What is the insurance carrier looking for?
Abuse claims have become increasingly frequent and highly publicized. Expansion of statutes of limitations has resulted in insurance carriers defending claims from activity alleged to have happened decades ago.
As a result, insurance carriers are asking for more documentation to allow the carrier to better defend against future claims. Documentation provided now might be used to defend a claim brought in 2046 related to abuse alleged to have happened in 2022!
With this in mind, many insurance carriers are looking for policies and procedures that address the processes and actions.
Thorough screening of potential volunteers and employees who will work with children is a key component of any abuse prevention program. Effective screening includes a written application, a personal interview, reference checks, and a review of the applicant’s criminal history.
All employees and volunteers should complete training at onboarding, and on a regular basis thereafter, on how to properly work with youth and vulnerable individuals. The training should include abuse and grooming identification along with mandatory reporting requirements. The training should also be documented, and failure to complete training should result in disciplinary measures.
Many insurance carriers are interested in what operational measures are in place to reduce the risk of abuse. This typically includes things like the two-adult rule, open-door policy, guidance around teenage employees, and restroom and diapering procedures.
Employees and volunteers should know the events, patterns and trends that indicate abuse. The goal is to be able to identify the patterns of grooming behavior. All employees and volunteers should be trained to say something when they see something.
Ensure that the staff, volunteers and any visitors not only understand the importance of reporting even the low-level concerns, but also have a reporting process they are comfortable using. Training should be provided to all employees and volunteers on reporting procedures, including mandatory reporting according to state requirements. Suspected abuse should be reported to a minimum of two designated individuals within the organization.
In a case of sexual misconduct, the organization must identify the responsibilities of all parties, which include reporting to police as indicated. Civil authorities should be notified of any suspected abuse of any individual. The organization should comply with the state’s requirements regarding mandatory reporting of abuse and fully cooperate with the investigation of the incident by civil authorities. Any internal investigation should be conducted by an experienced and neutral third party, which is most often legal counsel.
During an investigation, victims should be protected from harm. The goal is to make sure the victim is received with dignity and compassion and not further victimized during the investigative process. The accused abuser should be removed from any interaction with the victim.
The organization should conduct an analysis of occurrences to determine what changes are needed, if any, to policies and procedures to prevent further incidents.
In the event that an incident of abuse or neglect is alleged to have occurred at or during sponsored programs or activities, the following steps should be followed:
• The parent or guardian of the child should be notified.
• The individual alleged to be the perpetrator of the abuse or misconduct should immediately be placed on leave from working with children or vulnerable individuals pending an investigation. In addition, they should also be instructed to remain away from the premises during the investigation.
• The organization’s insurance carrier should be notified and an incident report completed. Any documents received relating to the incident and/or allegations should immediately be forwarded to the insurance carrier.
• One individual should be designated as a spokesperson to the media concerning incidents of abuse or neglect, unless he or she is alleged to be involved. The organization should seek the advice of legal counsel before responding to media inquiries or releasing information to members of the organization or the general public. All other employees and volunteers of the organization should refrain from speaking to the media.
• Any person who is found guilty of the alleged abuse or misconduct will be removed from their position working with children or youth.
Insurance carriers understand that providing this detail is tedious, but proper documentation puts the carrier in a much better position to defend an organization if a claim is brought forward.
Brian Gleason has spent most of the past 30 years working with and for churches, schools and nonprofits as an employee, consultant and board member with experience in insurance, occupational health and safety, human resources issues, and emergency management. Prior to his career at GuideOne, Gleason spent 20 years as the risk manager of a university in southern California. He has his MBA and is a Certified School Risk Manager.