Safe From Harm getting results

Phoenix South Mountain Corps acknowledges impact of policy.

by Denise Hawk, Major

Children and leaders from the Phoenix South Mountain Corps give the Safe From Harm program thumbs up [Photo by Brittney Downs].

Part of The Salvation Army’s lingo for the past several years, Safe From Harm (SFH) is a comprehensive safety program for children, elderly and the disabled; through it individuals work together protecting the mission of the Army.

The policy—with its challenges and changes—at first seemed impossible to implement on a daily basis. There were so many rules to follow: requiring two adults for leadership, keeping all doors to unused rooms locked, practicing side hugs, and others. Sometimes these stipulations seemed to take away from the natural enjoyment between a leader and a young person at the corps.

“It seemed to inhibit the effectiveness of our ministry by eliminating the personal connection. We are an Army of compassion, up close and personal,” said Meghan Desplancke, an employee at the Phoenix South Mountain Community Center. “However, when I’m sitting at the front desk and a parent addresses a safety concern I can tell her with full confidence that we are providing a safe environment for her children. Our motto at the center is that you will only achieve the level of safety you practice, and Safe from Harm is always in practice here.”

Over the past six years, since the onset of SFH, an evolution has occurred in our awareness—in how we relate to each other with respect. SFH teaches leaders to take a more objective view of situations; we understand the importance of practicing this policy and how it builds trust within those we serve.

A new culture at the corps
Brittney Downs, YPSM (young people’s sergeant-major) said: “It went beyond what I ever thought it could. I thought it was just about protecting kids and adults. What actually happened is that over time it has educated kids in prevention of abuse. It has developed into a lifestyle, a culture in our corps.”

The kids now possess information that will keep them safe anywhere and with anyone—even outside the Army. We are not just protecting children (and adults) at our site; we are equipping them to safe for a lifetime.

Something as simple as a hug needed to be redefined under SFH. “Kids love affection and some can really cling to you. Safe From Harm says no, so I came up with ‘Hug and Go,’ which allows children to still give a hug—but a quick one and then be on their way. Sometimes a child will give a hug a bit longer and another child will say, ‘Hey, hug and go.’ They really are getting it. Kids will call you out on it,” said Brittney.

Six years after the beginning of SFH, we are seeing results that benefit our kids, community and The Salvation Army.

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