What are the Best Practices, and how did you choose them?
To determine Aleinu’s Best Practices, we spent many months reviewing the best practices (sometimes called “norms,” “standards,” or “guidelines”) identified by leading health organizations and child protection initiatives worldwide. We met with the experts involved in setting these norms, studied their selection processes, examined their unique contexts and cultures, and investigated their impact. In addition, we surveyed the existing literature, consulted with and listened carefully to victim-survivors, interviewed offenders, and drew from our own extensive experience working with youth serving organizations in the Jewish community. We underwent a significant development and revision process and then asked experts in child protection to review and provide feedback. Finally, we beta-tested the Best Practices and their accompanying resources and tools with youth-serving organizations in Jewish communities across North America.
Phases of Development: Each tool on the Aleinu web platform has undergone the following six phases of development:
Phase 1: Research
Phase 2: Instructional Design
Phase 3: Curriculum Design
Phase 4: Expert Review
Phase 5: Beta Testing
Phase 6: Graphic/Technology Design
Seven of the Best Practices address the prevention of child maltreatment, two address timely and appropriate response to suspicions or knowledge of maltreatment, and one addresses both prevention and response.
Does Aleinu provide direct support to victim-survivors?
We do not provide victim services or work directly with individuals; rather, we guide youth serving organizations in offering this support. (See, for example, Best Practice 7: Support Victim-Survivors.) If you or someone you know needs support now, you can access 24-hour support by calling RAINN’s national sexual assault hotline 1-800-656-HOPE or visiting www.RAINN.org.
If I register for Aleinu, will my organization receive a child-safety certification?
No. We do not audit or certify organizations in the Aleinu campaign. Aleinu provides tools for implementation, but it is up to your organization and your community to ensure that you complete all ten Best Practices and continue to implement them in the long term.
Does Sacred Spaces provide feedback on the work we have done?
No, the Best Practices and tools are available for you to use, as are our office hours, but we do not observe your organization nor have the ability to access your work in order to gauge your implementation of the Best Practices.
What additional resources do you offer?
We have invested tremendous time and effort to produce accessible resources based on research, global and national best practices, and detailed interviews with experts, victim-survivors, and offenders, as well as on our own extensive experience working with youth serving organizations. Aleinu’s material is created with Jewish youth serving organizations in mind, but we still want to provide the opportunity for community members, parents, and children who are not necessarily involved in Aleinu to learn about child protection, get involved, and take steps to safeguard children. When we post a resource not created by Sacred Spaces, we do so because we have reviewed it and believe it will be useful both to Aleinu participants and to others.
We take no ownership over or liability for these external resources, especially because online material sometimes changes over time, but hope nonetheless that they will be helpful to those visiting Sacred Spaces’ site.
If we follow Aleinu’s 10 Best Practices exactly, will we be able to ensure safety in our youth serving organization?
Your progression through Aleinu can significantly increase the safety of children in your organization and reduce the risk of children being harmed. However, no one can prevent all bad actors from acting, and no one can guarantee safety. Nonetheless, research suggests that we can reduce the risk of an offender taking advantage of our programs to harm children by putting safeguards, such as those presented in Aleinu, in place.
In addition, we can be trained to intervene immediately and responsibly, to protect children and minimize additional harm if we discover or suspect that a child has been maltreated. Some victim-survivors report that while the abuse itself is awful, poor institutional responses, mishandling or coverups can lead to an even deeper sense of betrayal and pain. Conversely, handling an incident of child maltreatment properly can make all the difference in the life of a child and can begin to build resiliency immediately.
While no organization can fully ensure safety, Aleinu helps to shift the culture of an institution by relying on collaboration, education, and a shared commitment to child protection. As the culture shifts towards proactively prioritizing child protection, that practice becomes the new norm and significantly increases the safety of children in your organization.
“Drafting a policy,” which seems like a basic best practice, isn’t included as a Best Practice in Aleinu. Why not?
Indeed, drafting a child protection policy is central to an organization’s safeguarding efforts, but it is a very large undertaking. Rather than making “drafting a policy” its own Best Practice, Aleinu embeds sample policy language throughout the Best Practices to help Committees codify their decisions in each of the Best Practices. In doing so, by the end of your time with Aleinu, you will have created multiple segments that can be synthesized into a policy. Thereafter, you will be able to adjust and edit that language to form a cohesive policy document.
Logistics and Time Commitment
What do I get when I register?
- You have access to our ten Best Practices and all of the tools necessary to implement them, including:
- Facilitator guides
- Training handouts
- Sample policy language
- Email templates
- Instructional videos
- Links to additional resources
- FAQ sheets
- Access to child protection specialists during monthly office hours
- Access to webinars
- Ability to work virtually alongside peer organizations and share ideas, problem-solving techniques and process steps with them
- You have access to our ten Best Practices and all of the tools necessary to implement them, including:
What kind of interaction with specialists is available during office hours?
The Aleinu team from Sacred Spaces will provide monthly office hours by Zoom video call to the first 25 registered organizations. The date, time, and zoom link will be provided by email, and organizations will have the opportunity to submit questions for the Aleinu Team to discuss on the call.
How long does it take for an organization to complete all the Best Practices?
You should anticipate approximately two years to work through all ten Best Practices, and a two-year term for Committee members. If multi-year commitments are unrealistic, try staggering shorter terms, so that more experienced, knowledgeable Committee members can work with newer ones before leaving the Committee.
What is the time commitment for Committee members?
Committees decide how often they would like to meet and whether to delegate responsibilities to subcommittees or to complete all of the work themselves. Therefore, the time commitment can range depending upon the individual Committee’s decisions about its structure and procedures. Best Practice 1: Form a Child Safety Committee guides Committees through the process of establishing protocols that will determine individual time commitments.
What do you mean by “child maltreatment”? Why not just say “sexual abuse” or “child abuse”?
“Child maltreatment” is a blanket term that encompasses multiple types of child harm, all of which Aleinu aims to address. These include:
- Child Abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Physical abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Spiritual abuse
Sexual abuse may be the most headline-grabbing type of child harm, but all of these categories are profoundly damaging, and we include all of them in our prevention and response work.
Aleinu also recognizes that polyvictimization, experiencing multiple victimizations of different types (such as both sexual and physical abuse), is common. Research on adverse childhood experiences found that, of those who experienced at least one category of abuse, 87 percent also experienced a second category of abuse (ACE study, CDC, 1998). Other studies have shown that 66% of maltreated children are abused in at least two ways, 30% are abused in at least 5 ways, and 10% endure 11 or more types of abuse (Finkelhor et al., 2011).
Thus, our use of the term “maltreatment” is meant to acknowledge the many types of abuse children may suffer and account for the possibility of polyvictimization. It also underscores the fact that protecting a child from one form of abuse (such as sexual abuse) often protects the child from additional forms of abuse (such as physical abuse or neglect).
- Child Abuse
Why is “educating children” so far down the list of Best Practices?
Aleinu’s theory of change begins with the premise that large-scale cultural change happens from within and by directly confronting and discussing the issue. Thus we begin with both “form a child safety committee” and “create opportunities for community dialogue.” Thereafter, the Best Practices proceed in a logical order, beginning with the safety of the physical space, prevention techniques to institute before an individual enters your institution, and prevention techniques once an individual is part of your institution. We then move on to responding to violations, including victim-survivor support, and long-term maintenance of safety procedures.
Certainly we recognize the importance of educating children, which is why we include it among our Best Practices. But we believe it is important to signal that, first and foremost, adults are responsible for protecting children. It is never children’s responsibility — regardless of how well educated they may be — to protect themselves. Therefore, we begin by instructing adults and enumerating their many responsibilities before discussing the education of children.
How is this a Jewish initiative?
While safeguarding children should, of course, be a part of everyone’s practice, religious or otherwise, Aleinu approaches child protection as a foundational Jewish imperative. As Isaiah 1 states, “Devote yourself to justice, aid the victim, uphold the rights of the orphan, defend the cause of the widow.” In other words, protect the vulnerable, including our children.
To manifest this value in practice, Aleinu provides Jewish text studies to frame conversations (as in Best Practice 2: Create Opportunities for Community Dialogue); tailors discussions to Jewish institutional settings, including the synagogue candy man or woman and the mikveh (Best Practice 5: Implement Guidelines for Interacting with Children); explores how rabbis can offer pastoral support to victim-survivors (Best Practice 7: Support Victim-Survivor); and, in general, demonstrates cultural sensitivity, employing language specific to Jewish communities across denominations. In addition, Sacred Spaces understands the unique risks and strengths of Jewish youth serving organizations and addresses them directly throughout the Best Practices.
How is this campaign child-centered, and what does that mean?
Aleinu takes seriously the Australian Royal Commission’s recommendation that, to be a “child-safe institution,” we must center children’s voices in our decision making. Rather than making this principle its own Best Practice, we have built it into every Best Practice. Each Best Practice thus includes tips on centering children’s voices in its development and implementation.
What is the relationship between Sacred Spaces and the participants listed?
Any organization can sign up to participate in Aleinu. Participation in Aleinu is not an endorsement from Sacred Spaces. This might mean that it’s possible that an organization participating in the Aleinu campaign may have mishandled an incident of child maltreatment in the past, may currently be doing so, or is not adequately protecting children at this time. It is our hope that by opening registration broadly, organizations of all kinds — whether they are current leaders in child protection or are far from being so — may utilize our resources to improve. Our theory of change for Aleinu relies on taking manageable steps forward. Protecting children is not “all or nothing.” No matter an organization’s track record, there is always something they can do to improve.
Who from my organization should register for the campaign?
The registration form asks for a point person from your organization. At the outset, this may be the head of your organization or youth program, or it may be an involved lay leader. Once registered, you will have the option to change the point person on your account to a member or the chair of your Child Safety Committee. The person who registers is not necessarily the person who leads your organization’s participation in the campaign, so there’s no need to belabor that initial decision.
I am a community member or parent. How can I participate in Aleinu?
We count on community members to speak to their youth serving organization(s) to tell them about the campaign and encourage their participation. Once your organization signs up, consider joining its Child Safety Committee or asking Committee members if you can help in some other way. You can also help to secure a line on your organization’s budget for additional child safeguarding costs your organization may wish to undertake. Finally, raise awareness! The Jewish community can only solve the problem of child maltreatment when all members of the community become educated on the issue and commit to modeling safe behaviors in their interactions with children. Every community member can become an ally in these efforts.
Is there a role for children and teens in Aleinu?
Children and teens are integral to this work, and the adults working on Aleinu should involve them whenever possible, listening attentively to their ideas about child protection. Best Practice 9: Empowering Children is focused entirely on how to involve children and teens in child safety. Additionally, children and teens can access educational tools and resources on the Aleinu home page.
Our organization has a history of child maltreatment. Can we still participate in Aleinu?
Aleinu provides Jewish youth-serving organizations with critical resources to help safeguard children. Getting started on prevention work is not only about the future. We encourage each organization interested in joining the campaign to review its organizational history and take responsibility for any maltreatment that has occurred, whether in the distant past or more recently, whether publicly revealed or not yet acknowledged. The process of cheshbon hanefesh, holding oneself and one’s community morally accountable, is a necessary precursor to creating meaningful change in child protection, and laying a foundation from which healing and trust become possible. The Getting Started step of Aleinu includes a guide to help organizations initiate the cheshbon hanefesh process.
Costs and Finances
What is the cost associated with participating in Aleinu?
The Aleinu Safeguarding Our Children campaign is proudly funded by UJA-Federation of NY, and, as such, youth serving organizations in Long Island, New York City, and Westchester will be eligible to register first. Initial registration is available at a highly subsidized one-time fee of $550 to the first twenty-five youth serving organizations registering from these regions.
Keep in mind that there may also be some ongoing budgeting necessary to safeguard children on a long-term basis. Prioritizing this issue in the long term will mean aligning your organization’s budget with its values. For example, your physical space may require some alteration in order to allow for better supervision and transparency. Those costs will depend upon what renovation or purchasing your organization decides to pursue may decide that you wish to provide in-person training for stake-holders or engage in deeper consultation than Aleinu provides through its office hours and web tools. The extent to which you move beyond Aleinu will be up to you.
I represent a federation/private foundation and would like to bring Aleinu to my city. Is this possible?
Yes! UJA-Federation of NY is a proud funder of Aleinu, and so at this phase, registration is only open to NYC, Long Island and Westchester youth-serving organizations, but Sacred Spaces would love to partner with individuals, foundations or federations in other cities to bring Aleinu to the youth-serving organizations in your area. We are already in conversation with organizations in several cities that are interested in bringing Aleinu to them; you could be next! Contact us to schedule a time to speak.
I’m not a philanthropist or foundation but would love to support Aleinu with a small contribution. Will my contribution make a difference?
Yes, every amount helps. Even small donations go a long way in helping us achieve our ultimate goal of bringing Aleinu to youth serving organizations across the Jewish world. We’ve gone live with a Getting Started step and two Best Practices, and will release another one every two months. Even a small contribution can support the development of an additional implementation tool, allowing us to conduct additional research, work with our consultants on honing each Best Practice and tool, consult with more communities like yours, and reach out to more organizations that want to safeguard their children.
Beyond the direct impact on development, every donation sends a morale boost to our small team of staff, consultants, and volunteers who are working around the clock to bring Aleinu to children and youth serving organizations everywhere. Every time you make a donation – no matter how small – you are letting our team know that they are not alone and that you believe in the vitally important work of safeguarding children.
Share the Campaign
Community members: Ask your organizations to join Aleinu today and become champions of child safety tomorrow.
Join the Campaign
Organizations: Register to join Aleinu and begin implementing your first Best Practice today.