By Lilasuka dasi
Every temple, project and school in the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) is required to have a trained and active Child Protection Team (CPT). CPT’s have two main functions – to help prevent and to respond to child abuse concerns in local ISKCON communities. CPT’s have the special focus of helping local management implement policies that enhance safety, including screening those in positions of trust; awareness training for adults and children; and responding to concerns of child maltreatment. CPT members receive basic training from and work in tandem with the Child Protection Office (CPO).
For the first time ever, a meeting for all CPT members across the USA and Canada was held online March 13, 2021. Lilasuka dasi, director of the Child Protection Office for North America, teamed up with Prema-vrsti dd, CPT member for ISKCON Los Angeles, to take Child Protection Team support to the next level.
The goals of this conference? To provide an opportunity for the 152 CPT members in North America to get to know one another and experience being part of the large child protection network to which they are essential. To establish a peer driven resource database. To increase the connection between CPT members and the CPO; and to build skills and competency to empower CPT members in their service.
With the help of Janaki devi dasi, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker specializing in trauma, Lilasuka dasi and Prema-vrsti devi dasi created an interactive, experiential conference to meet these goals. Forty-five CPT members registered to attend this first ever online national conference. Kamalesh Krsna das, Director of the International CPO, gave an introductory talk thanking all of the participants for their dedication to provide a much-needed service for our Society.
Several times throughout the conference the attendees broke out into small group activities to get to know one another and learn from each other. In one break-out session, groups were given real life scenarios (without identifying information). Their tasks were to determine what types of abuse occurred and what steps needed to be taken, such as who should be notified. Talking about specific scenarios helped the CPT members better understand ISKCON policy, secular law, and the role we each play when a concern of child abuse arises.
Revati devi dasi, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who recently retired from working in county mental health services in California spoke about what to expect after making a report to secular authorities such as Social Services or the Department of Children and Families. The goal of Social Services is to keep the family together by providing resources to the parties in need with the aim of safe children and healthier families.
The last segment introduced the CPT members to a centralized database of CPO resources and virtual place for CPT members to network with one another.
The conference was very well received. Remarks from attendees include, Harilila dd Monet from Saranagati who stated, “That was amazing and really well planned. Thank you”.
Gopal Radhe Das from New Orleans said, “Thank you to all the organizers and participants. Until today I thought I was alone with my local temple problems, thinking my local issues are different from others, but now coming together gives me hope, strength, and confidence that we are all in it together.”
The next National Child Protection Team Member Conference for North America is Saturday September 18, 2021. If you are a CPT member, mark your calendar for this opportunity to meet and learn from others who do the same service.
Through our collective intelligence and increased organization we can help make ISKCON safer and healthier for everyone.