February 7, 2012

Making Mentoring SAFE

A few months back, I reached a limit of sorts, when the news about Jerry Sandusky and the Penn State tragedy appeared. In this tabloid “news” world we live in, we are always hearing about molesters and the layers of tragedy they create. I titled that blog post, “I’m really angry about creepy guys,” and I still am, a little.

The truth is there are so many more wonderful stories about really good men showing up for young males with inspirational tales of lives transformed. But sadly, the dominant media focus always seems to be on the sordid. I know it’s a good thing to shine the light of awareness in the dark places, but how about some balance? I’ll be trying to bring some of that balance in future posts. If you have a story about good men or a man involved in boys' lives, please send it along to me. The world needs to hear these stories.

The good news is that youth-serving organizations everywhere are learning how to do a better job of screening applicants. This creates more protection for young people and the organization. It makes parents more comfortable, and the right prospective volunteers feel safe in applying. When it’s clear an organization is using state of the art background checking and other forms of vetting, volunteers know they, too, will be protected from guilt by association should something or someone go terribly wrong.

One organization in the vanguard of this movement is Friends for Youth, Inc., out of Redwood City, CA. They have been in the mentoring business for a quarter of a century and, out of that experience, they have produced an amazing book titled, SAFE (Screening Applicants for Effectiveness): Guidelines to Prevent Child Molestation in Mentoring and Youth-Serving Organizations. It’s the most current and comprehensive work on the subject I’ve seen in a while. It covers a literature review on the issue of child molestation, offers examples of and instruction in best-practice screening AND monitoring of applicants, and describes state-of-the-art molestation prevention tools and resources. The SAFE book is a good read for anyone who wants to understand what it means to have solid organizational integrity when it comes to protecting kids and the good adults who want to support them. You can order the SAFE book on the Friends for Youth, Inc. website.

As an indication the commitment by Friends for Youth to helping organizations and protecting kids, they are offering a free webinar on this important topic. It’s being offered on Tuesday, Feb. 28th, 2012, from 10:00 AM to 11:15 AM (PST). The webinar is open to anyone who cares enough to be interested. Visit their website Webinar page for more information and to register.

In making involvement with young people SAFE, perhaps it will remove some of the fear of involvement that results in long organizational wait-lists of young guys. Young males are hoping someone like you might come forward and hang out with them for a while, maybe be a man-maker in someone's life!

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