Written by Jill Goyette
As the Executive Director of Youth Development, I spend a large chunk of time working to improve our youth programs. Part of this includes designing and implementing child abuse prevention trainings for staff and volunteers. However, I don’t do this work alone. There is an entire Child Abuse Prevention team at the Y made up of staff members from across our Association.
We hold trainings year-round, but every April during Child Abuse Prevention Month the team focuses more of our efforts on raising awareness. These efforts go far beyond our daily child abuse prevention routines. We consider the ways in which we can strengthen our policies, practices and procedures, while also dedicating time to in-depth training sessions for staff and volunteers so they better understand their responsibility to help protect kids from abuse. This year is no exception. We recognize that ongoing challenges related to the pandemic might be competing for energy and attention right now, but we also know that abuse prevention is more critical during times of disruption and change.
Nurturing and developing children is at the core of our values and that includes making the safety of all children in our care our number one priority. This is a non-negotiable for us. Staff and volunteers with YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City must all follow our Code of Ethics. It was written to ensure the physical and emotional safety of each child who comes through our doors, whether they’re regular program participants or only visit once a year.
During Child Abuse Prevention Month, we want to make sure that all members understand this Code of Ethics. A key tool in abuse prevention is knowledge, so it’s important that parents and caregivers are informed of the Y’s policies around children. Together we can work to ensure all children in central Oklahoma reach their full potential. If you would like to read our Code of Ethics, click here.
In addition to the Code, which is something staff and volunteers agree to, we take it a step further and enact policies across the Y to keep kids safe. This includes required staff training on recognizing and preventing abuse; prohibiting staff/volunteers from being alone with a child where they cannot be observed by others; limiting staff contact with children outside of Y programs; criminal background checks on staff and volunteers; and reporting any allegations or suspicions of abuse to law enforcement.
Speaking of reporting, I should note that we are not responsible for investigating claims of abuse or neglect. Our job is to report, but we can’t be everywhere at all times. It truly takes a village. This is why we believe in the importance of empowering not only Y staff and volunteers to participate in the prevention of child abuse, but members of our community, as well. If you suspect child abuse or neglect, call the Oklahoma Child Abuse Hotline at 1 800 522 3511.
If you have questions about our Code of Ethics or any of the added safety measures, reach out to your local Y.
Jill Goyette is the Executive Director of Youth Development at YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City.