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Developing Effective Internal Feedback Systems to Identify Abuse Risk

Data collection systems are critical for organizations in helping to identify risk for abuse. Developing strong internal feedback systems will leverage various types of data to identify high-risk activities, individuals, or programs. Internal feedback systems also strengthen an organization’s overall climate for reporting.



Collect data related to preventing abuse.

Data collected daily within an organization can provide valuable information to help identify specific programs that may require additional monitoring or resources. It can also highlight individuals who may require increased supervision or training and alert decision-makers about changes that need to be made to reduce potential exposures. Finally, data from similar programs and trends over time may show where the organization needs to strengthen abuse risk management efforts.

Examples of data an organization may begin collecting include incident reports, survey results, employee turnover or discharges, consumer and parent/guardian complaints, and employee or volunteer grievances.

Compile abuse risk management data in one central location.

Many organizations may already collect data such as incident reports, surveys, or employee/consumer grievances. However, if organizations do not compile and analyze that data in a central location, they can miss emerging trends or patterns.

Use standard mechanisms to collect and compile information.

It is important that the organization standardizes the method it uses to collect data at all levels. For instance, an organization may group incident reports of all types into one system. This system could encompass incidents of red flag behaviors or policy violations, injury reports, and allegations or suspicions of abuse. Capturing incidents within a single system will help an organization’s risk management team filter information and create reports to simplify data analysis for emerging trends or potential problems.

Surveys of consumers, parents, or employees could assess satisfaction and morale, abuse risk, and comprehension of an organization’s policies and procedures. Other mechanisms used to collect and compile information include tracking attendance, human resources information such as employee discipline issues or employee exit interviews, grievances, and anonymous reporting.



Track specific variables within reports.

Ensure that specific information points about the program, site, time of day, location within the facility, and the type of incident are collected within the organization’s reporting system. It is also important to collect information about any employees or youth involved in an incident, including the names and ages of the youth involved.

Look for emerging patterns.

By tracking information over time, many emerging patterns or trends can be detected. For example, one might notice a disproportionate number of incidents happening within a specific location or shift. The frequency or types of incidents occurring might emerge as a trend, or increases or decreases in incidents over time may be seen. Comparing the types or frequency of incidents to other programs or locations can yield valuable information. Other patterns to look for include changes in consumer or employee satisfaction, turnover, or enrollment in programming.

Consumer survey answers could indicate potential policy violations or boundary-crossing behaviors. Employee disciplinary problems with individual employees, or a group of employees working under a specific supervisor, may indicate a higher risk for abuse.



Identify methods to prevent reoccurrence.

Once emerging trends or patterns that may indicate a higher risk for abuse have been identified, it is important to develop an action plan to inform change throughout the organization. The organization may choose to increase consumer protection training for all employees and volunteers. They may need to adapt monitoring and supervision procedures for a certain program. Additionally, they may choose to develop new programs or services to meet the needs identified or provide resources and support to employees or consumers.

Promote a Culture of Safety.

A culture of safety starts with leadership committed to consumer protection. Standards are clear and enforced, and everyone knows that safety is part of their job description. All employees take warning signs seriously, and everyone reports concerns.

Remember that an increased volume of reports does not necessarily indicate a systemic problem. An increased volume of reports could indicate that the organization has created a culture of safety by encouraging employees to report on policy violations or red flag behaviors, thereby potentially preventing abuse before it happens.

Create a healthy reporting climate.

The second critical part of effective internal feedback systems is evaluating organizational response to incidents. Employees, volunteers, and consumers should be encouraged to report concerns, complaints, and grievances because this feedback alerts decision-makers to potential exposures. The more comfortable employees, volunteers, and consumers feel about internally reporting their concerns, the more rapidly administrators can investigate and take action.

Eliminate potential barriers to reporting.

Consider potential reasons people might not report concerns and look for ways to eliminate those barriers to reporting. One common fear expressed by employees and consumers is that their concerns will not be taken seriously or will be blown out of proportion. An organization should consistently state that it takes all reports seriously to help minimize this fear. Leaning on a continuum of responses to incidents can help mitigate the fear that reports will be blown out of proportion to the violation. Remember that an organization can do more than either ignore the violation or fire the employee. In contrast, a continuum of responses provides a range of potential responses to incidents, including retraining, increased supervision, or a temporary leave of absence.

Another major fear expressed by employees and consumers is that confidentiality will not be protected.  Publicizing various reporting mechanisms, including an anonymous option, can significantly minimize this barrier. Anonymous methods could include a suggestion box, anonymous call-in options, or a comment card on the website.

As an organization, developing a culture of reporting can significantly impact the efficacy of internal feedback systems. It is important to address all concerns and communicate with the reporter that the organization will follow up on their concern. The way an organization responds to each situation may look a little bit different, but as an organization, it is important to address all reports according to an established standard.


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