It’s a Process
A Case Study in the Development of Institutional Policies and Procedures
By: Rabbi Yakov Horowitz
Several weeks ago, we floated online via our email the idea helping to share best practices of institutional Policies and Procedures designed to make our schools, shuls and summer camps safer places for our children.
We were very encouraged by your response, as over 25 heads of Jewish communal institutions across North America contacted us, expressing their interest in learning more about this critical subject.
With that in mind, permit me to share some impressions of the two days I spent this week assisting Yeshivas Eitz Chaim of Toronto in their ongoing effort to craft and implement a wide-ranging set of Child Safety Policies and Procedures for their school network of three campuses serving nearly 1,000 children.
While nothing in this world is perfect, Eitz Chaim did their homework very carefully and I believe there is much communities can learn from their work in this field. If you are thinking of embarking on a similar effort for an institution you are involved with, you may find these notes useful:
1) Plan carefully and get your Board of directors and administrative team on the same page in terms of your goals for this process. Early in the planning stages for my involvement in their efforts, we had a conference call with their team and it was quite clear that they had already given this project a great deal of contemplation and had collaboratively developed their thinking.
2) Consult with experts in the field. Eitz Chaim retained Mrs. Guila Benchimol to lead this project, and I found her to be knowledgeable, professional, and focused. Mrs. Benchimol works closely with Dr. Shira Berkovitz who is rapidly becoming a leader in the Jewish community in developing institutional policies for child safety. Her attached article, “Ten Policies to Create Safer Environments,”  is excellent and a great starting point for institutional leaders looking to begin this process.
3) It’s a process. Research clearly indicates that when institutions “produce” Policies and Procedures without making it a collaborative effort of the administration, faculty and parents/families, those policies sit on the proverbial shelf and don’t accomplish much at all. During the two days of my involvement, there was an event for the school parents, where the process for developing the Policies and Procedures was explained and ample time was given for parents to ask questions. The same took place at the eight, one-hour sessions with the faculty members at the three campuses. Additionally, administration members who were at all the various sessions were carefully taking notes of the comments/questions of the parents and faculty members and were continuously encouraging the school heads to follow up with them in the days and weeks to come.
4) Mrs. Benchimol informed the parents and faculty members of a clear timeline for the creation and dissemination of their Policies and Procedures. She also indicated that it would be completely transparent, meaning that everyone will have access to the Policies and Procedures. The parents, staff and children will all know what they consist of. There will also be training for the staff in the implementation of the Policies and Procedures once they are disseminated.
It is important to note that the process Eitz Chaim is undergoing, is taking place with the backdrop of public scrutiny regarding allegations of abuse that took place there in previous decades. Having said that, their Board members and administrative team (who were not involved with the school when the alleged abuse took place) were forthright with their constituents about the past incidents. During the sessions this week they announced their commitment to put things in place so there will be no re-occurrences moving forward.
On a personal note, I would have turned down their request for my involvement if I had felt that I was there for window dressing and public relations. I only agreed to get involved in their efforts when I detected their sincerity and commitment.
All in all, I commend Yeshivas Eitz Chaim for their ongoing efforts and wish them great success. There are many positive lessons to draw from the process I was privileged to participate in earlier this week, and I look forward to assisting others who would be interested in leading their institutions through a similar growth process.
Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1 Link to Shira Berkovitz article on our website: http://bit.ly/1M3kvay
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