IntegrityStar UCF Compliance & Ethics Newsletter UCF Compliance & Ethics Newsletter

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

This April 1st, in honor of Child Abuse Prevention Month we invite you to join us in wearing blue to memorialize our commitment to a safe and welcoming environment for our Littlest Knights. As the academic year draws to a close and the summer camp season approaches, we like to remind the UCF community of the university’s Youth Protection Program, which supports the diverse range of academic, recreational, overnight, and service programs UCF hosts for non-enrolled minors. Collaborating with colleges, departments, and our community, we work together to ensure the needs of each youth program are addressed, while upholding the university’s legal responsibility to maintain a secure campus environment for the youth participants, program staff, and the UCF community as a whole. In doing so, we demonstrate our efforts in being champions for Protecting Our Littlest Knights.

Mandatory Reporting

At UCF, we follow applicable federal and state laws, as well as university policy. The following laws and policy are particularly important to know when interacting with minors:

  1. Florida Statute 39.201 states it is mandatory for any person who knows or suspects child abuse, abandonment, neglect, or death to report such information to the State of Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) central abuse hotline.
  2. Protection of Vulnerable Persons Act – HB 1355requires reporting to DCF by a person who has reasonable cause to suspect a child is being abused.
  3. Florida Statue 39.205 states the penalties relating to failure to report of child abuse, abandonment, or neglect.— In particular, (1) A person who is required to report known or suspected child abuse, abandonment, or neglect and who knowingly and willfully fails to do so, or who knowingly and willfully prevents another person from doing so, commits a felony of the third degree. In addition, any Florida state university whose administrators knowingly and willfully fail to report shall be subject a $1 million fine for each failure. University administrator means the following high-level personnel who have been assigned the responsibilities of university-wide academic or administrative functions: university president, provost, senior or executive vice presidents, vice presidents, associate vice presidents, associate or vice provosts, deans, chief of police, equal opportunity programs director, intercollegiate athletics director, internal audit director, Title IX coordinator, and university compliance officer.
  4. UCF Policy 2-005 Youth Protection requires that both UCF and third party youth programs register their program with University Compliance and Ethics, all program staff complete mandatory UCF Youth Protection Program Training, appropriate background check clearances are obtained, and mandatory reporting of suspected or known child abuse or neglect. University Compliance and Ethics oversees compliance with this policy and reports monitoring efforts to the UCF Board of Trustees Audit and Compliance Committee as part of the annual work plan updates.

Recognizing the Signs of Child Abuse or Neglect and Grooming Behavior

Minors who are victims of abuse or neglect may sometimes display behavior that is not unusual or obvious by itself; however, when a minor displays multiple symptoms of abuse or neglect together, it is our responsibility to determine if the minor needs help. According to Child Welfare Information Gateway (April 2019), symptoms can include:

  • Unexplained bruises, burns, broken bones, or other physical injuries
  • Shrinks at the approach of adults or certain peers
  • Is frightened of parents or guardians and does not want to go home; lack of attachment to parents or guardians
  • Abuses animals or pets
  • A sudden change in appetite
  • Unusual sexual knowledge or behavior
  • Difficulty walking or sitting
  • Extremes in behavior, such as overly compliant or demanding behavior, extreme passivity, or aggression
  • Sudden refusal to participate in physical activities

The ‘grooming process’ is the way a sexual offender gains access to a minor for sexual interaction, then keeps the minor silent. Creating opportunities for unobserved and uninterruptible one-on-one time with the minor is a key component of grooming. In order to get this time, the abuser ‘grooms the gatekeepers’ (parents, youth program staff, etc.), as well as the minor. Signs of grooming behavior by an abuser can include:

  • Consistently giving a particular minor special attention or gifts to earn the minor’s trust
  • Gaining the trust of the gatekeepers by finding ways to fulfill the minors needs, while appearing helpful and trustworthy
  • Isolating the minor from others by creating opportunities where they are alone so they can reinforce that they understand the minor better than anyone else
  • Gradual increase in physical contact that may include long hugs, lap sitting, and playful inappropriate touch such as tickling, wrestling, or play fighting where private parts are accidentally touched

Preventing Abuse and Neglect

Education and awareness are the first step in prevention. Now that we know some of the signs to look for, here are a few ways you can help promote a safe environment for youth participants in programs at UCF:

  • Enroll in and complete Protection of Vulnerable Persons training in Workday, which provides an overview of the Florida Board of Governors State University System regulations and State of Florida Statutes on identifying and reporting child (minor) abuse, abandonment, or neglect.
  • Encourage open communication, empowering them to speak up if they feel uncomfortable or threatened, and that it’s okay to say no to unwanted physical contact.
  • Create a supportive environment where they have access to trusted adults that will advocate for their safety
  • Treat individuals with respect, showing them how to resolve conflicts calmly
  • Know when to step away taking a “time out” when feeling overly frustrated or stressed
  • Learn the signs of abuse or neglect
  • Recognize grooming behaviors and prevent opportunities for such behavior to occur
  • Immediately report any suspected or known abuse to DCF either by phone at 1-800-962-2873, or by filing a report online through the Florida DCF website
  • Report abuse and/or neglect to the university through the UCF IntegrityLine either by phone at 1-855-877-6049 or online through the IntegrityLine website.

For more information on the UCF Youth Protection Program, including resources, please visit the Youth Protection Program Website. Questions can be directed to University Compliance and Ethics.