Every day in my role of ministering to parents raising children with special needs I run internet filters to cull the very best information for them. As I read the brief synopses of each story on my list, I come across current event stories telling of abused children with disabilities. These children in the stories are largely being abused by educators, para-professionals and bus drivers. It’s enough to literally make me ill. I find that most days, I can’t even bring myself to read all the details. The problem has become so large that if I were to share every story I come across, parents would be utterly crushed with despair.
Naturally, my thoughts turn to what we can do in a proactive as well as reactive way as servants to those with special needs. I have several thoughts:
- Proactively educate families on what the signs of abuse might be. Hold free workshops in the local church informing and empowering these families. If parents are made aware of the potential for this sort of danger, it is certain to make them more vigilant as well as trust their own instincts.
- Proactively hold workshops for parents on what to do if they suspect abuse of their child. Informing parents of their rights builds confidence if the parents need to move forward with taking action in the future.
- Consider yourself a mandatory reporter, whether you truly are or are not. While you and your ministry may be exempt, it is wise to see what best practices are if a child has reported abuse to you or your staff.
- Take measures to assure that your staff is never pushed to a point of such severe stress that they are prone to abuse. Best practices dictate that there should never be 1 adult alone with a child. Also, make certain that you make it easy for your volunteers or staff to report incidences. Take any reporting extremely seriously. Never, ever blow it off thinking that the one being reported on is incapable of inappropriate behavior. We are all sinners, saved by grace, and are capable of anything given the right circumstances.
- Assure parents that you have measures in place regarding abuse or misconduct. Listen to them if they have concerns. Give them an ear if they fear abuse in a school or other situation. Have some sort of counseling or referral to counseling available to them.
- Continue training of yourself and your staff on abuse and best practices. We always need to stay on top of the latest information on this serious topic.
- The best tool you have available as a Christian is prayer. Pray a hedge of protection around those you serve. Pray for school staff that also serve them. Pray for discernment. Give your worries about this precious vulnerable population to God in prayer. And pray that the Lord would always reveal His truth in an abuse situation.
These are just a few of the things that we, the church, can do regarding this heartbreaking issue. Have your radar on to pick up things that “aren’t quite right” at all times, lest you be deceived or caught off guard. Meditate on other ways you might help.
We always welcome your input. Let us know how you have been addressing abuse in your ministry.