Founder Acharya His Divine Grace
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

CPO North America Holds Largest Online Training Ever
By Child Protection Office - ISKCON North America   |  Dec 13, 2023

Nearly 200 ISKCON managers, teachers, child protection volunteers, bhakti-vrksa leaders, and others who serve in positions of trust or authority throughout North America gathered for the largest online child protection training to date.

On Saturday, December 9th, the Child Protection Office (CPO) for ISKCON North America offered the CPO Basic Training course to leaders from 36 different yatras encompassing three presenters, three breakout sessions, one practice session, and participant Q&A. Chaitanya Mangala Das and Jiva Goswami Das provided technical support throughout the day to facilitate this huge group of participants.  “I’ve attended many CPO trainings in the past, but this one— because of the large number of participants and the professionalism of the presenters—was especially inspiring,” said Anuttama Dasa, GBC member, “It was great to see nearly 200 devotees turn out to be trained on how to better protect children in our movement.” 

Some of the Topics Explored

ISKCON of Alachua Child Protection Volunteer Dhanya Gaurangi Devi Dasi presented on the various forms of child abuse, with a focus on the most common form: neglect of a child’s basic needs to be safe and healthy in body, mind, and spirit. In so doing, she highlighted the importance of children receiving appropriate adult supervision from their caretaker(s). 

Founder-Acarya Srila Prabhupada was ever present throughout the training, in his words that remain as important today as they were when he wrote them, “Regarding your question should force be used on children, no, there shall be no forcing the children to do anything. Child should not be forced. This is all nonsense. Who has devised these things? If we want them to become great devotees, then we must educate the children with love, not in a negative way. Of course, if they become naughty we may show the stick but we should never use it… never apply force, especially to his chanting and other matters of spiritual training. That will spoil him and in the future he will not like to do it if he is forced” (Letter to Brahmanya-Tirtha, December 10, 1972).

Long-term effects of child abuse were addressed, including anxiety, depression, suicide attempts, physical health issues, drug use, low academic achievement, and more. It became exceedingly clear that child abuse is neither isolated to a single point in time nor its effects limited to the victim. Attendees understood that child abuse can have lifelong impacts affecting the individual, their family, and society as a whole.  

Fortunately, child abuse is preventable through awareness and education, organization, and prioritization. Over the six-hour training, attendees learned about the vital role that each of us plays in ensuring that children have a safe upbringing. One of the presenters, Janaki Devi Dasi, LCSW and Trauma Specialist, explored the topic, “How to respond to a disclosure of abuse,” which included a breakout practice session with the group. 

Reporting concerns of child abuse to civil authorities, as well as to ISKCON child protection members, was emphasized throughout the day.  

The top seven ways that we can collectively stop and prevent child abuse were illuminated:

  1. Report concerns of child abuse to civil authorities, as well as the CPO.
  2. Form and maintain child protection volunteers for every ISKCON temple, center, school, and project.
  3. Implement ISKCON’s screening procedures for all who serve in a role of trust or authority.
  4. Institute policies that encourage child safety at each temple, center, school, and project. 
  5. Have child abuse awareness training for adults and children each year at every temple, center, school, and project. 
  6. Assist victims in getting help and counseling.
  7. Make sure the Child Protection Office has the resources that it needs in order to carry out the essential services it is meant to provide to ISKCON. 

North American temples contribute $32,000 a year to child protection efforts in the US and Canada but understand that additional steps must be taken to strengthen child protection, including additional CPO staff members. North America’s CPO Director Lilasuka Dasi said, “When we started this regional CPO, there were 54 temples now with 90 centers and a number of independent youth programs, having adequate resources for child protection is increasingly crucial.” This regional office affects ISKCON globally, in part, by offering practical, effective ways to implement ISKCON’s child protection policies. Resources are being developed, tested, and established in North America that can be reproduced in other areas of the world. 

For more information about ISKCON child protection in North America, visit our website. If you would like to be among those supporting and strengthening the NA CPO, please visit our donation page.

If you are concerned that a child has been abused in the U.S. or Canada, call 1-800-4-A-CHILD. Trained staff are available 24/7.