Keep Kids Safe This Summer

Children playing Football

By Alison D’Alessandro

Summer is around the corner and it is a wonderful time for children to play, explore, and just be kids. Children will be visiting extended family, going to their friends’ houses, swimming at the pool, playing at the playground, and doing many other fun and exciting things. With the change in routine and being around more people, it is important to remember some basic tips to keep your children safe.

Talk about Body Safety
Teaching children the proper names for their private body parts will help them communicate with you if they should ever have a question related to illness, hygiene or abuse. Talking with children calmly and matter-of-factly about body parts demonstrates that these parts are good and special and that you as the parent feel comfortable talking about these parts. The most natural time to teach children this language is when they are toddlers and are learning the names for the other parts of their bodies.

Teach and Model Healthy Relationships
Teach and model characteristics of healthy relationships including empathy, expressed feelings, equality, fairness, respect, and boundaries. When children learn what is healthy, they are more likely to recognize and question unhealthy behaviors. Encourage your child to come to you and other helpful, healthy adults with questions about bodies and touch. Also, review your family’s values and rules for both at home and when you are not around. It is important to know that most abuse is at the hands of someone who has gained the trust of a victim and their family and is someone the child know, loves, or trusts. It is critical that children have a strong understanding of healthy relationships. Also, children must be empowered to listen to their instincts.

Teach Your Child that They are the Boss of their Body
Respect your child’s decision to protect their body and space. Their body is theirs, so respect their “no” and teach others that your child is not being rude, but rather establishing their boundaries. An offender won’t typically immediately start touching body parts that a bathing suit covers but instead will slowly try to groom a child and their parents and caregivers through other more “normal” touches. Do not use the term “good touch, bad touch.” We are all sexual beings and sometimes “bad” touches feel good. Instead, teach your kids to be the boss of their body and that they should tell you anytime something feels weird or uncomfortable. Role-play to help kids get comfortable using their words to set boundaries and let them know to set boundaries with other children as well as adults. Help children understand their physical, emotional, and behavioral boundaries.

Tell Your Child that Secrets are Not Okay
Adults and other children should never ask a child to keep a secret about touch. Tell your children that there are no secrets kept in your family, and no one should ever ask them to keep a secret. Talk about surprises instead – how we surprise people with gifts and presents on their birthday or planning a party. The difference is that surprises are always shared with others and secrets are not. Help your child to understand what they can do if someone asks them to keep a secret.

Watch for “Red Flags” with Other Adults and Children
Make sure that all interactions with others are observable, interruptible, and appropriate. Offenders operate by access, privacy, and control. If our child must be alone with an adult for lessons or camp or babysitting, check in occasionally or show up at an unexpected time, just to be sure everything is okay. Trust your instincts and remove your child from a situation if you feel uncomfortable. Listen to your child if they tell you something is wrong and observe their interactions with the person. Be aware of red flags such as an adult treating your child as a peer, using inappropriate language or inappropriate touch, not respecting your child’s privacy, allowing or encouraging illegal activities, treating your child as a favorite, or engaging inappropriately or excessively on social media.

Talk and Talk and Talk Some More
Remember abuse is never the child’s fault. Help your child understand that they will not get in trouble if they tell you about a touching secret, and that it is never too late to tell. Empathize with your child that while it is always ok to say “no” to any kind of touch, this can be very hard to do. Create an environment in your home where children feel comfortable sharing information and asking tough questions without being judged. Listen carefully. Nurture an understanding of healthy relationships in your child. Demonstrate the importance of sharing feelings. Evidence suggests that children are more likely to disclose abuse when a parent or loved one initiates a conversation about sexuality or abuse. Learn and exchange current information with your friends and neighbors regarding child sexual abuse so that you will be better able to protect your child. Ongoing communication with our children can help to nurture qualities within them that render them less likely to be targets of abuse. Good communication ensures that when something is difficult or something goes wrong, family and community are there to help.

Finally, it is imperative that all incidents of inappropriate behavior of an adult with a minor be reported to the appropriate person and/or civil authorities. Not all incidents are abuse, but reporting can let the person know that their behavior is unacceptable and that it is being monitored. This gives the person the opportunity to change their behavior. If child abuse is suspected, it must be reported to the appropriate civil authorities immediately as required by Maryland law, regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred.

We must all work together to protect our children and to help them have happy childhoods and develop into strong and healthy adults.

Alison D’Alessandro is BCAC’s Senior Policy & Program Specialist. Alison has a Master’s degree in Organizational Development and Human Resources from Johns Hopkins University.  She educates youth-serving professionals throughout the Baltimore area on creating safe environments and child abuse awareness.

 

 

Join us for BCAC Advocacy Day in Annapolis

 

Advocacy day banner image

By Zach Caplan

We are less than a month away from the Baltimore Child Abuse Center’s Advocacy Day in Annapolis! On Tuesday, March 12, 9:30am to 1pm, join us for a day of advocacy and speaking with your elected officials about legislative efforts to prevent childhood trauma and abuse in Maryland.

It only takes one responsible adult to end abuse for a child, whether through advocacy, reporting, or prevention. On March 12, we need you to show up for Maryland’s most vulnerable children and be their superheroes—your voice can make a real, tangible difference in the lives of our kids. This is your opportunity to let your legislators know which bills currently under consideration will keep kids in Maryland safe from abuse, and hold adults accountable for preventing and reporting abuse.

Let us know you are coming—sign up for Advocacy Day now! We are also looking for some volunteers to help us out with logistics. If you are interested in volunteering, please email Nicole Reed at nreed@bcaci.org.

We will gather at 9:30am at the Annapolis State House Building, 6 Bladen Street, Room 170 for check-in, a light breakfast, speakers, and to go over logistics for the day. After that, you will meet with your legislative representatives, either individually or you can join a team that already has an appointment.

Never been to an Advocacy Day before? No problem! We will tell you everything you need to know. Meetings will be very short, and we will provide you with materials to share with your representatives and a few talking points.

Please leave plenty of time to park, shuttle and go through security. Parking is available at Navy Stadium (free shuttle), the Gotts Garage/Visitor Center and the Hillman Noah Garage. For more information on parking options, click here.

Here are some of the specific bills we are supporting this legislative session:

SB739/HB1007: This year we are proud to be joining the Maryland Children’s Alliance to take leadership on SB739/HB1007 to help ensure that every child in Maryland has access to a nationally accredited child advocacy center. Following a report of child abuse or neglect, a child should be seen promptly at a nationally accredited CAC, where they can speak with a trained forensic interviewer in a child-friendly setting, thus reducing trauma of multiple interviews by different agencies, and helping to create trustworthy legal evidence if needed.

SB568/HB787: Professionals who work with children have a legal duty to report suspected child abuse. Sadly, not all do. This bill will help hold accountable professionals who know of abuse but choose not to report it.

SB541/HB486: Sex abuse and Misconduct Prevention in Schools. This bill does what criminal background checks alone do not:  help alert a school about a potential employee’s past sexual misconduct or sexual abuse of students – incidents that don’t result in convictions but may have resulted in a serious investigation, firing or other disciplinary action.

We hope you will join us on March 12!

For more information, please contact Zach Caplan at zcaplan@bcaci.org.

Zach Caplan is a legislative intern at BCAC.

2019 Legislative Priorities

Hand writing Advocacy, business concept

By Joyce Lombardi

The 2019 legislative session in Annapolis is in full swing. (Mark your calendars for Tuesday, March 12, BCAC Lobby Day!) It’s an exciting time, with new leadership in several committees and several fresh new faces from right here in Baltimore and around the state of Maryland. BCAC will continue working with our existing legislative and advocacy partners while we form new relationships during this legislative session, so that together we can address childhood trauma and abuse. Here’s what we are working on this legislative session, and how you can help:

What We’re Working On This Session

Children’s Advocacy Centers for all Maryland Children
BCAC is supporting a bill, along with members of the Maryland Children’s Alliance, to help ensure every child has access to an accredited children’s advocacy center (CAC). Following a report of child abuse or neglect, a child should be seen promptly at a nationally accredited CAC, where he or she can talk with a trained forensic interviewer in a child-friendly setting, thus reducing trauma of multiple interviews by different agencies, and helping to create trustworthy legal evidence if needed. Nationally accredited CACs also take part in multidisciplinary teams that collaborate to get the best outcomes, and provide medical evaluation, family support and mental health services. While many child centers in the state try to meet this best practices standard of service, many lack the infrastructure or resources to do so. This bill so far has gained wide support among our CAC partners in the state and other stakeholders. Senator Susan Lee of Montgomery County, a longtime friend of children’s and women’s issues, is the lead sponsor in the Senate. The House sponsor is exciting newcomer Emily Shetty of Montgomery County. So far the bill has received warm bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate, by, among others, Senators Will Smith, Jeff Waldstriecher, and Chris West, and in the House by Delegates Kathleen Dumais, Jazz Lewis, Susan McComas, and David Moon. Legislators from around the state continue to voice support on each of our visits. Many of our CAC partners have been joining us in Annapolis to explain our work to their representatives.

Mandatory Reporter Accountability
Most (over 60%) reports of child abuse come from professionals such as teachers, youth workers and health personnel. Although all professions have a binding legal duty to report suspected child abuse, some simply do not report. BCAC, along with other advocates, faith-based institutions, prosecutors, social workers and pediatricians support a law that would close a final gap in Maryland and provide penalties for those few—but dangerous—professionals who turn a blind eye to known child abuse. Maryland is one of only two states in the nation that lacks such a law. A similar bill sailed through the Senate’s Judicial Proceedings Committee under Chairman Bobby Zirkin of Baltimore County last session but stalled in the House Judiciary. The new vice chair of House Judiciary, Delegate Vanessa Atterbeary of Howard County, is ready to steward a new accountability bill through this session.

Safer Schools
School personnel who engage in sexual misconduct with students in one school district are often passed to and re-hired in another. BCAC supports efforts by State Council on Child Abuse and Neglect and Delegate C.T. Wilson to end this practice. The law would do what criminal background checks do not: require that school job applicants and former employers reveal past investigations or discipline for sexual abuse or misconduct.

Decriminalizing Child Victims of Human Trafficking
BCAC, along with its partners on the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force, supports legislation that would allow child victims of human trafficking to vacate criminal charges related to trafficking, and to avoid being charged in the first place.

How You Can Help

  • Come to Annapolis for BCAC Lobby Day March 12th! Come help raise awareness about abused children and childhood trauma! Bring your colleagues and friends. Stay tuned for more information.
  • Make just one phone call this session. Call just one of your legislators to voice your support for a specific child abuse awareness bill that BCAC is working on this session. We will provide a list and talking points. Even one call makes a difference.
  • Get involved in one particular bill. Does one of the bills we are working on interest you more than others? To join that workgroup, email jlombardi@bcaci.org or call 443-923-7005.

Joyce Lombardi, Esq. is BCAC’s Director of Government Relations and Legal Services. She can be reached at jlombardi@bcaci.org and she welcomes questions and comments about how child abuse laws are being used in Maryland.

Protecting Kids & Protecting Camp

Happy school children playing tug of war with rope in park

by Drew Fidler

The recent news story from CBS Morning Show about child sexual abuse at summer camps has sounded the alarm for families around the country. It is difficult to listen and not worry about where you are sending your child, or worrying about your camp, and wondering what you can do to protect children and make institutions safer. At Baltimore Child Abuse Center, we are campers at heart. We believe in the power of camp. We also believe that the health and safety of children should be the highest priority of any camp or child care institution. That is why BCAC developed a national training model that has been employed by 45 camps in 12 states to educate counselors and camp staff about their responsibilities as mandated reporters, how to recognize signs and symptoms of abuse, how to minimize the risk of abuse at camp, and how to work with kids in a way that is safe. Through scenarios and other educational methods BCAC works with camp staff to help them understand what to do if and when they suspect abuse has occurred, they see something, or have a concern about a child. It takes a village to protect a child, and it takes a village to allow a child to be abused.

So, what can camps do to protect the children in their care? Start asking tough questions when you are hiring and letting prospective employees know that child protection is a priority and abuse will not go undetected, unnoticed, and unreported. Review your policies and procedures – how does your camp respond to suspicions or allegations of abuse, who can staff go to, do they know what their duty is to report out to the local authorities and how to do that. Train your staff to recognize, respond, and report abuse – staff should know if they see something say something. Check your environment to make sure there are not opportunities for isolation and hidden interactions. A good place to start is our Camp Self-Assessment.

What steps can parents take to ensure that they are sending their children to a safe place?  Ask if staff have been finger printed and background checked. Inquire about the camp’s policies and procedures for recognizing signs of abuse, reporting abuse, and enforcing healthy boundaries between staff and campers. Ask how they are training their staff to work with kids in a way that is safe and to minimize risk and incidents. Asking tough questions doesn’t take the fun or the essence out of camp, it makes camp safer and allows for children to take healthy risks and get the most out of their summer. Here are some tips for keeping children safe.

Summer camp is sacred space and the relationship between counselor and camper is like no other. Kids need to be empowered to speak up, but the responsibility is on the adults and the institutions to step up and protect the children in their care. Guidance and training are critical to ensure that experiences for both the camper and staff are healthy and appropriate.

Organized Sports & Failure to Report: Is Your Child Safe?

Girl baseball team kneeling with their coach, touching hands

By Eliza Buergenthal

What are the Boundaries of the Athlete/Coach Relationship? 
In sports, so much of what it takes to be the best—on the field, court, dance floor or mat—is physical. To perfect a tackle or a squat or pirouette may require physical contact between a coach and an athlete. Sometimes, within that contact, a line is crossed. But how does a child know when something may be inappropriate? How are the boundaries within the athlete/coach relationship defined in a way that is healthy and safe?

Coaches are given an incredible amount of access to our children and need to be held to the same standards as other adults in whose care they are placed (health practitioners, police officers, educators and human service workers, all of whom are mandatory reporters).

As a coach becomes a mentor and advocate for a child on the field, bonds often form between coach and athlete. What can sometimes occur is a sense of duty and obligation on the part of the athlete to the coach. Athletes see how a coach has taken a special interest in them; in cases of manipulation and abuse, this power structure is leveraged to the benefit of the perpetrator. Athletes and parents may not want to report inappropriate behavior because they do not want to disappoint a trusted adult for whom they have feelings of gratitude and respect, or they don’t want to risk losing their coach’s favor or getting kicked off the team. Often athletes are afraid they may jeopardize a community’s pride, their own success, or the trust of their teammates. The threat of suspension of a player, termination of a program or forcing a forfeit in a big game holds power over victims and caregivers alike.

What can parents do? 
Get out in front of it. Acknowledge and talk about the risks with both your child athlete and their coach. Talk about healthy boundaries. Ask coaches, gyms, and recreational centers tough questions – have they had training on working with kids in a way that is safe? Do they know how to recognize signs and symptoms of abuse? What is their reporting policy?

Regardless of whether your child is playing in a premier league or a recreational team, be present. Show up to a random practice. Talk to other parents who have been through the program. When your child is contacted by program staff, make sure that you are included in conversations, or, if necessary, request that all communications come to you directly. Unfortunately, abuse can happen at every level, from Pee Wee Leagues through high school and beyond. Stay involved and stay alert. 

On a larger scale, talk to your Representatives and raise awareness about abuse in your communities. Advocate for comprehensive policies and procedures around recognizing, responding to, and reporting abuse from all of your child’s institutions and programs. Advocate for institutions and states to have strict penalties for those who fail to report abuse. Make sure there are protocols and trainings in place.

When coaches do not receive proper training, and when we do not advocate in our communities for better policies, it not only allows for failure to report abuse when incidents occur, but also for abuse to go on at the expense of future victims. Intervention, prevention and healing is delayed or unable to occur.

We’re here to help. At the Baltimore Child Abuse Center, we have a comprehensive program for outreach and training. BCAC gives coaches, youth serving professionals, and the institutions they work for the tools they need to work with children safely, and to recognize, respond to, and report abuse. When everyone is educated and working together, we can better protect our children, and make a profound difference in the lives of not only our child athletes, but all children. Let’s keep them safe.

Eliza Buergenthal is the Special Assistant to the Executive Leadership Team. She is a recent graduate of Syracuse University where she studied Public Policy, Public Relations, and Management. Eliza first joined the BCAC team as a legislative advocacy intern and plans to eventually attend law school with a focus on policy and lobbying.

Day of the Girl: We See You

On this Day of the Girl, October 11, 2018, Baltimore Child Abuse Center gives a huge shout out and thank you to all the girls who report abuse and demonstrate unbelievable courage and tenacity. 

Kyle Stephens delivers a victim impact testimony during a sentencing hearing for Dr. Larry Nassar in Lansing
Kyle Stephens delivers a victim impact testimony during a sentencing hearing for Dr. Larry Nassar. (Photo credit: PBS NewsHour)

THANK YOU to Nasser victim Kyle Stephens, whose was accused of lying and was forced to apologize to Nasser when she first came forward, but who persisted and helped open the door for the 200-plus other victims.

THANK YOU to the middle-schooler in the Cherry Creek School District in Denver, Colorado whose school administrators made her recant, apologize and hug the teacher she accused, then suspended her for “false allegations.” But she persisted, hired an attorney, and helped get an $11.5 million settlement against the school on behalf of herself and the predator’s four other victims.

THANK YOU to the Baltimore City teenager whose story no one would believe, but who bravely persisted, enough to support an investigation that turned up undeniable proof that the abuse was happening, just as she’d described it.

To all the brave girls out there, today and every day, thank you for your strength and courage. Never doubt that you are impacting the lives of thousands by owning your stories and bravely finding your voice. You are the light of hope for other girls who are not yet ready to come forward. They see you. We see you. Never back down. We’ve got your back.

BCAC: We’re Hiring!

Baltimore Child Abuse Center is looking for qualified individuals to join our team as we continue to expand our organization and work towards the BCAC mission of providing victims of child sexual abuse, trauma, and other Adverse Childhood Experiences in Baltimore and their non-offending caretakers with comprehensive forensic interviews, medical treatment, and mental health treatment with a goal of preventing future trauma.

Candidates must meet education and experience requirements specific for each job. Under qualified candidates will not be contacted, and each position is contingent on grant funding.

Evening Family Intake Coordinator

The Evening Family Intake Coordinator has an important role at Baltimore Child Abuse Center, Inc. (BCAC) in providing a welcoming, friendly atmosphere to children and families who come to the Center. This person must be engaging, have excellent communication skills and be able to manage an advanced phone system. The person in this position must be aware of their surroundings and be able to properly direct and navigate people to the appropriate departments within BCAC. The Coordinator should consult with BCAC Lead Forensic Interviewer about any concerning observations and be able to document them as necessary. The person in this position may also assist in clerical and administrative duties as needed.

Click here for more information and to apply.

Child Development Specialist

The Child Development Specialist has an important role at Baltimore Child Abuse Center, Inc. (BCAC) in providing management and structure for a program designed for the support and nurturance of youth and families visiting the Center. This person will operate within the Family Advocacy Program to ensure that all youth and families who are receiving services at BCAC have a coordinated, trauma-informed response. The Child Development Specialist must be knowledgeable of child developmental norms and appropriate positive behavioral management techniques. This person must be organized, engaging, energetic, patient, and have excellent listening skills. This position requires the ability to handle multiple tasks, manage multiple youth at one time and be able to interact with all youth in a developmentally appropriate manner. The Child Development Specialist will report to the Family Advocate Program Supervisor.

Click here for more information and to apply.

Training Associate

Baltimore Child Abuse Center (BCAC) is committed to providing education and training to both our professional partners as well as members of our community. In supporting the mission of BCAC, the Training Associate performs a critical role in administering, advertising, and building connections for the myriad of BCAC’s training offerings. The Training Associate is responsible for developing outreach programs for clients and community members, developing and delivering trainings on a myriad of topics, advertising and marketing training to professional partners and community members, and aiding the Training Specialist in tracking training data. This person will also be responsible for developing and maintaining relationships within Baltimore City and the surrounding communities. The ideal candidate will be a self-starter, organized, personable, and be excited about engaging the community in child abuse efforts.

Click here for more information and to apply.

Mental Health Therapist

This position will focus primarily on children up to age 18 who have been determined to be chronic runaways. This therapeutic position will provide therapy to children and families with the goal of stabilizing the child and family, activating protective measures and implementing therapeutic interventions as appropriate.  

Click here for more information and to apply.

Manager of Inter-agency Partnerships

Children’s Advocacy Centers were birthed out of the spirit of collaboration in order to reduce trauma, and improve effectiveness and efficiency for child victims of abuse and for the benefit of its multi-faceted team. The Manager of Inter-agency  Partnerships  provides leadership  in facilitating and improving  collaboration and resiliency  within all Baltimore Child Abuse Center (BCAC) teams and among all BCAC involved partnerships  (including  partner programs  within LifeBridge Health) and all Multidisciplinary  Teams (MDT) to better serve child victims of abuse and trauma.  The Manager of Inter-agency Partnerships will facilitate strong communication, team best practices, and resiliency to optimize team effectiveness.  Doing so will provide the best possible coordinated, trauma-informed response to child victims of crime and their families.

Click here for more information and to apply.

Blueprint Project Coordinator

Baltimore Child Abuse Center (BCAC) is committed to providing education and training to our professional partners as well as members of our community. Thanks in part to a grant by The Leonard & Helen R. Stulman Foundation, and in supporting the mission of BCAC, the Blueprint Project Coordinator performs a critical role in aiding in the process of changing the culture around child protection and child abuse prevention in Jewish Baltimore. The Coordinator is responsible for helping develop and implement the Blueprint project in the grant project area of Greater Baltimore, developing outreach programs for youth serving organizations and community members, developing and delivering trainings, advertising and marketing training to professional partners and community members, and aiding the Director of Prevention and Education in this three year project. This person will also be responsible for developing and maintaining relationships within the Baltimore Jewish Community. The ideal candidate will be a self-starter, organized, personable, and be excited about engaging the community in child abuse prevention efforts.

Click here for more information and to apply.

Part-Time Nurse Practitioner

The part-time nurse practitioner serves as a collaborative member of the health care team at BCAC and is responsible for performing initial screening exams for children entering foster care and kinship care. 

Click here for more information and to apply.

All candidates must submit a resume and cover letter with each application. Please indicate if you have applied for more than one position in your cover letter. We look forward to speaking with you!