Most museums and cultural institutions host programs and events for children – from art classes and workshops to activities like scavenger hunts throughout the galleries, movie nights and flashlight exhibitions that involve sleepovers at the museum. Performing art centers also sponsor children’s programs including symphonies, musicals, theater workshops, dance classes and summer camps.
Any time children are under the care, custody and control of an organization, it’s critical that a comprehensive risk management approach is in place to prevent abuse and molestation acts. This is a huge exposure today across all types of entities in the wake of #MeToo and in the aftermath of revelations involving child abuse occurring at religious institutions, schools, athletic facilities and other organizations.
Implementing Strong Preventive Measures
Dawn Nelson, Senior Underwriter for the Museum & Cultural Institutions Program at Distinguished, provides several risk management recommendations to assist insureds in the prevention of abuse and molestation allegations and claims.
“The most important risk-prevention strategies for museums and cultural institutions in mitigating abuse and molestation incidents is to have solid written procedures for identifying and preventing these risks and to perform solid background checks on all employees,” stressed Dawn.
Some general procedures include making youth-protection training mandatory for all staff working with children. An organization should also provide adequate supervision for those working with youth, such as ensuring there is more than one adult accompanying a child to the restroom or other isolated places (e.g., storerooms and basements) and when possible (and depending on the activity) encouraging parents to attend and observe their children while participating in a program.
In addition, youth-protection policies should be tailored to address the different types of activities, programs, and events an organization offers. “For example, if a program involves having children under the organization’s care for a half-day without parental supervision,” Dawn noted, “the museum or institution should have written policies in place regarding check-in procedures; pick-up requirements including adult ID requirements; emergency contact numbers; and procedures for children who become ill, among other measures.”
An organization can obtain a liability release from parents, but as Dawn pointed out, the release may not be upheld depending on the state and its case law. “The organization should hire a licensed attorney in the state in which it operates so that the language of the release is drafted correctly.”
It’s also important for the organization to adopt clear child abuse reporting protocols and for the staff to follow these procedures.
Criminal Background Checks
An organization must perform criminal background checks on all employees and volunteers. “Be sure there are written procedures for hiring and firing employees so that the organization doesn’t hire an individual with a history of abuse,” Dawn underscored.
Insurance Coverage for Abuse & Molestation
Liability coverage for abuse and molestation is available for museums and cultural institutions to protect insureds in the event of a claim, including under Distinguished Programs’ Umbrella policy. It’s important to note that, for Abuse & Molestation coverage to be available under our Umbrella policy, there are four criteria must be met by the underlying coverage:
- The limits of Liability for Abuse & Molestation must be separate and unimpeded if included in the insured’s underlying General Liability policy.
- Defense costs for Abuse & Molestation must be outside the limits of liability.
- All acts of abuse are considered one offense regardless of the number of insureds.
- The underlying coverage must include an exclusion for the perpetrator and persons with a known history of abuse. This exclusion would encompass the negligent hiring of an individual with a history of abuse. “This is why background checks are so important,” explained Dawn. “If a background check shows a person has a history of abuse and is hired anyway, perhaps in a post where the organization doesn’t feel he will come into contact with a child, or the organization neglected to perform a background check on the perpetrator, this would need to be excluded in the underlying policy in order to be eligible for coverage in the Umbrella.”
Providing children with access to the types of activities and events museums and other cultural institutions offer encourages creativity, sparks curiosity, introduces historical lessons outside the school setting, and so much more. Protecting these children is of paramount importance to these institutions while under their care, which is why strong risk management policies are required. For more information about Distinguished’s Umbrella program, please visit here.