Experience has taught us that child protection cannot be taken for granted in any environment.
Clear policies must be in place, aimed at preventing child abuse. Those policies must be frequently reviewed and updated, taking into account information uncovered in investigations of child abuse and research on child abuse. An update to NTM's current manual, which you can download below, is expected this summer.
Even with excellent policies, abuse can still occur. So it is also necessary to have good policies on how to handle accusations, and how to deal with both accusers and the accused. Those policies must include independent investigations and help for victims.
NTM’s Child Protection Manual has been reviewed by GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in a Christian Environement), a child advocacy organization, which found the manual “very well done.” The manual has since been updated to address the concerns GRACE raised in its review.
Here are some examples of how children are protected in New Tribes Mission:
All NTM USA members involved in child care have gone through a week-long seminar that covers three vital areas:
- Preventing child abuse
- Identifying possible abuse
- Properly addressing reports of child abuse
They are also required to review this material each year they are involved with child care.
This training has also been given to all new NTM USA members for the last ten years.
For the last three years, the children of NTM USA members-in-training have received age-appropriate training aimed at preventing child abuse and helping them tell someone about any abuse attempts.
All NTM USA members are required to go through an Internet-based child protection training system annually.
Protecting children begins with screening. All NTM USA members undergo a background check. Any history of sexually abusing a child disqualifies a person from service in any NTM ministry, whether as a career missionary, associate member or volunteer.
New Tribes Mission requires that teachers and dorm parents have experience in a school or in New Tribes Mission, and that service record is reviewed prior to them being placed in a position that gives them significant contact with children.
Any person for whom there is sufficient reason to believe they have been involved in child abuse is dismissed from service with New Tribes Mission.
NTM’s policies also regulate situations in which adults are in contact with children who are not their own.
Two unrelated adults are required to be present at all times in childcare. Classrooms are open to visits by administrators and staff at all times, and such visits are to be carried out without warning or routine. Counseling sessions must be conducted in rooms with windows that allow others a clear view of the session, or with open doors.
Corporal punishment is not allowed in any NTM childcare or school setting.
Since abusers go to great lengths to conceal their abuse, it is necessary even with good safeguards to give people who work with children tools with which to spot signs of child abuse. These signs occupy almost three pages of the manual, one each for physical, sexual and emotional abuse, and include:
- Fear of being left with a certain person
- Not willing to explain an injury
- Afraid of physical contact
- Nightmares or difficulty sleeping
NTM members who serve in childcare or school settings are directed to report signs of abuse so they can be appropriately followed up.
NTM’s policies spell out the investigation process extensively. Some of the most important facets are these:
- Investigations facilitated by NTM-USA are not part of any criminal system; therefore, NTM-USA does not apply a presumption of innocence or guilt in its investigations.
- NTM-USA does not require, nor will it allow, victims to be confronted by the alleged offender at any time in the investigative process.
- The alleged offender will be placed on administrative leave and, if necessary, relocated during the time of the investigation.
- Investigation teams must be trained and qualified, and must not include members of New Tribes Mission. (This policy has been approved by the NTM USA Executive Board but is not yet included in the Child Protection Manual.)
Other NTM policies, practices and guidelines that help protect children
Many concerns about child protection center on mission boarding schools. NTM missionaries are free to choose the educational options that are best for their children, and fewer than 10 percent of the children of NTM members live away from home at a boarding school.
More than a third of the children of NTM members are home-schooled. NTM actively supports home-schooling parents, providing certified teachers to assist parents when available.
When it comes to educational options, NTM’s primary concern is that children are educated properly, in line with the standards that exist in their home countries. We seek to avoid putting missionaries in situations where their children lack appropriate educational opportunities.
Help for victims:
NTM-USA is committed to ongoing assistance for those who have experienced the trauma of abuse. Whenever possible, for NTM-USA members, we will work in conjunction with the local or sending church.
If there is sufficient evidence to believe an NTM member has abused a child, their home church or churches are informed of the reason for their dismissal.
New Tribes Mission also contacts the authorities in Florida, where NTM USA is based, and in the state the members are from, and provides that information to them as well.