Leadership Conversations to Improve Child Safety
Have you ever tried to continue working to improve child safety in your organization, but lacked the necessary leadership support? Sometimes when you’re managing the care and safety of children, you might feel far from the leadership level. Having uncomfortable conversations with decision makers is never easy, especially if you prefer to avoid conflict. How do you break those barriers, have the needed conversations, and receive the required support to move forward?
Before the discussion, you will need to prepare. Be clear on your intention for the conversation and the desired outcome. Try and see things from a leadership point of view. Always show interest in their feedback. Understand their responsibilities, what drives them, the information they look at when deciding. If your request is granted, be prepared to answer how the organization will benefit. By understanding these details, you greatly increase your chances for a positive outcome.
Focus on the Facts
Once you’ve determined your approach, now it’s time to get the facts. What does the data look like, does it support urgency or show how serious the landscape appears when there’s a lack of child protective guidelines, will it help convince leadership to decide in your favor? For improving child safety, here are a few metrics to know.
- The number/percentage of comprehensively screened or onboarded individuals in direct contact with children
- Percent of training for staff and new volunteers
- The number of incident reports per quarter or year
- A number or percentage of background checks completed
- Gaps in any of the results and your responsibility for improvement
- Current national statistics or numbers that support your request from places like U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Statistics, the National Sex Offender Registry, or local law enforcement.
In addition to knowing the metrics, you’ll also want to be able to answer questions about why child protection and safety play a vital role in your organization. Continue to share the benefits to families such as peace-of-mind, higher retention, and abuse prevention.
Role Play and Practice
Once you’ve captured the data and prepared, it’s time to put it into a conversational context. Role-playing is a very valuable and effective skill that helps when communicating with others, especially leadership. By role-playing the conversation in advance, with a trusted peer, you’re able to get feedback on your responses, gain clarity on answering the tough questions, help build your confidence and maintain your composure.
Many people may not be fond of role-playing, but it’s an important step in creating clear and concise communication. Through role-playing, you might have an “a-ha” moment, identify further action steps, or expose a lack of information. Then you can adjust, making your upcoming conversation that much stronger.
It’s Not Personal
While people usually react positively and appreciate a willingness to help and a commitment to improving child safety, unfortunately, some might not.
It’s easy to take things personally, and all the preparation in the world never makes dealing with a harsh or mean-spirited person any easier. If someone reacts impatiently, irritated, or unkind, keep in mind there’s more being said than just the words you’re hearing.
If you find yourself in a situation where the individual refuses to have the conversation or reacts negatively, try to find out as much as you can about why they feel the way they do. Step away from the focus of gaining agreement, and work to understand the person on a different level. One of two things will happen, there will be a shift towards continued discussion and an intention to move forward, or you’ll realize you can’t control how another person responds and need to look for another solution.
Remember what you’re doing is important and child protection is too significant an issue to give up.
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