FAQs

Those who are striving to implement a safe environment for vulnerable sector individuals often voice similar questions. Perhaps you too have some questions. Let us know!  We continue to add to our list of FAQs.

Disclaimer:  The development, preparation and publication of this work has been undertaken with great care. However, the publisher, editors, employees and agents of Plan to Protect®, are not responsible for any errors contained herein or for consequences that may ensue from use of materials or information contained in this work. The information contained herein is intended to assist organizations in establishing policy. Plan to Protect® and references to the manual are only as current as the date of the publication and does not reflect subsequent changes in law. This information is distributed with the understanding that it does not constitute legal advice. Organizations are strongly encouraged to seek legal counsel as well as counsel from your insurance company when establishing a policy.  

FAQ Topics:

  1. Ratios
  2. Leadership Buy-In
  3. Plan to Protect® the Manual
  4. Facility Use/Rentals
  5. Off-Site Trips
  6. Insurance/Legal
  7. Reporting
  8. Screening and Training
  9. Social Media
  10. Criminal Record Check and Vulnerable Sector Screening
  11. Discipline
  12. Implementing/Upgrading Policies
  13. Plan to Protect® 101
  14. Disability Concerns
  15. Miscellaneous
  16. Vulnerable Adults
  17. Social/Human Rights Issues

 



Questions:

 

1. Ratios
1a) Q: If an organized activity runs short on screened helpers, is it OK for parents / caregivers to help out or can we also include other people connected to our organization to assist?
1b) Q:
As we lose volunteers temporarily to sickness and other circumstances, what do we do if we cannot meet our staff to vulnerable person ratio

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2. Leadership Buy-In
2a) Q: How do we work with our leadership if they do not feel the issue of abuse prevention is important or that we are blowing it out of proportion?
2b) Q:
Where do I even begin to deal with abuse prevention?

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3. Plan to Protect®
3a) Q: We've spent a lot of time working with Plan to Protect®. How do updates affect all of the work we have done to date?
3b) Q:
What’s new in this manual that’s different from the previous two versions of Plan to Protect®?
3c) Q:
How much freedom do we have to make changes to the volunteer application in Plan to Protect&reg manual?

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4. Facility Use/Rental
4a) Q: We are a small group in a rented facility i.e. school – how can we implement Plan to Protect®?
4b) Q: Who is responsible if we rent out our facility?
4c)
Q: What policies and procedures should we ask of individuals who wish to teach private music lessons within our facility? 
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5. Off-Site Trips
5a) Q: Why do you recommend that drivers for off-site or special events have a minimum 5 years of driving experience?
5b) Q: Is our organization liable for events that happen off-site?
5c) Q: How does Plan to Protect® affect small group settings that meet in homes or off-site property?
5d) Q: We are planning for our summer programs with retreats, offsite trips and camps. We will need volunteers to drive and would like to know what precautions we should take beforehand.

5e) Q: When transporting students via van or bus, there may be instances where the first student on and that last student off the van/bus would be in the vehicle alone with the driver. What kind of recommendations for protection would you have on this?

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6. Insurance/Legal
6a) Q: How much insurance do we require?
6b) Q: Can the insurance company withhold insurance if we do not comply to everything or if we do not comply to portions of the program?
6c) Q: Have you sought legal counsel for Plan to Protect®?
6d) Q: We talked to our police department, lawyer, insurance company and they have told us something different than you have in Plan to Protect®. Who do we believe?
6e) Q:  Is Plan to Protect® governed by provincial laws?
6f) Q: We are wondering about the legality of a volunteer/staff leader's young children attending events. We don't feel they should be attending, but aren't sure of our legal recourse to state that they should not be attending.
6g)
Q: What is the best way or time to inform our insurance company that we are using Plan to Protect®? Do we advise them that we are in the process of implementing Plan to Protect® or do I wait until everyone is trained and the policies are all in place?
6h) Q: Help! We have a person attending our church that has been convicted of a crime against a child.  What should we do? 
6i) Q: Should we avoid all high risk activities and play in our programs? 
6j) Q: What is “duty of care” and “standard of care” 

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7. Reporting
7a) Q: How do I determine reasonable grounds for reporting suspected abuse to the Department of Social Services?
7b) Q: At what point should we report abuse when we suspect inappropriate behaviour of a volunteer or staff member?
7c) Q:What are the consequences for failure to report (in Ontario)?
7d) Q: What would you do if another child was threatening the safety of the environment? For example, sexual comments to other children and leaders, as well as profanities. What is the policy here? What are the steps to take?
7e)
Q: Our Hall Monitors have asked us what exactly they should do if they walk in on an abusive situation - especially sexual abuse - where the perpetrator could run. Can you make suggestions on how they should respond?

7f) 
Q: What should a leader do if she/he is concerned that a parent is intoxicated/drunk when picking up a child or youth from a program?
7g) If we suspect a minor is self-harming what would be the proper action to take? Do we have a legal requirement to report our concern to their parents? 


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8. Screening and Training
8a) Q: Can you help us understand who should be screened and trained under Plan to Protect®?
8b) Q: We are constantly falling behind on our screening and training. How can we manage this properly?
8c) Q: Should the board or senior staff be placing staff and volunteers into positions of responsibility without going through the recruitment and screening process?
8d) Q: If we can’t do everything, what are the basic requirements we must do?
8e) Q: We have had some of our seniors volunteering for years – is it really necessary to have them go through the recruiting and screening process?
8f) Q: Do we need to ask all the questions on the Volunteer Application Form? The "Information about your ability to work with children and youth" questions are very personal and seem intrusive.
8g) Q: We have done our required Plan to Protect® training session for our staff & volunteers last year before camp. Is it really necessary to do it again even if they did it last year or can we just train the new recruits only?
8h) Q: Last week you held a webinar on the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service that meets the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) requirements. Does everyone that works with children, youth and vulnerable persons need to take this training? What if I missed this training?
8i) Q: Can we simply distribute our policies instead of conducting training?
8j) Q: Can we send a video/DVD home for training instead of holding a training program?
8k) Q: We have been informed by a caregiver that a personal care worker will be accompanying an individual with disabilities to our camp. Do we have a responsibility to screen and train the personal care worker?
8l) Q: I have a young man who left for a year to go to work with youth internationally and he's back and thinking about volunteering. Does he need to wait 6 months? I have a file for him already because he volunteered in the past.
8m) Q: Do my volunteers and staff need to have refresher training for Plan to Protect®
? If so, what should be included in the training?
8n) Q: In our policy, we expect volunteers to take training one time per year (initial Orientation training, and Refresher training every year after that). Today, I was told by one of our Program Leaders  that we should only be training our volunteers one time every three years. She feels like it is too much to ask our volunteers to attend training every year! What are the requirements we should be meeting for our personnel training?
8o) Q: We recruit young people to work with children!  What do we need to keep in mind and do they have to be screened and trained? 

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9. Social Media
9a) Q: Our personnel are asking if they can email the minors. Is this O.K?
9b) Q: Can we post pictures on the internet?
9c)
Q: We have campers and counselors bringing their cameras to camp, then posting pictures on Facebook and tagging the photos.  Can we control this on our end?  We would like to include a policy on photography for our camp policies. What would you advise?
9d) Q: Today young people use social media for communication and community building.  How can we use social media to engage our young people and still demonstrate care, accountability, and integrity?  

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10. Criminal Record Checks and Vulnerable Sector Screening
10a) Q: It seems like information regarding Criminal Record Checks are changing once again. I just heard about a new component called Local Notes and FIP - what are these and can we accept them as part of our screening?
10b) Q: It is too costly for our organization to do police records checks on all of our volunteers – what do you suggest?
10c) Q: Do we need to do police records checks? If so, how often do we need to do them?
10d) Q: Do we need to do a complete Vulnerable Sector Searches (VSSs)?  Is a Police Record Check (CPIC) adequate?
10e) Q: What is the definition of vulnerable sector?
10f) Q: A candidate has disclosed that they have a criminal record on their file.  What should we do?
10g) Q: We are receiving conflicting recommendations from the police, lawyers, Plan to Protect® and the insurance company about what to do with completed criminal record checks.  In one instance, the police are telling us to shred the Criminal Record Check while another police officer in the same jurisdiction is telling us to give the criminal record check back to the applicant, however Plan to Protect® is telling us to keep criminal record checks on volunteers and staff indefinitely. Who do we believe?
10h) Q: If someone was accused 20 years ago but never convicted or found guilty of a violent crime and then changed for the better, why do you recommend that they not be able to serve vulnerable sector individuals?
10i) Q: I hear that only 30% of organizations working with the vulnerable sector do Vulnerable Sector Searches (VSSs)?  Do we really need to do these?


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11. Discipline
11a) Q:  Many of the parents in our community discipline children with spanking. Some of them use objects to punish. What is reasonable force in punishment of children?
11b) Q: How do we handle a child who is disruptive and/or refuses to take verbal direction? Do you ever recommend physical punishment?
11c) Q: We have a child who has been diagnosed with Autism who is prone to outbursts.  There have been times during our programs that they have become physically and verbally abusive to other program attendees.  The caregiver has informed us that the individual needs to be restrained when they are like this, but we have been resisting this.  What are the standard protocols that we should follow?


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12. Implementing/Upgrading Policies
12a) Q: How often should we review and update our policies? Have we seen the last of the changes to the requirements that will be put into place for vulnerable sector protection?
12b) Q: We are concerned about putting policies in place. If we do, then we have to make sure we comply with them and we don’t know how we can do this; it's a lot of work. We are thinking it is better to not put the policies in place, than to have them and not comply with them. Isn’t that right?
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13. Plan to Protect® 101
13a) Q: Is it even possible to keep all the attendance forms and personnel files permanently?
13b) Q: We find it difficult to collect all the forms back from our people – any suggestions?
13c) Q: We don’t have paid staff for some of our programming – how do volunteers implement this program?
13d) Q: We implemented Plan to Protect® years ago but have not kept it up to date – how do we get back on track?
13e) Q: As a smaller organization, we know everyone who attends. Is all of Plan to Protect® really necessary?
13f) Q: What should the responsibilities be for the Plan to Protect® Coordinator? Do you have a job description?
13g) Q:  Is it true that most organizations only implement Plan to Protect® for their children’s programs and not their youth programming; or that Plan to Protect® is only designed for those up to the ages of 12 years old?

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14. Disability Concerns
14a) Q: How can we ensure our organization is doing everything we can to accommodate people with disabilities?
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15. Miscellaneous
15a)Q: Can the parents/caregivers sit in the program if they are not screened?
15b) Q: Is there an alternative to bleach for disinfecting and cleaning toys/games and counters?  We have concerns about using bleach.
15c) Q: Do you have guidelines or recommendations regarding inclement weather and outdoor activities?
15d) Q:  We ask our volunteers and staff to sign a Code of Conduct.  However, they are pushing back.  How can we explain the importance of signing this document?
15e) Q: I see in Plan to Protect® that you recommend that there be two unrelated screened adults in the classroom. To which family members does this refer?
15f) Q: Can we use staff/volunteers from other organizations to work our programs and substitute for our leaders/volunteers? We were hoping to do an all staff/volunteer event and would like to allow other community organizations to offer relief for our regular staff/volunteers?
15g) Q: If a potential volunteer/staff has a youth record, can we have access to that information?
15h) Q: How should we respond if we suspect or know of a vulnerable sector individual who is exposed to domestic violence?  How can we address domestic violence in our community?
15i) Q: We have community programs where there is no childcare provided, but parents bring their children and they are left on their own in our building while the program is being held. The children run around the building unsupervised. What responsibility does the organization have when this happens?
15j) Q: We have young people in our College & University groups who are still under the age of majority.  As they are graduates of High School, do we still have to apply the same standard of protection with screening and protection procedures, etc.?
15k) Q: We have 18 & 19 year olds in our youth programs who are taking a GAP year and still want to attend our retreats, activities and programs.  Can we allow them to attend our High School age programs, and what steps should we follow to maintain safety in our programs?
15l)
Q: Bullying is a problem among our students.  How should we handle bullying when we encounter it in our programming?  
15m)
Q: We have a zero-tolerance policy for bullying within our program.  How can we enforce this policy?
15n)
Q: Where can I find more information on bullying and cyber bullying?
15o) Q: In years past I have been taught through Plan to Protect® that men do not take either boys or girls to the washroom at all.  We do use hall monitors to help with escorting children to the washrooms. If I am correct about woman being the only ones to assist, if we only have male hall monitors on duty, can they go as the second adult, when escorting through the halls to the washrooms?
15p) 
Q: Our leadership just received notice from a family in our organization who has decided NOT to have their children vaccinated.  This raises some concerns as we have other children in our programs who have very weak immune systems.  Our executive director is thinking that some form of policy must be put in place, what are your thoughts regarding this issue?
15q) Q: What should our volunteers do if they have a student/individual that is threatening suicide?

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16. Vulnerable Adults

16a) Q: Do we need to include policies and procedures for the Elderly and Vulnerable Adults

16b)
Q: 
We have volunteers and staff visit shut-ins and the elderly.  When we arrive, the family member or caregiver has asked if they can run errands while we are there?  We are concerned that this will put us in a position of being alone or even being asked to provide personal care.  How should we respond in this situation and how can we provide a safe environment?

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17. Social/Human Rights Issues   
17a) Q: We have a Jr. High student that informed us he is transitioning. The student has asked not to use the male bathroom and change room, rather the female bathroom and change room.  Can we put a policy in place that states the student must use the bathroom of the gender of birth?
   
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Answers:
 


1. Ratios

1a) Q: If an organized activity runs short on screened helpers, is it OK for parents/caregivers to help out or can we also include other people connected to our organization to assist? 

A:  We recommend that you have a screened hall monitor observing the activity rooms and available if children/youth/vulnerable adults need supervision when going to the washroom.  We would strongly recommend that you manage your ratios according to Plan to Protect® with screened workers.  We do not recommend using  unscreened workers, even if they are parents/caregivers, because the children/youth/vulnerable adults may recognize them as individuals who they can trust.  Children/youth/vulnerable adults do not know the difference between screened workers or non-screened workers.

All individuals placed in a position of trust should be screened.  Adhere to ratios for supervision, and any exception to two unrelated screened, adult workers in the activity room would be cause to have the door open with a hall monitor acting as the second overseer.

You can use other people connected to your community in the activity room.  We would not encourage you to have them be alone in an activity room unless they are over 16 years of age. Even then the door should be left open and there should be a hall monitor.

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1b) Q: As we lose volunteers temporarily to sickness and other circumstances, what do we do if we cannot meet our staff to vulnerable person ratio?

A: Thinking ahead and screening additional staff will be helpful for these occasions.  It may be advantageous to have some ideas in your back pocket for needed open sessions where you combine all the children/youth/vulnerable adults  but even in this case you will need to maintain ratios.  The courts will hold you to the same level of protection and care even during the challenge of staff shortages.


1c) What's the big deal with ratios?

A: 
Research in all areas of education has shown that low staff to child ratios are critical for learning to take place. Also, one of the ways an organization can demonstrate that they are fulfilling their duty of care to their staff and volunteers is to manage appropriately child-to-staff ratios.

Program leaders must seek out funding to ensure that they can maintain low ratios. They can also enlist the support of volunteers, including parents and other family members, senior citizens or older teens. Volunteers, like other staff members, should be screened and have experience working with children and youth, and should be trained before they begin. These volunteers should have meaningful experiences and skills to share, thereby helping to build a community of learners.

The formula for establishing ratios is based on the age of the child or young person, the age, experience, training and qualifications of the staff member or volunteer, and the level of risk of the program. The ratios that are mandated by licensed centers and the Day Nursery Act will vary across provinces and states, and also from the ratios we recommend in Plan to Protect®. If you are primarily utilizing volunteers that are not qualified and educated workers (i.e. teachers, Early Child Educators, etc.) your ratios should reflect this.

We strongly recommend you establish ratios for what is best for the children and young people, not what your organization can manage based on staffing. It is better that you not hold a program or expand your program and enrollment if it means putting the children and your workers at risk.

Remember that demonstrating due diligence is anticipating the worst-case scenario, then planning to prevent that outcome, through risk avoidance measures. Recently we reviewed a policy from a client. Their established ratios were one volunteer to every six infants between the ages of 1-12 months. This ratio is extremely high. I can’t imagine if there were a fire and the need to evacuate the building quickly with six infants in my arms. It would be impossible. This does not even take into consideration the love, care and nurture that would be difficult to provide this many young children. Our recommended ratio for this age group would be 1:3.

A best practice we learned from another client, Compass Church in Regina, Saskatchewan was a point system formula for ratios that can be used when you have mixed ages in your classes:

When age groups are combined:
1. Infants (birth to 15 months) will be 3 points.
2. Toddlers and Preschoolers (15 months to 5 years) will be 2 points.
3. Elementary aged children (6 years to Gr. 6) will be 1 point.
4. Junior High Youth (Gr. 7 to Gr. 8) will be 1.5 points.
5. Senior High Youth (Gr. 9 to Gr. 12) will be 0.5 point.

The ratio then would be two personnel (staff or volunteers) for 20 points. During off-site trips, it would be two personnel for 10 points.

Every once in a while individuals will ask why we lower the ratios for Junior High Youth. Those with experience working with Junior High Youth can quickly list off the many reasons, including but not limited:
• Activities of elevated risk
• High incidence of bullying
• High incidence of suicide
• Substance abuse
• Fluctuating hormones
• Newly founded independence

My final thought on the topic is a tip I provide in our Orientation and Refresher training on abuse prevention and protection.

"If your ratios are over, it doesn't mean you should refuse to accommodate an additional child or young person or refuse to work and go on strike. However, if your ratios are more than 10% over on a daily or weekly basis, please bring this to the attention of your program leader. With continuity in staffing, your staff and volunteers will get know the children and young people in the classroom including their specific needs and disabilities, and behaviour. Based on this knowledge and experience, you may also need to ask for additional assistance."

With that all said, ratios are a big deal!

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2. Leadership Buy-In

2a) Q: How do we work with our leadership if they do not feel the issue of abuse prevention is important or that we are blowing it out of proportion?

A: Persistence and building awareness are your best vehicles for moving abuse prevention forward. We suggest that you present your recommendations to the Board as a whole rather than to individuals alone. Follow up your recommendations with written communication.  Board members are often motivated by risk management and concerns regarding liability, however sometimes presenting it from a different angle will also be advantageous (i.e. protecting the vulnerable sector individuals, protecting the reputation of the organization, protecting volunteers and staff, building trust with the community). As a leader, you can make day-to-day decisions that will begin to provide an environment of protection for your organization. We would encourage you to work within the parameters that have been given to you.  Continue to be diligent in your protection of the vulnerable sector individuals, and be diligent in seeking your leadership's participation in this important task.  Also, you aren’t alone - call us for additional help.

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2b) Q: Where do I even begin to deal with abuse prevention?

A. We strongly encourage you to purchase a copy of Plan to Protect
®. You can order it on-line or by calling our Plan to Protect® offices. The Plan to Protect® manual is a guide to help you both establish policy and implement an abuse prevention program. We recognize that implementing an abuse prevention plan is an overwhelming task. Don’t be tempted to take any short cuts - it will be manageable if you break it up into bite size pieces. In Plan to Protect®, we provide an Implementation Strategy.  Let the manual guide you step by step. If you need additional support our implementation memberships is the perfect tool.

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3. Plan to Protect
® the Manual

3a) Q: We've spent a lot of time working with Plan to Protect®. How do updates affect all of the work we have done to date?

A: Your hard efforts to date will not be affected by newer versions of Plan to Protect®. You can continue to build on the work you have already done and become very familiar with the new manual.  Assess your progress and see where there may be opportunities for your organization to complete compliance. We encourage you to purchase a new copy of the Plan to Protect® manual if your copy is older than 2008.

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3b) Q: What’s new in this manual that’s different from the previous two versions of Plan to Protect®?

A:There are a number of new or updated portions in the manual including:

  Updated information on new safety issues facing us.

  Recent quotes and case studies related to the need for an effective plan for safety.

  New policies relating to fresh issues arising since the previous manual.

  Examples: Privacy Act (PIPEDA), police records checks, billeting guidelines, driving forms, insurance standards checklists.

  New layout for the document making evaluation of current level of safety easier to evaluate and implement.

  New recommendations and options for training.

  Updated forms provided in the appendices covering most of the activities carried out by programs to children and youth.

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3c) Q: How much freedom do we have to make changes to the volunteer application in Plan to Protect® manual?

A: The Plan to Protect® manual is not a policy but a recommended plan to establish policy and procedures for your organization.  We have provided you 100+ pages of templates and forms in Word document format for your use.  Don’t hesitate to adapt them for your organization.  The templates that we have provided to you, including the application were carefully reviewed by legal counsel and insurance companies.  The Volunteer Application was crafted by a lawyer specializing in employment and human rights law.  We recommend you avoid questions that would conflict with human rights issues, i.e. age, gender, ethnicity, and marital status.  We do though however recommend you ask pertinent questions that will help gather critical information for you to make an informed decision regarding the candidate, including area of interests, experience and criminal convictions in the past.  As always, we strongly recommend that you have your own legal counsel review your policy and procedures when you establish a customized Plan to Protect®.  Once legal counsel has reviewed your policy and forms, they will be ready for board approval.  Don’t miss these critical steps!

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4. Facility Use/Rental

4a) Q: We are a small group in a rented facility i.e. school – how can we implement Plan to Protect®?

A: When you are first launching a program for children, youth and vulnerable adults this is the perfect time to set in place good habits, strong practices and disciplines which you will carry forward as your organization grows. When securing a location, observe the environment and structural settings: find a location that has windows in doors and the absence of dangerous and hazardous materials.Communicate with the on-site caretaker and in the rental agreement to limit access to the building. Recognizing that many small organizations have limited personnel, the recruitment and screening of a hall monitor to walk through the facility throughout the duration of program activities will enable you to provide programs with the minimal requirement of personnel. This is very important considering schools are public settings and visitors can easily come in unnoticed.

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4b) Q: Who is responsible if we rent out our facility?

A: If an organization decides to allow the rental or use of their facilities by an outside group, organization or individual, it is extremely important to transfer the responsibility for legal liability to the tenant and to verify that the tenant has the resources to back up the legal responsibility for their potential negligence in the supervision and operations of their activities at the host premises. This transfer of risk fulfills the stewardship responsibilities of the host organization's board members in the preservation and efficient use of the organization's property and resources and avoids unnecessarily placing the host facility in a position of sole legal responsibility for negligence of the tenant organization’s leaders and volunteers. It also satisfies the principle of accountability; that leaders should only assume responsibility when they also exert full authority and control. All organizations should have formal property use guidelines and require a waiver of legal liability and furnished Certificate of Liability from the tenant or user group that includes a minimum of $2,000,000 General and Tenants Liability Coverage and names the host site as additional insured. This documentation should be provided to the host site prior to use of the facilities.
FacingTheRisk Outside User Groups   FacingTheRisk Protecting Charitable Property
  
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4c) Q: What policies and procedures should we ask of individuals who wish to teach private music lessons within our facility?

A: Great question! We are always surprised when we speak to music instructors, tutors, dance teachers, babysitters, etc. that they have never considered risk management and protection procedures.

We strongly recommend that you contact your insurance company. Most companies will advise you to secure insurance certificates with a recommended minimum of $3M from renters who are using your building/facility. If the program is not an activity sanctioned by your Board, an insurance certificate from the renter or user is advisable. If it is a program or activity of your organization we would strongly recommend they comply with your protection procedures. We hope that you are using Plan to Protect®.

If the individual or group that is independent of your organization does not have a standard of care that reflects a high standard of protection, we would suggest you refer them to Plan to Protect® www.plantoprotect.com to purchase a manual to develop their own policy. Many times they have never considered managing risk. If an individual was abused and it did occur at your facilities, there may be a risk to you if the insurance certificate did not cover the claim. They may try to piggyback your organization and say you could have done more to prevent the abuse as you provided a venue for the abuse to occur. Bottom Line: we recommend that you stipulate to those using your facility to comply to the same standard of care as Plan to Protect® recommends. We also recommend you ask your insurance company for further criteria for risk management.

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5. Off-Site Trips

5a) Q: Why do you recommend that drivers for off-site or special events have a minimum 5 years of driving experience?

A: Most insurance companies state drivers driving on behalf of the organization should be 25 years of age or older with a good driving history. It is the recommendation of Plan to Protect® that you have either have 5-year of driving history or be 25 years of age or older.  If you lower the level, we strongly encourage you to seek legal and insurance counsel.  To demonstrate due diligence on behalf of the organization, we would also encourage you to secure and keep on file the driver’s abstract.  This is a document you can ask the volunteer to secure to demonstrate a good driver’s history.  This is a service that we offer at Plan to Protect®.

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5b) Q: Is our organization liable for events that happen off-site?

A: A civil court could consider an organization vicariously liable for abuse taking place off-site and/or outside sponsored activities and caused by screened personnel if the affected individual was introduced to that offending individual as a person placed in a position of trust (nursery worker, Sunday School teacher, club leader, youth leader) by the organization.

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5c) Q: How does Plan to Protect® affect small group settings that meet in homes or off-site property?

A: Precautions should be taken for all meetings, including those that are small group events taking place in a house setting. Screen and train any and all individuals that will be caring for vulnerable sector as part of your programming and strive to create an atmosphere of accountability through compliance to policies. It is wise to remember that often these settings are where abuse can easily happen.

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5d) Q: We are planning for our summer programs with retreats, off-site trips and camps. We will need volunteers to drive children/youth/vulnerable adults and would like to know what precautions we should take beforehand.

A: While it is preferred that parents and caregivers pick up and drop off children/youth/vulnerable adults at each event, we recognize that is not always possible. It is recommended that all drivers:

1) Be approved by the department leadership (include forms found in Appendix 22 & 23)

2) Provide a copy of their valid Driver's License

3) Provide a copy of their current automobile insurance policy

4) Have had a minimum of 5 years driving experience

5) Provide a copy of their Driver’s Abstract

Transportation plans must be outlined on your Letters of Informed Consent.

We also recommend that you consider your numbers - while it is fine to spread out a group of children/youth/vulnerable adults into a number of different vehicles, it would be a better option to transport all the children/youth/vulnerable adults together in a school bus or commercial vehicle and put the liability into the hands of a bus company with a professional driver.

Lastly, remember to adhere to the recommendations of having 2 screened leaders in each vehicle.

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5e) Q: When transporting students via van or bus, there may be instances where the first student on and that last student off the van/bus would be in the vehicle alone with the driver. What kind of recommendations for protection would you have on this?

A: Our recommendation would be that either the school should provide a second screened adult on the bus as a monitor or the school or bus company should strive to arrange their schedule (as much as possible) for a bus pick-up area where a group of students would be picked up not an isolated student.  If group pick up is not a possibility, parents should sign an Informed Letter of Consent, not only that their child is riding the bus but communicating that their child would be alone with only one adult on the bus.  The bus driver should be fully screened and trained on child protection. Both the child and the bus driver are being placed in a position of high risk as there could be harm done to the child or allegations that the bus driver would not be able to defend.  We have written policies for transportation companies and schools for this purpose. 

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6. Insurance/Legal

6a) Q: How much insurance do we require?

A: The insurance industry is now recommending a minimum general liability coverage limit of $5,000,000 - $10,000,000, but not less than $2,000,000. While most responsible organizations carry general liability coverage in the amount of $2,000,000, such limits may no longer be adequate in light of the size and frequency of civil damage judgments being awarded in Canadian courts today. We encourage you to confirm that your general liability policy does not contain an exclusion or limitation for physical or sexual abuse, harassment, molestation, or prohibited conduct. (http://www.robertsonhall.com/pdf/RH FacingTheRisk HowMuchIsEnough.pdf)

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6b) Q: Can the insurance company withhold insurance if we do not comply to everything or if we do not comply to portions of the program?

A: Yes, there have been many incidents when insurance coverage has been withheld or put on hold if the organization does not acknowledge compliance to the requirements outlined by the insurance company which is deemed as due diligence. We have included in Plan to Protect®, a copy of a Declaration of Abuse Prevention that is sent out by insurance companies on an annual basis prior to insurance renewal, reflecting also the questions on the application for abuse coverage.

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6c) Q: Have you sought legal counsel for Plan to Protect®?

A: As with the previous two editions of Plan to Protect
®, legal counsel was consulted, and legal counsel has reviewed the manuals. We have secured input from both our legal team and from an insurance company that specializes in protecting churches and non-profit organizations. Both parties reviewed the document and adjustments were made following their recommendations. We are confident that we are providing you with the best and most reliable research available at the point of publication.  Please note however, that Plan to Protect® should not be considered legal counsel, we do recommend that every organization secure independent legal counsel prior to Board approval of customized policies.

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6d) Q: We talked to our police department, lawyer, insurance company and they have told us something different than you have in Plan to Protect®. Who do we believe?

A: We do encourage you to secure legal advice from your own lawyer. We discovered even in our research that if you ask 10 people, even experts, you may receive 10 different answers. Prior to publishing Plan to Protect® we secured input both from our legal team and input from an insurance agency that specializes in protecting churches and non-profit organizations. Both parties reviewed the document and adjustments were made following their recommendations. We are confident that we are providing you with the best and most reliable research available at the point of publication.

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6e) Q: Is Plan to Protect® governed by provincial laws?

A:  Plan to Protect® is not governed by provincial law but does recommend the best practices for your organization to adhere to the laws that pertain to the care of the vulnerable sector. Our publications are not legal bills or regulations but rather recommendations to use to compile policies and procedures for providing safe environments for vulnerable persons. Many insurance companies are now saying the policies as outlined in Plan to Protect® are basic requirements for insurance coverage. These guidelines will also ensure due diligence if your organization is named in a lawsuit. We encourage you not to cut corners, but to take every precaution to protect the vulnerable sector.

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6f) Q: We are wondering about the legality of a volunteer/staff leader's young children attending events. We don't feel they should be attending, but aren't sure of our legal recourse to state that they should not be attending. We have your latest Plan to Protect®  issue, yet I haven't found anything in there regarding this. Is there anything?

A: We really can’t speak to the legality as we are not lawyers.  We can only advise you from a protection perspective. There are a few issues of caution we want to alert you to: Having young children at youth events could put their own children at risk, as we have heard of too many stories wherein youth abuse children.  We are assuming all of your youth are not all screened and trained, which would mean they would not be aware of the protection procedures we recommend for children, nor would you know if the youth have a history of child abuse.  We also would think that this could be distracting for the youth leaders as they now have to provide oversight to their own children and may be distracted from providing care to youth that they have been assigned to.  They may also not be able to provide adequate supervision to their own children.  It also impacts your ratios for child/youth to program leaders.

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6g) Q: What is the best way or time to inform our insurance company that we are using Plan to Protect®? Do we advise them that we are in the process of implementing Plan to Protect® or do I wait until everyone is trained and the policies are all in place?

A: If you don't currently have abuse coverage, I would recommend you contact your insurance company right away and ask for it to be added to your insurance.  Implementing Plan to Protect® will help qualify you for the coverage.  Some insurance companies will charge for this coverage, other companies will add it without it being an additional cost.  You do need to qualify for it, though, and most insurance companies will be looking to see that you have indeed developed a written policy and established procedures in place, including: defining abuse, a procedure for screening and training volunteers and staff members (and you have completed this with on-going updates), mandatory reporting of abuse suspicions, disclosures and allegations, and modifying your premises to minimize opportunity for abuse to occur.  Some insurance companies will ask you to provide in detail the steps you have taken and are taking to minimize abuse on the application form, others will ask you to complete a Declaration form.  Some insurance companies will ask that you submit a copy of your abuse prevention policies for review, though most do not ask to review it. If you already have the abuse coverage included in your personal injury coverage, they will ask for confirmation on an annual basis that you are maintaining compliance and adherence to the policies and procedures.  More and more we are hearing of insurance companies that are requiring the Board to audit the organization or insurance companies that are conducting on-site Audits themselves.  If you are interested, we offer the service of Policy Audits.  If the insurance company finds you are not up to date on your abuse prevention strategies, they will give you a time frame for compliance to be completed.  Our services and training will help you with compliance.  We can help you meet your deadline!If you are unsure if you have coverage or not, contact your insurance company and tell them what you have been doing to implement Plan to Protect® and that you wish to confirm coverage. Implementing Plan to Protect® will help you find favour with the insurance company and qualify for abuse.

6h) Q: Help! We have a person attending our church that has been convicted of a crime against a child.  What should we do? 

A:  This is a question we receive often.  There are many great chaplains serving in our prisons ministering to offenders and I am deeply grateful for their service.  Once an offender has been released, many have a desire to establish themselves in a new community group where they can continue to grow in their faith, be held accountable, and make lifestyle changes.  Is a church, parish or synagogue a good place for them?  Absolutely!  However many of us, if honest, would say “Yes, but not my church!”  

Faith communities can be vulnerable because we have generally been regarded as places of trust in the community.  They are also public settings where individuals from different age groups attend.  I know in my own life, church was a second home.  Growing up as a preacher’s kid, church family members were like extended family members.  We often called them Auntie’s, Uncle, and Grandpa, Grandma!  

With this in mind, we would encourage faith communities to not let their guard down if an individual discloses that they have a history of crimes of abuse. We would encourage the Board and the Pastor, Priest or Rabbi to enter into a covenant agreement with an individual who is a known to have abused Children or Youth in the past, and/or has been convicted of crimes against Children or Youth, if they wish to attend on a regular basis. Parameters should be put into place restricting access to Children and Youth utilizing established guidelines.  Together, establish an Offender’s Covenant that all parties sign.  We would also recommend that you meet on a quarterly or bi-annual basis to check-in on progress and accountability.  

*Members can check out the Member Section of our website for our newest policy statements and sample Offender’s Covenant. 

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6i) Q: Should we avoid all high risk activities and play in our programs?

A: When I think of my favourite childhood memories, I think of building forts in the woods, climbing trees, canoeing, ice skating, swimming, sleep overs, and camping trips.  In 2006, H. Little [Children’s Risk Taking Behaviour: implications for early childhood policy and practice, International Journal of Early Years Education Vol 14, no.2], stated, “Risk is any behaviour in which there is uncertainty about the outcomes. It involves a consideration of the benefits against the possible undesirable consequences of the behaviour as well as the probability of success or failure.”  We believe that risk should be managed not eliminated or completely avoided.  There are benefits to risk.  Many educators and child development professionals encourage Risky Play.  Risky play can be defined as a thrilling and exciting activity that involves a risk of physical injury, and play that provides opportunities for challenge, testing limits, exploring boundaries and learning about injury risk. For example, “risky play” for children and young people provide many benefits, including:

  • Confidence that they can accomplish difficult tasks
  • Pushing them beyond their comfort zone
  • Emotional well-being
  • Thrill of the adventure
  • Links between movement and thought


If children and young people are not allowed to explore and learn through playing and taking part in positive activities, they will not learn how to judge risks and manage them for themselves.

These skills a child or young person learns through play and other activities can act as a powerful form of prevention in other situations where children and young people are placed in positions of risk.

At Plan to Protect® we do not believe that all risk should be avoided in child and youth programming.  We do believe that organizations should be planning on how to protect children and young people as part of the programming. 

Determining whether or not to retain the risks that are associated with an activity should be a leadership decision.  Program personnel should present a well thought out and researched plan on the benefits that will be gained by doing the high risk activity versus consequences that could result from doing the activity.  Do your homework …. Present your written plan to your leadership …. Contact your insurance company to determine if the risk can be transferred to your insurance policy …. And share the risks with parents so they can make an informed decision whether or not to allow their child to participate.  We also encourage you to communicate in brochures, signs, newsletters etc.:  “Risky play is encouraged here’. We want children to feel safe to take risks - to be daring. We cannot guarantee accidents will not happen."

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6j) Q: What is “duty of care” and “standard of care” 

A: Duty of care often comes up in our training for our Administrator / Leader Certification course.

Definition of Duty of Care: The concept of duty of care 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 / state, federal and international statutes.

As organizational leaders, we are so grateful for our volunteers and staff, but we often forget that they have a duty to care for our organization as we also have a duty to care for them.  An exercise we do in the course is to list ways that volunteers and employees can demonstrate their care for an organization, and ways an organization can demonstrate their care to the volunteers and employees.  The is long … and can training, confidentiality, truthfulness, identification of risk, established ratios, policies, adherence to policies, communication, accountability, supervision, resources, etc. 

In a court of law, it is the first element that must be established to proceed with an action of negligence. Once a duty exists, the plaintiff must show that the defendant breached it. This is generally treated as the second element of negligence in United States and Canada. Breach involves testing the defendant's actions against the standard of a reasonable person, which varies depending on the facts of the case.  This leads us then to “standard of care” which is similar to that of doing “due diligence”.  Due Diligence is anticipating the worst-case scenario, then planning to prevent that outcome, through risk avoidance measures


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7. Reporting

7a) Q: How do I determine reasonable grounds for reporting suspected abuse to the Department of Social Services?

A: Reasonable grounds are what an average person, given his or her training, background and experience, exercising normal and honest judgment, would assume to be an action that needs attention. No action would be taken against a person making a report unless it is made maliciously or without reasonable grounds for the belief. See Plan to Protect
® for a complete list of characteristics to watch for in helping you determine reasonable grounds. These characteristics may be indicators of abuse, although they are not necessarily proof. One sign alone does not constitute abuse and may simply be indicative of other issues.

For specific guidelines for what constitutes reasonable suspicion and duty to report please visit the website for Child and Family Services or Children’s Aid in your Province.

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7b) Q: At what point should we report abuse when we suspect inappropriate behaviour of a volunteer or staff member?

A: If you or a parent are concerned with the interaction of staff members and volunteers with children/youth/vulnerable adults, either through observed inappropriate touch or sexual innuendos and communication via email, texting, tweeting or messaging, we strongly encourage that you immediately address the concern with that staff member / volunteer and as necessary, begin appropriate discipline steps of verbal warnings and written warnings insisting the inappropriate interaction cease immediately. Some of this touch or interaction may not yet be clearly defined as abuse but it may be the start of behaviour that is crossing the line. It is very important for you to document your discipline steps.

If your concerns escalate, and you hear of an allegation or you have reasonable suspicion of abuse or inappropriate behaviour; do not confront the individual, nor should you ask leading questions of the victim. The laws in Canada require that you immediately report the suspicion or allegation to child protection agencies. This is the most important of child protection laws in Canada. The laws are provincially legislated, however the wording across Canada is very similar. The report must be a direct report, immediate and it is an on-going duty to report. Leave the investigation to the officials, yet cooperate with them.

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7c) Q: What are the consequences for failure to report?

A: There are a number of consequences for failure to report. Failure to report alleged or suspected abuse may put an individual at risk of further harm. We know that abuse is progressive in nature and will not stop unless there is some intervention to address it. There are consequences written into the provincial legislation for failure to report (Child and Family Services Act.) Professionals have the same duty as any member of the public to report a suspicion of abuse. However professionals are expected to have a special awareness of the signs of abuse and neglect and therefore have a particular responsibility to report their suspicion and can be charged for failure to report and if convicted fined up to $1000 to $10,000.  Clergy, priests, rabbis, youth and children's workers are also considered professionals. If your work involves the vulnerable sector, you are considered to be a professional for purposes of the duty to report.

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7d) Q: What would you do if another child was threatening the safety of the environment? For example, sexual comments to other children and leaders, as well as profanities. What is the policy here? What are the steps to take?

A: 
We would recommend that you follow discipline/anti-bullying steps here. Give a verbal warning, a written warning (including a notice to the parent/caregiver), and if it happens again a suspension from the program for a week. If the child does not stop then you can elevate this with a longer suspension from the program. You could also require the parent to sit in the program with their child for a few weeks.

Also, recognize that the behaviour the child is exhibiting may be indicators of abuse.  If you see a pattern, you should notify Child and Family Services.  If there is a 3-5 year age difference between the two children involved we would suggest you also contact Child and Family Services and ask what your legal duty is in this situation.  Child and Family Services will assess the situation and determine if you have a duty to report.

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7e) Q: Our Hall Monitors have asked us what exactly they should do if they walk in on an abusive situation - especially sexual abuse - where the perpetrator could run. Can you make suggestions on how they should respond?

A: As with any volunteer or staff member, we would recommend that if they walk in on, observe, or have a suspicion of any form of abuse (including sexual misconduct), that they should immediately record and report it. If the individuals involved are of the age of majority, the hall monitor should notify the Senior Leader and document their observation and conversation, submitting this to leadership.  Many organizations have whistleblowing policy in place for this purpose. If one or both of the individuals involved are minors, the hall monitor should immediately call for the abuse or misconduct to cease, remove the individual from the situation, and at the earliest opportunity document their observation, conversations and actions on the Suspected Abuse Report Form. The hall monitor should also notify organization leadership and immediately contact Child and Family Services or Children's Aid Society.  Nothing should delay the report to the appropriate protection authorities. If the individuals are a child and adult (not a family member), the caregivers of the individual should be notified by the Senior Leader or designate.  Caregivers should also be notified if children or youth are engaged in abusive behaviour (including sexual misconduct) with each other.  If the sexual engagement is between minors of the same age and it appears to be consensual, parents should be notified but child protection authorities would not need to be notified.  If the sexual engagement involves minors but there is an age difference of three years or if it is not consensual, child protection authorities should be notified along with the parents. No parent or organization’s leadership has the right to tell you not to fulfill your legal duty to report to child protection authorities.

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7f) 
Q: What should a leader do if she/he is concerned that a parent is intoxicated/drunk when picking up a child or youth from a program?

A: If the leader has a legitimate concern about the safety and protection of the child they should report this to Children’s Aid or Child and Family Services.  In most cases, proof is not required and the law protects you in your reporting if you are not malicious in your reporting. They do have a duty to report if they feel the child is in need of protection. It is best to contact Children’s Aid or Child and Family Services and ask if this is something that should be reported. 

If the parent is indeed drunk, I would distract the parent and delay the pick-up and immediately call the police.  As deemed necessary, ask the police how to proceed, possibly having someone block the parent’s car so they do not drive in that condition.  I would do whatever is necessary to not allow the child to leave with the parent without causing too much of a distraction. I may avoid speaking directly to the parent about them being inebriated as this could cause more aggressive behaviour and put others in danger. 

If the leader is unsure of the parent’s condition, they should complete an incident report, notify their direct supervisor and watch for additional indicators of harm.  If they see further indicators, they should report this to authorities as noted above.

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7g) Q: If we suspect a minor is self-harming what would be the proper action to take? Do we have a legal requirement to report our concern to their parents?

A: 
The young person harming him/herself is crying out in pain. I have been told that as high as 60-80% of young people that are cutting have been abused in some way. The pain within is so intense they are trying to draw attention away from that pain. The self-injury is a coping mechanism. 

The one suspecting the self-harming behaviour can talk with the minor about it. The concern should also be shared with the parent although I don't believe there is any legal requirement just a moral one. As a parent, I would want to know that my child was self-harming and provide whatever is needed to help my child overcome this. 

The parents response will likely clarify whether there is now a legal duty to report to Children’s Aid Society / Child and Family Services. The ACT reads, “if a child is in need of protection we have a duty to report.” Our hope would be that the parent is willing and able to provide the protection the minor needs. 

The parent is not required to report this to Children’s Aid Society / Child and Family Services, although they could certainly call for assistance. 

The parent can call their local children's mental health agency for assistance as well or their medical doctor. A CMH Agency and medical doctors have the duty to report if they believe the child is in need of protection.

Bottom line, this minor needs caring people to come along side of them and help rebuild the walls of protection they need. I think the worst thing we could do is to ignore it and just believe this is a craze among young people. Our hope is that the parents will be part of the solution, and it will take a community to build hope, healing and restore value in the young person's life. 

From an organization perspective, we would recommend you have policies and procedures in place that stipulate how situations like this should be dealt. We would recommend that the staff member or volunteer complete an Incident Report, and notify leadership. After speaking to the young person, and informing the parents, regular follow-up should occur to continue to support the young person and if possible the parents.

Help and Healing for Kids who Cut (2009) by Dr. Marv Penner

Self Harm by Brett Ullman https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAOoDSK5a7o 

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8. Screening and Training

8a) Q: Can you help us understand who should be screened and trained under Plan to Protect®?

A: Plan to Protect® believes is it is better to screen than not to screen. We have all been in that difficult place where we need someone to fill in for a teacher that does not show up in the classroom and we need someone to be a substitute teacher. If you have a current list of individuals within your community who have been screened and trained, you will have a pool of personnel available to draw from. On the other hand, someone may never be entrusted to the care of children, but their role may be one where a child or youth would look up to them and consider them an authority figure that they are to obey – these people would still be considered a person in a position of trust and would be someone you should screen.

Some basic principles I follow include:

  Do caregivers entrust the vulnerable individual into the care of this person? This would include tutors, teachers, coaches, piano teachers, babysitters, club leaders, mentors etc.

  Do caregivers leave this individual alone with a vulnerable person? This would include hospital visits, visits to shut-ins, or transportation drivers.

  Is this individual deemed as a person in authority or leadership that children, youth and vulnerable persons look up to? This would include clergy, caretakers, board members, administrators, and secretarial staff (schools).

If you answer yes to any of these questions, we would recommend that you include this individual in your Plan to Protect®.

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8b) Q: We are constantly falling behind on our screening and training. How can we manage this properly?

A: It is a challenge keeping this in the forefront in our minds. Most organizations would readily say that protection is one of their core values. However, we think there is a disconnect as we let ourselves think of protection as a necessary evil and major headache to our programming. We do realize that it adds to your TO DO list.

Our best recommendation is to make sure you have the right person(s) doing the screening and administration. We encourage you to stay organized and set aside time to do the administration of screening. There are tools available to make this happen (check out the services we offer at Plan to Protect®).

Abuse prevention is not a task for one person, it takes a whole community to protect the vulnerable sector. As staff and volunteers we can step up to the plate and provide up-to-date criminal record checks and offer to take annual training. As board members and administrators we cannot put this task on our program leaders and leave it to them to do it on their own. So much of the recruitment and screening process of Plan to Protect® are tasks for administrators – organization and administration skills are essential. If those are not your strengths, admit it. We recommend you carve out time on your calendar, well in advance of your program starting.

We must be held accountable for protection. Just last week we had a conversation with a senior pastor who realized he needed to hold his youth director’s more accountable for their time alone with students. The staff had established their own policies and they included determining who needed to be screened and who didn’t and who they could be alone with. No one person should make these decisions on their own.

If protection is one of our core values, we really need a different perspective when it comes to the process of protection. Instead of looking at it as an obstacle, we need to see it as a means of valuing and caring for vulnerable persons. Remember also that the process of how we do our work is as important as the end result.  Finally, as you continue to develop your character, strive for and role model integrity and accountability.

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8c) Q: Should the board or senior staff be placing staff and volunteers into positions of responsibility without going through the recruitment and screening process?

A: Once policy has been developed and approved by the Board, no one person should make these decisions to not observe these policies on their own. Once policies are approved by the board, everyone is responsible to submit to these policies as they provide the parameters which will offer protection those involved with the organization. If the Board with ‘one’ voice makes a decision to override a policy, this is their prerogative, however, we would recommend that they document this decision and exception along with the due diligence they have done and include this as part of their minutes.

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8d) Q: If we can’t do everything, what are the basic requirements we must do?

A: Though it has been said that police records checks and a six-month waiting period are crucial, we are hesitant to suggest that you take shortcuts with Plan to Protect
®. Many insurance companies are now saying the policies as outlined in Plan to Protect® are basic requirements for insurance coverage. These guidelines will also ensure due diligence if your organization is named in a lawsuit. We encourage you to not cut corners, but to take every precaution to protect the vulnerable sector.

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8e) Q: We have had some of our seniors volunteering for years – is it really necessary to have them go through the recruiting and screening process?

A: We recommend that you have a no-exception rule for recruitment and screening. Establishing a no-exception rule will take the responsibility off of your shoulders to determine who you will require it from and who is exempt. Otherwise, where do you draw the line? Your approach with seniors serving in the organization should be with sensitivity.  Explain why this requirement is now so important in today’s world. Individuals responsible for recruitment and screening can make the process easier for seniors by offering to drive them to get a police records check, meeting them in their home for the interview while providing an opportunity to hear their stories and memories. Thank them for being positive role models.

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8f) Q: Do we need to ask all the questions on the Volunteer Application Form? The "Information about your ability to work with children and youth" questions are very personal and seem intrusive.

A: We would recommend that you commit the same level of care and attention to recruiting volunteers as you would to the hiring of employees. The questions on the application form in the appendices were reviewed and/or recommended to us by our legal counsel. One comment we received from our legal counsel was that volunteers have the same rights as employees in relation to human rights and we must avoid any appearance or cause for them to believe they were discriminated against. As we often stress, Plan to Protect® is not a policy but a plan to develop a policy. You certainly have the option to change or revise the questions. We strongly recommend that you have your lawyers review your forms and your policies. As laws differ in certain geographic areas, we would also encourage you to research your particular provincial guidelines.

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8g) Q: We have done our required Plan to Protect® training session for our staff & volunteers last year before camp. Is it really necessary to do it again even if they did it last year or can we just train the new recruits only?

A: We recommend that you have all your staff & volunteers attend a 2 Hr. Plan to Protect
® Orientation training as part of their initial volunteer training. If they continue to volunteer the next year, we recommend that they attend a 1 Hr. Plan to Protect® Refresher training that will highlight the main points and refresh them on the policies and procedures that are vital to the training. Going forward we then recommend that they attend the above-mentioned Refresher training on a yearly basis so that they can be properly informed of any new policies or procedures that have been implemented.

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8h) Q: : Last week you held a webinar on the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service that meets the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) requirements. Does everyone that works with children, youth and vulnerable persons need to take this training? What if I missed this training?

A: Yes, it is a required training that any business or organization (including churches) in Ontario that provides goods or services to the public must add to their policies and procedures and provide training to their representative staff and volunteers. Please see the link provided for more specific information regarding the AODA requirements and how it affects your organization here.

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8i) Q: Can we simply distribute our policies instead of conducting training?

A: Distribution of policies is important for your personnel to get a head start on your organization’s specific requirements for abuse prevention. The policies do not replace the discussion that takes place during the training seminar, the explanation of the policies and prevention procedures, and the illustrations that help to put the policies into perspective. Many insurance companies are now requiring annual training for all personnel. We have provided you recommended training schedules, templates, PowerPoint presentations and contact information for securing needed resources. Check our website for online training options and an overview of our Certification Training for Trainers.

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8j) Q: Can we send a video/DVD home for training instead of holding a training program?

A: The best training option is to hold on-site, face-to-face training in a group setting where there is opportunity for interaction and discussion and a walk-through of your facilities. We would encourage you to pursue the highest level of training for your personnel, and avoid shortcuts. However, in the rare occasion when individuals cannot attend the scheduled group training seminar, we would encourage the lead to meet individually with the prospective personnel and supervise the watching of the training video/DVD. Another option is having that individual take our on-line training or live webinar. Plan to Protect® trainers cannot distribute our copyright materials including PowerPoints and training.

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8k) Q: We have been informed by a caregiver that a personal care worker will be accompanying an individual with disabilities to our camp.  Do we have a responsibility to screen and train the personal care worker?

A:  In many cases, the parent/guardian may have already screened and trained the personal care worker.  However, as this individual will be interacting with other vulnerable persons in your programs, and be recognized as a helper, you may be held responsible for their actions.  We would recommend that you follow your protection policies and procedures with personal care workers. As this individual may not be well known within your community, we would recommend that you provide additional supervision of those interacting with youth in your program ensuring they comply to your policies and protocols.  A strong abuse prevention screening process includes a completed volunteer application form, interview, references, criminal record check, training, and supervision.

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8l) Q: I have a young man who left for a year to go to work with youth internationally and he's back and thinking about volunteering. Does he need to wait 6 months? I believe he grew up in our organization, and I have a file for him already because he volunteered in the past.

A: We do not think it is necessary to ask the individual to wait an additional six months, but because he has been gone for a length of time we would recommend that you screen him again i.e. interview, current references, and a new police record check.  He should also take the annual refresher training to remind him of your protocols and procedures.

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8m) Q: Do my volunteers and staff need to have refresher training for Plan to Protect®? If so, what should be included in the training?

  
A: According to insurance companies, to qualify for abuse coverage, the following requirements are stated:Training for all staff members and volunteers who regularly work with vulnerable persons to assist in the prevention of abuse through the following means:

  Initial (Orientation) formal training, including in-house presentations (or online training) and distribution of handbooks or pocket guides containing a summary of prevention policies and procedures.  Educating workers about their legal obligation to report suspected abuse and to recognize and identify the signs and symptoms of abuse and operation procedures for protection.

  Follow up with annual refresher courses or sessions that emphasize the operation procedures and reporting requirements. Refresher training can be done at any time including during team meetings. Many organizations conduct an annual review of their prevention plan for workers at the beginning of their children’s and youth program year in September or January.  Reviewing the ongoing suitability of existing workers including updated criminal record checks and a recommitment of care.

Yes, we strongly recommend that all staff and volunteers in a position of trust participate in annual refresher training.  This can be offered on-site or on-line.  Refresher training is approximately 60 minutes in length. Our on-line refresher training option for Plan to Protect® involves 4-6 modules (depending on the age levels with whom you work).  Each module is approximately 10-18 minutes in length.  Students also apply their learning when examining case studies relating to the module.  Once students successfully complete the training on-line, they will receive a certificate of completion and the program leader will receive a monthly report indicating the students who completed the training.  The on-line refresher training reflects the high standard of content and excellence of our on-line orientation training.  To date, we have trained thousands of individuals on-line for Plan to Protect®. If you are offering training within your organization on site, we recommend that the trainer be certified and equipped to provide the training.  To date, Plan to Protect® has certified over 2,000 trainers.  With certification, you receive PowerPoints, Instructor and Student notes, and creative methods of training, along with recommended media clips to enhance your training.  Certification is valid for three years.  Plan to Protect® has received high marks on our certification training, with consistent reviews of “excellent” and “very valuable.”  With the knowledge that students receive, they feel so much more confident to train others and answer the questions that will come up during their trainings. Taking attendance at your training and maintain records of trainings as an additional step towards demonstrating due diligence and a strong standard of care.

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8n) Q: In our policy, we expect volunteers to take training one time per year (initial Orientation training, and Refresher training every year after that). Today, I was told by one of our Program Leaders  that we should only be training our volunteers one time every three years. She feels like it is too much to ask our volunteers to attend training every year! What are the requirements we should be meeting for our personnel training?

A: Plan to Protect® recommends initial Orientation training and annual Refresher training. We recommend this for a number of reasons: 

  1. Memory Retention – It is very possible after a year you could forget material, so it’s a great idea to refresh so we can be reminded of the material. 
  2. Changes to Policies and New Laws – Over time policies may change or the laws might change, so we recommend that you do annual refreshers to be kept up to date. For example we have just recently changed our washroom guidelines.
  3. Insurance Companies – Most insurance companies require annual training in order for organizations to apply for abuse coverage. 
  4. Due Diligence – Training your volunteers annually demonstrates that you as an organization are doing your due diligence to prevent harm and abuse.
  5. High Standard – The high standard of protection that we recommend at Plan to Protect® includes annual refresher training. 
  6. Volunteer Canada – Volunteer Canada also recommends mandatory, regular training sessions. https://volunteer.ca/content/2012-screening-handbook
  7. Commitment to Protection – Annually training your volunteers and staff demonstrates your commitment to protection to your community and to the parents of the children you work with. Plan to Protect® is not about not trusting our volunteers and staff - it’s about helping our community see that they can trust us. 
  8. Supervision and Oversight – Annual training is a great time to demonstrate your supervision and oversight.  You can ask questions and see what your volunteers and staff remember from Orientation.  This will help you discover their comprehension and understanding of the policies. We recently spoke to one organization whose volunteers thought hide-and-seek in the dark at a local park was part of regular programming. They didn’t have extra supervision, or informed letters of consent. Obviously their volunteers misunderstood risk, supervision and the need for informed letters of consent.

Please note: At Plan to Protect®, we are a consulting and training organization. We recommend the HIGHEST STANDARD of protection and we won’t apologize for that. Each individual organization is able to modify their policy and procedures as they see fit though. However, we would HIGHLY recommend that if you are making ANY changes to your policy (for example only requiring training every three years), that you first check with your insurance company and consult with a lawyer followed with board approval. No individuals or team leaders should change policy without board approval first. And, you should note that if you are making this change that it is contrary to what is recommended. 

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8o) Q: We recruit young people to work with children!  What do we need to keep in mind and do they have to be screened and trained? 

A: They key principle here is never, ever have minors working with children without the supervision of an adult. 


Every individual is different – some young people are more mature and responsible than others.  However, we do know from research that a brain is not fully developed until it is 25 years old. (1)

You might respond, but what about babysitters, they babysit on their own.  Yes, they may babysit on behalf of parents, and are left alone with the children, but that is different than on behalf of an organization where you are recruiting young people to care for someone else’s children.  In this situation, the parent is still responsible for their children, and, the actions of the babysitter that they hired to provide the care for their children.

We recommend that you screen and train all your personnel, whether they are minors or adults.  When possible, do background checks (police record checks) on workers that are 16 years of age and up. From this information, you will learn if they have been tried and convicted of crimes as an adult.  Asking young people to complete an application, provide references and be interviewed communicates the elevated responsibility of the role that you are placing the individual in and ensures that they have the maturity and ability to care for others. 

The Plan to Protect® manual states Personnel between the ages of twelve and sixteen must be assigned to work alongside of another screened worker over the age of sixteen.  Personnel must be seventeen years of age or older tow work along in a classroom.  In both situations, the door must remain open with designated hall monitors circulating periodically from room to room.  It is recommended that thee be at least a five-year gap between ministry personnel and the children they serve. 

An adult should always be providing oversight and supervision.  They may not always be in the classroom as a Supervisor or Hall Monitor they should be checking in often with the youth workers.
  1. https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=1&ContentID=3051

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9. Social Media

9a) Q: Our personnel are asking if they can email the children/youth/vulnerable adults. Is this okay?

A: Our recommendation would be that everything be done in public!  In other words, if you email children/youth/vulnerable adults, we would encourage you to include a cc: to your team members, caregiver of the vulnerable person or to someone on the Plan to Protect® team.  This will provide a level of accountability.  We would also recommend that you touch base with the caregiver first and ask permission if you can send emails, stating the reason for the communication.  Assure them that you are willing to copy them in on the email or even send it to them to forward to the children/youth/vulnerable adults.  

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9b) Q: Can we post pictures on the internet?

A: We recommend having policies in place in regards to the use of photographs. On our registration form in Plan to Protect® we have included a waiver for parents to sign, indicating the location photos can be used i.e. website, promotional pieces, newsletters, etc. If caregivers have signed this form and granted permission, you could then use the photos with discretion and discernment.

We encourage you to strongly restrict volunteers and staff from taking pictures and putting them on their own Facebook pages, and tagging (assigning names) the pictures. Caregiver permission on the registration form does not provide this level of permission, nor is it wise to do so. People believe Facebook is a secure site, however experts say that it is not “hacker” proof.

If caregivers grant permission for the individual’s picture to be used on promotional pieces on the internet, we encourage you not to put names of the individual with the picture and still to restrict your volunteers from doing this. The permission has been granted to the organization, parents have entrusted you with the care and supervision of the photos.

This is very difficult to police, but you do want to strive to do your “due diligence” in this regard.  Legal counsel informed us that we may soon see legislation come down in relation to social networks and personal information.

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9c) Q: We have campers and counselors bringing their cameras to camp, then posting pictures on Facebook and tagging the photos.  Can we control this on our end?  We would like to include a policy on photography for our camp policies. What would you advise?

A: We have wonderful memories of camp as a young person; and even as an adult we loved our summers when we were counselors.  Most of us want to capture these memories on our camera.  While you can’t really keep the children from taking photos at camp, however you can attempt to influence them where and when pictures can be taken, or discouraging them form bringing valuables to camp such as their cameras just like you may restrict them from bringing iPods, laptops, radios, etc.  You may choose to have a designated camp photographer who is capturing photos of camp activities, and then put together a photo album or scrapbook for each camper and counselor to be given to them at the end of camp. This would allow you to monitor what photos are taken and avoid photos being taken in cabins, locker rooms, in beachwear, etc.

You should certainly put restrictions on your volunteers and staff and their personal picture taking of campers.  Policies for the camp and volunteers and staff could include: 1) having a designated camp photographer, 2) camper registration forms including permission for photographs to be taken for camp promotional purposes (newsletters, website, commercials), 3) restricting photographs to be taken in cabins, washrooms, etc., 4) restricting photos from being added to personal Facebook pages, twitter, and other social networks, and 5) no tagging of photos, or publicly distributing them.  Some caregivers may not grant permission for photographs to be taken of the individual, in which case you will need to identify a way to distinguish which campers can have their picture taken and which campers cannot have their picture taken.  The use of a silicone wrist band may be helpful.  However more and more camps are not giving parents this option and just informing parents that pictures will be taken for camp use, and that permission will be secured if the image will be used for promotional purposes.

The camp could have a group page on Facebook with selected photos included on this page; however, written parental permission should be secured from all minors including counselors under the age of 19, and we would recommend that no names be associated with the photographs.  Finally, we recommend that you add to your camp newsletters a statement summarizing your photography policies and procedures, informing parents and campers that the privacy of others should be observed (ie. not everyone wants their picture taken, nor do they want it on Facebook), and that though precautions are taken, the camp cannot monitor all campers’ photography use.  To audit these policies, the camp should monitor Facebook pages of their counselors on occasion.

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9d) 
Q: Today young people use social media for communication and community building.  How can we use social media to engage our young people and still demonstrate care, accountability, and integrity?

A: We get it! Very few, if any young person will want you to copy their parent on your emails and text messages.  Many young people do not have their parents as a friend on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.  

However, this is an area of increased risk.  Organizations can be held vicariously liable for the actions of their staff and volunteers.  It is very difficult to monitor and control the use of social media.  Therefore, it is imperative that organizations establish policies and procedures and clearly communicate these to their workers, both in written format and during training sessions.  We would also recommend that you have your youth workers sign an Agreement or Covenant of Care, acknowledging that they have read the policies and procedures and will abide by the guidelines.  

We encourage your staff and volunteers to view their roles professionally.  Whether they are paid to do the work or are unpaid, they have a duty of care to the youth, to the parents, and to the organization where they serve.  In fulfilling their duty of care, staff and volunteers should adhere to the policies and procedures of the organization.  The policies and procedures should outline the parameters of their interaction with young people outside of program times.  Many organizations that allow their personnel to engage in communication via social media state in their policies the purpose allowed for the communication, i.e., Social media will be used for the dissemination of information of events and activities.  Social Media will not be used for the purpose of counseling, mentoring or engaging in intimate conversations.  

Policies should also include the age level of the students, i.e., No communication via social media with students under 13 years of age will be allowed.  

Policies should also include the times allowed for communication, i.e., During the hours of 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

We also recommend that you consider limiting the communication to a group page and prohibit private messaging.  Alternatively, you could request that a program leader or team member also be copied in lieu of the parent. 

Parental permission should always be secured on the registration form from parents, that staff and volunteers can communicate with their son or daughter via email, text, and social media.

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10. Criminal Record Checks and Vulnerable Sector Screening

10a) Q: It seems like information regarding Criminal Record Checks are changing once again. I just heard about a new component called Local Notes and FIP - what are these and can we accept them as part of our screening?

A: Some 3rd party providers are now able to access national criminal record databases through police agencies that allows them to access both a CPIC (Canadian Police Information Centre) check as well as an alternative database check through Local Police Information (or Local Notes) via the Firearms Interest Police (FIP) database.

The information on the FIP database is updated nightly through a daily review of police local record management systems and includes all information submitted within the past 5 years.

The information found in the FIP database consists of entries pertaining to convictions, discharges, or otherwise negative police contact relating to violent and/or sexual offence incidents, treatment for violent mental illness, or other public safety concerns.

Plan to Protect® continues to strongly recommend that prior to placing any new volunteers and staff recruits into a position of trust with the vulnerable sector, that the Vulnerable Sector Search be returned CLEAR and not flagged.

We recommend that renewals of Criminal Record Checks, be done every 3 years.  We recommend annually for camp programs, or annual mission trips, when you have not been in constant contact with the individual. In a school or church program, the renewal could be done every 3 years, based on the regular contact you have with the individual.

On renewals, we recommend that you do a CPIC check and Local Police Information checks. (Plan to Protect® can provide these checks through our third party provider.)

For additional information on checking young adults <25 years of age, please contact our office at 1-877-455-3555.

Contact Plan to Protect® for additional information on staff and volunteers that are minors and young adults.

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10b) Q: It is too costly for our organization to do police records checks on all of our volunteers – what do you suggest?

A: Yes, it is costly to have all your personnel complete police records checks at the same time or when you first begin. Some jurisdictions waive the cost if the individual is a volunteer, and if the organization is registered with the police department. Some organizations include police records checks for all personnel in their budget.  When cost is a concern, we would suggest asking individuals to cover the cost for the Police Record Check themselves, or to donate to this project. You may also find other donors are willing to donate or subsidize the cost for those that cannot afford to pay for it. Remember, this is a small price to pay compared to the hundreds of thousands or millions that the organization may have to pay out in a lawsuit if you are found guilty of not providing a safe environment and doing due diligence in abuse prevention.

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10c) Q: Do we need to do police records checks? If so, how often do we need to do them?

A: We recommend that for a complete picture on prospective personnel, police records checks be pursued every three (3) years for those age 16 and older serving in positions of trust along with permission asked to pursue a child welfare check if deemed necessary. Insurance companies state that it should be no longer than five (5) years.

Police records checks should be conducted for all paid staff, board members and personnel serving in positions of trust. All positions that involve contact with vulnerable individuals or where the individual is deemed by the vulnerable individual to be in a position of trust must be screened.

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10d) Q: Do we need to do a complete Vulnerable Sector Searches (VSSs)?  Is a Police Record Check (CPIC) adequate?

 A: The Criminal Records Act requires that a VS check be performed for "a paid or volunteer position" when that "position is one of authority or trust relative to those children or vulnerable persons".   A child means a person under the age of 18. Vulnerable persons are defined as:

"a person who, because of his or her age, a disability, or other circumstances, whether temporary or permanent:

1. is in a position of dependency on others; or

2. is otherwise at a greater risk than the general population of being harmed by a person of trust or authority towards them."

“Because of the requirement that a person be in a position of ‘authority or trust,’ positions with casual or occasional contact with children or other vulnerable persons would not normally require VS checks unless the position could lead the organization's clients to have trust in the individual.” (Volunteer Canada Screening Handbook, 2012)

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10e) Q: What is the definition of vulnerable sector?

A: Vulnerable persons are defined as:

"a person who, because of his or her age, a disability, or other circumstances, whether temporary or permanent:

3. is in a position of dependency on others; or

4. is otherwise at a greater risk than the general population of being harmed by a person of trust or authority towards them."

The vulnerable sector includes children, youth and vulnerable adults who because of age or disability, whether permanent or temporary, need additional support and protection.

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10f) Q: A candidate has disclosed that they have a criminal record on their file.  What should we do?

A: We truly believe that people could change for the better.  We also believe, though, that there are consequences to actions that often last a lifetime i.e. someone who has been killed in a car accident by a drunk driver (the family is forever without a family member).

It would be difficult to enter court if another incident occurred and to use as a defense that you knew of a record for a violent crime but allowed them to serve among the vulnerable sector because they show signs that they have changed.

This stipulation is not ours but has come as a strong mandate from both the insurance companies and legal counsel we sought.  You would not be protected as an organization if you chose this defense.

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10g) Q: We are receiving conflicting recommendations from the police, lawyers, Plan to Protect® and the insurance company about what to do with completed criminal record checks.  In one instance, the police are telling us to shred the Criminal Record Check while another police officer in the same jurisdiction is telling us to give the criminal record check back to the applicant, however Plan to Protect® is telling us to keep criminal record checks on volunteers and staff indefinitely.  Who do we believe?

A: Conflicting advice … we encounter the same challenge at Plan to Protect®.  The development, preparation and publication of our recommendations have been undertaken with great care and been well researched. We have had numerous conversations with employment labour lawyers, criminal lawyers, insurance companies and the RCMP in Ottawa.  Your responsibility is to screen your volunteers and staff.  However, we recommend that for your protection that you retain the documentation so that you can demonstrate in a court of law that you did screen your volunteers and staff and that the criminal record check came back “clear”.  In a court of law, if you are able to produce the documentation, you will be in a better position than if you just produce a file with a checkbox that the criminal record check was verified.  The lawyers we have spoken to recommend that you do retain permanently the original criminal record check (with the candidate’s permission to secure it).  Keep all confidential information on your staff, volunteers and constituents under lock and key in a secure location.  We would recommend that those handling this confidential information, sign a confidentiality agreement.

However, as with all of our recommendations, the information is intended to assist you in establishing policy for your organization. Our recommendations and the references in Plan to Protect® are only as current as the date of the publication and do not reflect subsequent changes in law. We distribute information with the understanding that it does not constitute legal advice. Organizations are strongly encouraged to seek their own legal counsel as well as counsel from your insurance company when establishing a policy.  

To sum it up…establish policy, seek your own legal and insurance advice.  Absolutely keep all personal information under lock and key!  Build a file on each individual that will be able to demonstrate, if necessary in a court of law that you exceeded your obligation of what an average person would do to provide reasonable care.

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10h) Q: If someone was accused 20 years ago but never convicted or found guilty of a violent crime and then changed for the better, why do you recommend that they not be able to serve vulnerable sector individuals?

A: We are pleased that your candidate has disclosed this information to you prior to doing the criminal record check, as it demonstrates integrity on their behalf.  You will want to confirm what their conviction(s) were, and the type of offense.  If a criminal record check comes back not clear, you do not receive details of the conviction, only a "CLEAR" or "NOT CLEAR", or a  notation that "THERE MAY OR MAY NOT BE A CONVICTION ON THEIR RECORD AND IT MUST BE VERIFIED BY FINGERPRINTING".

To confirm that this individual does indeed have a criminal record, it will be suggested that the person be fingerprinted.  We understand from our clients that a number of Vulnerable Sector Searches come back flagged.  However, our recommendation is that you send each flagged person for fingerprinting and wait for the results to come back prior to placing this person in a position of trust with vulnerable persons. This is exactly why we recommend Criminal Record Checks as part of screening. Through the services we offer (Sterling BackCheck), we could confirm that conviction that the candidate has put on their form to grant permission to do the Criminal Record Check is correct.  If they have been truthful, it will come back as "NOT CLEAR", but "CONFIRMED", indicating that what they put on their form is the extent of their conviction.

If you do not use our criminal record service (powered by Sterling BackCheck), we would recommend that you either send the candidate for fingerprinting or secure confirmation of their stated convictions so that you have a full picture of the type of offense that they were convicted for.  We would also recommend you secure strong qualitative references. If the crime is not a crime against children or youth, or a violent crime, you could choose to still use the candidate in a volunteer or staff role with supervision.  Though there may have been both regret and reform that has taken place since the conviction, our position is that there are still consequences.  Our position would be that the individual should not be placed in a position of trust with children, youth or vulnerable adult.  We recommend that you speak to your legal counsel for a consultation regarding placing someone in a volunteer or staff role of responsibility where they have been convicted in the past for crimes.

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10i) Q: I hear that only 30% of organizations working with the vulnerable sector do Vulnerable Sector Searches (VSSs)?  Do we really need to do these?

A: We certainly recommend it! As much as we may be concerned that the new changes (as of July 2009) may be a deterrent to recruiting volunteers, and that we will see many more VSSs being returned flagged, we are more concerned that many organizations that serve the vulnerable sector are not doing everything in their power to provide a safe place for the vulnerable sector.  The RCMP website http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cr-cj/vulner/index-eng.htm provides very helpful information as to the process, timing, reasoning, reporting, and even a commitment to destroy the fingerprints once an individual has been flagged and submitted fingerprints.

We are concerned to learn that as little as 30% of organizaitons are doing VSSs on new volunteers and staff recruits ~ this demonstrates there is no standard of protection in Canada.  We believe a VSS should be done on first time screening and we urge all organizations to do a comprehensive screening process including applications, interview, reference checks, training, background screening, and final approval.  These processes could be audited regularly by Senior Leadership and Board members.  

Plan to Protect® strongly recommends that prior to placing any new volunteers and staff recruits into a position of trust that the Vulnerable Sector Search be returned CLEAR and not flagged.

Renewals of Criminal Record Checks, depending on your program, we recommend criminal record checks we renewed every 1-3 years.  We would recommend annually for camp programs, or annual mission trips, when you have not been in constant contact with the individual.  In a school or church program, the renewal could be done every 3 years, based on the regular contact you have with the individual.  On renewals, we recommend that you do a CPIC check and local police information checks.  (Plan to Protect® can provide these checks through our third party provider.) For additional information on checking young adults <25 years of age, please contact our office at 1-877-455-3555.

Contact Plan to Protect® for additional information on staff and volunteers that are minors and young adults.

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11. Discipline

11a) Q:  Many of the parents in our community discipline children with spanking. Some of them use objects to punish. What is reasonable force in punishment of children?

A: Reasonable discipline is defined by the courts in Canada.

Supreme Court of Canada’s limits on reasonable force - Under Canadian law, physical punishment of children is deemed reasonable if:

1. it is administered by a parent (teachers are not permitted to use corporal punishment);

2. the child is between the ages of 2 and 12, inclusive;

3. the child is capable of learning from correction;

4. it constitutes “minor corrective force of a transitory and trifling nature;”

5. it does not involve the use of objects or blows or slaps to the head;

6. it is used for “educative or corrective purposes” and does not stem from a caregiver’s “frustration, loss of temper, or abusive personality:” and

7. it is not degrading, inhuman, or harmful.

In 2004, the Supreme Court of Canada set out these seven criteria to distinguish reasonable from abusive corrective force with children. This information sheet summarizes a study that assessed the validity of the criteria defining reasonable corrective force by mapping them onto a nationally representative data set of substantiated cases of physical abuse.

Many parents across Canada are using unreasonable force in disciplining children.

Let us invest in training our parents as to what is reasonable discipline. We encourage you to invest in training seminars and workshops to educate the parents in your community as to what is corrective discipline and reasonable force. We encourage you to educate parents on discipline strategies that are life-giving and positive in nature.

Share these seven criteria with the parents in your community and provide resources that support these seven criteria.

For the full information sheet CLICK HERE.

In conclusion, unreasonable punishment escalates. Let’s win the race against abuse and train parents, provide resources that reflect the Canadian criteria, and remember we each have a legal responsibility to report abuse including physical abuse.

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11b) Q: How do we handle a child who is disruptive and/or refuses to take verbal direction? Do you ever recommend physical touch?

 
A: There are times when physical redirection/touch is necessary when directions are ignored, or when the child is harming another child or causing him/her discomfort. If after verbally directing the child several times on what you would like him/her to do, the child doesn’t respond appropriately, you can gently direct the child to sit where you ask. No corporal punishment should be used when dealing with a child in a disciplinary way.

Communicating your challenges with the parent/caregiver is critical in this situation as well. Together you can come up with a plan of action that you have both agreed upon. Documenting your plan and having the parent sign it is ideal. If you do not have regular access to the parent/caregiver, we would recommend you write up an incident report stating how you tried to redirect the child and his/her refusal. However, if you are able to speak with the parent and can agree on a plan, that would be preferred. This may suggest that the child be physically removed by one of your leaders taking the weight of what to do off your hands.

If the parents/caregivers do not seem to be cooperative, and the child refuses to behave, and/or the parents do not want you to physically constrain or remove the child, communicate to the parent that for the protection of the other children, that if his/her child's behaviour continues they will be asked to come and remove the child from the classroom and cannot return until classroom guidelines are followed.  (This is the last resort, as we want to make sure we do all we can to serve children and their parents.)

An Incident Report form is found in the Appendices the Plan to Protect® Manual.

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11c) Q: We have a child who has been diagnosed with Autism who is prone to outbursts.  There have been times during our programs that they have become physically and verbally abusive to other vulnerable persons.  The parent or caregiver has informed us that the individual  may need to be restrained when they are like this, but we have been resisting this.  What are the standard protocols that we should follow?

A: Your decision to avoid restraint is very wise. Doing proper restraint requires that your staff and/or volunteers complete a non-violent crisis intervention training. In addition, bodily contact with the vulnerable person may increases the risk of abuse. A general protocol in case of violent behaviour should aim to protect the individual, other vulnerable persons in the classroom, and staff members from being hurt:

  Try and stop the aggressive behaviour by calling the individual's name and saying "Stop!" in a very calm but firm voice. Move other vulnerable persons away to a safer position while you are dealing with the situation.

  If the situation persists or elevates, it may be necessary to take the other vulnerable persons away, but always leave 2 screened adults with the group - which means you may have to consider a two (staff) to one (client/guest) ratio of support. When it gets to this stage, the caregiver of the vulnerable person should be called to the scene.

  Position yourself to face the individual, but at a location where you can move away from danger (e.g., don't stand at the corner of the room). Keep trying to calm the individual down and re-direct the individual by suggesting activities that the child typically likes to do.

  Supervise without getting too close to the individual until the caregivers arrive.

However, the best protocol is always a preventive one. Obtain as much information as you can from the caregivers, such as diagnosis, patterns of behaviours, triggers of the behaviours, any effective calming techniques, etc. It will be good if the family gives you permission and information to contact the therapist and/or other professionals to understand how the individual’s behaviour is usually handled in other settings. For example, you may be able to learn effective calming method and re-directing strategies that teachers use with these individuals so that you could also implement the same procedures. The benefit is that the individual is already accustomed to this management protocol.  Try to keep a very detailed activity log (who, what, when, where and how) so that you can find out the triggers of the behaviour in your program. Once you can observe a pattern, then you would know how you can modify the program to avoid these triggers.

Behaviour management is often very complex.  To become more informed, be sure to join Cynthia Tam for her Disability Concerns Webinar Series.

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12. Implementing/Upgrading Policies

12a) Q.  How often should we review and update our policies? Have we seen the last of the changes to the requirements that will be put into place for vulnerable sector protection?

A. These are great questions and we hear them often. If your policies haven’t been updated in some years, you may be operating with ones that are really out of date, (similar to a black and white television, when the rest of the Canada is using HiDef television).

Customizing policies doesn’t need to be an overwhelming task, nor should it be a project that takes years to complete.

There are a number of reasons why it’s important and necessary to review your policies and why more changes to them are forthcoming.

  • Insurance requirements have changed
  • Changes in Legislation
  • Social Networking/Technology present new risks
    • Cell Phones with cameras
    • FaceBook
    • Twitter
    • Instagram
    • iPhones with Real Facetime
    • Texting
    • Messaging, etc.
  • Changes to screening recommendations
    • Criminal Record Checks
    • Vulnerable Sector Searches
  • Provincial Standards for reporting have changed
  • Privacy requirements
  • New or changing programs/staffing/facilities within your organization
  • Monitor your organization’s compliance – Due Diligence
  • If it’s been some years since you’ve reviewed your policies, you will want to revisit them soon to ensure they are current and that you’re organization is complying with them.

Are your policies more than 3 years old?

Are you overwhelmed with the task of updating your policies?

Have you been working on polices for months and can't seem to get them done?

Plan to Protect® can help.  We will prepare a customized first draft in only 2-3 weeks starting at $995.00*. You can begin by completing a 30-minute online questionnaire. A Plan to Protect® team member will produce your first policy draft within 2-3 weeks. *Member discounts apply. Some membership types include policy writing.

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12b) Q: We are concerned about putting policies in place. If we do, then we have to make sure we comply with them and we don’t know how we can do this; it's a lot of work. We are thinking it is better to not put the policies in place, than to have them and not comply with them. Isn’t that right?

A: From a general business perspective, it is true that creating company policies means that businesses and organizations must comply with the policies. However, there is a significant difference between creating an administrative risk or burden by adopting an employee fringe benefit program that is not required by law and creating a risk by not implementing policies and procedures that help insure compliance to existing labour laws and other government regulations. Vulnerable sector protection is a matter that the federal and provincial governments take very seriously and one that no organization can afford to ignore. The costs of non-compliance can far exceed the nuisance and cost of compliance.

"Negligence in employment covers several actions in tort law, mainly when an employer is responsible for the accident (or other tortuous act) caused by the employee. The employer in this case is negligent in providing the employee with the ability to create this situation. A person who is claiming negligence must prove that the defendant owed them a duty of care, that this duty was breached and that the claimant was injured as a result of the duty breach. This duty exists only if the injury is labeled as "reasonably foreseeable" (can cause the harm of the type which occurred at the current accident). The claimant must also be the person for whom the harm would be a "reasonably foreseeable consequence." Generally, the law divides Negligence in Employment into four scenarios: negligent hiring, negligent retention, negligent supervision and negligent training.

Negligent Hiring: Negligent hiring refers to a situation where the employer hires the employee, while ignoring the evidence in some of his or her work records that pointed to the fact that the accident could occur. This is one of the cornerstones of negligence in employment, because at this point everything depends on the actions of the employer and his professional skills in hiring employees. All the other scenarios can include some factors that appear later during the working process, but hiring is the moment when only the employer is guilty for the possible future incidents. Negligent hiring could be an underlying factor in a scenario that could be prevented by the buyer alone. Additional investigation may uncover some facts about a potential employee. So it is best for the buyers to conduct interviews, verify work and educational histories, check references and conduct a background check on any potential employee. In some cases the check can be considered insufficient; still, it is best to do to it, especially if the employee looks like he may be hiding something from his previous work experience.

Negligent Retention: This type of negligence occurs when the people in charge failed to remove an employee from a position of authority or responsibility after it became clear that the employee wasn't capable of handling the responsibility. The consequences of this type of negligence are probably the most serious; a non-professional person with authority can cause huge losses for a company. If a person is sued for negligent retention, very often he or she pleads negligent supervision or training. It changes the penalties from firing of the employee to the conducting of additional training or the adding of supervision to the working process.

Negligent Supervision: Negligent supervision occurs when the party fails to monitor or control the actions of the employee. As with the other types of negligence, it may result in injuries or losses if the work of an employee was not observed correctly.

Negligent Training: Negligent training occurs when a party fails to provide adequate training of an employee or fails to make him aware of certain aspects of the working process and it results in injuries or losses. This occurs only in certain types of companies where additional training for employees is required":

http://www.articlesbase.com/law-articles/negligence-in-employment-in-canada-953511.html

"Canada has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and one of the two optional protocols to it, while signing the other. Responsibility for implementation is split between the federal government and the provinces. Canada’s ten provinces have nearly universal health insurance plans that cover virtually all children and maintain most social welfare agencies. Another provincial responsibility is education. Children receive tax-supported elementary and secondary education. Universities charge subsidized tuition. Minimum ages for employment are yet another provincial responsibility. On the federal level, there are many criminal laws designed to prevent child abuse. The number of related offences and the maximum punishments for them have been greatly increased in recent years. In its national defence laws, the federal government now prohibits Canadian soldiers under the age of eighteen from being deployed in armed conflict. The federal government also created a new juvenile justice system in 2002 that gives the police and judges more options in handling cases of juveniles charged with criminal offences than the previous law."

http://www.loc.gov/law/help/child-rights/canada.php

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13. Plan to Protect® 101

13a) Q: Is it even possible to keep all the attendance forms and personnel files permanently?

A: An important filing system is critical to maintain attendance records and personnel forms. Attendance records can be retained electronically, which will minimize maintaining a paper trail. Ensure a procedure is in place for backups of electronic files and recording dates and revisions. Originals should be maintained of police records checks and signed application forms. Scanning and electronically filing documentation of interviews, reference checks and attendance at training seminars can also minimize paper files. Our Admin/Leader course can provide additional resources in documentation management.

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13b) Q: We find it difficult to collect all the forms back from our people – any suggestions?

 
A: This is a common challenge that many organizations face. Encourage prospective personnel to complete their forms prior to the time they attend training. If that doesn’t work, set aside time during the training session for the forms to be filled out and submitted. Police jurisdictions vary in their requirements for submitting forms and collecting results. If your police jurisdiction permits you to submit all the police records checks at one time, and have the results sent directly to the organization, this will minimize the turn-around time and avoid having you wait for individuals to bring them into you. Another option to consider is Plan to Protect®, will provide for a fee, police records checks compliant with PIPEDA and Canadian privacy and human rights legislation and is available within 24 hours. For additional help in recruiting and screening volunteers, see our Admin/Leader course.

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13c) Q: We don’t have paid staff for some of our programming – how do volunteers implement this program?

A: This question represents most of our organizations and it does require a lot of hard work and commitment on behalf of volunteers to implement Plan to Protect®. Identify individuals who have a burden for the protection of vulnerable persons and empower them to work the plan. An individual with strong administrative gifts is also a key to the success of the program. Some organizations have hired someone on a short term contract basis to assist with the initial implementation of Plan to Protect® while others network to find the tools and help that is needed. Plan to Protect® can help you do this.

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13d) Q: We implemented Plan to Protect® years ago but have not kept it up to date – how do we get back on track?

A: Plan to Protect® involves both an extensive implementation stage and a commitment to maintain the program through process management. Many of the organizations we surveyed acknowledged that they do a few of the steps in Plan to Protect®, but not 100%. It is not necessary to start over, but rather pick up where you left off. Take time to become acquainted with Plan to Protect® 2014 and assess where you are and what needs to be done. Continue to raise the bar on abuse prevention and set S.M.A.R.T. goals until you are 100% compliant.

S.M.A.R.T. goals are:

S – Specific Goals

M – Measurable Goals

A – Attainable Goals

R – Realistic Goals

T – Time Oriented Goals

Our Admin/Leader course is a great way to learn how to administer, implement and maintain Plan to Protect® - this is a great resource to help you get back on track.

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13e) Q: As a smaller organization, we know everyone who attends. Is all of Plan to Protect® really necessary?

A: This issue of abuse is not limited in its scope. It affects organizations regardless of size, function or geography. And regrettably, it is also present in our organizations. “Unfortunately, we are now aware of 43 multiple or individual cases of documented abuse at organizations within evangelical Christian circles in Canada … 37 of these have occurred in smaller congregations or at organizations in rural communities.” (Abuse Prevention Newsletter – Robertson Hall Insurance Inc., 2nd edition, September 2005, pg. 1).

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13f) Q: What should the responsibilities be for the Plan to Protect® Coordinator? Do you have a job description?

A: We do not have a job description for this role as we really recommend that a committee be formed to bring oversight to Plan to Protect®.

Over the last few years, we’ve seen the role delegated to program directors, a supervisor or a pastor. We have also seen the role delegated to individuals who only look at it from an insurance/liability perspective, or to an adult survivor of child abuse who is passionate to make a difference in the lives of other vulnerable individuals.

We believe the task is too big for one person, and the skills needed to be successful are quite varied.  Some of the skills and gifts needed are:

1. Leadership, including the ability to make difficult and painful decisions when it is not popular.  Also, someone who may be privy to confidential information when approving individuals who will be placed in a position of trust;

2. Administration (there is a lot of paperwork and organization required);

3. Ability to teach adults and youth in an engaging and inspiring manner;

4. Conscientious, to keep to the task and not let the ball drop;

5. Discernment, as you will need to listen to that still small voice (and sometimes your gut) to say no to some people who wish to have access to the vulnerable individuals whom you serve.

The committee should be made up of representatives from the board, staff, parents, and a community member at large. You could look for individuals that have experience in Human Resources, insurance, protection, fire and emergency safety, and adult facilitation training.

Probably the most important reason that we believe it should be a committee versus being delegated to one person, is for accountability purposes to make sure that policies are being adhered to and not overwritten or neglected. Sharing the responsibility also ensures that the work is being done; we can hold each other accountable and this allows us to share the workload.

I (Melodie) currently volunteer in a church that takes Child / Youth protection very seriously. There are four people that make up the committee. My role is the trainer and Chair, and I have also customized the policies for the church and secured buy-in and board approval. We have two individuals on the committee that do the administration and screening of volunteers, including reference checks and interviews. Finally, we have our Assoc. Pastor on the committee who signs off on all the volunteer and staff files. He reviews the files to make sure everything is in place and complete (he is the one ‘in the know’ in most cases). Two of our committee members also sit on the Church board, and the other two members (including myself) are representatives of either children’s programming or youth programming.

With that said, we believe that every organization should have one person (possibly the Chair), who will be at the helm, taking the lead and championing the cause. They should have a commitment to the protection of vulnerable individuals, a burden for the oppressed, and a desire to mitigate risk. Organizations in Canada are required to have a privacy officer.  My dream is that one day every child, youth and vulnerable adult serving organization will be required to have a protection officer.

We highly recommend those responsible for overseeing and coordinating Plan to Protect® at your organization take our Admin/Leader course.  This course will help you administer, implement and maintain a strong Plan to Protect® program in your organization. Start off right and stay strong!

Finally, these are the responsibilities of our current committee.  I believe I have captured everything.  

Chair

  • Maintain policy updates
  • Call for meetings
  • Ensure annual audit is completed
  • Prepare and submit Annual General Meeting Report
  • Ensure committee members stay on task
  • Sign off approval on all files that have been screened  (this could also be the role of a Pastor that sits on your committee) 
  • Problem solve as needed I.e. Unclear Criminal Record Check (this could also be the role of a Pastor that sits on your committee) 
Screening Personnel / Administrator
  • Attend Plan to Protect® Committee Meetings
  • Process applications
  • Conduct interviews with Ministry Leads
  • Check References
  • Maintain files on each ministry personnel
  • Maintain Master List of Screened Personnel — notifying department heads when someone is no longer current
  • Process criminal record checks and notify personnel when criminal record checks are needing to be renewed
  • Update training notations in files (those attending on-site training and on-line training) 
  • Maintain database
Trainer
  • Attend Plan to Protect® Committee Meetings
  • Schedule annual orientation and refresher trainings
  • Notify volunteers of training schedule
  • Ensure supplies are available for training
  • Schedule training room availability
  • Stay abreast of PowerPoint and training updates
  • Maintain Plan to Protect®certification
  • Take attendance at all training events, submit attendance records to Administrators
  • Provide on-line training options for those unable to attend

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13g) Q: Is it true that most organizations only implement Plan to Protect® for their children’s programs and not their youth programming; or that Plan to Protect® is only designed for those up to the ages of 12 years old?

A: Myth:  Plan to Protect® is a protection plan for children, not youth

The youth component of the manual was researched and written by Dave Brotherton, Professor of Youth Ministry at Ambrose University and Seminary and National Youth Facilitator for the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church in Canada.  He knows youth programming well and is passionate about protecting youth and protecting youth leaders. Hats off to Dave and those of you who are youth leaders that wrestle to create safe environments for your youth; we know it is not an easy task but you are raising the bar.

One of the biggest challenges that youth program leaders face is interacting with and mentoring young people without putting themselves in vulnerable situations. They also face the challenge with how to communicate with youth when the name of the game is emailing, texting, Facebook and MSN. Top this with the issue of youth with camera phones tagging images of young people on the internet and posting videos of them on YouTube.

We recognize that implementing abuse prevention in youth programs is a challenge. But please don’t throw out the program or plan because it is a challenge. Youth programs and activities are often very high risk.

Plan to Protect® is also important for vulnerable adults and those with disabilities. We are working on updating our resources to include expanded procedures, policies, and training for those working with this section of the vulnerable sector.

Myth:  Plan to Protect® says you can’t mentor individuals off-site and you can’t do off-site programs

Myth:  Plan to Protect® says you can’t email individuals or communicate via facebook.

When we hear the resistance that some program leaders have towards Plan to Protect® we sense the need to emphasize again that Plan to Protect® is not a policy but a plan to establish a policy. It is the responsibility of the organization’s leaders and board to establish a policy. We recommend that these policies be set up in conjunction with the youth leaders where they address challenges and concerns being mindful that within programming there are many risks.

We prefer not to focus on specific scenarios as the possible number is great. Can we throw the ball back into your court leaders and encourage you to embrace these five principles? The first four principles are adapted from Reducing the Risk. At Plan to Protect® we have added one which we believe is key in demonstrating due diligence and reflects the plan. We encourage your supervisors to hold you accountable to these principles:

Five key principles:

I.   As risk increases, supervision should also increase.

II.  Risk increases as isolation increases.

III. Risk increases as accountability decreases.

IV. Risk increases when there is an imbalance of power, authority, influence, and control between a potential abuser and a potential victim.

V.  The key to demonstrating due diligence (sufficient care) is collecting and retaining documentation.

Tips:

  Mentor in teams of two with another leader.  You could sit at separate tables at a restaurant but still within sight of each other.

  Have caregivers drop off and pick up individuals.

  Invite a third person to sit at another table in the restaurant or coffee shop for accountability.

  Ensure that there are clear site lines into your office and classrooms.

  Avoid taking individuals to your apartment or home without another unrelated screened worker.

  Mentor in small group settings rather than one-on-one.

  Avoid driving alone with an individual – if you find yourself in this situation have the individual call home and talk to his/her caregiver or another unrelated screened leader during the car ride home.

  Copy another leader on emails and text messages.

  Secure written permission from caregivers prior to communicating with individuals electronically.

  Avoid the use of webcams as the individual may not be properly dressed or may be in the privacy of their own room.

  Avoid public locations where there is no one who can account for your conversations and provide testimony.

  Don’t promise to keep secrets if it would jeopardize your legal responsibility to report abuse.

  Clearly post behaviour guidelines and expectations.

  Avoid travelling by cars when possible and use commercial vehicles for off-site trips

  Communicate wall to wall and not in private messages on Facebook.

  Avoid instant messaging on Facebook.

We believe that one of the most important pieces of documentation is “An Informed Letter of Consent with a Release and Waiver.”  Provide this as a download from your website for easy access.

On behalf of the many people who have been exploited and abused, we want to say a big thank you for doing your part to protect others. On behalf of leaders who have been falsely accused of abuse, please don’t let down your guard. On behalf of Plan to Protect®, we are so encouraged to see many program leaders attend our training courses as this provides opportunity to network together to learn from each other.

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14. Disability Concerns

14a) Q: How can we ensure our organization is doing everything we can to accommodate people with disabilities?

A: “As of January 1st, 2012, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act legally required all organizations, both public and private, that provide goods or services either directly to the public or to other organizations in Ontario (third parties) and that have one or more employees to provide accessible customer service to persons of all ability levels.“

Plan to Protect® has provided resources to help make this happen in your organization:

  • Our on-line Plan to Protect® training includes one module on “Accessibility and Working with Individuals with Disabilities”
  • The Information Form for Participants with Additional Needs is designed to help caregivers to think through the information they may need to know to adequately support the participant within the program.  It is intended that the caregivers fill out this form ahead of time, and return it to the program coordinator.
    • Include personal information, emergency contacts; assistance required for specific program tasks (including eating, toileting, mobility, etc.); behaviour, communication and social interactions; and consent.
    • Be sure to include allergies, medical assistance (ex. Epi Pen, Ventilator),
    • If the participant requires a Personal Support Worker: provide an additional form for the worker including: personal information, reason for the use of a support worker, and consent. We also recommend that this individual be screened and trained as if they were one of your volunteers.
  • The Interview Template for Participants with Additional Needs is intended to be a guide for a follow-up interview with the caregiver to expand on the information they have provided.  This is a great opportunity to set goals together to help the participant have the best experience possible in your program. Afterwards, we recommend condensing the information into a report that can be shared with other staff or volunteers within your program. This will help everyone to be on the same page. Furthermore, it will help you evaluate how well the strategies you are using are working.
    • Personal information, information on diagnosis
    •  Strengths, areas of support needed
    • Medication, medical support required
    • Goals for program (the program is not intended as therapy for the participant)
    • Recommendations for program

***The Information Form and Interview Template are made available to members of Plan to Protect® ***

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15. Miscellaneous

15a) Q: Can the caregivers of new children/youth/vulnerable adults sit in the program if they are not screened?

A: Occasional observers including caregivers may visit a program and sit with their own children, youth, or vulnerable adult with the understanding that they are not placed in a position of trust with any other participant. It is important to limit this attendance as the participants may begin to consider this adult as a teacher/leader. Individuals who become regular participants in a program must submit to the recruitment and screening process. Those who have not yet completed the recruitment and screening process must submit and complete all requirements within a three month period of time. In the meantime, their access to participants will be limited and they are not to be placed in a position of trust. If their service is required, they will be placed in settings with approved personnel. Only approved personnel will accompany participants to the washroom and assume the responsibility for their care.

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15b) Q:  Is there an alternative to bleach for disinfecting and cleaning toys/games and counters?  We have concerns about using bleach.

A:  For those who have concerns about using bleach due to safety and environmental reasons, other alternatives include hydrogen peroxide, vinegar, or rubbing alcohol to clean and disinfect; however, we recommend that you research these thoroughly before proceeding to use them.

Other products you may consider using include Metrex Caviwipes, made by Metrex which offers a variety of cleaning and disinfectant products.  Because they are largely used in the medical field, such as hospitals and clinics, it would be an effective substitution for the 10% bleach and water solution to clean children's toys and play areas.  However, due to its price, it may not be feasible for every organization.

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15c) Q:  Do you have guidelines or recommendations regarding inclement weather and outdoor activities?

A:  To ensure that outdoor activities are safe for everyone, weather conditions are an important consideration when planning. Here are our recommendations:

  • Check the cold weather policies in local schools and daycares. Each province may have different temperature recommendations and they provide good guidelines for your area.  In Ontario, children are recommended to stay indoors when the weather is below -15 degrees Celsius and above 30 degrees Celsius.
  • If temperatures are below or above recommended conditions for outdoor activities, they should be discouraged or prohibited - wind chill, humidex and smog alerts should also be taken into account.
  • Personnel should take notice that vulnerable persons are adequately dressed for outside conditions.
  • In extreme weather, personnel should also ensure that vulnerable persons have transportation home and not dismissed to the elements to get home on their own i.e. walking.

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15d) Q:  We ask our volunteers and staff to sign a Code of Conduct.  However, they are pushing back.  How can we explain the importance of signing this document?

 
A: Many organizations ask their members to sign a Code of Conduct.  These documents are often very good and call members to a lifestyle that that is reflective of the standards of the organization in order to provide strong role models for the vulnerable persons whom they serve.

Over the years, Plan to Protect® has found that there occasionally tends to be pushback from some volunteers or staff members on the term ‘Code of Conduct.’ Individuals seem to be more willing to sign a document called ‘Covenant of Care’.   It is possible that they don’t see their rights being upheld or that from a Code of Conduct they cannot determine what protection there is in place for them personally.  Further, they may feel that should an incident transpire it may appear that them they would not be protected or supported by the organization that they serve?

The Covenant of Care / Code of Conduct is a volunteer or staff member’s commitment on their part to your organization and the individuals you serve, demonstrating their understanding that they have a duty of care.

Duty of Care: The concept of duty of care 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.

A Covenant of Care / Code of Conduct is a means of securing people’s commitment to the values, standards and policies of an organization.  It in no way says you are out on your own, rather the opposite.  It is stating as an oath that you are part of this community / organization and will abide by the tenants of this community / orgnaization.  It actually is a means of protecting those that are committed to the protection of the youth, it demonstrate “due diligence” on the part of a volunteer or staff member that they will uphold these values.

A Covenant of Care / Code of Conduct is also a means of ensuring that all volunteers and staff are on the same page and are making an oath to care for the vulnerable sector.

One of the best ways for an individual to be protected under their organization is to sign the Covenant of Care, and to submit to the screening and training process.  Screening is legally required under the Duty of Care.  Once screened and approved as a volunteer or staff member, they will fall under the umbrella of insurance and protection that your organization will provide.  The condition for staying under that umbrella of care is to continue to be a staff member or volunteer.  Organizations ought to ask their people to abide to a code or covenant that is reflective of their values.

Please also find a link below that will direct you to a great resource developed under Volunteer Canada and Imagine Canada – Canadian Code of Volunteer Involvement.  You may want to consider some of the content that is included in this document for your volunteer management. Volunteer Canada and Imagine Canada-Canadian Code of Volunteer Involvement

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15e) Q: I see in Plan to Protect® that you recommend that there be two unrelated screened adults in the classroom. To which family members does this refer?

  A: Yes, according to Plan to Protect® and our training, we recommend that there be two unrelated screened adults supervising in a program. From our most recent research and feedback from legal counsel, related adults refer to a marriage / common law / or previously married, etc. So, siblings or parent-child are fall under the unrelated category.  You may wish to confer with your own legal counsel to confirm this information.

If you do have two related individuals working together (as previously defined), our recommended standard states that there should be a third screened adult present, or they should keep the door open and there should be a screened hall monitor making rounds.The open door recommendation also relates to one adult and one youth serving together alone, two youth serving alone, one adult serving alone.  Best practices would avoid these scenarios.

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15f) Q:  Can we use staff/volunteers from other organizations to work our programs and substitute for our leaders/volunteers? We were hoping to do an all staff/volunteer event and would like to allow other community organizations to offer relief for our regular staff/volunteers?  

A:  Plan to Protect® recommends that you also ask your insurance company to address this question for you.  They may have a problem with you allowing workers that you have not screened and trained to be in a position of trust with the children, youth and/or vulnerable adults. Also, your organization could certainly be held responsible if anything goes wrong and, if the other organization holds insurance from a different company, it could become a liability nightmare if there are numerous insurance companies involved. We find that child and youth serving organizations all have such different standards of implementing Plan to Protect®.  Some people call their programs “Plan to Protect” even though it is a registered trademark and you should only use the term if you have purchased a copy of the Plan to Protect® manual. We find some organizations take abuse prevention so seriously and follow the recommended guidelines of Plan to Protect®, where other organizations are quite lax.  The standard of protection nationally really varies.  We encourage you to follow the standard outlined in Plan to Protect®. Policies and training standards also vary.  Every organization is unique.  I’d be cautious about putting your kids in the hands of other staff/volunteers that you have not screened or trained.

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15g) Q: If a potential volunteer/staff has a youth record, can we have access to that information? A: Unless you are a government employer/organization you will not likely be given any information about someone's youth record.

The police will not give any employer or prospective organization where youth are volunteering (except a government employer) information about a youth record directly – even if the youth grants permission. However, an employer / volunteer organization can ask the youth candidate to go to the police and get proof that they do not have a record. The candidate has the right to refuse to do this, but a criminal check may be required for some roles.

It is not illegal for an employer or perspective organization where youth are applying to volunteer to refuse to hire the young person because he/she has a record, as long as the record is still open. Once the record is closed, it is against the law for an employer or organization to refuse to hire the young person for having committed a crime as a youth. Under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, once a young person has finished a sentence, including probation, it is as if they have never been charged or found guilty. After the record is closed, the young person will no longer have a record.

Also, an employer may ask whether the young person has been convicted of a crime. However, under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, youth are not convicted of a crime, but rather, found guilty.

If a young person commits another crime before the record is closed, it makes the record for the first crime stay open longer. If the young person is under 18 when they commit the second crime, the record for the first crime will stay open as long as the record for the second crime does. If they are over 18 when they commit the second crime, the record for the first crime will become part of the permanent adult record, and people are then allowed to access it.

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15h) Q: How should we respond if we suspect or know of a vulnerable sector individual who is exposed to domestic violence?  How can we address domestic violence in our community?

A: Did you know that exposure to domestic violence is a form of abuse?  In 2008 Canadian Incidence Study of Child Maltreatment and Neglect prepared by the Public Health Agency, Exposure to Domestic Violence was the leading (primary) cause of child abuse in Canada.Scientific research proves that the impact of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), often associated with domestic violence can be very severe.  It may include when someone's life has been threatened or severe injury has occurred (ex. they may be the victim or a witness of physical abuse, sexual abuse, violence in the home or in the community, automobile accidents, natural disasters (such as flood, fire, earthquakes), and being diagnosed with a life threatening illness.   An individual's risk of developing PTSD is related to the seriousness of the trauma, whether the trauma is repeated, the individual’s proximity to the trauma, and his/her relationship to the victim(s). Domestic violence is present in our families, schools, organizations, and communities. Let’s not sit idle!  At Plan to Protect®, we are committed to win the race against abuse.  We can do this through education and policies that incorporate recognition and response to domestic violence.  Our customized policies and training are now recognized as a strong STANDARD in Canada.  We can also do it by equipping parents through education, pastoral care and professional counseling. There are excellent training resources available to strengthen families. Draw attention also to the impact of domestic violence in your newsletters, classes, sermons, homilies, etc.

Knowing how to recognized indicators is also a key.  Include this training in your Plan to Protect® Orientation and Refresher training.  Indicators of PTSD include headaches, stomach pains, angry bursts, difficulty concentrating, low participation and interest in important events, memory gaps about the violence, sleeping problems, overly fearful reactions, discipline problems, and deficient verbal, intellectual or motor skills, learning problems and falling behind at academics.  I know believe that the impact of domestic violence can be as severe if not more severe than other forms of abuse.

Finally, if you know of or suspect that an individual is exposed to domestic violence, we implore you to follow the laws in Canada and report your suspicion to a protection agency in Canada.  Let’s get the help these families need so the impact on the individual can be urgently addressed.

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15i) Q: We have community programs where there is no childcare provided, but parents bring their children and they are left on their own in our building while the program is being held. The children run around the building unsupervised. What responsibility does the church have when this happens?

A: We would recommend that if they child care is not being offered during a particular event, you make sure that doors to unused rooms are locked keeping children from running around.  We would also recommend that you notify parents that child care is not offered and that children should not be left on their own.  An announcement should be made at the beginning of the event or even included in a bulletin or flyer about the event.  You could also put a notice in the nursery or children's area on the door stating PARENTS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR OWN CHILDREN EXCEPT DURING SUPERVISED ACTIVITIES - WHEN RELEASED TO A TEACHER DIRECTLY.If parents still bring children, and this is going to be allowed, then the best solution would be to have identified, screened and trained personnel watch the children - that is what most churches try to do - or require the kids to stay in the same room so they are in view of the parents.   If something happens to the children not in view of any adults, the program could still be held responsible - so it is best not to allow this type of running around.The program administrators should be made aware of this situation as it is ultimately their responsibility to oversee all program-sponsored activities and put reasonable measures in place.

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15j) Q: We have young people in our College & University groups who are still under the age of majority.  As they are graduates of High School, do we still have to apply the same standard of protection with screening and protection procedures, etc.?

A: Our recommendation is that these students should still be provided protection, as they are still minors and based on your Provincial guidelines are in need of protection and/or defined as “a child”. Screening a few key leaders responsible for the College/University programs would provide an element of protection, and would begin to demonstrate due diligence on your part. Continue to be accountable to parents, securing parental permission for activities of elevated risk. Continue to do this until the students have reached the provincial age of majority (identified as an adult). Please note that the ‘age of a child’ varies across provinces (either 18 or 19), so it is important to check within your province as to what defines the age of a child (not necessarily to be based on high school graduation).

(Reference: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/study/study-minors.asp)

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15k) Q: We have 18 & 19 year olds in our youth programs who are taking a GAP year and still want to attend our retreats, activities and programs.  Can we allow them to attend our High School age programs, and what steps should we follow to maintain safety in our programs?

A: We would recommend that youth programs be limited to minors (setting an age limit) and assigned screened adults. When you provide opportunity for adults that are not screened to participate in youth programs, risk will increase.  Risk increases when you will have adults participating that are not screened and trained and not accountable to the policies and procedures for engagement with youth.  Whenever possible encourage these young people to attend programs designed for their own age group.  

When risk increases we recommend parents be notified. Therefore, if students 18 and 19 years old are attending programs intended for youth, the parents of the younger youth should be informed that there are older students participating that are not screened workers. Coach the older youth that although they are older, they do not hold a position of leadership and should not be interacting with the younger students in such a way that they are viewed as leaders. Encourage them to be role models to the younger youth in their behaviour. In the event of overnight and off-site trips, we would recommend that they be assigned to staff sleeping quarters separate from the youth, and not be driving on behalf of the organization.  Strong supervision will be needed if they participate in your programs.

If your organization wishes, you could require a screening process for the older students. This too will be a step towards demonstrating due diligence in the area of a care and protection. Please note however, that Plan to Protect® recommends a five year age difference between leadership and the students that they are assigned to.   

Please note that the ‘age of a child’ varies across provinces (either 18 or 19), so it is important to check within your province as to what defines the age of a child (not necessarily to be based on high school graduation).  (Reference: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/study/study-minors.asp)

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15l) Q: Bullying is a problem among our students.  How should we handle bullying when we encounter it in our programming?

 
A: We recommend having a zero-tolerance policy in place in all programs.  All personnel should take action to prevent bullying, teach against it, and assist and support the vulnerable sector individuals who are being bullied. Any incidents, reports or suspicions of bullying should be accepted, reviewed and dealt with appropriately and immediately. The supervisor should be notified, an incident report should be filled out and all caregivers should be notified immediately. Counseling and support should be recommended and provided for the victim of bullying. Remember that an incident of bullying is no an incident of conflict.  We do not recommend that you deal with bullying the same way as you do when two children have a minor conflict.

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15m) Q: We have a zero-tolerance policy for bullying within our program.  How can we enforce this policy?  

 
A: We recommend all incidents are dealt with appropriate and immediately. Make sure an incident report if filled out whenever an instance of bullying occurs. Supervisors and all caregivers should be notified.  Possible action may include, but is not limited to: warning, change of group or program, suspension temporarily from program, removal of privileges, and suspension permanently from program.  If necessary, and appropriate, police should be consulted. All action should be age and situation appropriate.  We recommend dealing with all cases of abuse on a case-by-case basis and deal with cases immediately before it escalates.

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15n) Q: Where can I find more information on bullying and cyber bullying?

 
A: Plan to Protect® has pre-recorded special interest webinars on these topics.  The webinars are available on the Member Section of the website. A detailed sample bullying policy and procedure is now available on the Member Section of the website.

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15o) Q: In years past I have been taught through Plan to Protect® that men do not take either boys or girls to the washroom at all.  We do use hall monitors to help with escorting children to the washrooms. If I am correct about woman being the only ones to assist, if we only have male hall monitors on duty, can they go as the second adult, when escorting through the halls to the washrooms?

A: You are correct that in the past Plan to Protect® recommended that only adult females diaper children, accompany and assist toddlers and pre-schoolers to the washroom, and that males should not accompany female elementary children to the washroom.  Our recommendation was based on the statistics that report significantly more males sexually abuse children than females.  Our desire has always been to reduce the risk of abuse.  

However, recently this has been challenged from a human rights perspective, as it relates to gender discrimination. Legal counsel has since encouraged us to review our recommendations, which we have done.  

Providing personal care as it relates to washroom guidelines and diapering is identified as a high risk activity.  Removing this recommendation and allowing either gender to accompany children to the washroom will require creative thinking and strategizing such as:  

  • Always send two unrelated screened leaders to the washroom to assist children; or
  • Sending one screened leader and calling on the assistance of a screened hall monitor to provide oversight and supervision; or
  • Calling on the parent to accompany children to the washroom.

Finally, I would recommend that parents provide written permission for diapering, and ensure parents are informed of the personal care policies of the church.  

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15p) Q: Our leadership just received notice from a family in our organization who has decided NOT to have their children vaccinated.  This raises some concerns as we have other children in our programs who have very weak immune systems.  Our executive director is thinking that some form of policy must be put in place, what are your thoughts regarding this issue?  

A: Yes we would recommend that your policies include procedures regarding immunizations. We would caution organizations from restricting access to children that have not been immunized, as this could result in a parent taking you to court for discrimination.  However, you can request to be notified of children who have not been immunized. This information will be used to protect all children who have and who have not been immunized.

Based on information provided by the Public Health Agency of Canada, Plan to Protect® recommends that you:

  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 of illness 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.

The Public Health Agency state that there is little need for concern for those that have been immunized but struggle with low immunity as they are being protected due to the vaccinations.  The primary concern is protection of those children who have not been vaccinated.

The Public Health Agency of Canada also provided us with some general information regarding vaccinations:

Immunization is one of the most effective interventions available to prevent and control vaccine-preventable diseases.  While immunization is important in all stages of life, many parents are not aware that infants and young children are particularly susceptible to vaccine-preventable diseases because their immune systems are not mature enough to fight infection.  Older children and adults also require immunization to restore waning immunity and to build new immunity against diseases that are more common in adults.

Immunization directly protects individuals who receive vaccines and also prevents the spread of infection in the community.  This "herd immunity" indirectly protects infants who are too young to be vaccinated; people who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons; and people who may not adequately respond to immunization.

In Canada, immunization is a shared responsibility among the federal, provincial, and territorial governments.  The federal government is responsible for regulating vaccines, monitoring vaccine safety, and providing evidence-based recommendations on the use of vaccines in Canada.  The provinces and territories are responsible for funding, planning, and delivering immunization programs in their respective jurisdictions, including child/youth-serving organizations implementing childhood immunization requirements.

Depending upon the nature of your programs and facility, your organization's policy regarding immunization may vary, especially if children in your program are immuno-compromised and therefore particularly vulnerable.  We encourage you to discuss this matter further with your provincial and/or local public health authority.  Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care contact information can be found at the following web link: http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/common/

Disclaimer: The links to websites outside of PHAC are provided for convenience only.  PHAC is not responsible for ensuring the availability or quality of content of these external websites. The views and opinions expressed on external websites are not necessarily those of the PHAC. 

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15q) Q: What should our volunteers do if they have a student/individual that is threatening suicide?

A: Suicide threats should be taken seriously and respond appropriately:

  • Don’t minimize their pain.
  • Don’t ask leading questions, rather reflect their feelings back to them.
  • Don’t make promises that you can’t keep. 
  • Determine the seriousness of the individual’s suicidal thoughts, noting the detail of the plan, including specific dates, times, methods and any advanced preparation already completed.  
  • Hear them out, listen and encourage. 
  • Strive to instil a sense of hope. 
  • Assure them that you are concerned and you would like to put them in touch with someone who can help. 
  • Don’t take on the role of the counsellor or therapist. 
  • Keep them safe and if at all possible stay by their side. Immediately tell your Program Leader, and call for professional help. 

In Canada

In United States


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16. Vulnerable Adults   

16a) Q: Do we needs to include policies and procedures for the Elderly and Vulnerable Adults?  

A:If you have a policy in place to protect children and youth, you should also have a policy in place that protects vulnerable adults to whom you serve. Therefore, if your community includes the Elderly or adults with disabilities, we recommend that you have policies and procedures in place to protect this vulnerable sector of our society. Whether the programs are limited to visiting those that are shut-ins, or those that are in the hospital or nursing homes, policies and procedures will establish the parameters the Board is putting into place for this visitation. These policies and procedures are often the best practices that most organizations follow. Common procedures include avoiding isolation and being alone with the individual, recording your visits, refraining from assisting with personal care, completing incident reports, accountability and reporting of financial gifts, establishing ratios for group activities, etc.

16b) Q: 
We have volunteers and staff visit shut-ins and the elderly.  When we arrive, the family member or caregiver has asked if they can run errands while we are there?  We are concerned that this will put us in a position of being alone or even being asked to provide personal care.  How should we respond in this situation and how can we provide a safe environment?  

A: When you are visiting nursing homes, hospitals and vulnerable people in their homes, we recommend you visit in teams of two screened people. If that is not possible, then it is advised to make sure a family members, PSW (Personal Support Worker) or a caregiver is present.  All personal care should be the responsibility of PSW’s, nurses and care givers / family members, not the volunteer or staff member visiting the vulnerable person.  If you state this upfront when scheduling the appointment this will minimize having to have a difficult conversation later on.  If you are visiting alone, we also recommend that you keep track of your visits, register your attendance at the nursing home, and when possible meet in common areas or with the door open.  Avoid pulling the curtain around the bed of the individual that is bedridden.

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17. Social/Human Rights Issues   

17a) Q: We have a Jr. High student that informed us he is transitioning. The student has asked not to use the male bathroom and change room, rather the female bathroom and change room.  Can we put a policy in place that states the student must use the bathroom of the gender of birth?  

A: 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.  Recently, changes have been made in many Provinces and States adding gender identity as an individual’s human right (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 mission is to provide the HIGHEST standard of abuse prevention and protection for organizations servicing the vulnerable sector.  Therefore, we would encourage our clients to create a safe environment for all individuals, including the Jr. High student that is asking for accommodation. 

More and more organizations are providing universal / all gender, barrier free washrooms.  We would recommend you provide this option. Where change-rooms do not have separate privacy stalls, reasonable accommodations should be provided on a case-by-case basis that endeavors to effectively meet the individual’s particular needs.

This student needs protection and freedom from isolation, bullying, discrimination or harassment. This is an opportunity to live out your organization’s vision and mission, and to extend welcome and care.

This also provides an opportunity to strengthen you bullying policies, and your harassment and discrimination policies. 

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Disclaimer:  The development, preparation and publication of this work has been undertaken with great care. However, the publisher, editors, employees and agents of Plan to Protect® are not responsible for any errors contained herein or for consequences that may ensue from use of materials or information contained in this work. The information contained herein is intended to assist organizations in establishing policy. Plan to Protect® and references to the manual are only as current as the date of publication and do not reflect subsequent changes in law. This information is distributed with the understanding that it does not constitute legal advice. Organizations are strongly encouraged to seek legal counsel as well as counsel from your insurance company when establishing a policy.

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