Childhood only comes once

BCC sent invitations for several seminars in March to representatives from all the local churches. The course with the highest number of registrations, over 300 people from home and abroad, was “Childhood only comes once.”

Tekst: Johanne Reiersrud – Foto: Randi Hutt 

Harald Kronstad led the seminar with Øivind Jacobsen, together representing BCC`s Resource Team Against Violence, Sexual Assault, and Inappropriate Behavior. They have worked in the field for more than 20 years, and took on a comprehensive update in 2016 of BCC`s strategic action plan in these types of scenarios.

The Resource Team has responsibility for ongoing work in this domain, which includes education and organizational leadership in quality improvement. Their long history of teamwork with academic and interdenominational communities propels preventative and follow-up efforts. Kronstad explains that BCC wants to stay at the forefront of continuing education and skills development for its members.

Harald Kronstad from BCC’s Recource Team for preventive work against Violence, Sexual Assault, and Inappropriate Behavior opended the seminar. Photo: BCC

Unanimous support for preventive work with children and young people

The seminar was geared towards youth leaders, those responsible for work with children and young people in the local churches, and local leaders. The Resource Team wants all of the local churches to get assistance with prevention of abusive behavior, detection and follow-up of incidents, and development of practical skills aligned with the goals in the strategy plan “Safe and Secure Children – An Adult Responsibility.” (link)

Even though the theme at hand is a serious one, the registration list proves that many are interested in taking it seriously. People of many ages and nationalities sit in the hall. Board members, leaders, and youth mentors are present.

Randi Reinhardt  from Germany  fra Tyskland is engaged in the work for the children in her local church in Exter, and looks forward to recieve new knowledge. Photo: BCC

“These topics are really important, and we need all the updates and knowledge we can get,” says Randi Reinhardt from Exter in Germany. “We maintain an extensive work with children and youth in our local churches, and it is imperative that responsibilities, routines, and models for good leadership are clarified in the event that some of these indescribably terrible things should happen.”

Trust, transparency, and inclusion

Harald Kronstad states that today`s course is about preventive and inclusive work amongst children and adolescents, and among other things, the model developed for quality leadership in BCC will be reviewed. “It`s important to remember that trust and transparency are what create a secure arena for expression, both for children and for adults. Children have a right by law to a secure upbringing, and one which is followed up. In BCC, the conditions for growth and upbringing should be good. It isn`t ok for someone to be bullied or oppressed, or that humor comes at another`s expense. Our aim is a culture of love, inclusion and respect for the individual,” he says with emphasis.

Kronstad underlined the importance of an inclusive environment where it feels safe to report about unwanted incidents. Photo: BCC

“Safe to report”

It must be safe to report inappropriate or abusive behavior, both on behalf of oneself or out of concern for others. “The threshold for coming forward must be low, even though it is unpleasant or even painful,” says Kronstad.

He specifies that those who are notified must show respect for the person`s situation and take the reported incident with absolute seriousness. The person reporting must also be informed of the further process involved.

“The #Metoo campaign this winter has revealed how people have misused their positions of power to behave abusively. We take this seriously here, because skewed balances of power can be found in faith communities too,” he explains.

Kronstad continues with an explanation of the required documentation for reporting, and relates that guideline packets are being developed for distribution to everyone involved in and around the childhood and youth milieu in BCC.

The audience payed close attention and was given a good deal of new knowlegde to benefit the work in their local  groups. Photo: BCC 

Relation to caregiver crucial for a child`s development

Øivind Jacobsen emphasized the importance of knowing what children and youth need from adults in his presentation. It can be hurtful to feel lonely in a large group or in a group of friends. The needs of each child aren`t always obvious either. “Acknowledging their experiences of the situation and their feelings are essential to winning their trust, participation, and sense of belonging. Trusting relationships allow for openness, the opposite will cause them to close up in self-protection,” clarified Jacobsen.

“It`s about being warm and careful enough for the child to be open. Research shows that the relationship between caregiver and child decides how the neurological development occurs in childhood and adolescence,” he explained,

Jacobsen explained the importance of trusting caregivers and how their way of meeting a child decides its development and growth. Photo: BCC 

“Children begin to read our body language at an early age. This attaches itself to their memory and will characterize their response to challenges later in life. It is crucial that the child experiences that “you like me” when they are met by an adult in kindergarten, at activity club or other recreational arenas. We must be available, responsive and enthusiastic as caregivers.”

Children must feel protected and secure with us

Øivind Jacobsen ended the course by specifying that children`s safety IS an adult responsibility, and one that requires our full attention. “Every child and youth has something to contribute to the community. We must meet them with respect for the absolute value they have, this is in line with Jesus` word “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Harald Kronstad expressed in closing that he hoped the seminar would be beneficial for the local churches, but most of all that it would benefit the children.

Childhood only comes once: I hope,most of all, the seminar will benefit the children, said Harald Kronstad. Photo: BCC

Randi Reinhardt agrees. “This course has been very useful for our local church. It is good to have a clear delineation of responsibility in the organization if something should happen to a child. It`s good to know who I should talk to, and that the child will be taken care of. Otherwise I think it has been extra helpful to hear about meeting the child exactly as he or she is, without judgement or any form for antipathy,” she says. “It is something we all need to absorb, whether one is a parent, works with children daily, or is an activity leader during one`s free time.”