Tamohara assumes helm of Child Protection Office
Posted July 17, 2004
July 15, 2004
Please accept my most humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
As of June 2004, I began service as the Director of the ISKCON Central Office of Child Protection (also known as the Association for the Protection of Vaisnava Children). I joined ISKCON in 1972 and took initiation from Srila Prabhupada. My interest in serving the devotee children stems from my time as President of the Bhaktivedanta Gurukula in California in the 1980's. More recently, I returned to school, and received a doctoral degree in Educational Psychology. Over the last ten years, I have been a faculty member and school administrator, managing graduate programs in Counseling and Clinical Psychology. This service is exciting to me, as it provides an opportunity to use this experience and interest in service to the Vaisnavas.
I have spent the last month learning as much as possible about the operation of the Office, as well as responding to current and past issues that have come to my attention. In this letter, I would like to present my ideas concerning child protection, the role of the Child Protection Office (CPO), and directions for the future.
In 1998 the GBC Task Force charged the ICOCP with the following responsibilities:
- Establish an investigative and tribunal system to resolve allegations of past and future child abuse.
- Establish educational and training systems to educate devotees in issues of child abuse prevention, detection, and response.
- Initiate screening procedures for new devotees wishing to reside at and/or work with ISKCON temples and projects.
- Create systems of counseling and support for victims of abuse.
These functions are as vital and important today as they were in 1998. ISKCON has made a clear commitment to child protection, but much work is still needed to fully realize our goals. My vision is that our devotee society can become a leader among religious organizations by creating a model program that others will emulate. As Vaisnavas, we should set the standards of morality, caring, and exemplary behavior that others will follow.
My ideas to accomplish the goal of leadership in child protection include the following:
1. Increased Communication
It is critically important to engage all segments of devotee society in dialogue around the important issue of child protection. I welcome your ideas, suggestions, concerns, and problems. I am eager to work closely with ISKCON leaders and all devotees to advance this important work. While I am working from Illinois for some time until I can relocate to Alachua, the Alachua office is fully functioning under the capable hands of our Office Manager, Krsna Kesava Prabhu. I am also always available by email, or phone. The contacts for the office are:
Tamohara das (Thomas Pourchot, Ed.D)
ISKCON Central Office of Child Protection
P.O. Box 1438, Alachua, Florida 32616-1438
Tel: 386-418-0882 Fax: 386-418-0982
- Monthly Newsletter. This newsletter will cover many child protection topics, and be available to all devotees on the Internet.
- Updated Web site. Our plan is to more fully use our web site, utilizing it for general information, further readings and education on child protection, and CPO documents and forms.
- Local Presentations. I will make myself increasingly available to travel to temples and projects, speak with devotees, leaders, and Child Protection Teams.
- Synergy with other devotee groups. The Child Protection Office is beginning to work with other devotee groups who share common goals, such as Children of Krishna, the Youth Ministry, and the Grhastha Vision Team.
2. Development of a Worldwide Organizational Structure
It is clear that one office located in America cannot serve the needs of temples, schools, and projects all over the world. While the Central Office provides overall management and direction, we also must encourage local and regional leadership.
- Establishment of regional offices. Temples around the world can best be served by local trained devotees who know the area, culture, local laws, and devotee communities. Our first Regional Office will soon open in Europe, headed by Hanuman Prabhu. This is a very important step forward in expanding the service of the Child Protection Office. Further information will be distributed when the European Office opens in September.
- Establishment of national offices. Countries that have a number of temples also may benefit from a central coordinator who oversees local programs, training, and compliance. An excellent example of this is found in Canada, where Mother Praharana Prabhu heads the Canadian Child Protection Office. We are looking for others to fill similar roles.
- Establisment of local Child Protection Teams. The 1998 GBC Task Force mandated that every temple should establish a local Child Protection Team. While these teams are active and performing invaluable service in many locations, we must still ensure that every ISKCON center and project has a functioning team. Working closely with the Central Office, these teams are at the front lines in handling complaints, providing education to the community, and becoming the local resource for child protection.
3. Increased Training and Education
This is undoubtedly one of the most important agendas for the CPO. Education is the key to creating positive attitudes towards child protection among devotees.
- Modular training programs. The Office will develop the following training modules: beginning sessions to create general awareness of child protection issues, specific training for local child protection teams, and thorough training for judges or other roles requiring more expertise.
- A Variety of educational materials. The Office will continue to develop materials to educate devotees in child protection, recognition of child abuse, and prevention training.
4. Continued Counseling and Support
We must continue to offer support and services to victims of child abuse and maltreatment.
- Counseling resources. While much has been done in this area, we need to develop and provide additional resources to help victims/survivors of abuse.
- Life skills resources. We must also help victims/survivors find those resources that will assist in their training and education to build productive and devotional lives.
This is the beginning of a dialogue with the devotee community. Again, I welcome your help and suggestions. And, I pray for the mercy of Srila Prabhupada, the protection of Lord Nrsmhadeva, and the blessings of the Vaisnavas for success in this service.