This planning guide has a companion piece called Sexual Abuse “Fire Drill”: Put Preparation to the Test, an article that give further explanation. The planning guide below should serve as a worksheet after reading the “Fire Drill” article.

Big Picture Questions

  • Will this define your organization?
  • What is the cost of managing or potentially mismanaging a sexual abuse allegation?
  • How will this reflect on your organization’s reputation within the community?
  • Will your enrollment suffer?
  • Is your marketing value lowered?
  • What is the impact on family/client level of trust in your “child-safe culture”?
  • What will a sexual abuse lawsuit cost your organization?
  • Is your organization carrying adequate insurance coverage to address this specific risk?

Does your organization have a plan to address a sexual abuse allegation?

  • Does a plan exist?
  • When was the last time the plan was reviewed/revised?
  • Who manages the plan (e.g. Executive Director, Program Administrator, both)?
  • Does the plan include contact information for critical individuals (insurance agent and carrier, attorney, others)?
  • Does the plan provide easy access to critical documents (insurance policies, relevant state reporting codes)?
  • Does the plan include clear instructions in the event of a mandatory report to the authorities (to whom and within what timeframe to report, what information to share, request for file number and name of person to whom report is given)?
  • Does the plan include information regarding selection of a media/information point-person?
  • Does the plan include a potential communication tree (phone, email and/or text) to inform key people?

Media Management

  • How will you proactively provide information and manage the media?
  • Who is responsible for communications with media?
  • How will you handle news reporters calling your organization, your home phone, and/or personal cell?
  • How will you handle news reporters calling your staff members?
  • Do you have consultants in place that will provide you with strategic counseling related to legal issues, public relations, crisis communications, possible litigation, media relations, and related services?
    • Consider what your reputation is worth: A consultant may cost $200 to $350 per hour. A few thousand dollars can provide additional expertise and peace of mind, especially during a rolling crisis period.
    • How will you monitor comments in the local press and web posts from community members and others?
  • How will you manage the media physically on your site, or on adjacent property?
  • Questions you may receive:
    • Please comment on the incident …
    • Is this worker still employed? Is this volunteer still involved?
    • When did you first hear about the allegations?
    • Can you give us details about the charges?
    • Have you seen the evidence (text messages/photos, etc.)?
    • Could there be more than one victim? Have other children been impacted?
    • Was their any screening done related to the accused (background check, etc.)?
    • Has he/she been charged with anything like this in the past?
    • Have you fired the accused? Why? Why not?


  • Communicate with families immediately!
  • Effective and immediate communication with parents is critical.
    • How is this best done in your program?
    • Avoid gridlock—what are the customary communication lines?
    • Who receives priority in the communication process?
    • Start with more directly impacted and work OUT; direct others to website.
  • Be prepared to offer counseling to all known and potential victims.
  • Potential questions from Parents/Stakeholders:
    • Have you fired him/her yet?
    • Why haven’t you fired him/her yet?
    • Will you fire him/her?
    • Did you do a thorough criminal background check when he/she was hired?
    • What are your hiring practices?
    • What will you do to prevent this from happening again?
    • Who will take over their responsibilities?
    • Is it safe to bring my child back here?

Children in Program

  • Are you prepared to identify and meet with children within the program in an age-appropriate manner?
  • Will you include parents when communicating with children in program?
  • It is important for all to hear the same information.
  • Use caution creating written materials to send home with children; assume written materials will be shared publicly or provided to media.

Victims/Victim Families

  • How will you communicate with and protect the victim(s) and their families?
    • Communication early and often.
    • Listen with an empathetic ear.
    • Set aside organizational defensiveness and justifications.
    • Understand that parents will need to VENT.
    • The victims and their families will likely be angry and want to blame.
    • Effective communication and care now is morally right, ethically correct, and potentially prevents litigation.
  • How will you manage gossip, backlash, and speculation in the program community?
  • Commonly, a group of children and/or families will support the well-liked staff member; keep in mind: “Molesters groom the gatekeepers.”
  • How will you prevent bullying behaviors aimed at alleged victims?
    • Plan to manage subsequent bullying behaviors.
    • Counselor and Staff Awareness.
    • Social media may be used negatively (i.e. Facebook page to “save the staff member”).
  • Does your organization have a social media presence? If you use these to provide and direct communication regarding an allegation, do so very carefully.
  • How will you handle requests for counseling from other children not directly impacted?
  • How will you provide aftercare to affected children (and parents)?

Staff Members

  • Briefings and debriefings.
    • All have access to the same information.
    • Ability to discuss incident in closed and safe setting.
  • Employee assistance programs—counseling resources.
    • Self care.
  • Longer-term follow-up.
    • Follow-up with individuals close to circumstance, co-workers, identified friends.
  • Anger and disappointment.

Legal Representation

  • Does the plan identify legal representation?
  • How will you address allegations of wrongdoing and litigation against the organization?
  • Wrongful termination issues.
  • Do you have a partnership with local law enforcement and city officials?

Your Insurance Carrier—Coverage for Incidents

  • Do you KNOW your insurance agent, and is he/she knowledgeable concerning the organization’s industry risks? Is he/she knowledgeable concerning this specific risk?
  • Have you reviewed insurance coverage for Critical Incidents and lawsuits of this nature?
  • Do you currently carry sufficient insurance to cover this risk, given current litigation costs and settlement amounts?
  • Does your insurance policy have an exclusion, endorsement, qualification or limitation of coverage for matters related to sexual abuse or sexual misconduct?

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure!

  • Hiring process—effective screening and training.
  • How effective is your staff and volunteer training?
    • Will your staff members and volunteers recognize “grooming behaviors?”
    • Will they know whom to tell? Do you foster a culture of communication?
  • How effective is your Safety System?
    • Sexual Abuse Awareness Training
    • Skillful Screening Training
    • Appropriate Criminal Background Checks
    • Tailored Policies and Procedures (include use of technology!)
    • Monitoring and Oversight


Written by Gregory S. Love and Kimberlee Norris