How a “Speak Up” Culture Improves Child Safety
Organizations dedicated to children and youth have an excellent opportunity to create a safe and welcoming environment by fostering transparency and encouraging open dialogue between leadership, staff, volunteers, and families.
Encouraging stakeholders to come forward with questions, comments, and concerns, illegal practices, or policy violations, lays a foundation for accountability and better positions organizations to address any issues that can potentially reduce safety for kids and youth. This is a “Speak Up” Culture.
The “Speak Up” culture enables volunteers and staff to raise any concerns without fear of getting in trouble or retaliation. It requires senior leadership to commit to setting policy that supports people who choose to speak up, offers a well-defined reporting process, and demonstrates a commitment to being proactive rather than defensive.
Sharing concerns, harassment, or policy violations often strikes fear into the hearts of those considering coming forward, even with an “open door” policy in place. What must accompany the “open door” policy is a commitment to no retribution, this should be the standard. There are federal laws to protect those who come forward with credible information specific to the organization.
Be sure to research your state’s legal protections for those coming forward with information, as the appropriate policies differ state-to-state.
The Reporting Process
The reporting process should be clearly defined and shared during onboarding and routinely discussed in staff meetings and personal evaluations. Training programs should ensure staff, volunteers, and families know their rights and understand the obligation to act.
Board members should receive routine updates on any reported issues, retaliation incidents, and program results.
The benefit of creating a “Speak Up” culture is that as a leader, you cannot be everywhere at once, which means the likelihood of you seeing everything going on in your organization is small. With a “Speak Up” culture, you can focus on collaboration and transparency, which are proven to reduce the rate of incidence, improve safety and increase accountability, all of which directly relate to improving child and youth safety.
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