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Boys Town Logo

Youth Safety

At Boys Town, Keeping Children Safe Is Our Number One Priority

For any organization that works with children, safety is best ensured when it’s everybody’s business. 

Simply put, organizations and agencies that provide services to children, especially those who are troubled or at-risk, must create a culture of safety where everyone — employees, volunteers and others who are involved with youth — knows how to:

  • Prevent situations that could harm or jeopardize the well-being of children
  • Report inappropriate behaviors or practices that pose a threat to children
  • Respond when such situations occur so that children are protected, and corrective action can be taken quickly and effectively

The youth safety audit department is involved in a lot of proactive measures, we want to not sit back and wait for things to happen and so we do things like hopping on a plane and flying out to any of our regional sites as well as going around our home campus sites, any place we are trusted with the care of youth. When we are looking into those things it isn’t just popping up on someones door step and asking if they are ok. We are reviewing every part of our safety expectations, looking at things like how medication is processed, documented and administered. We’re making sure that there are positive relationships in the home. We’re ensuring that we’re delivering on that promise when we do things like youth safety questionnaires and asking kids do they feel safe, is there any issues that they’ve seen. We are asking for that input and ensuring that we doing the right things and doing right by all of our kids.

We’re also talking to our staff, ensuring that they’re feeling supported. That the structure is there in case they do see something that could be updated or could be changed or could be fixed and ensuring there’s a two-way conversation there.

We’re also involved in a lot of proactive activities as it relates to ensuring that the youth opportunities to report to us if there are issues that are occurring. We’ve implemented things that have been around for awhile, things like our youth safety line that are in all of our homes. There’s a number listed where if they have an issue or if they feel like things aren’t going right or their rights have been violated. They can make the call and that call comes directly to our department. It doesn’t go to anyone that is responsible to them so that we can follow-up with them to ensure that they are taken care and that they are safe.

We also have on every computer that is a youth able to use, there is an electronic form that they can complete and can submit safety concerns there. There’s also comment boxes in all of our residential areas, that a third party is checking and referring to us to follow-up on those terms. And we’re doing youth safety questionnaires where once a quarter they are having someone speak to them, they have an opportunity to fill out that youth safety questionnaire, ensuring they have an active role that they feel they are safe while under the care of Boys Town.

When they feel unsafe we want to make sure we are responding to that as quickly as possible. When we get those reports we want to make sure that that youth number one feels taken care of. Ensuring there are boots on the ground, someone, whether it’s their consultant, someone outside of that home that can respond and make sure their immediate concerns are addressed, that they feel like they are in a safe place.

Our entire department exists as a check and balance on the organization to make sure that safety is the number one priority in everything that we do.

Organizations that serve youth must have a safety system in place.

A system that is comprehensive and consistent across all programs and services. This means protecting youth from everything from bad role-modeling and improper adult-child relationships to physical or sexual abuse and self-harm or suicidal behaviors. 

With more than a century of experience caring for children and through extensive research, Boys Town has learned that certain core elements are essential in creating a culture of safety. These core elements must be embedded in the very fabric of an organization and cover both proactive and preventive measures as well as reactive measures. They ultimately serve as a foundation for best practices in keeping children safe in any environment where adults are responsible for their care or management. 

In addition to keeping children safe, these core elements also protect employees by teaching them how to avoid situations where they might create the perception of impropriety or be falsely accused of inappropriate behavior (for example, being alone with a child with no other adults present). 

How we work to prevent situations that could cause harm:

Focus on youth rights — All Boys Town youth are entitled to certain rights that protect them and promote their safety and happiness. 

Opportunities for reporting — Youth are given multiple opportunities and ways to report any issues, concerns or incidents, including peer reporting, reporting to a trusted adult, a Youth Safety Phone Line, Online Youth Safety form, Youth Safety Questionnaires and Youth Comment Boxes.

Participant involvement — Youth, family and/or others involved in their care are actively involved in identifying goals and in creating a Service Plan that will best help achieve them. 

Clear, accessible policies and procedures — Boys Town’s policies and procedures are written out, clearly stated and available to all staff members. 

Systems approach — Boys Town has key systems in place that ensures all operations are connected and provided with consistency. We rely on the four systems of training, supervision, evaluation and administration. These four systems are core strengths and play a vital role in contributing to Boys Town’s culture of safety. 

A clear mission and values — All staff members understand Boys Town’s mission and the values on which the mission is based. 

A model of care — The research-proven Boys Town Model® is the basis for all Boys Town programs and services. The Model is a well-defined set of procedures and practices that are employed in fundamentally the same fashion across different situations and programs and promote ethical, humane and effective child care practices. 

Continuous quality improvement — Boys Town continually uses data to improve what we do well and fix what isn’t working well. 

How we allow reporting of inappropriate behaviors:

Opportunities for reporting — Youth are given multiple opportunities and ways to report any issues, concerns or incidents, including peer reporting, reporting to a trusted adult, a Youth Safety Phone Line, Online Youth Safety form, Youth Safety Questionnaires and Youth Comment Boxes.

Consumer orientation — Boys Town has ongoing, frequent communication with parents, guardians, teachers, agencies and others who place children in our care to help ensure safety. 

How we respond when such situations occur:

Investigation and follow up — We have an independent Youth Safety Audit department that has procedures in place to conduct investigations of any report, suspicion or observation of improper staff conduct. When necessary, findings of such investigations are reported to external agencies like Child Protective Services and law enforcement.

Compliance with outside accrediting and state licensing agencies — Boys Town meets and exceeds the minimum standards required by outside accreditation and regulatory agencies. 

Every effort to keep children safe is critical and worthwhile.

Unfortunately, no safety system is perfect. Bad things can and do happen in child care settings, even when staff members and leadership are diligent and watchful. And while some of these situations often are unavoidable, they are still unacceptable. Even one incident in which a child is harmed is one too many. 

For that reason, every effort to keep children safe is critical and worthwhile.

An important key that underlies any successful safety system is building healthy, trusting relationships between youth and staff members. Through levels of required, ongoing training and evaluation, Boys Town supervisors and direct care staff learn how to interact with warmth, compassion and genuine positive regard for the worth and dignity of the girls and boys in their care. Through teaching, youth understand they are valued, that the adults who care for them are acting in their best interests and that their voice will be heard if they feel threatened or unsafe.