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  • Aug17Mon

    Why update policies?

    August 17, 2015
    Filed Under:
    Policies and Procedures

    Five years ago, I was invited to attend a conference on risk management.  The auditorium was filled with Senior Leadership of organizations that service the vulnerable sector.  I had the privilege of sitting on a panel of peers, many who were experts in their field of corporate law, criminal law, liability insurance, police, and abuse prevention workers.  

    A question was asked, “Have we seen the end of the additional requirements that will be placed on us, to qualify for abuse coverage?” The audience waited for a response to the question.  Tension filled the room, for preventing abuse is not an easy task.  It requires diligence and commitment to staying the course. The question was answered candidly by each and every one of the panellists. Overwhelmingly, the response was that the requirements for abuse coverage, Plan to Protect®, the standard of protection is fluid, meaning, we will need to continue to update the standard due to the trends we face in society and the changes in legislation, resulting in changes in the requirements for abuse coverage. 

    When Plan to Protect® was first written in 1996 (yes, we are quickly approaching our 20th anniversary), the manual was approximately 35 pages.  In 2000, we added a youth component. In 2007, we completed three years of reading and research and re-wrote the manual to reflect insurance standards and to make it user-friendlier for our readers.  We are currently working on the 4th edition, which will include a component on vulnerable adult protection. Vulnerable adults include the Elderly, adults with disabilities, and adults who are experiencing crises in their lives. Yes it has grown over time, today, the Plan to Protect® manual is 300 pages of best practices.

    Unfortunately, 20 years later, we still continue to encounter organizations that do not have policies and procedures in place or organizations that have not updated their policies in the past ten years.  

    Here are some of the comments we’ve heard in the past few months:

    • A transportation company that does not do reference checks or police record checks on their drivers that transport students alone;
    • A church that offers access to training but does not mandate it;
    • A large association of community clubs whose policies recommend that you shouldn’t be alone with students but does not restrict opportunities for isolation;
    • A large global humanitarian mission organization that does not screen or train volunteers;
    • A school that only does police checks on teachers the first year they join the staff; and
    • A community center that culturally accepts verbal abuse as culturally acceptable.

    Plan to Protect® recommends board members and Senior Leadership take on the practices of updating policies every one to three years to ensure the policies and procedures are up to date and meet insurance requirements.

    At Plan to Protect® we have our ears to the ground and are identifying trends that are common among our clients.  As these trends arise, we invest time and attention to research and drafting of new policy statements and procedures, which can be incorporated by our clients. 

    Just some of the trends our clients are currently facing, includes:

    • Abuse Coverage Exclusion – we continue to have clients notifying us that abuse coverage has been excluded from their coverage and they are not meeting the requirements for coverage.
    • Social Media – staff members having access to kids via social media beyond the parameters of program via email, FaceBook, Twitter, Text, Instagram, web cameras, etc.
    • Gender Identity – students stating they don’t identify with their gender of birth and requesting access to programs, washrooms, shower rooms, and housing of the opposite gender.  We have received three client calls this summer on this very issue.
    • Child to child abuse – for every report we hear in our office of abuse within an organization we hear two reports of child-to-child abuse - young teens abusing children.
    • Outside User Groups – Gone are the days when you would allow home school groups, piano teachers, Martial Arts programs, and Daycares to use your building for free, or as rentals without recognizing the additional risk to your own organization if harm happened. Our clients are now seeing the need to put additional requirements in place for those organizations that don’t fall under their mandate, but are using their buildings to service the vulnerable sector.
    • Custody and Restraining Orders – With the number of single parent families and the rising divorce rate, more and more of our clients are facing the need to revise their policies and procedures for registration, sign-in and sign-out of minors.

    Being prepared for these trends is another reason we recommend policies be reviewed regularly. 

    Finally, there may be changes you’ve made within your activities, programs, facilities, and staffing (i.e. you may have added Portables, a new site, a visitation program for at-risk kids or shut-Ins, mentoring program or bussing program).  These changes may require your policies to be updated, in order to include protection procedures for these programs. We recommend you re-look at your policy, each time you add a new activity or program, if this task seems too burdensome, we can assist you.

    At Plan to Protect® we have a three-prong approach to supporting our clients:


    If you are unsure if your policies are in need of updating, we recommend an Assessment and gap analysis of your current policies, procedures, screening and selection of staffing, and training. Once the assessment is complete, a report will be provided identifying both best practices and gaps, which could leave your organization vulnerable to abuse.  Recommendations are then provided which will help you move to the Implementation Stage. To request a quote for an Assessment contact mbissell@plantoprotect.com

    Melodie Bissell is the President & CEO of Plan to Protect®, a Canadian-based organization with a vision to win the race against abuse. She co-authored and now is the primary distributor of Plan to Protect®, A Protection Manual for Children, Youth and Those That Work With Them.   The manual is a comprehensive plan to help you achieve a HIGH STANDARD  of protection. Plan to Protect® provides the tools, training, and momentum to create safe places for the vulnerable sector. Melodie regularly consults with associations, schools, camps, churches, nursing centers, and dioceses on abuse prevention, risk management, and strategic planning. She is also a sought-after speaker and trainer on Vulnerable Sector Protection. Melodie lives in Stouffville, Ontario with her husband, Scott. Visit Melodie on the web at www.plantoprotect.com



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