As part of its ongoing efforts for child safety, ISKCON’s North American Child Protection Office will kick off 2016, the year of the society’s 50th anniversary, by holding its first annual “Safe Temple” awards.
The awards will be held at the annual Governing Body Commission and Temple Presidents’ meetings in Houston, Texas during the second weekend of January 2016.
Not just one but every ISKCON temple in the USA and Canada that shows they have followed CPO risk-reducing policies in the year 2015 will be presented with an award in the form of a certificate acknowledging their efforts.
Temples will then be able to publicly display their award, showing their community members that they take child protection seriously and are actively working to prevent child abuse.
“This award program is an opportunity for temples to convey a unified demonstrable message of where ISKCON stands regarding child protection,” says North American Child Protection Officer Lilasuka Dasi.
To be eligible for the Safe Temple Award, temples will have to successfully follow five policies throughout 2015.
The first is having a trained and active Child Protection Team, something that has been a mainstay at many ISKCON centers for years now.
“Our office is here to support the child protection teams at each ISKCON center – we’re in direct contact with them to make sure they have the resources to carry out their service, and that they are trained, accountable, and provide constant updates,” says Lilasuka.
Secondly, all CPT members and members of temple management must have received an annual child protection training.
A Child Protection Office volunteer training in Alachua, Florida
Child Protection Teams can write to Lilasuka at email@example.com for in-person and online training options offered by ISKCON North America’s Child Protection Office. Lilasuka herself often travels and offers trainings.
Training is also available at d2l.org, an external organization that is CPO-approved. “We don’t need to recreate the wheel; we’re using well-funded and well-researched already existing material,” Lilasuka says.
If a Child Protection Team does takes a training that is not offered directly by the CPO, they will need to get in touch with Lilasuka to let her know they have taken it.
The third requirement is to maintain a policy of children being supervised by a designated adult while on ISKCON property.
“There is a tendency to think of the temple as a second home,” says Lilasuka. “And it’s important to make that shift towards seeing it more as the open venue that it is. It’s a cultural shift – one where all adults take an active part in maintaining a safe environment for the children.”
Fourthly, eligible temples must be one hundred per cent compliant with CPO requirements for screening all residents, staff and main volunteers who serve in trusted positions.
Screenings comprise three steps – checking references from other ISKCON temples or leaders; running criminal background checks; and getting clearance from the North American Child Protection Office by checking with Lilasuka whether there has been a complaint or a case against the individual in question.
Lastly, to be eligible for the Safe Temple Award a center must ensure that restrictions imposed on certain individuals by the CPO are upheld.
Lilasuka hopes that acknowledging temples that follow these requirements will cement a proactive environment. “Child abuse tends to be a discussion that is taboo or infrequently discussed,” she says. “Typically, the discussion comes up when there is a problem. We want a proactive approach, where we’re normalizing the discussion of child protection and making it something that devotees commonly talk about, and in a preventative way.”
Lilasuka plans to hold the Safe Temple Awards every year from now on. “It gives temples a way to demonstrate their ongoing commitment and growth regarding child protection,” she says.
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For more information about the North American Child Protection Office, please visit http://www.safetemple.org/
Aug 06, 2022
Brahmatirtha das Director, Bhaktivedanta Institute for Higher Studies