To volunteer with Boys & Girls Clubs of Middle Tennessee, you are required to undergo and pass a background check to ensure the safety of the youth we serve. Your signature below indicates that you give your permission for this background check to be performed after you have provided your social security number and driver’s license number over the phone. (Note: A BGCMT administrator will call you to gather this information.)
BGCMT is required to report all suspicions of child abuse, neglect, or endangerment immediately. Volunteers are obligated to report any information to BGCMT staff. In no way should any suspicion of abuse be overlooked or unreported. Volunteers should notify BGCMT Staff immediately when abuse or neglect is suspected.
The following information is a general reference for volunteers to familiarize themselves with the indicators of abuse and neglect. Due to individual differences in how children cope with maltreatment, not all of the signs will be present in all victims. Furthermore, not all children with symptoms commonly associated with abuse are the victims of abuse or neglect.
Abuse is an overt act, whether intentional or not, that may injure or otherwise cause harm to a child.
Physical abuse refers to an injury to the child by an adult caused by hitting, kicking, biting, punching, burning or otherwise causing trauma to the child. The adult may not have intended to harm the child, but the injury is not accidental. If a child is the victim of physical abuse, other forms of abuse are likely to have occurred; emotional abuse is nearly always present when another form of abuse has been substantiated.
Emotional abuse refers to actions by parents or caretakers that have caused, or could cause, serious behavioral, cognitive, emotional or mental disorders. Emotional abuse also includes threats that cause extreme fear in the child and the use of extreme or bizarre forms of punishment (such as confining a child in a dark closet), even if the child does not show evidence of harm.
Sexual abuse refers to any sexual act between an adult and a minor, or between two minors, when one exerts power over the other. It is forcing, coercing or persuading a child to engage in any type of sexual act.
Sexual exploitation usually refers to forms of sexual abuse involving child prostitution or child pornography.
Once a child is old enough to walk unassisted, some bruises and scrapes can be expected as part of normal childhood activities. Normal cuts and abrasions are generally located on the leading edges of the body, such as shins, knees, palms and elbows. The outward signs of physical abuse, however, are not typical of the normal wear and tear of childhood and may include the following:
Unexplained bruises and welts:
There are other explanations for some indicators of abuse. However, when no plausible explanation for a child’s injuries exist or when a child’s behavior undergoes dramatic changes, abuse or neglect may be the cause. In no way, should any suspicion be overlooked or unreported.
As a volunteer, it is not your responsibility to investigate, but it is your responsibility to notify adult staff before leaving the building for the day.
Child neglect is the failure to provide for the basic needs of the child when resources are available. It is important to distinguish between willful neglect and a parent or caretaker’s failure to provide for the child because of poverty or cultural norms. State laws often distinguish several types of neglect.
Physical neglect includes refusal or delay in seeking health care (often called medical neglect), abandonment, providing inadequate supervision, and expulsion from home or not allowing a runaway to return home.
Educational neglect includes permitting chronic truancy, failing to enroll a child of mandatory school age in an approved educational program and inattention to special educational needs.
Emotional neglect includes chronic or extreme spouse abuse in the child’s presence, permitting drug or alcohol abuse by the child and refusing or failing to provide needed psychological care.
Unless a case is severe, it may be difficult to prove that the child is being neglected. If this is true, a child protective services agency may not be able to help the family. However, Club staff has a responsibility to report suspected neglect, whether or not they think the authorities will be able to help. Here are some signs of physical or emotional neglect:
Often the scars of abuse and neglect are emotional, rather than physical. These may manifest themselves in behaviors that are outside the norm. The following are examples of behaviors that may indicate abuse or neglect:
Handling Abuse Disclosure from a Club Member
Children and teens may disclose sexual or physical abuse in a variety of ways. Unfortunately, direct disclosure is one of the least common ways for children to disclose abuse. The following are more common ways that children and youth disclose that they are being abused.
As youth prepare to tell you something, they may start with, “do you promise not to tell anyone?” An honest response is, “I can’t promise, but I will keep what you tell me as private as I can. Sometimes I might need to get help from a staff member or other professional to help keep you safe.”
A youth may use indirect terms because she/he hasn't learned more specific vocabulary, feels too ashamed or too embarrassed to talk more directly, has promised not to tell, or a combination of these reasons. Gently encourage him/her to be more specific within the limits of her/his vocabulary. Bear in mind that in order to make a report you do not need to know exactly what form the abuse has taken place.
Here a youth might be talking about a friend or sibling but is just as likely to be talking about her/himself. Encourage the youth to tell you what he/she knows about the "other child.” It is probable that the youth will eventually tell you whom s/he is talking about.
Most children are all too well aware that some negative consequences will result if they break the secret of abuse; often the offender uses the threat of these consequences to force the child to remain silent. Let the youth know you want to help her/him and that the law requires you tell a staff member if any child discloses abuse. Assure the youth that you will respect her/his need for confidentiality by not discussing the abuse with anyone other than those directly involved in the legal process such as a staff member and/or a Child Protective Services investigator. Some ways to say this are, “I am really glad you took the risk to tell someone (or “tell me”). I need to help you be safe and will need to call or tell…”
If a child discloses during an activity, do not panic or express shock. Acknowledge the child's disclosure and continue the activity. Afterwards, find a private place where you can talk with the child. Express your belief that the youth is telling the truth and you appreciate that s/he took a risk by telling you. Reassure the youth that it was right to tell someone. Remember it is not your role to investigate the situation. It is your responsibility to report the abuse to a staff member and to be supportive of the youth.
I understand that any violation of the Code of Ethics may result in termination of my volunteer assignment.