Jul15WedJuly 15, 2015
To be truthfully honest, I am a little surprised. I like to believe the best about our clients, but some of you have bought into a lie or there is a complete misconception. I’m not sure whose eyes you are trying to pull the wool over but, I am going to be tough on you here! I am beginning to believe some of you are taking short-cuts and trying to find loopholes in your policies and procedures.
There are two definitions that we need clear understanding on which are critical to meeting a high standard of protection:
Position of Trust: A position of trust is any position that requires its holder to enjoy the trust of those who elected or chose the holder. It includes any role where parents and or guardians have entrusted their loved one to your care i.e. teachers, helpers, assistants, supervisors, directors, leaders, caregivers, sponsors, etc. A position of trust, in legal terms, refers to a situation where one person holds a position of authority over another person and uses that position to his or her advantage to commit a crime or to injury the victim in some way. Liability for abuse of this position is not limited to criminal prosecution, and in some cases, a civil lawsuit may be brought as well.
Occasional Observer: Individuals who visit and observe Personnel during activities on rare occasions. This term includes Parents assisting their own children. Occasional Observers do not need to be screened and trained, however, their access to minors will be limited, and they will never be placed in a position of trust with Children who are not their own. That means that they will not be asked to assume responsibility for Children, and they will not be allowed or asked to take Children to the washroom.
Perhaps there is confusion regarding the term "Authority," believing the occasional helper is not in a position of Authority. I have worked with children for years, and even that snack lady, or the hall monitor, or the teenage helper who is a reading buddy may resort to discipline tactics to keep control of the classroom.
Another confusing term may be "their access to minors will be limited." At times, we have been questioned, "Melodie, limited means they will have some access to children!" Yes, their access will be to sit on the sidelines, observing the class activities from a distance. We recommend that they be introduced to the children "We have a special guest today, Kimmy's mother is here as a guest. She will be sitting off to the side and watching the fun activities that we are doing. Let's all say hello to Kimmy's mom!"
I'm hoping this will clear it up once and for all. We want you to understand our position loud and clear. As noted above, we have begun to see a pattern among some of our clients, stating that so long as you have one staff member or volunteer screened in a classroom, that is sufficient. I understand that some of you have assigned volunteers, staff or helpers to assist in the classroom (on a weekly, monthly or occasional basis) but you aren’t requiring them to be screened, or trained.
An Occasional Observer is the parent who wants peace of mind that their child is being well cared for. They sit on the sidelines and observe the interaction that is happening between their children and the workers they will be entrusting their children into the care of. Occasional Observers are individuals who are guests in your classroom. Guests are just that, sit on the sidelines, and just observe. They are there for one or two days, but not on a scheduled basis. They are not to develop relationships with the children, be a caregiver.
I recently received a letter of concern from a Program Leader, who voiced concern that parents were being asked to come into the classroom and coach students on a frequent basis. He knew without a doubt that the parents would be in close proximity to the children, building relationships with them, cheering them on, encouraging them in their work, and engaging in personal conversations with them. When he raised the concern to leadership, they responded, “they aren’t in a position of trust,” and went on to say, “they aren’t really serving, but acting in the role of a tutor, their just listening!”
When we are asked the question, the short answer is “if the staff member or the volunteer is on the roster to serve, or called into the classroom to provide assistance, help, aid, etc., they are being placed in a position of trust.” Please don't take shortcuts! For your protection, to demonstrate your duty of care to your workers, and to the vulnerable sector, adequately screen and train all workers. Please don't just rely on a Criminal Record Check but follow the ten steps of screening we recommend.
The bottom line, it should always come down to “What’s best for the children!”