recommendations

Plan to Protect® does not provide the service of taking the LEAD in conducting External Investigations into historical abuse as we do not have the expertise to interview victims or alleged perpetrators.    We are, however, qualified to work with an Investigation Team by examining the policies and procedures that were in place at the time the abuse occurred.  If you are interested, we do have a list of Investigators that do have the training and expertise to provide this service. 

The cost of an External Investigation can easily cost well in excess of $100,000.  Some investigations of historical abuse can be significantly higher. 

At Plan to Protect® we are all about prevention and protection.  Look at the big picture and let us do everything in our power today to prevent abuse so that generations to come will never have to investigate abuse that happened during our watch.  

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June 2016 - Gender Identity

A four-year-old, attends pre-school dressed as a boy, wearing nail polish and pink and purple clothes. He tells his teachers, “I’m a girl”. 

The teachers initially smile, and nod politely.  Over the course of the year the clothes become more feminine and the child requests that you change their name and the pronouns you use. The child refuses to use the boy’s bathroom.

The staff have mixed responses.  Older staff members want to put their feet down and mandate that the child use the boy’s bathroom, which is the gender of their birth.  Younger staff, are allowing the accommodation and providing access to the girl’s bathroom.  Some of the children are bullying the student.  Tension is building among the staff and now parents of the other students are anxious, and calling for a town meeting on the issue and demanding that the Pre-School do something about this. 

What are your initial thoughts and beliefs?
Review your current child protection policies and procedures. 
Are there any policies and guiding principles within your policies and procedures to help form your decision? 
What legislation, laws, human rights, are in place that you must follow? 
As schools, camps, churches, community centers, what should our response be?  Are we prepared for situations like this?
Who is ultimately responsible for this decision as to what bathroom and change room the child should use?

Our learnings:

Any educator would recognize that children that age often try on different roles, and some parents, teachers, and religious leaders try to talk the child out of it.

This is not just a passing thing - for many children and adults this is who they wish to be, and believe it is who they are. 

We understand that there are private schools and public school districts in Canada and United States that have strict policies in place mandating what bathroom students must use. 

Whether we agree or disagree, the government calls on us to ensure we are not discriminating or harassing an individual. More recently, ‘gender identity’ has been added to the list of human rights (meaning an individual’s gender identity is determined not by the gender of their birth, but the self-identify and of the individual). 

At Plan to Protect® our vision and mission is to create safe environments for the vulnerable sector.  Safety for all, not just the majority, or the one’s we feel comfortable with.

Over the course of the past year we have attended seminars, read books, consulted with lawyers, politicians and child development and child protection experts on this issue.  What I am convinced of is that all children need protection, including this four-year-old.  Children need to be valued and loved! Children need to be welcomed! All children need to feel safe.

Without knowledge and education, we can be gripped with fear as society changes. Are your program personnel, Administrators, Teachers, leadership ready to manage this issue without harassing and discriminating, judgment and condemnation? Will you create an environment of welcome and grace? Policies need not be negative and restrictive.  We should be updating our policies, procedures and training to ensure that your organization is on one page.  Establish policies, procedures and training that are reflective of your vision and mission, and the laws within your Province and/or State.

For more training on the topic of Human Rights and Gender Identity/Expression see https://plantoprotect.schoolkeep.com/catalog

Also read our blog entry on the topic. 

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September 2016 - Refugee Settlement - Fighting the System!   

Ivan is passionate about refugees and new immigrants! Ivan and his family immigrated to Canada 15 years ago from Russia. He has a heart for new immigrants and is excited your organization has agreed to sponsor a new refugee family. He can't wait to serve on your refugee settlement committee and he was one of the very first individuals to volunteer to assist with hospitality and driving. Ivan has been living in your community since he immigrated 15 years ago and he definitely knows his way around. When he heard your organization was going to sponsor a family he offered to do a training with the rest of the volunteers on some of the challenges of immigration and cultural differences.

As a constituent group your insurance company is requiring you put new policies and procedures in place, however, you hear Ivan's ticked. He feels the policies and procedures will restrict the support he can provide to a new family. He angrily explains that restrictive policies fail to acknowledge the education and capabilities these individuals have - just because they are refugees doesn't mean they are vulnerable. Ivan decides to ignore the policies and refuses to follow them.

Our learnings:

There has been pushback when refugees are identified as vulnerable persons. You only have to live in another country and not be able to speak the language fluently to recognize your own vulnerability in that situation. The refugee may be intelligent and well educated but due to the stress situation of perhaps living within refugee camps, moving across the world, living in a new culture, learning a new language and dependent on others can create a very vulnerable and precarious environment.  Having standard operating procedures ensures stability for all those involved. When we are able to communicate this to the refugee families, and your volunteers, we are helping everyone get on the same page and understand expectations.

Plan to Protect® has always been about caring for the oppressed and the vulnerable among us.  Though insurance has often been the motivator and the impetus for some organizations, the bottom line is how can we hold individuals accountable for their actions to ensure the safety of others.

As noble as someone’s motivation is to help others, the way to demonstrate your duty of care to your organization and leadership is to adhere to the policies and procedures put in place.  This does not mean you don’t trust your volunteers, it comes down to whether or not they care enough about your organization and the individuals that you are serving to lead by example and follow the policies and procedures put in place by the organization.

At some point, we must exercise tough love and recognize that individuals that are fighting the system, do not care enough that they will fall into line with what is being asked of them.

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November 2016 - Small Groups/Care Groups

Recently a concerned Minister called me.  As a church they hold Life Groups and Care Groups in congregant’s homes during the mid-week.  Families meet in small clusters one evening a week.  The groups provide the individuals opportunity to enjoy getting to know each other while sharing a meal, studying the Bible, and praying for each other’s needs, hurts and requests. After the meal, adults study together, while the children go downstairs and play together. 

The minister called me out of a conference I was attending, and told me that a seven-year old girl was sexually assaulted by a 14 year old boy at one of the Life Groups.  The parents were upstairs while the assault occurred.  The seven year old told her parents as they were tucking her into bed that evening.  The minister called me the next day.

Our Learnings:  

I wish I could tell you that over the course of the last ten years I have never had a phone call like this.  I actually have had a number of phone calls very similar to this.  Once again this is an example of how easily we can miss the importance and value of adult supervision by two screened adults.  Home Groups are a ministry of the church and abuse prevention protocals are essential for these activities. 

I also have seen too many leaders react with surprise when I raise the issue of Life Groups or small groups held in homes where abuse prevention strategies should also be in place.  If the program is an activity program of the church, school, organization, then your abuse prevention policies and prevention procedures should be applied to the situation. 

Yes, children abuse children, young people abuse children.  Fifty percent (50%) of the phone calls of abuse that we receive are in relation to young people that abuse children.  Often it is young people that are Jr. High (grades 6-9) age level.  The abuse includes voyereuism, touching, sexting, penetration, etc. 

We recommend that organizations servicing the vulnerable population make a list of all activities, programs and events where children, youth and vulnerable adults participate where they will be unsupervised at any time by a parent or guardian.  During this time, there should be two unrelated screened and trained adults supervising them.  If minors are caring for the children, they too should be screened and trained.  They should only be caring for children with another adult present and a secondary adult occassionally checking in on them.  Exceptions can be made if the minors are 16 or 17 years of age, and there are two of them providing the care, and an adult checks in on them throughout the program time.  They too though should be screened and trained in abuse prevention.

Sadly, abuse is often a learned behaviour.  One of the most tragic incidences we have heard over the couse of the last ten years is a 13 year old boy who sexually abused his four year old cousin.  Mom, was at home while her son abused his cousin in the same house.  However, mom was actually pre-occupied on a Webinar to become an Administrator of Plan to Protect®.  While she was learning how to prevent abuse, her son abused the young girl.  Bravely the family reported the abuse to the local police (wow, do I admire this family).  While the story was being told to the police the young teen disclosed that he too had been abused by a neighbour.  Thankfully, the abuse was brought out into the open so the four year old and the 13 year old could get counselling and care to overcome the impact of abuse.  Yes, abuse is a learned behaviour and if not dealt with swiftly and with care and counselling, can cause a life-time of pain, trauma and/or disfunction.  This is what Life Groups and Care Groups should be all about! Do you have a Plan to Protect the vulnerable during all of your programs and activities. 

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April 2018 - Children learning to take responsibility in school in England 

A junior school (7–11 years) in a particularly deprived area of England had been characterized by high levels of violence, disaffection, bullying and truancy. A new headteacher decided to involve the whole school community in making the school a safe and effective educational environment. She consulted with all the children, as well as teachers and administrative staff, on what changes were needed. The outcomes of the consultation included:

  • the establishment of a school council in which the children had genuine power; they were involved, for example, in the development of all school policies and in the recruitment of staff
  • regular ‘circle time’ where all the children in the class had an opportunity to discuss any issues of concern
  • the creation of a ‘bullying box’ where children could give information, in confidence, about having been bullied
  • the appointment of ‘guardian angels’ – children who volunteered to befriend children who were without friends, being bullied, or simply in need of support
  • the appointment of child mediators who would help children resolve conflicts in the playground. As a result of these changes, the children were happier, achieved better educational results, and acquired considerable skills of negotiation, democratic decision-making and social responsibility.

The experience demonstrated that young children are capable of accepting considerable levels of responsibility when invested with trust and support. Indeed, children can act to protect themselves and others when their rights are respected. The provision of training and encouragement for the child mediation system enabled the children to help each other without having to turn to adults, although adults were available if they were needed. By respecting and investing in children’s active engagement, the children acquired skills and confidence that would have been denied them in a more traditional and authoritarian environment.

What we learn from this: 

Plan to Protect® initiatives can include the vulnerable sector themselves. Consider adding children, individuals with disabilities, the Elderly to your Plan to Protect® team to speak into policies that need to be written. Provide opportunity to receive feedback from young people, parents and vulnerable adults when measuring the success of your abuse prevention and protection initiatives.  Plan to Protect® should be an initiative of the Board, but it should involve everyone across your organization. Only then will we be able to achieve a high standard of protection.

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August 2018 - High School Teacher - What Would You Do?

Case study comes from Professionally Speaking http://professionallyspeaking.oct.ca/september_2018/sept_2018_ENG_PS_2018_AODA.pdf

Samantha, a high school music teacher was reported throwing a ukulele across the class; calling a student “dumb”; and forcibly pushing a student’s finger into the string of a ukulele. Samantha denied throwing the ukulele across the classroom. She recalled that one day during class students were shouting and not paying attention. She removed a ukulele from a student’s hands, walked back to the front of the class and dropped the instrument on the floor. Samantha said she did so to get the student’s attention, but regretted that she did not respond differently. She then gave a warning to the student who was continuing to disturb the group by singing and shouting. Because of the student’s disruptive behaviour, Samantha said that she may have told her to “stop being dumb.” She denied that she forcefully pushed the student’s finger into the string of a ukulele. She explained that she used to place students’ fingers correctly on the strings as a part of her teaching practice, but that she had stopped after her school board raised concerns over this practice.

After an investigation the decision was made to discipline Samantha, who admitted that she now recognized the importance of using appropriate classroom management strategies to prevent this type of behaviour from escalating. If you were disciplining Samantha, what decision would you make:

  1. An admonishment in person;
  2. A written admonishment;
  3. A written caution;
  4. Written advice; or
  5. A written reminder.

Was this abuse?  Should it have been reported to child and family services?

The Ontario College of Teachers in this case reviewed the parties’ submissions and noted contradictory information pertaining to the first allegation. With regard to the second allegation, the panel stated that calling the student “dumb” was disrespectful, and decided to admonish her in writing for these two actions.

The disciplinary action policy that we have recently provided to members is so useful in situations where actions do not constitute abuse, but where action should be taken to clearly communicate that behaviour is unacceptable and not professional.

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November 2018 - Firing a Volunteer

Naomi and Ron were long time volunteers in their church.  Their greatest delight was serving in the church where they had grown up.  It was at this church where they had met, were married, where their children had been baptized, and where they had held their parent’s memorial services. Ron and Naomi had both served on the committee and leadership team for the mid-week youth program. 

When a new Executive Pastor was hired they were thankful the Senior Pastor now had the help he needed. However, Ron and the Executive Pastor had different opinions on how decisions would be made. The Executive Pastor began making decisions without the involvement of his committee. Ron defended his long time volunteers and valued their input.  Ron raised concerns, but the Executive Pastor ignored them. 

One evening Ron and Naomi were discussing these concerns when Ron received an email from the Executive Pastor indicating that his service was no longer needed in the program.  Ron and Naomi both viewed this as being fired after many years of service.  There was no warning and recognition for their service.  Ron and Naomi shared their feelings with their friends at the church.

When Ron raised concerns to the Executive Pastor, followed by the Lead Pastor and the Board, he was told that they had questions about Ron’s effectiveness and interaction with the other volunteers and the young people.  Both Ron and Naomi felt that the leadership were hinting that there had been some impropriety that had occurred and breach of confidentiality.  Ron and Naomi were devastated. After many attempts to be heard, they left the church, withdrew their membership and filed a lawsuit. 

What do we learn from this case study?

This case study is a compilation of a number of stories that we have been told at Plan to Protect®.  It concerns us that these stories result in staff and volunteers not being heard, harassed, wrongfully dismissed, an abrupt end to long-time service and a often times, lawsuit.

Both parties have a duty to care for each other.  The concept of duty of care identifies the relationship that exists between two persons; and establishes the obligations that one owes the other, in particular the obligation to exercise reasonable care with respect to the interests of the other, including protection from harm. The duty of care arises from the common law, as well as municipal, provincial, federal and international statutes.

Duty of care is a critical component of a plan to protect your staff and volunteers and your organization.

If you had an employee that you were dismissing, and you felt that you had just cause to dismiss them you would seek out legal counsel.  This same type of care should be taken if you have concerns about a volunteer.

Here are a few tips for demonstrating duty of care for volunteers and staff:

  • Establish a screening process which applies to your volunteers and staff members.
  • Develop position descriptions for each volunteer and staff role, including steps of screening, their roles and responsibilities, who they report to, requirement for adherence to policies, attendance at training, requirement to sign a code of conduct / covenant of care, and a confidentiality agreement. (Remember Duty of Care establishes the obligations that one owes the other – a two way street).
  • Provide orientation training for new staff, so they understand policies and procedures that are put in place and how to correctly raise concerns regarding staff and volunteer engagement.
  • Provide annual volunteer reviews and/or staff performance evaluations.  This will provide an opportunity for both parties to listen and address any concerns that arise. Don’t forget to keep notes and identify action items for all parties.
  • Establish a policy and procedure for disciplinary action including progressive steps of discipline.
  • Establish a policy and procedure for hearing complaints and appeals.
  • Seek out legal counsel or a third-party mediator if complaints are not swiftly resolved.

Our review, research, development and distribution of these recommendations was undertaken with great care.  However, we strongly recommend that you seek legal counsel as well as advice from your own insurance broker or insurance company so that they can provide written confirmation concerning the specifics of your own particular circumstances and requirements.  This recommendation is current as of the date of publication and does not constitute legal advice.

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