Reboot-16: A Safe Haven for Our Children

From XFamily - Children of God
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A Safe Haven for Our Children

The Reboot Series - Part 16 of 20; May 2010

A word of introduction from Maria

Dear Family,

We love you and are praying for you and for your children as we advance with the change journey!

This publication will address points relating to the safety of our children, and our responsibilities as parents and as Christians to provide a safe environment for them, and to protect them from danger or harm. We're all well versed in these topics, and we've placed a lot of focus over the years on making our communal homes safe, happy, and healthy environments for children. We have shouldered this responsibility cooperatively, between all members, and our homes have provided a framework for the safety and well-being of our children.

Now that we are experiencing important organizational changes, and children of Family members will not necessarily live in a communal home setting or be schooled at home, Peter and I felt it was important that we review our child protection policies and adjust them where necessary, as well as reaffirm the Family's commitment as an organization to the safety and well-being of children.

I pray that the information in this publication will be a blessing, and that we can all continue to provide quality care and happy, healthy environments for our children.

Love always, Maria

TFI's Stance on the Development and Protection of Children

By Children and Parenting and Public Affairs staff

As was explained in "Lifestyle," the Family is moving away from the societal model that has been in place, whereby the rules, regulations, and requirements that governed many aspects of our lifestyle, including the parenting of our children, were articulated in the Charter (and the MM and FM statutes to a lesser degree). Of course, much of the counsel and many of the guidelines that have been presented in Family publications over the years for raising children will still be applicable, and we trust that you will continue to do your utmost to give your children a well-rounded upbringing in the four pillars of education, as well as to provide a positive and safe environment for their development.

Definition of the four pillars of education within the Family

Academic education
Schooling in the core academic areas of mathematics, language arts, social studies, the sciences, and the arts.
Life skills
The skills necessary for successful living, which include daily living skills, personal health and development, physical education, skills training, social skills, extracurricular activities, and career preparation.
Character building
Moral instruction that is based on Christian ethics and virtues, which would include teaching values and behaviors such as integrity, problem solving, compassion, responsibility, respect, self-discipline, perseverance, and leadership, to name a few.
Christian life and faith
Foundation principles of the Bible and Christianity and Family ethos. Developing a personal relationship with Jesus and His Word, sharing God's love and message with others through witnessing. Missionary training.

Since the Family will no longer have a societal governance structure that will monitor and enforce a specific set of rules and a certain standard—in this case, regarding the upbringing of children, educational requirements, and quality of life—this publication will present some general information regarding child safety, as well as some Family-specific points. It will also include some secular child protection information with helpful counsel for parents and anyone responsible for the care of children.

Included at the end of this publication is the new child protection policy for the Family International, which will be the official policy that members are expected to abide by and uphold. Feel free to share this with anyone who asks what TFI's policies are regarding child protection.

There is also an official TFI standard for the care of children and teenagers at TFI events and mission-related programs, which contains new information. We pray that this information will be helpful in ensuring that all our children benefit from a safe and positive environment that will help them develop to their full potential.

A. Children: Our Beliefs and Values

(Note: The principles outlined in this section regarding our beliefs and values in relation to children are not new principles. The intent is to summarize these principles in one place, in a clear and concise way that defines our values and beliefs regarding the care and protection of children.)

All thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children (Isaiah 54:13).

Every child is precious in God's eyes. Whenever children are in our care—whether our own children, children of other Family members, or children we minister to or provide programs for—they deserve quality and responsible care and loving attention. This is part of living our faith and being an example of Christianity to the world.

We believe that every child has the right:

  • To be loved, cherished, and supported
  • To be treated with respect and dignity
  • To receive responsible care and to be handled with kindness
  • To be encouraged and nurtured emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually
  • To have their physical needs adequately met, including nutrition, housing, and medical care
  • To receive a good education that provides competence and empowers them to be self-sufficient
  • To be taught good values and morals to guide them in life
  • To learn about God's personal love and care for them
  • To be taught boundaries and self-discipline
  • To be empowered to realize their full potential
  • To be prepared for the responsibilities and challenges of adulthood
  • To develop their individuality
  • To be treated fairly and justly, without discrimination
  • To be in a safe environment; to be protected from harm and danger

As a religious community, we are committed to promoting the well-being of children and their need for quality care, education, and supervision. We promote the importance of their development in a healthy, happy, loving, safe, caring environment where their needs—physical, spiritual, intellectual, educational, and emotional—are amply met. Our goal is that every child in our community of faith will have the opportunity to grow up to become a well-adjusted adult with a foundation in faith and good ethics, one who has received an education that enables them to be prepared for and competent in life.

Throughout the years, many Family publications have been written about the care of children and young people, and the importance of providing them with quality attention and care. The Family has also published many thousands of pages of devotional and inspirational publications, music, videos, and programs dedicated to the education and well-being of children. The goal has been twofold: first to provide instruction for parents and caregivers, and second to assist parents in the education of their children.

The Family International is committed to safeguarding children from harm and to promoting the importance of educating and preparing children to be able to protect themselves. We understand that children are vulnerable and need the protection of adults—both their parents and other adults, including their teachers, caregivers, or adults responsible for their supervision during child-oriented activities. Caring for someone else's children is an important responsibility and represents an act of trust on the part of the parents. We believe that those entrusted with the care of children are responsible to protect them and keep them safe.

The primary responsibility for the decisions regarding the welfare, training, and education of children rests with their parents. It's ultimately their responsibility to care for their children and supply their physical, spiritual, emotional, and educational needs to the best of their ability. Promoting the education, moral training, and spiritual development of their children is an important aspect of successful parenting. Preparing their children for life and empowering them to become self-sufficient and achieve competency must be promoted first and foremost by the parents.

While parents are responsible for all decisions regarding their children's care and upbringing, we also acknowledge that relationships with other people will play an important role in the child's development, whether with other TFI members and their children, in the community, at school, within their extended families, at extracurricular activities, or other events, camps, and meetings. As the oft-quoted African saying goes, "It takes a village to raise a child." Many people may share in or contribute toward the education and upbringing of a child, and provide opportunities for his or her development, socialization, and friendship needs.

Many Family members are committed to wonderful programs that assist underprivileged and disabled children to improve their quality of life, whether through providing motivational or faith-based programs, educational possibilities, health care, nutrition, character-building programs, etc. Sharing God's love and care with children can help to empower them to reach their potential and to be the world's hope for the future. We believe that every child deserves a bright future—one of hope and opportunity.

The child must know that he is a miracle, that since the beginning of the world there hasn't been, and until the end of the world there will not be, another child like him.—Pablo Casals (Spanish cellist and composer, 1876-1973)

B. Our Child Protection Policies

Child protection is...

A broad term to describe philosophies, policies, standards, guidelines and procedures to protect children from both intentional and unintentional harm.

—Child-to-Child (Child-to-Child is a UK-based network that promotes the well-being and development of children in partnership with UNICEF.)

We believe that human life is sacred, and that every child is a unique being, worthy of respect and dignity, with the right to a healthy, happy, and safe environment. Children are a priceless gift from God, and He gives us the responsibility to provide an environment where they will be loved, nurtured, protected, and able to develop their full potential.

We have a zero-tolerance policy in the Family International regarding the abusive treatment of children. We condemn any form of mistreatment of children and do not condone or tolerate it in our membership.

For the past 15 years, the Charter has articulated our stance regarding the rights of every child to live in a safe environment and to be protected and free from abuse of any kind. Following is our previous Charter explanation on this point:

Children and teens have the right to:

A. Have their spiritual, physical, and emotional needs met.

Each child deserves to live in a safe, happy environment that is conducive to their proper upbringing. They are entitled to healthy and nutritional food, and their emotional needs should be amply met.

B. Be free from abuse of any kind—sexual, physical, spiritual, mental, or psychological.

The Family has a zero-tolerance policy in regard to abuse in any form. The Family will immediately expel and excommunicate a member deemed guilty of sexually or physically abusive behavior toward children. (The Charter, Rights of a Child.)

This zero-tolerance policy continues to stand, not only as our policy, but as our deeply held religious conviction.

The primary responsibility to protect their children and provide a safe environment for them rests with the parents. They are responsible to make the decisions regarding their children's education, or whom they allow their children to socialize with, whom they entrust the care of their children to, or what type of medical attention to give them, etc. Parents are also responsible to protect their children from all forms of abuse or neglect, whether physical, sexual, or emotional. Parents are responsible to provide their children with a suitable environment to grow up in, as well as to take appropriate action if the rights of their children are infringed upon in any way.

As members of a community of faith, each of us also has a moral responsibility to uphold the well-being of children, and for their protection from harm. Any member who cares for or interacts with children is responsible to uphold the needs of the children and their safety. Anyone who is entrusted with the care of children is undertaking an important responsibility for the well-being and safety of the children in their care, and is expected to handle that responsibility prayerfully and carefully.

In the interest of making more information available on this topic, some information from secular sources has been included in this publication, which gives clearer definition to these issues than our previous documents regarding the expectations for protecting children, both in the Family International and society at large. These are general guidelines, as the laws of the land may vary from country to country, as well as societal expectations for providing a safe environment for children in the country in which they reside.

Many churches and organizations that work with children have a readily available child protection policy, which serves both for their members and for the public. While we have had a public policy in the Charter and in our policy statements for nearly 20 years, the new official TFI Child Protection Policy included with this publication is presented in an updated, more accessible format that can be shared with any who inquire about our policies.

C. Providing a Safe Environment for Children

While we, as a community of faith, have a strong policy in place to safeguard children from abuse, providing a safe environment for children ultimately happens at home. Protecting your children, avoiding situations of risk, and educating and preparing them to know how to respond to situations that could place them in danger, starts at home with the parents, and should also be supported and upheld by other Family members.

Previously, child protection was a Family affair, so to speak. It was the home's responsibility to provide a safe environment, and leadership's responsibility to monitor and ensure that the standard of the homes safeguarded the children. Homes previously served as Family mission bases, and a specific code of conduct was required for all members, just like most churches require for their activities and programs that involve minors.

Now that our residences are no longer official Family bases, it's primarily the parents' responsibility to ensure the safety of their children within their home environment. Of course, every person in a household—whether communal or otherwise—has a moral responsibility to watch out for and protect the weak and the vulnerable, particularly the children. Members of the Family International also have responsibilities related to the well-being and safeguarding of children, both general responsibilities as well as specific guidelines for their involvement in events, activities, or works that involve children. (See Standard for the Care of Children at Events and Mission Works of the Family International [below].) But when it comes down to it, parents are the ones who will make the decisions regarding their children; ultimately, they decide what is in their children's best interests and what will promote their well-being.

The Family International, as an organization, will continue to have a clear and strong policy disallowing and strongly condemning any form of abusive treatment of a child. Leadership will continue to uphold this policy by withdrawing the membership of anyone who is found guilty of the violation of our child protection policies. We will permanently excommunicate anyone found guilty of sexually or physically abusive treatment of a child, and a record of their excommunication will be kept. (Note: Loss of membership may be applied in cases of lesser offenses. This would not, however, be applied in the case of sexually or physically abusive treatment of a child.)

Ultimately, though, the job of enforcing our child protection policies and providing a safe environment for their children starts with the parents (and others responsible for the child or children). On an organizational level, TFI will not knowingly accept new members who have been found guilty of abusive treatment of a child. We will revoke the membership of any person who proves to pose a risk to children. We will do our best to ensure that the Family is a safe environment.

But regardless of our efforts as an organization to uphold our policies, children may encounter other risks throughout their childhood. Parents should educate themselves about any risks their children may be exposed to, be attentive and observant, and take the proactive steps necessary to avoid their children being placed in situations that pose a danger.

Sadly, there are those who would take advantage of or harm a child. While we don't want to mistrust friends, colleagues, associates, or other members or people we network with, or that our children meet or socialize with, the first and foremost priority of parents and caregivers of children is to safeguard the well-being of children. It's their responsibility to be aware of and avoid their children being placed in situations where they could be harmed or taken advantage of in some way.

Our children are in the Lord's care, so there's no need to be fearful or worried. However, we can't afford to be naïve or ingenuous regarding the fact that some people (including other minors) should not be entrusted with children. It's a question of exercising wisdom and assessing whether someone is responsible or worthy of the trust that it represents when children are placed in the care of others.

It's also prudent to be aware of what is considered appropriate, and to operate within the accepted standards of society. For example, some NGOs and churches have clear standards for what is appropriate or inappropriate for those who work with children, such as having two people present when disciplining a child, not allowing male caregivers (who are not parents) to assist little girls in the restroom, etc. While the Family now has a standard for TFI works or events that involve children and youth, as parents, it's your duty to have and uphold a personal standard for the care of your children.

As a tightly knit religious communal society, we have developed a culture of trust, and we have taught our children to be trusting of people, to be loving, friendly, and outgoing with members and visitors alike. That's a beautiful hallmark of the Family that we wouldn't want to lose. But there are certain behaviors that aren't appropriate in many cultures, and it's good to beware of them. They could be misconstrued or seem to indicate an excessive degree of trust or a lack of understanding of social barriers that are in place to protect children. It's important that both parents and children are aware of what is appropriate in their interactions with family, TFI members, friends, visitors, new acquaintances, and so on, as well as the level of trust that is appropriate for them to give to a stranger whom they have just met.

Part of preparing our children versus sheltering them is preparing them for the reality that, while we can freely offer God's love to every person, we can't necessarily entrust the safety and well-being of children into the hands of every person we meet or interact with.

[C]hild protection is crucial to ensuring that children under 18 years of age have the rights, confidence and environment in which they can make choices, express their views and communicate effectively with other children and adults. Children cannot become empowered change agents to improve their lives and that of their families and communities if they are not safeguarded from abuse, discrimination and harm of any kind, be it physical, sexual, emotional or neglect.—Child-to-Child Protection Policy

Awareness education

Our policy statement on children has stated: "Education is provided to children and teenagers regarding abusive behavior, and they are admonished to report any problematic incidents to their parents and caretakers."

While this will no longer be a responsibility of TFI as an organization, parents continue to be responsible to provide children and teenagers with education regarding abusive behavior and to advise their children to report any problematic incidents to them.

Awareness education is crucial to preparing your children to deal with problematic or potentially dangerous or abusive situations. It's important that parents educate their children about these matters, so that the children have the tools they need to respond to potential threats. Many schools provide instruction on child protection, but even if your children receive this instruction elsewhere, it's recommended that parents also reinforce this education in the home.

Instructing your children on child safety matters provides an opportunity to foster good communication on topics that might be sensitive for them, and to reassure them that they can and should confide in you about any questionable situation that they may encounter when not under your direct supervision. The point of this instruction is not to foster fear, but rather to educate children to discern and avoid dangerous situations, just as we teach them road safety, fire safety, or water safety.

You can find researched materials geared to educating children and parents regarding potentially abusive behavior on the Parenting site, which provides information and publications to educate your children about stranger awareness and sex abuse prevention. There are also many good publications and other resource materials available on this topic on the Internet or in public libraries that you can avail yourselves of. Educating your children empowers them to discern and avoid risky or potentially harmful situations and to communicate with you about any questions or concerns they may have.

(Maria:) Protecting your children spiritually, physically and emotionally is certainly one of your parental duties. It's part of your God-given responsibility to nurture and raise your children, and especially when they are young, they do need sheltering from some things. You are meant to stand between them and danger. You are meant to protect and shield your children from the evils of the world. That's part of your job as a parent.…

[P]art of helping them to grow and mature is preparing them to stand on their own, teaching them how to make the right choices in a variety of situations. … Since it's not realistic to entirely shelter your children, the sooner you can teach them how to be discerning and make the right decisions on their own, the safer they will be and the better prepared they will be for the decisions they alone can make.

A practical example of this is if you have a pool on your property. You need to build a fence around it to avoid accidents, but you'll also want to teach your child to swim, and over time help him become a strong swimmer. The fence is protecting him initially, but you're also preparing him to handle water safely by teaching him to swim.

Child protection is the responsibility of everyone [box]

Because children cannot look out for themselves, it is our responsibility to look out for them. Every home and school should establish a program that effectively teaches children about safety and protection measures. As a parent or guardian, you should take an active interest in your children and listen to them. Teach your children that they can be assertive in order to protect themselves against abduction and exploitation. And, most importantly, make your home a place of trust and support that fulfills your child's needs.—National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

How is abusive treatment of a child defined?

To provide a clearer understanding of what is generally understood to constitute abusive treatment of a child, we have compiled a working definition from standard ones used by organizations that specialize in child protection, as well as the World Health Organization, and standard medical definitions.

What is abuse of a child?
Physical abuse
The non-accidental infliction of physical injury on a child, or the use of excessive force on a child.
A failure to meet basic essential needs of a child, or a child being left unsupervised at a young age.
Emotional abuse
A child being harmed by rejection, humiliation, threats, verbal attacks, or constant harsh disapproval.
Sexual abuse
Involvement of a dependent, developmentally immature child or adolescent in sexual activity that they do not fully comprehend, or to which they are unable to give informed consent, or which violate the laws or taboos of society.

According to the World Health Organization, "Child abuse" or "maltreatment" constitutes "all forms of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment or commercial or other exploitation, resulting in actual or potential harm to the child's health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power."

National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children similarly specifies "cruelty to children" or "child abuse" as "behavior that causes significant harm to a child. It also includes when someone knowingly fails to prevent serious harm to a child."

Discrimination, harassment, and bullying are also abusive and can harm a child, both physically and emotionally.


What to do if you suspect a child is being mistreated

Previously, under our societal structure, it was the responsibility of any member who suspected a child had been or was being subjected to abusive treatment to report it to leadership. It was then leadership's responsibility to investigate the claim, to communicate with the people involved, and to make a judgment concerning the accused person's culpability, based on the outcome of the investigation.

This model was suited to our communal structure and the joint responsibility of the communal home and the Family, as an organization, for the environment in which the children were raised. It is, however, no longer applicable with our new structure, whereby we will have many different types of households and there will no longer be specific rules governing members' home life. Homes will no longer be perceived as Family entities but rather private residences, which the residents of the household are responsible for. Thus it would not be realistic or acceptable in the new context of the Family for leadership to assume responsibility for the enforcement of child safety in every household of Family members. Nor would it reflect the fact that parents are ultimately responsible for the safety and well-being of their children.

While leadership will continue to excommunicate anyone who is found guilty of physically or sexually abusive treatment of a child, it will no longer be possible for them to handle the investigation of claims, unless these are substantiated, whether through reliable testimony by witnesses, confession, investigation by authorities, or other forms of relevant evidence. If there is substantiated evidence that a Family member is guilty of physically or sexually abusing a child, then leadership's responsibility will be to permanently excommunicate the individual. In such cases, leadership is also subject to the laws of their country of residence, which may require them to report such cases to the pertinent authorities.

When someone suspects abusive treatment of a child (but has no evidence to back up their suspicion), we are adopting the model used by churches, nonprofits, and society at large, which places the responsibility in the court of the individual to take appropriate action if they are concerned that a child is being neglected or mistreated to the point that the child is at risk of being harmed.

Adopting this model does not change our zero-tolerance policy in any way—we strongly condemn any form of abusive treatment of a child, and TFI leadership will excommunicate any member who is found guilty of such behavior. That hasn't changed and that won't change.

What is changing is that Family leadership will no longer be able to take on the responsibility of investigating suspicions regarding occurrences in people's residences or personal lives, any more than churches, nonprofits, or other organizations are able to do so for their members. Such situations fall under the realm of parental responsibility and that of any other individuals responsible for the care of the child, not to TFI as an organization.

TFI members may encounter a situation at some point wherein they have concerns that a child may be experiencing abusive treatment. In such cases, it will be their moral responsibility to take appropriate action to safeguard the well-being of the child. For example, many Family members take part in charitable or humanitarian works and programs among underprivileged children, and at some point, a member may become privy to information that raises serious questions about a child's well-being. Or you may become concerned for a child at programs or events that you host or participate in that include children. Or you may have concerns about the actions of an associate, friend, colleague, or contact who visits your home or has some interaction with your children. While such cases may occur rarely, if ever, we can't afford to be ignorant or naïve when there is a possibility of risk to children. The safety of children should be a priority concern that keeps us on guard and attentive, while trusting fully in the Lord for His protection.

If you do have reason to believe that a child may be suffering abusive treatment of some kind, there are a number of steps you can take; it's in your court to pray and seek the Lord for the right action for the situation. For example, if you suspect that a child is at risk of harm, your first course of action would likely be to alert the child's parents to your concerns, so that they can look into the matter and ascertain if some action is needed.

If you're a parent and you have suspicions about someone your child is exposed to, you may decide that, while you can't substantiate your concerns, you don't feel at peace about that person interacting with your child. You may decide to prohibit your child from interacting with that person and to establish any safeguards necessary to avoid contact. Or if you're concerned that an older child at school is mistreating your child, you can alert the principal and take action through whatever means are appropriate in your country. You may also consider seeking counsel from professionals who are knowledgeable in this area, who can advise you regarding appropriate steps to take.

If you feel strongly about a potential threat to a child, and you don't feel that the situation is being resolved, society has set up a number of mechanisms that people can work with, if they are concerned about the well-being of a child. Child Protection Services or Social Services (or in some cases the police) are generally set up to investigate such claims, and they will do so on a basis of confidentiality. This is a measure that you will hopefully never need to employ, but extreme circumstances may require extreme measures, and these public services are in place in most countries to safeguard children and to investigate whether a child is at risk.

Perspectives on child welfare agencies [box]

(Maria:) Another important point I want to mention about child welfare agencies is our attitudes toward them. Because some of our Family children have been taken away by such agencies in the past, it's natural to feel like they're the "enemy," or that they're all "ungodly," or tools of the Enemy to harm our children. But it's important that we don't have this outlook on those who work within these agencies. Even though some have made mistakes in the past and taken away our children, it was usually because they were simply doing their job. They received misinformation via our apostates or concerned citizens, and they were acting on that information. They didn't want to hurt our children, for the most part. But since they thought our children were in danger, it was their duty and responsibility to ensure that this was not the case.

The policy of child welfare agencies is that if they consider a child to be in danger, they take immediate action. … For the most part, they do a great work in the community. They help to protect and save a lot of children in the world who are suffering true abuse, so respect that.

D. General Information on Child Protection

Following is some general information on child protection from organizations that are focused on this issue and provide counsel to the public:

Child protection

Courtesy of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (USA)

As a society, our efforts to prevent crimes committed against children have not kept pace with the increasing vulnerability of our children. After hearing the tragic stories about abducted or exploited children, most parents and guardians are surprised to learn many crimes committed against children can be prevented.

The most important key to child safety is effective communication with your child. Remember, children who do not feel they are listened to or who do not think their needs are met in the home are more vulnerable to abduction or exploitation. The first step you should take is to establish an atmosphere in the home in which your child feels truly comfortable in discussing sensitive matters and relating experiences in which someone may have approached the child in an inappropriate manner or way that made the child feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused. The simple truth is children are often too afraid or confused to report their experiences and fears.

Unfortunately, the rising awareness of crimes committed against children has left many families with a real sense of fear. You and your child need to be careful and aware, but you do not need to be afraid. Talk to your child in a calm and reassuring manner, being careful not to discuss the frightening details of what might happen to a child who does not follow the safety guidelines.

* The exploiter or abductor: Not a "stranger"

"Stay away from strangers" is a popular warning to children to prevent abduction or exploitation. Unfortunately, however, many children are abducted or exploited by people who have some type of familiarity with them, but who may or may not be known to the child's parents or guardians.

The term stranger suggests a concept children do not understand, and is one that ignores what we do know about the people who commit crimes against children. Children may believe they should only be aware of individuals who have an unusual or slovenly appearance. Instead, it is more appropriate to teach children to be on the lookout for certain kinds of situations or actions rather than certain kinds of individuals.

Children can be raised to be polite and friendly, but it is okay for them to be suspicious of any adult asking for assistance. Children help other children, but there is no need for them to be assisting adults, nor should adults request assistance from children. Children should not be asked to touch anyone in the areas of their body that would be covered by a bathing suit or allow anyone to touch them in those areas.

Often exploiters or abductors initiate a seemingly innocent contact with the victim. They may try to get to know the children and befriend them. They use subtle approaches that both parents or guardians and children should be aware of. Children should learn to stay away from individuals in vehicles, and they should know it is okay to say no—even to an adult. Since children are often reared to respect adult authority and never be a tattletale, parents and guardians should explain why the child's personal safety is more important than being polite. Children should also be taught to tell a trusted adult and that there will always be someone who can help them.

Remember, a clear, calm, and reassuring message about situations and actions to look out for is easier for a child to understand than a particular profile or image of a "stranger."

* What you can do to prevent child abduction and exploitation

Know where your children are at all times. Be familiar with their friends and daily activities.

Be sensitive to changes in your children's behavior; they are a signal that you should sit down and talk to your children about what caused the changes.

Be alert to a teenager or adult who is paying an unusual amount of attention to your children or giving them inappropriate or expensive gifts.

Teach your children to trust their own feelings, and assure them they have the right to say no to what they sense is wrong.

Listen carefully to your children's fears, and be supportive in all your discussions with them.

Teach your children that no one should approach or touch them in a way that makes them feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused. If someone does, they should immediately tell you.

Child safety is more than a slogan

By Nancy A. McBride, National Safety Director, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Today children need to be empowered with positive messages and safety skills that will build their self-esteem and self-confidence while helping to keep them safe. They need to learn how to recognize and avoid potentially dangerous situations. And, if they end up in a dangerous situation, they need to do everything they can to get out of that situation. They don't need to be told that the world is a scary place. They watch the news, hear adults talking, and may even experience violence firsthand. Rather, they need to know their parent, guardian, or another trusted adult is there for them if they are in trouble. And they also need to know most adults they encounter in their lives are good people. …

Parents and guardians should make child safety part of a child's everyday life in a reassuring way by practicing some of these skills. Whether it's checking first with a trusted adult, taking a friend, or avoiding and getting out of dangerous situations, there are easy "what-if" scenarios to practice with your children to make sure they "get it." Make outings to a mall or park a "teachable moment" to help reinforce these skills. This practice will help them know what to do if they become lost or are in danger. Practice these skills on a regular basis to make sure they become second nature. At the same time, reassure them you are there for them, and remind them there are other people who are able to help too. …

[R]ealize child safety is much more important than a slogan; make sure we are arming our children with relevant, age-appropriate messages that will empower them. Remember, there is nothing on earth that beats our parental, guardian, and caregiver supervision and attention in helping to keep our children safer. (For more information on this topic, see

E. TFI's Child Protection Policy

Making the world a better place for children

The Family International's Child Protection Policy

Children are a blessing and a gift from the Lord (The Bible).

Every child deserves a bright future—one of hope and opportunity. As Christians, we believe that human life is sacred, and that every child is a unique being, worthy of respect and dignity. Children are meant to be loved and cherished and to grow up in a healthy, happy environment.

We believe that every child has the right:

  • To be treated with respect and dignity
  • To receive responsible care and to be handled with kindness
  • To be encouraged and nurtured emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually
  • To have their physical needs adequately met, including nutrition, housing, and medical care
  • To receive a good education that provides competence and empowers them to be self-sufficient
  • To be taught good values and morals to guide them in life
  • To learn about God's personal love and care for them
  • To be taught boundaries and self-discipline
  • To be empowered to realize their full potential
  • To be prepared for the responsibilities and challenges of adulthood
  • To develop their individuality
  • To be treated fairly and justly, without discrimination
  • To be in a safe environment; to be protected from harm and danger

We believe that children are entitled to the best care possible, in an enabling environment where their needs—physical, educational, intellectual, moral, and emotional—are amply met. Children should receive a competent education that empowers them to become self-sufficient and prepares them for adulthood.

Safe from harm

Every child has the right to be protected from abuse and neglect of any kind, whether physical, emotional, sexual, or educational. We consider that the abusive treatment of a child is not only a crime, but a sin in the eyes of God. The Family International has a zero-tolerance policy regarding the abusive treatment of children, and will permanently expel any member who violates this policy.

Members are subject to the laws of their country of residence regarding reporting crimes of this nature to the appropriate authorities. The Family International is committed to the well-being of children and considers it the moral responsibility of any adult caring for minors to protect them from harm.

We believe that children should be educated to recognize and deal with potentially harmful situations, and instructed to communicate with their parents or other people responsible for their care. Successfully preparing children for life includes instructing them on safety and empowering them to discern and protect themselves from situations of potential harm.

Every child is precious in God's eyes and deserves quality and responsible care, and to be loved, nurtured, protected, and enabled to develop their full potential.

Children are the world's most valuable resource and its best hope for the future.—John F. Kennedy (1917-1963)

F. TFI Standard for the Care of Children and Teenagers

Standard for the Care of Children at Events and Mission Works of the Family International

The following code of conduct outlines expected standards of behavior of TFI members responsible for the care of children and teenagers at TFI fellowships, programs, classes, camps, activities, or in projects or programs related to TFI member works that involve minors. It has been developed with the best interests of children as the primary consideration, and should be applied with common sense.

Any TFI member responsible for the care of children and/or teenagers at TFI events or mission-related works should:


Treat all children and teenagers with dignity and respect in attitude, language, and actions.

Be inclusive and involve all children without exclusion on the basis of gender, culture, disability, ethnicity, or race.

Be fair in their relationship with children. Avoid favoring particular children to the exclusion of others.

Never develop relationships with children or teenagers that would be deemed inappropriate or abusive.

Be particularly careful, as a male adult, of any interactions with forward young females. Female adults similarly need to be careful with forward young males.


Whenever possible, have two adults present with a group of children.

Avoid being on their own with a child or teen. When confidentiality is important (e.g., counseling a child or a teen), ensure that others know that the session is taking place and that someone else is in the vicinity.

Avoid taking a group of children off the premises with fewer than two adults.

Allow responsible teens (under the age of 18) to assist only under the direct supervision of an adult responsible for the oversight of the children.

Physical contact

Be wise in their physical contact with children. Physical contact is discouraged in circumstances where an adult and child are on their own.

Avoid doing things for children of a personal nature that they can do for themselves (such as dressing, bathing, etc.).

Never smack, hit, or physically discipline a child. A child may be restrained only if there is an immediate danger of personal injury to the child or another person.

Avoid behaving in a manner which could be construed as inappropriate or sexually provocative.

Safety and environment

Be mindful of the safety of the children at all times, and in all circumstances.

Develop clear rules to address specific physical safety issues relative to the local physical environment of a project or program (e.g., for programs based near water, heavy road traffic, railway lines, etc.).

Never condone behavior of children which is illegal, unsafe, or abusive.

Peer interaction

Be aware of the potential for peer abuse (e.g., children bullying, discriminating against, victimizing, or abusing other children).

Be aware of high-risk peer situations (e.g., unsupervised mixing of older and younger children).

Every child is precious in God's eyes, and whenever children are in our care, they deserve quality and responsible care and loving attention.

Children are our only hope for the future, but we are their only hope for their present and their future.—Zig Ziglar

Copyright © 2010 by The Family International