1. Organizational Readiness and Planning

Who should use this section:

  • projects that have never worked on ARA prevention;
  • projects that have new staff who need to be educated on ARA prevention; and
  • projects that have not formalized their policies and procedures related to ARA and prevention.

Successfully incorporating ARA prevention into APP programming will largely depend on the readiness of the organization and its partners. For example, the following elements should be assessed when projects want to address ARA: willingness to accept a new ARA prevention approach, the buy-in of key leaders, the buy-in of staff, and a favorable history with similar efforts (e.g., previous project success). An implementation plan is always an important first step. It is also critical to connect with organizations in the community who have expertise in ARA prevention and develop clear policies and procedures for handling cases of disclosure, including questions of confidentiality and mandatory reporting.

1.1. Plan an Approach

Youth workers who choose to begin planning their organization’s or project’s approach to incorporating ARA prevention into APP programming should clearly identify the issues and specific behaviors and topics they want to address, set achievable goals and define success upfront, establish a clear budget, determine the type and extent of activities they will incorporate, and create a realistic timeline. Drafting a written implementation plan or revising an existing implementation plan can help ensure that all stakeholders are informed about selected activities and the rationale for the planned approach. Implementation plans are best developed at the beginning of the process, even if all details are not clear yet; the implementation plan may include information about involving a partner organization with expertise to help with further planning. The plan should be updated as changes or improvements are made.

  • Intimate Partner Violence and Teen Pregnancy Prevention
    Young people look at a laptop computer with an adult helping.Kan, M. L., Ashley, O. S., Strazza, K., Vance, M. M., LeTourneau, K. L., & Martin, S. L. (2012, December). Washington, DC: Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Family and Youth Services Bureau.

    This tool is designed to give practical guidance on incorporating ARA prevention content and materials into APP projects. It will be most useful to projects that choose to address ARA and are in the early stages of planning what their ARA prevention programming will look like. It outlines key planning steps, including reviewing community data related to ARA, using registries of evidence-based programs to identify ARA prevention materials, recruiting and training staff, and identifying community partners and referral resources.

To illustrate ways APP programs could put these tips into practice, two sample project plans are provided below. Programs are encouraged to adapt elements of these plans to fit their process of planning ARA prevention activities.

  • Raising Teen Dating Violence Prevention as a Public Health Priority (PDF, 282KB)
    Pennsylvania Department of Health. (n.d.).
    This report outlines recommendations from the Pennsylvania Department of Health and its partners for building partnerships, instituting programming and policy, and strengthening capacity related to ARA prevention. On pages 10 and 11, the authors describe the methods they used to arrive at their recommendations; APP projects can use similar strategies to develop and prioritize specific goals for their ARA prevention efforts. The work plan (on pages 15-22) shows project goals and objectives, and it outlines strategies (with accompanying personnel, timelines, and resources) for accomplishing them; APP projects can use this section as a template for mapping out their own plan to accomplish goals related to building ARA prevention infrastructure.
  • Implementation Plan for ABCD PREP for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Project (PDF, 107KB)
    This tool is a hypothetical plan that shows how an APP program might document the proposed implementation plan for addressing both APP and ARA prevention. Programs may use this example plan to consider how their needs assessment findings inform their implementation approach, partnerships, project logic model, and local evaluation plans. Sections of the example plan pertaining to ARA prevention may be adapted by programs for their own use.

1.2. Invest in Relationships

Organizations that choose to incorporate ARA prevention into APP programming may need to partner early in the process with other organizations, including domestic violence (DV) and sexual assault (SA) organizations in the community. 

Strong partnerships with DV/SA organizations will benefit projects by

  • providing experts to consult at every step of the process;
  • giving the project a ready source of trainers and speakers for staff trainings and community events;
  • keeping staff up to date on developments in the DV/SA field; and
  • creating the foundation for referrals when youth or parent participants need them.

Getting Acquainted

Partnering with other organizations involves two phases: getting acquainted and then deepening the relationship in order to work together to implement ARA prevention activities. Successful collaborations involve creating connections between people and organizations toward shared goals, sometimes where none previously existed. 

APP programs addressing ARA should invite ARA experts from the community to participate in discussions or planning. When APP projects are state-wide or multi-site, the state or Tribal domestic and sexual violence coalition might be the logical first contact. These coalitions can also help identify the community-based DV/SA organizations that should be included in early and ongoing collaborative efforts.

  • List of U.S. State/Territory & Tribal Domestic and Sexual Violence Coalitions 
    National Resource Center on Domestic Violence. (n.d.). 
    This tool includes a list of state/territory and Tribal domestic and sexual violence coalitions. Youth workers can search by state to identify contact information for coalitions.  This tool is likely to be most useful for organizations that do not already have connections with statewide or local DV/SA organizations or that want to seek out additional partners for implementation of ARA prevention.

Organizations that partner with coalitions or their member programs should spend time sharing information about the APP project. It is important to make time to answer questions about the APP project, including the specific activities that are planned or are already offered in the community.

Coalitions and their member programs can help APP projects learn more about the scope and impact of ARA in the community. APP programs working with partners should make an effort to learn from partners about not only the impact of ARA in their communities, but also the intervention and prevention systems in place.

Deepening the Relationship

When APP programs and their partners begin planning joint activities that have agreed upon objectives, the relationship can be formalized through a written document such as a letter of support, Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), or contract.

A letter of support is the least formal type of written document but signals good will and intent to participate in the project. In contrast, an MOU expresses the specifics of how organizations will work together. It is not a legally binding document, but helps both parties understand their roles and commitments.

  • Brief Instructions for Creating an MOU, a Sample MOU, and a Sample Letter of Support
    Author unknown. (2013). 
    This tool outlines the recommended content for an MOU, including project goals and outcomes, timeline, roles and responsibilities for both lead and partnering agencies, and signatures. The tool then provides a sample MOU between a non-profit agency and a community-based organization; APP projects could adapt this text and tailor it to their projects and partnerships. Finally, for projects that would prefer to make a less formal agreement with partners, the tool provides a sample letter of support. This letter can be adapted for use in enlisting any type of partner in ARA prevention efforts.

1.3. Develop Policies and Procedures

Discussing issues related to ARA will likely result in disclosures from youth participating in APP projects. Before that happens, APP programs should have policies and procedures in place to address these situations, and staff should be trained on these policies.

The tools provided in this section will help APP programs proactively develop or amend policies and procedures related to ARA. Clear, concise organizational policies and procedures

  • take the guesswork out of decision making during stressful moments;
  • ensure a consistent set of actions and response across the organization;
  • educate staff on legal duties and the impact of the law on their work; and
  • communicate organizational values.

APP programs should have policies in place about responding to disclosures, mandated reporting of suspected child abuse and neglect, confidentiality and information sharing, and parental notification and involvement before providing ARA prevention content to project participants.

For each clearly defined policy, there must be corresponding procedures or protocols on how to apply the policy, how it is enforced, whom it affects, and who is in charge. For example:

  • A policy may state that staff must respond promptly and sensitively to any youth disclosing an incident of relationship abuse.
  • The corresponding procedures may explain the necessary steps, from assessing the youth’s immediate safety, to connecting the youth to the staff or referral agency who will discuss the youth’s options, to explaining whether and how parents will be involved and working with the youth to create a safety plan.

APP projects that choose to incorporate ARA prevention may find that they need to develop or reassess their organization or project policies to protect youth receiving services. 

  • Youth Services Policy Development Tool (PDF, 378KB) 
    Break the Cycle. (2012). 
    This tool provides general guidance on policy development and a step-by-step process for building comprehensive, coherent, and youth survivor-centered organizational policies, including which policies a project team addressing ARA should have, why those policies are important, and how to develop those policies effectively. This tool can be used when planning or implementing ARA prevention to ensure that organizational policies are tailored to serve and protect youth who may have experienced ARA. This tool provides information on basic legal definitions and abuse-related terms; different types of policies affecting youth-serving organizations; and confidentiality, mandatory reporting, and minors’ consent to services. It also shows what policies can look like from a youth point of view (page 27) and includes several templates of release forms (pages 29-32).

Legal Resources for Mandatory Reporting and Confidentiality

APP programs may have an obligation under their state or Tribal community laws to report incidents of suspected child abuse or neglect.  Mandated reporting laws vary from state to state but generally apply to teachers, mental health counselors, clergy, health care providers, and legal professionals. Frontline staff need to understand laws regarding mandatory reporting and proper reporting protocols, including who is responsible for reporting suspected child abuse or neglect, imminent harm, sexual coercion, or statutory rape, and what kinds of disclosures require a report.

Reporting requirements raise unique concerns for service providers who work with youth experiencing ARA, particularly around the issue of confidentiality. When youth seek assistance and information about ARA, they may assume the information they share will remain confidential. Therefore, staff should be trained to notify youth and parents up front about these reporting requirements and their potential consequences before disclosures occur, so that youth and parents do not feel that their trust has been violated if such reporting occurs.

Tools in this section should be used to inform organizational policy about addressing ARA so that clear policy and procedures are in place; staff are trained on them; staff and their supervisors are knowledgeable about what is expected before information about ARA incidents is learned; and staff inform youth and parents in advance about limitations on confidentiality.

  • Confidentiality and Information Sharing Issues for Domestic Violence Advocates Working with Child Protection and Juvenile Court Systems (PDF, 1.2MB) 
    Davies, J. (n.d.). San Francisco, CA: Family Violence Prevention Fund.
    This publication includes a worksheet for basic legal considerations (pages 22-23). The worksheet includes questions that organizations may need to answer as they develop their policies about responding to ARA when it happens.
  • Summary of Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Advocate Confidentiality Laws (PDF, 164KB)
    American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence. (2007).
    This 2007 state-by-state summary of DV/SA advocate confidentiality laws identifies what information is protected from being shared in court or other proceedings, qualifications necessary for a professional to be considered to be a counselor or advocate, and exceptions to such protections. Youth workers should check for updated laws since 2007.
  • Mandatory Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect(PDF, 493KB)
    Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2012).
    This report summarizes for each state the professionals and other persons required to report suspected child abuse or neglect; when a report is required; when communication is privileged; whether reports can be made anonymously; and, if not, whether the reporter’s name can be disclosed. Youth workers should check for updated information since 2012.
  • Statutory Rape: A Guide to State Laws and Reporting Requirements (PDF, 1.7MB) 
    Glosser, A., Gardiner, K., & Fishman, M. (2004).
    This report summarizes for each state criminal laws about statutory rape and reporting requirements. Youth workers should check for updated information since 2004. In addition to informing organizational policies, information about the legal age of consent for sexual activity may also be important to share with youth to encourage them to make informed decisions about sexual activity and potential legal consequences.

Tips for Discussing Conditional Confidentiality
adapted from “Understanding Confidentiality and Minor Consent in California”

  • Be direct: Discuss confidentiality and the conditions under which it might be breached before a young person has an opportunity to disclose potentially reportable information.
  • Keep it simple: Tailor the discussion to the youth’s age and context.
  • Communicate caring and concern: Frame the need to breach confidentiality in the context of “getting them help that they might need” or “making sure they are safe,” rather than using the law, policy, or a phrase like “I am a mandated child abuse reporter” as a reason to breach confidentiality.
  • Assure two-way communication: Let the youth know if you are going to share information that they told you.
  • Know the law.
  • Check for understanding: Ask the youth to explain what they understand about conditional confidentiality.
Document all communications, understanding, and actions.

Sample Mandatory Reporting Policies and Protocols

APP projects implementing ARA prevention should develop reporting policies and protocols prior to training staff and implementing programming with youth. They should update their policies and protocols when laws change or when the original policies or protocols are found to be unclear or insufficient.

  • Mandatory Reporting and Keeping Youth Safe 
    Broner, N., Embry, V. V., Gremminger, M. G., Batts, K., & Ashley, O. S. (2013). Washington, DC: Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Family and Youth Services Bureau.

    This FYSB Webinar provides tools that can help APP programs develop mandatory reporting policies and protocols.
    • Slide 50 features a list of key elements that should be included in written mandatory reporting policies and procedures, including what, when, and to whom to report. Programs can use this as a checklist when developing their policies and procedures.
    • Slide 42 presents key elements in a protocol for supervising staff throughout the reporting process, including training and documentation. Programs should incorporate these elements into their procedures and review them during staff training and supervision meetings.
    • Slide 43 provides a list of suggested elements to include in a staff mandatory reporting checklist. This may be useful when programs are developing materials for staff. Staff should be reminded to call local numbers regularly to ensure they are in service.
    • Slides 51-53 provide six steps for the mandatory reporting process. These steps can be incorporated into policies and procedures and corresponding staff training.
  • Photograph of a young woman looking distressed.Identifying and Responding to Requests for Help, Disclosures, and Distress
    Ashley, O. S. (2012). Presented at the Family and Youth Services Bureau Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention West Regional Training.

    APP programs that choose to address ARA should develop simple, manageable procedures for dealing with disclosures related to ARA. These procedures should be supportive of the youth and should link youth to appropriate services but should also address any legal or compliance issues. This tool will help facilitators and other project staff identify what types of disclosures they may experience and match each to an appropriate response. 

Helping Youth

An important step in responding to disclosure is to connect the youth to appropriate resources and services. Organizations should develop policies and procedures for making referrals when disclosure occurs, including specific organizations to which referrals are made, how referrals are documented, and procedures for follow-up contact with the youth and/or the organizations to which referrals are made. Local referral resources are best. 

  • Teen Dating Violence: Resources for Victims of Teen Dating Violence
    FindYouthInfo. (n.d.).
    APP programs addressing ARA are encouraged to provide resources proactively to all youth, even if youth are not yet in dating relationships or have not reported a problem. In this tool, organizations can find national resources that can be added to handouts provided to youth. It is important for APP programs addressing ARA to work with their partners to add local community resources, including phone numbers or websites, to any lists they distribute. Referral contacts should be tested regularly (e.g., by calling a helpline number) to ensure that they are up to date.

Here is an example of a teen safety card from Futures Without Violence. The card can be provided to all youth participants and includes resources.


The Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program’s Training and Technical Assistance and Meeting Logistical Support project led by RTI International for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Family and Youth Services Bureau, under Contract No. HHSP23320035651WC developed this toolkit.

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