To combat child abuse and, specifically child sexual abuse, by challenging churches, schools and youth organizations to Take a Stand to better protect children and youth. Through the implementation of Creating Safer Havens’ child protection program, they will become Safer Havens in an Unsafe World.
Creating Safer Havens is a 501(C)(3) non-profit organization and its founder is DONALDA SHEPARDSON.
The devastation with what occurred in a high profile case involving small children at a church has brought me where I am today in the areas of Child Protection. The protection of precious children and youth through “Creating Safer Havens”, a Child Abuse Prevention, Protection of Children, and Risk Management Program, is the direct result of that case.
Could all of these children be wrong? Was it just a coincidence that 60+ children were manifesting symptoms in various degrees of child traumatization and molestation, such as night terrors, and they all attended the same church.
How could this have happened while the congregation was sitting in the sanctuary worshiping our Lord? Could child abuse and molestation be occurring in various places of the church?
That question led me through the pain and heartache of those children and families, and to a lesser degree of the accused perpetrator’s pain, as I began to research, how could this have happened?
Just what was the church’s criteria for permitting anyone to work with or be in contact with little children and youth?
The fiasco this case became, the pain caused to the children, their families, and others, could have been avoided.
What did Jesus have to say about children? I began to study the scriptures for answers.
In Jesus’s day, children were not held in high esteem, but Jesus changed that, as scripture after scripture showed. He prayed over them and he warned anyone who harms a little child that it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.
The scriptures have a lot to say about watching, praying, and setting watchman to guard.
I began to track various child sexual abuse cases, and the number of cases in churches alone is appalling, and touches every denomination. Churches have become too comfortable, too relaxed, and they have let down their guard. It is time for the religious community to Take A Stand For Children and Youth. How can we expect the secular community to protect our children if we do not protect them while they are under our care while at church?
Anyone who protects a perpetrator is perceived as a perpetrator.
This case interrupted the lives of many and tied them up in the system for a number of years. Four years in an adult’s life is not a great number, but in a child’s life it is almost half of their childhood. This program has been designed to reduce the risk of child sexual abuse from happening and to protect everyone, because in this case Everyone suffered:
The children and their families, The church workers, and The church and all because they did not walk in wisdom, and they let down their guard.
I continued prayerfully and diligently along life’s pathway. It has been as if The Lord was weaving a tapestry as I flowed in and out of various programs for children and youth learning and working with various children’s organizations, San Diego Children’s Bureau, San Diego Child Abuse Coordinating Council, and as a board member for youth programs, attending seminars, conferences, etc., and all the while working to develop a comprehensive child protection program. The more we know, the more responsible we need to become.
In 1994, out of concern, I wrote a letter to the Pastor and Deacon Board of the church we were attending, indicating they needed to do more to keep their children safe and to better protect their church. I made a number of recommendations to them. Some of the recommendations were based on a walk-through of the facility I had done previously. The Pastor and board responded very positively by requesting my help, and asked if I would use their church as a pilot for my program. This was not in my plan, however after considerable prayer, I began to work with the pastor and a small core group of the church, training them and guiding them through the implementation process. In January 1996 the program “Creating Safer Havens” was implemented.
Do all things work together for good to those that love The Lord?
To His praise and glory this program is dedicated to all the children who told their stories to make it possible to help protect other children, church workers. and churches.