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

ISKCON of Phoenix Marks 25th Year of CPO with Renewed Commitment
By Atma Tattva Das, ISKCON News Staff Writer   |  Oct 24, 2023

Left to right, back row, Syama Mohinī dd, Premadhatri dd (TP),  NamaPriya dd, l-to-r,  front row, Parth, Divya & Nikhit (3 of our Child Protection Ambassadors) holding the 2022 Safe Temple Award.

In light of the 25th anniversary of ISKCON’s Child Protection Office (CPO), the devotees at ISKCON of Phoenix, Arizona, have reaffirmed their commitment to creating a safe environment for children and supporting the CPO’s mission. The CPO was established in 1998 as a response to victims of child abuse within the society, and it has since served the worldwide devotee family by providing training, support, and investigations related to child protection. As part of this milestone, Syama Mohini Dasi from ISKCON of Phoenix shares insights into their Child Protection Volunteer program.

ISKCON’s Child Protection Office operates with a director, advisory panel, and regional directors. The director and two other devotees established the Child Protection Team (CPT) a few years ago. The team has evolved into the Child Protection Volunteers (CPV) program. ISKCON Phoenix’s CPV program currently has five members and they are thankful for the guidance and training from the director of the North America CPO, Lilasuka devi dasi. The CPV team complies with the CPO’s policy and operational guidelines to ensure the safety and well-being of children within the community.

One of the critical services offered by the CPV team is mandatory child protection training for temple staff, especially those who work directly with children. The training, which is taken annually, helps raise awareness and understanding of child protection issues and equips volunteers with the necessary skills to ensure the safety of children in their care.

The CPV team acknowledges challenges in implementing and supporting child protection initiatives. When faced with criticism that the CPO may not be properly supported or rendered ineffective by ISKCON leadership, the CPV team emphasizes their commitment to child protection and the importance of taking proactive measures to prevent abuse – pointing to the needed support of leadership and the larger ISKCON community.

Syama Mohini Mataji emphasized, “The innocence of our children must be protected. Our dharma as parents and teachers is to protect them, even if one does not have a child of their own. It takes a village to raise a child, and we have so many children in our international family.”

The team believes that caring for and protecting children is a fundamental responsibility, and they strive to create a safe environment through comprehensive training, awareness programs, and collaboration with external resources such as the Chandler Police Department. They uphold and emphasize that no ecclesiastical or managerial authority is above the law, and child protection must be a priority for everyone involved.

Future Expansion and Improvements

Looking ahead, the CPV team plans to expand and improve its ministry by continuously updating its training programs and events. They understand the significance of staying informed about the latest developments in child protection and aim to provide ongoing training for their volunteers. By regularly updating their knowledge, they can ensure that their appointed application aligns with best practices and maintains a safe environment for children.

The CPV team at ISKCON of Phoenix greatly emphasizes their “Invest in Our Children” initiative. They believe that investing time, resources, and effort in children’s well-being and spiritual growth is essential. The Child Protection Ambassadors initiative, comprising four youth members aged 13 to 18, actively participates in meetings with temple presidents and the child protection group, sharing their wishlist to improve safety measures for children.

A 12-year-old program member, Jiya, shared, “This is my first time being an ambassador, and so far, it has been an amazing experience. I agreed to become an ambassador since it provides many opportunities to serve and give back to the community in various ways…This is why I chose to be an ambassador: to serve others and to be reminded that simplicity can be better than complexity.”

The “Invest in Our Children” program includes activities like leading prayers, bhajan/kirtan, and special events, showcasing the active involvement of children in the community.

The “Invest in Our Children Campaign” has evolved significantly over the years. Child protection and awareness programs have gained widespread acceptance within the congregation. The number of Child Protection Volunteer team members has increased, and the Child Protection Ambassadors have become active contributors. This demonstrates the positive impact of investing in child protection and ensuring the safety of children in the community.

Collaboration with International Child Protection Effort: ISKCON of Phoenix primarily collaborates with the North American Child Protection Office. They have shared their Child Protection Policy, awareness videos, and other information to support the international child protection effort. The close relationship with local authorities, such as the police department, is a deterrent and contributes to a safer environment for children.

In addition to child protection, ISKCON of Phoenix actively promotes women’s programs, particularly Initiatives for Women, Youth, and Children (IPA). These initiatives include reading and discussing sastra, bhajan/kirtan, “Talks & Crafts,” and a “New Moms Support Group.” The focus is on fostering a supportive and nurturing environment for women within the community.

The well-being of the family and community is interconnected. Children learn cooperation by observing the example of adults, including their mothers. When women are respected and cared for, it creates a positive atmosphere that benefits the entire community. Protecting children and supporting women’s programs go hand in hand, as both contribute to a harmonious and spiritually nurturing environment.

ISKCON of Phoenix has planned events like the Children’s Festival, Workshops for Parents, and awareness programs for child protection and intimate partner abuse (IPA). They also look forward to joining the “Safe Families, Strong Communities” Campaign from the Vaishnavi Ministry.

The program’s success is reflected in the overall participation of children in the Yatra. Providing opportunities for children to develop, learn, make mistakes, and receive proper guidance has positively impacted their lives. The program aims to prepare children for a brighter future and spiritual growth.

The key advice offered by Syama Mohini is to invest in children and the community with sincerity. Programs should not be mere obligations but heartfelt commitments to ensuring the safety and well-being of children and supporting women’s programs. She encourages organizations to care for their members and serve with the right motivation for the pleasure of Krishna.

The commitment of ISKCON of Phoenix to child protection and women’s programs is a testament to their dedication to creating a safe and spiritually nurturing environment for their community. Their “Invest in Our Children” initiative and collaboration with the international child protection effort are inspirational examples for other temples and organizations within the ISKCON community.

Visit the ISKCON of Phoenix website to learn about or support their Child Protection Volunteer program. If you wish to assist the International Child Protection effort in any way, contact the ISKCON CPO accordingly via their website.