- Why A “Child Safety Pledge”?
- What is the Child Safety Pledge?
- What is a Youth-Serving Organization (YSO)?
- How does the pledge work?
- Why not just ask the organizations to do it themselves?
- What is the objective of the Child Safety Pledge?
- Why will a funder pledge strategy work?
- What do you mean by “Policies” or “Standards”?
- Why not just determine the policies and procedures for organizations?
- If this is a community-wide problem, doesn’t it need a community-wide answer?
- How does the stakeholder group fit into the overall strategy?
- What is the exact wording of the Pledge and when will it take effect?
- What happens after the pledge language has been finalized?
- How will the pledge strategy get advanced?
- How will organizations comply with the Pledge?
- How do I know if an organization complies with the pledge requirements?
- How will funders be certain organizations they support are in compliance?
- Won’t compliance require money and resources for the organizations affected?
- where will organizations get the expertise and support to become compliant?
- If all it takes is an organization asserting that they have adequate policies and procedures, won’t some organizations make the assertion but not back up their words with actions?
- How do I take the Pledge, or get my peers and community institutions to do so?
- Doesn’t that mean the pledge is entirely dependent upon funders exercising oversight to determine and assure compliance?
- What about foreign (non-U.S.) grantees/non-governmental organizations?
- Will the Pledge only apply to gifts/grants over a certain amount?
- How can there be a single set of standards for different kinds/sizes of organizations?
The Child Safety Pledge is a philanthropist-driven effort to address the difficult and ongoing problem of the sexual abuse of children who are in the care of youth-serving organizations (YSOs). Despite increasing awareness of the problem, and ongoing media coverage of new incidents, nothing is being done at a systemic level to reduce the risk of sexual abuse of minors or to assure organizations deal with the issue appropriately if it does happen.
The Child Safety Pledge is a strategic effort by funders to ensure that their charitable dollars only support YSOs) that have adequate child abuse prevention, education, training, and reporting policies and programs in place.
A YSO is any organization or program which provides services for minors, such as a school, congregation, daycare facility, after-school program, camp, youth group, or athletic team.
The Child Safety Pledge asks funders – foundations and individual philanthropists alike – to pledge that they only support YSOs that have adopted and implemented comprehensive policies and procedures to prevent and address the sexual abuse of children. By raising awareness of the need for such policies and procedures, and making them a minimal requirement for organizations to receive funding, we hope to transform the communal system to take the steps necessary to tackle this issue.
Because despite community-wide outrage at each newly reported incident, there is no mechanism in place to ensure that YSOs take the right steps, or for parents or funders to be certain that they have taken those steps. Even with widespread acknowledgement that the issue exists, no single agency can change the broader culture on its own to make sure that all organizations respond adequately.
The immediate objective of the Child Safety Pledge is to encourage funders to make grants and give donations only to those YSOs that have adopted and implemented policies addressing child sexual abuse education, training, prevention, and reporting. The ultimate goal is to create a safer, more transparent, and more accountable environment in organizations that work with children. The necessary models already exist to do this, and have proven effective in many organizations. The mission now is to make those models universal.
Because regardless of what type of youth-serving organization — school, camp, or youth group — and regardless of affiliation — secular or faith-based, etc. — the one thing that all youth-serving organizations have in common is that they depend upon charitable gifts and grants to function. By creating an expectation that organizations working with children comply with certain standards, we can require them to act responsibly or face major impact to their bottom line. The idea is to say simply and directly to organizations seeking funding from institutional grantmakers, philanthropists, and individual donors: “In order to receive any funding from us, your organization must have considered and implemented standards for education, training, prevention, and reporting related to child sexual abuse.”
35 states have adopted “Erin’s Law” which requires that all public schools in each state implement a prevention-oriented child sexual abuse program. One part of that program focuses on teaching school personnel about child sexual abuse and how to spot and prevent it. We believe that the entire community would benefit from a similar approach. This would ensure that every organization that works with children has an appropriate written policy applicable to and understood by all personnel who interact with children, backed up by the necessary actions to implement it. These policies and procedures must address the education, training, and supervision necessary to prevent the sexual abuse of children and deal with it if it occurs.
We recognize that the details of that policy and those procedures will likely differ depending upon what kind of YSO is implementing them, and the specific character of the organization, including, but not limited to, movement affiliation, geographical location, mission, constituents, tradition, and organizational values. Our goal is not to impose a universal set of standards, but rather to have every funder insist upon the standards they feel are appropriate to garner their support.
We believe that given the breadth and diversity of YSOs, trying to create universal standards is neither desirable nor possible. Even if such standards could be created, there is no governing authority to enforce them. That is why we believe a funder pledge is the best strategy to achieve this important goal. By focusing on funders we believe that we can create the conditions where organizations will voluntarily come in line with adequate standards. In fact, the funder pledge creates a competitive incentive for youth-serving organizations to be pro-active, comprehensive, and vocal about their policies and procedures. This is a market-based approach to solving a vexing communal issue.
Of course it does, and the Child Safety Pledge is that community-wide answer. We believe that making the change we seek cannot happen by fiat or coercion, but rather by a growing communal consensus that it is the right thing to do. Even though the Child Safety Pledge will not have the force of law, we believe that the funding community would be well served by working together on this issue. Once the Pledge is in place, we hope those who support it, in concert with recognized experts and their community partners, will devise a process to create a framework detailing acceptable policies and procedures for those organizations that may not have the benefit of an umbrella association or convening agency to provide standard guidelines. By working together to confront and address this issue, funders will demonstrate their seriousness and commitment to change.
The creation of the stakeholder group and creation of the Pledge language was only the first phase of a multi-phase process and focuses on the launch of the strategy. This first phase was limited to organizing funders around support for the pledge concept; it does not include creating or—beyond launching the website—managing the broader public campaign to advance it institutionally or a planning process which will result in fully articulated policies. Those details will be determined by the members of the coalition.
The language of the Pledge itself has been crafted by a diverse working group of experts and community leaders. While it does not impose a universal set of policies and procedures, it does set the framework for them, requiring them to be written, comprehensive, and that they address education, hiring, training, prevention, and reporting. Recognizing the need for advance planning by funders and organizations alike, Pledge adopters are free to set an effective date that works for their grantmaking calendar and process. The key objective is for funders to sign on to the Pledge, and then they can determine how and when to have it affect their grantmaking.
Now that the Pledge content has been finalized, members of the coalition are working privately to expand the number of organizations and philanthropists taking the Pledge. Simultaneously, the coalition and its partners are working to identify the best practices and policies required for compliance with the Pledge. A group of stakeholders has been identified and invited to frame the next steps in policy development, and to map out a public Pledge campaign.
As this process unfolds, the coalition will grow, bringing on new allies and supporters for the campaign. Beyond this initial effort, any successive phases would require additional scoping, expertise, and funding commitments. We hope this process ultimately will include numerous other philanthropic and organizational partners. These new allies will help lead the campaign to draft model policies and launch broader public campaign to encourage their adoption. Our goal has always been to pilot the Pledge in the Jewish community and then bring it to other realms of philanthropy, both faith-based and secular.
The staff and leadership of individual YSOs will need to determine the best way to comply with the requirements of their funders who have signed the Pledge. Organizations with national associations and coordinating bodies likely will turn to central institutions to provide guidance for the organizations they oversee. It will be incumbent upon the parties concerned, both funders and program providers alike, to create and enforce their own standards. We also believe that by catalyzing the conversation, we will help generate momentum for organizations to take action.
Ask them. Before making any kind of contribution or grant to any organization, talk to its leadership and ask to see the written child sexual abuse prevention and reporting policy. Ask them to tell you about the kind of education, training, and supervision they have put in place to prevent and report abuse. If you are not satisfied with the answers, tell them that in order to earn your support they will need to do better.
By using the same oversight procedures that they already use to make sure grantees comply with other aspects of funding requirements. Again, this will differ by funder, and institutional grantmakers such as staffed foundations will likely take the lead in oversight (as they do with other aspects of funding requirements). If an organization is receiving funds from a foundation that has taken the pledge, and the foundation has performed the necessary due diligence to assure compliance, individual donors and philanthropists who have also taken the pledge can give to that organization with confidence.
For those YSOs that do not already have adequate measures in place, the Pledge will push them to take steps that will likely require money, expertise, and staff/volunteer time. We hope that organizations will see this process as an opportunity to engage their stakeholders in a very important conversation, and that those stakeholders will step up to make sure the organizations they care about are in compliance. Likewise, as funders join the Pledge, and start holding the causes they care about to a higher standard, we hope that will inspire the funders to step up with the resources needed for compliance in the organizations they wish to continue supporting. We also hope that the community-wide conversation around the Pledge will catalyze funders and organizations to explore innovative approaches to compliance that diffuse and control costs and improve effectiveness.
There are already many resources both private and nonprofit, that can help organizations be better prepared. The goal of the Pledge is not just to instigate change, but also to help point organizations in the right direction to get the help they need. Minimally this will include a website with information and links, but ultimately could lead to a network of partners (of organizations and individual consultants) who can be contacted for support – and online and in person training. Because of the diversity of community, and the diversity of needs, it would inappropriate to pre-determine what resources organizations must use to improve their safety frameworks. Rather, the goal is to empower organizations as consumers to seek out the best possible fit for their needs.
If all it takes is an organization asserting that they have adequate policies and procedures, won’t some organizations make the assertion but not back up their words with actions?
That is currently the case with many organizational policies already required by funders and even by U.S. Internal Revenue Code. For example, when a 501(c)(3) files its annual Form 990 tax return, it must assert that it has certain policies in place such as document retention and board of directors conflict of interest policies – even though the IRS doesn’t require proof. Organizations which make false assertions risk consequences from the IRS and funders alike. Many grant agreements require organizations to supply documentation of grant guideline compliance, and funders who take the pledge will be encouraged to add Child Safety standards to these requirements.
The Pledge text will be available online shortly. We recommend you download the .pdf and take it to whatever governing body determines policy for you or your organization. That could be just you, or the family whose foundation you represent, or the executive staff of your foundation, or the foundation’s board of directors. Once you or your organization have formally adopted the Pledge, please notify us (email: email@example.com) and signal your adoption by posting a notice to your website and other materials for grantseekers. We encourage you to tell your friends and members of your community to do the same, and to insist that the funding organizations working in your community do so as well. The more individuals and organizations signing on, the more momentum and pressure will exist for others to do so as well.
Doesn’t that mean the pledge is entirely dependent upon funders exercising oversight to determine and assure compliance?
At first, yes, because this is a funder-driven strategy the onus is upon funders to do what they feel is necessary to be certain an organization is worthy of their support. But down the road, we envision a multi-tiered compliance regime in which organizations not only assert they have such policies and procedures, but have that assertion verified, and hopefully even accredited by an outside authority. In other words, minimal compliance would mean an organization must affirm it has the policies and procedures in place. Stronger compliance would require verification to funders that those policies and procedures are in place. The strongest compliance would be a certification by an independent entity tasked with investigating and testing the effectiveness of the policies and procedures. Again, funders would determine which level of compliance is required for their funding, but our hope is that in a competitive philanthropic marketplace, organizations would seek the highest level of compliance because funders would demand it.
Since the pledge is being launched by U.S. funders it will necessarily have to grapple with domestic legal issues around child sexual abuse policies. Many of these are in fact state-by-state, so the pledge will need to be written with those differing standards in mind. When it comes to grantees that are NGOs outside of the U.S., it’s likely specific language will need to cover those cases. The stakeholder coalition will include experts in dealing with non-U.S. NGOs, and those based in Israel. It’s important that however the pledge language is crafted, it protects children of all nations.
It would be impractical to create a pledge requiring oversight from a donor for every small dollar gift given, or spontaneous act of charity. The focus of the pledge is on staffed foundations and family foundations with robust enough processes and resources to include Pledge requirements in their grantmaking processes. Since the goal of the Pledge is to specify standards for child sexual abuse policies and procedures on the organizational side, how it is implemented by each donor or funder will be up to them. It makes perfect sense to have limits on that implementation such as gift minimums, etc. The language in the Pledge states that funders will apply it to youth-serving organizations to which they make significant funding commitments.
The ability to build a comprehensive safety framework will differ based upon the resources available to an organization, and also the safety requirements, which are different for different size staffs, for organizations that own facilities, for organizations that work with different age children, etc. Funders will need to set expectations for their different grantees based on what makes sense and what is possible. So, for example, it might make sense to only require organizations over a certain budget or staff size to be subject to the Pledge requirements. That way smaller or newer organizations will have time to evolve as they grow, and only have more significant requirements once they meet a certain size or maturity. But those organizations can be made aware now that once they meet the determined threshold, they will be expected to raise their compliance in order receive ongoing funding.
Funders are welcome to simply start with one class of organizations that it will initially apply Pledge standards to – such as schools, while initially exempting other kinds of grantees (such as youth groups or day camps). Funders may also have sets of requirements that differ based on the size, and scope of the organization combined with the nature of contact with kids. For example, they could start with the strongest requirements for organizations that already have robust frameworks in place such as overnight camps, while phasing in requirements for organizations that need more help getting up to speed such as day schools. Or funders might push organizations that work with at-risk youth to the front of the line, on the assumption that predators look there first.