update: my coworker won’t stop caressing me — or the kids we work with

Remember the letter-writer whose coworker kept hugging and caressing everyone around her, including the kids they worked with, even after she was told to stop? Here’s the update.

First, let me say that I was so grateful for all of the responses to reinforce that I wasn’t trying to make a mountain out of a molehill. It’s sometimes hard to be objective about a situation when you’re right in the middle of it, and you and the huge number of reader responses let me know that I wasn’t just overreacting.

Kim’s inappropriate behavior wasn’t just limited to her excessive touchy-feely tendencies. As the leader of a group, she would frequently do things that were just plain unprofessional, not things you would expect an adult role model to do. She would disappear and the kids in her group would be without direct supervision for short amounts of time. I overheard her offering to give a program participant a ride home from an event at a venue about 45 minutes away; this is strictly prohibited by our organization and I know she was aware of this. I saw her engaging in horseplay with the kids (like swinging a child around or chasing children/playing keep-away) in a hazardous area where it would be easy to slip and fall. Administratively, she forgot to enter a team event for a major state competition…a really big deal. That’s just not something that can be forgotten, and it really hurts the kids when they can’t compete in the event they earned. (I caught it, luckily, and we were able to get the entry in after the deadline.)

After yet another incident of her not being able to keep her hands off of one of the kids, I got frustrated and sent my supervisor an email outlining many of the incidents, asked why these things were STILL happening a full year after she started, even when she’d been told about the issues many times. I brought up how what she’s doing is an abuse grooming tactic, making the kids more susceptible to abuse in the future, and I said that just that is dangerous for the kids and our program, without even looking at anything else. I asked what I needed to do to get some definite action, and I offered to file a written complaint (an official one) because this has gone on long enough. Finally, my supervisor got the facility director involved. I met with him several days later and then again a week after that. He seemed to listen to what I was saying, and said that he spoke with Kim, although he couldn’t go into details because of confidentiality. We were nearing the end of the season, so I realistically knew nothing could be done in that short amount of time, but I was looking at how they would set things up for next season.

Things were quiet until I followed up with him again in June, wondering about the program direction for the upcoming fall/winter season. We met in the earlier part of June, this time with my supervisor also in the meeting. My supervisor basically defended Kim wherever she could (partially, I think, to save face because I still had valid complaints about her behavior after more than a year). They were saying how I raised good points, and thanked me for bringing things to their attention, but were still talking about coaching and working with her. At that point, I sort of knew that they wouldn’t do anything to reassign her or get rid of her. My supervisor was still willing to give her chances despite being confronted with many, many accounts of where she was inappropriate with the children or was generally unprofessional over the course of more than a year. After this meeting, the director sent me an email saying that he would get back to me by a specific date in late June. He never did; I never heard from him again. I heard that Kim was still coaching there, and was pretty much in charge of their summer program.

The lack of response from the director (or the supervisor) combined with the fact that Kim was still around pretty much sealed it in my mind….for whatever reason, they were willing to overlook ALL of her many issues to put up with her. I had a conversation with my supervisor yesterday, to finally put everything to bed. Her official line was that they did ‘internal investigations’ and that they felt that Kim was on a good track and that the issues had been resolved, so they would be keeping her on in the fall.

They knew that I was not going to come back if they kept her in the same position, yet that’s the choice they made: they chose the employee who had been there for a year and a half, who was unprofessional, was physically inappropriate with staff and child program participants, had many complaints about her behavior during that short time and had actually caused people to leave the program, over the employee who had been there for seven years, was well-regarded and had a good reputation. A year ago, when our numbers were declining, my supervisor remarked to me that she hoped to leverage my good reputation, and use that to bring more people into our program. So it’s a real blow to me that despite that, they decided to keep Kim and allow me go; my seven good years apparently don’t count for anything.

As I said in the original question, I feared that it would reach a point where I would have to leave because they wouldn’t do anything about Kim. I know it sounded strange. But sadly, that’s what ended up happening. I think it boiled down to the fact that no matter what was good for the program, they took the option where they wouldn’t have to do anything unpleasant or create more work for themselves. If they wanted me to stay, they would have to face the unpleasant task of dealing with Kim…either firing her or reassigning her. But if they kept Kim where she was, then I would quit and they wouldn’t have to do anything unpleasant. I’m sad to realize that all of my contributions over seven years were overlooked for a matter of mere convenience.

Thanks again for publishing the letter originally. It really helped.

{ 254 comments… read them below }

    1. gsa

      I have words, “Call the police!”. Maybe not really, but if those were your kids; what would you want to know???

      1. CJ

        I missed the first post of this, so I don’t know if it was asked, but does the Letter Writer’s state have mandatory reporting laws, and how do they apply to childcare providers?

        1. Ruffingit

          The thing is though, what would she be reporting? Affectionate gestures are not really reportable even if she does think it’s grooming behavior. Although that is clearly what this appears to be to me, reporting it would sound odd and would be easily defensible as “Oh, it’s a summer program where there is a lot of horseplay and contact…”

          The shame of all of this besides the effect this will have on the kids is that this organization lost a strong, solid employee with a good rep. 10 to 1 it folds in 2 years or less.

          1. LadyCop

            This is really unfortunate. The irony is if a man were doing what Kim is doing, no one would have hesitated to put a stop to the behavior immediately.

          2. AF

            If she has reasonable suspicion (and a hell of a lot of documentation that this is ongoing and unwanted), that’s all you need to report it. I work at a large medical center and we receive training about this. She has more than enough to report. I won’t name it, but it’s part of a large university where something VERY BAD happened a few years ago and got a lot of publicity (I’m sure you can guess). And that’s why we now have such extensive training on it. REPORT REPORT REPORT.

            Also, an anonymous call to a local newspaper or TV news department could be effective.

            This is so far beyond horrible. I’m so sorry that you tried to do the right thing OP and it didn’t work. When organizations act this way, trying to save themselves temporarily while opening themselves to a big mess later on, it speaks to just how terrible they are. They are complicit by allowing it to continue.

          3. sstabeler

            actually, if she reasonably suspects that it’s grooming behavior, then it IS reportable. Precisely because if it isn’t grooming behavior, that will be fairly easy to establish. if it IS, then it could have serious consequences.

            I’m sorry if I seem harsh, but the reason for mandatory reporting laws is because it’s all but impossible for you to see more than a fraction of someone’s interaction with a kid, and so if you had to be certain there was something going on, nothing would get reported.

          4. John Smith

            I’m a father. Mandatory reporting laws or no, I would want to know about this. I would also make sure the other parents were aware of it, and I would pull my kids from this program, and I would let the directors or whoever the powers that be are know that they are losing my business because of this. My point is, notify the parents if you are able to

  1. NCKat

    Wow. :(

    OP, is there any way you can file a complaint with the authorities? If you have documented everything and you have proof, you could take this course of action.

    In any case, good luck. Hope your next workplace will be more responsive.

        1. fposte

          Oh, now there’s a good thought. Yes, if there’s any accrediting or even affiliating agency, they could be worth contacting.

          1. Stranger than fiction

            Yes my thoughts exactly and especially now that she’s has nothing to lose or at least not her job

            1. W.

              Yes sounds like OP should bring this up – this is the sort of behavior that is disturbing – they’re essentially covering up Kim’s behavior – which OP says mirrors grooming behavior, which for a camp supervising young children is extremely worrying – it could lead to far worse and more disturbing behavior if this is allowed to go unchecked. It worryingly reminds me of religious organisations that have covered up child abuse – I’m not saying it’s gone that far, but it has the climate where these sorts of things could happen. I’m so sorry this happened to you OP – if there is anyone you can ellivate this to I hope you do – no doubt you feel hurt that they kept her over you but also worried about what she and this organisation might do in future.

              1. fposte

                As I said in the original post, I’m stunned that any place post Penn State is this lax with employee behavior. They should thank their lucky stars that they found out how holey their procedures are with somebody who was only inappropriate and not actually criminal, because right now this is a setting that is depending only on the goodwill of its employees rather than any actual procedures to keep kids safe.

                1. Honeybee

                  Also, we’re assuming that nothing criminal is happening. But we don’t know that it’s not.

                2. MsChanandlerBong

                  It’s amazing how many places still allow this type of behavior to continue. A friend of mine was very concerned about a fellow teacher’s behavior (I don’t know all the details, but I do know he was very touchy-feely with his male students, and he was even found to be in a locked closet with a male student). She felt very uncomfortable about some of the things she saw, and she reported it to her principal multiple times, but no one ever did anything. Fortunately, she was smart enough to document everything. The other teacher eventually did something that couldn’t be overlooked (I don’t think it rose to the level of a crime, but it was inappropriate enough to raise eyebrows). He was put on a PIP, but he ended up resigning at the end of the year.

              2. ArtsAdmin4Life

                I have a little boy and I would be DEVASTATED if I found out that he was being subjected to the behavior described in the letter. Just thinking about those kids makes me want to cry. OP please, please find a way to report this abuse.

                1. John Smith

                  I couldn’t agree more. As I said earlier, if at all possible, go to the parents. As a parent, I would be livid, and would create a massive stink over this, to the point where other parents were also informed. At this point, it’s not like they can fire you

            2. annonymouse

              Is there some way to get the parents to complain either directly to the director or an accreditation agency/parent organisation etc?

              If an employee complains it’s easy to ignore with that power dynamic. 10+ parents complaining about the same issue with the same person? Now that’s something that’s going to get traction.

              Also are there no regulations about child touching in your line of work? I’ve worked with kids before and besides hi fives, uniform adjustment and technique correction there is no need to touch children.

              Also if any of the above are done inappropriately then you can bet there is hell to pay

          2. V.V.

            The only problem that I see with this is that now that the OP has quit, s/he could be written off as a disgruntled employee by the company. (Unless a complaint can be lodged anonymously, which these agencies by their own admission do not take as seriously.)

            I could see it going: “The problems with this employee began last year when s/he started targeting a new employee and accusing her of misconduct. After a thorough investigation on several levels (here is the documentation), we found no wrong doing on the new employee’s part, any issues that may have arisen are to be expected from a new employee, and are being rectified as per company policy (as seen here). Unfortunately old employee inappropriately involved themselves at every stage of this process, and even after his/her concerns were addressed, choose to quit rather than get along/follow company policy.”

            Unless there is an accident, major uproar from the parents, or the rest of the employees up and quit, I doubt anyone will take notice. Even if the latter does happen, I am sure it’d be chalked up to the high turnover associated with childcare professions. I would even advise against posting a review… the company might claim defamation and sue for damages associated with the loss of business.

            The OP has done everything that was within their power to do and was left with no option but to resign. OP rightfully walked away, dare I say it would probably be for the best to keep walking.

            1. Honeybee

              That may be true, but that would be true even if she still worked there – the company could simply say she didn’t like Kim and use basically the same script.

              Basically, if this camp wanted to protect Kim, they would do it no matter what the OP does. But that doesn’t mean the OP shouldn’t report it if she thinks it rises to that level; there’s always the good chance that a state agency doesn’t want to play around with this kind of thing, particularly post Penn State and all the negative publicity that generated. And it could be that once a state agency contacts the camp about this, they realize the magnitude of it and decide to fire Kim.

              1. V.V.

                If OP wants to continue to pursue this, that is fine. I am just afraid that it will remain a fruitless endeavor, or worse the company will use the opportunity to smear the OP, especially if the OP stood alone in this. Since keeping Kim on is a reflection of their ethics and practices, there is a strong possibility that rather than examining their decision, they will double down instead, and the OP will have to deal with the nastiness that ensues.

                Sometimes one has to throw in the towel because of limited resources, lack of support, and not enough time in the day. OP went above and beyond by not letting this drop, and as a matter of conscience, it ultimately cost them their job. I would not blame the OP if they decided to move on at this point.

                1. Rowan

                  The worst case scenario is that the accrediting body files the report and does nothing. If one of the kids complains in the future about inappropriate interactions with a camp counselor, there is something on file to back them up that it’s not just an isolated incident.

                2. Megan

                  This is very true, but it may come that down the line there’s another issue from either Kim or the organization, and having had a previous report of an issue from either one of them can help to establish a pattern that may lead to more substantial action in the future.

              2. John Smith

                Again, the parents. They might be willing to ignore this behaviour or sweep it under the rug when it’s coming from another employee, or an ex employee, but get the parents involved and it becomes a lot harder to hide or ignore.
                Sorry for the multiple comments, I’m just shocked and livid about this whole situation. I teach my sons boundaries, and would be on the war path if something like this was happening

        2. Anx

          Although this really isn’t the jurisdiction of the health department, many summer camps and after school programs are inspected by health departments (at least in one state I worked in).

      1. Spooky

        But surely someone can do something! Those poor kids need help! There’s got to be a way to report this woman – what she’s doing is terrible, and the organization sheltering her…well, I have no words for that. I’m in shock.

        Those poor kids. :(

        1. Jeanne

          It’s very sad. I’m just not sure there’s anything to do. While it’s all very inappropriate, I’m not sure anything is illegal. Maybe the accrediting as mentioned above. But even then maybe not.

        2. AF

          There is someone in the world with authority over this. REPORT REPORT REPORT. And if you don’t get somewhere with the first person, keep reporting. Sorry if this is listed somewhere, but do we know what state this is in?

          OP, if you want to get in touch with me, I’ll help you find a place to report it.

    1. Michelle

      I would also call the local department of family and children services, if you feel that would be necessary. Kim really needs to stop touching these kids! I’m shocked the parents haven’t brought it up. As a parent, if I knew there was a person like this at a facility my child attended, you better believe I would bring it up and if the employee did not stop or was not terminated, I would call the police and the newspapers. Some people may think that is an overreaction but when someone has plainly crossed appropriate boundaries *multiple* times *even after being asked to stop*, I no longer care about their feelings or their job.

      This place is nuts for not getting rid of Kim. She’s going to end up meeting a parent like me and then all hell will break loose.

      1. jamlady

        I worked at a preschool a while back and a toddler bumped his head (we iced and called and monitored, as per the protocol, but he was fine) and his mom chewed us out every time she came to pick him up for 2 months straight. Like you, I can’t believe all of these parents is okay enough with Kim’s behavior to not raise major concerns.

      2. Honeybee

        Me either. I used to work at a summer camp and parents would get in arms about the most minor of things. I can’t imagine a summer camp where an employee is repeatedly touching many kids inappropriately over the course of a year and no parent has caused a ruckus.

        1. Tyrannosaurus Regina

          Really makes me worry that this camp is serving a disadvantaged group and the parents feel that if they pulled their kids there would be nowhere else to go for these services/activities. :(

    2. Lisa

      Legally, this qualifies as battery. The OP could file criminal and/or tort charges for battery, which is defined as any unwanted touching or contact, even indirectly.

      1. fposte

        It’s not likely to qualify to the level that a DA will prosecute, since nobody’s been disturbed enough to call the police when it happened, and there are no financial damages to be recovered in a civil action.

      2. Ruffingit

        I seriously doubt that would work as a claim. The DA would not likely prosecute on this set of facts and the OP is not the victim so unless the children or the parents of the children wanted to file, this would likely go nowhere fast.

    3. Leigh

      Yep – if you work with kids under 18, you are most likely a Mandated Reporter. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandated_reporter

      Pretty much all the employees (if it’s a child-centric organization, who come into contact with kids) are default Mandated Reporters. By ignoring abuse, they’re breaking the law.

      Sorry you’re going through this, OP. Upside, is that if you report this to the authorities and the truth comes out, you have a strong answer to “Why did you leave your last job” at your next interview.

      Best of luck.

      1. TootsNYC

        But is this actually abuse? It’s really problematic, and it’s not good to condition kids to tolerate all sorts of touching from people in Kim’s position. But is she actually molesting anyone?

        1. Michelle

          I’m not saying she is molesting anyone and the DFACS might say there is nothing they can do, but I would still say something to as many people as possible until someone takes notice. Kim needs to learn to keep her hands to herself and if this company/organization is too afraid to do something about it, then someone needs to speak up for the kids, at least. I am really surprised that parents are not in the office everyday making complaints.

          It wouldn’t take but about 3 instances of Kim touching me or kids in my presence before I would start making formal complaints and encouraging parents to do the same. If you have been repeatedly told over the course of a *YEAR* to stop touching people, stop touching kids, etc and you continue to touch people, using the “sorry I forgot” excuse, then you need to find another line of work to be in.

      2. Anna

        This wouldn’t fall under the requirements of mandatory reporting (thankfully). She’s inappropriate and is definitely crossing boundaries, but mandatory reporting is about things that are slightly more concrete.

        1. catsAreCool

          What about the way Kim disappears, leaving the kids alone? I can’t think of a good reason for this except for a sudden bathroom emergency, and don’t they have procedures for that?

        2. Honeybee

          I’ve been a mandated reporter in several states and it varies from state to state, but it’s generally been “reasonable suspicion.”

      3. Thumbelina125

        As an educator (School Counselor and gymnastics coach) we all mandated reporters. I have been in the situation when I am working with young adults and I have had to tell my coworkers they are mandated reporters. Unless the organization has mandated training, most young adults who are new to working with kids have no idea what it means to be a mandated reporter. Before I started my school counseling internship at a catholic elementary school, I was required to take virtues training. The only think required for the public school was a clean background check and fingerprints. I completely a practicum at a public high school and they provided no training. Having worked with kids for most of my professional life, I know the importance of having trained employees especially if they work with children. Unless a person has been abused as a child, it’s hard to understand the physical and emotional trauma that occurs as a result of abuse. The child may not realize the abuse as abuse because they have no reference to what abuse is. Once they start to understand what has happened to them, the shame and anger start to set in. Children generally lack the vocabulary to express their emotions until they can find the words to express their anger and resentment for being violated and abused.
        The OP should contact the accreditation board, child and protection services, and go to the police department to see if they have someone on staff who handles similar situations. The OP could be liable along with the supervisor and program director if a lawsuit occurs and emails are confiscated and they find the communications.
        Having been physical abused as a child myself, it’s very hard not to be angry and resentful to the adults who were aware situation (were mandated reporters) they did nothing. As adults we are supposed to protect those who are vulnerable and easy targets.

  2. Muriel Heslop

    I am so sorry, OP. This is the most frustrating and disappointing update I’ve seen. It’s absolutely mind-boggling that things were allowed to get to this point and I hope that whomever is fortunate to have you as their next employee is more appreciative of your willingness to work hard and go out on a limb.

    As an educator and a parent: I am absolutely furious. This entire situation is dangerous and foolhardy and I cannot imagine being so short-sighted and lazy as to allow Kim to continue as an employee.

    OP, this totally stinks. You were courageous to bring it to their attention. Best wishes for your next chapter.

    1. Artemesia

      I think the OP’s analysis is spot on and you see the same thing in business management or management of non-profits. Managers suck. They don’t manage. They avoid the real challenges like this one of being in authority and so they govern or manage by inertia. Sad outcome for everyone here.

      1. Muriel Heslop

        Of course bad management is in all sectors, but my experience in education and social work is that people in authority bend so far the other way to avoid the appearance of impropriety when working with children. Obviously that isn’t true everywhere, but it’s such a gigantic liability I am mystified why Kim’s bosses would allow it to continue.

        1. Steve G

          This is a very annoying update. My sister works with autistic kids from pre-school age. She says the really young ones are so cute, and it is almost habit with the kids in our family/circle to want to put them on your knee or lap or hug them when they are crying and you can’t, and it is hard for her to resist. Especially when you are trying to have a break-through with a kid, you’d think touch would be a good thing (as in, if they are crying, give them a hug). But you can’t. But then there is Kim’s boss! Urgh.

          1. Ruffingit

            Yeah, I work with a vulnerable adult population and they often want to hug me as a thank you or before they leave and I have to say no. I have, however, become a huge proponent of fist bumping :)

            1. Steve G

              Fist pumping is great, but yeah, my sister is seriously frustrated by it. And if you knew my puritan sister, she’d never in a million years “do anything,” she just wants to communicate with the children in a way that they receive it. And let’s face it, many autism kids are zoned out. You want to grab them and hug them and hold them up when they are throwing a fit, but she can’t. I wouldn’t be able to handle that job!

              But to tie it back to this – how the heck does this woman keep her job! Aaaahhh!

        2. Nina

          That’s what I was thinking, too. Most places bend over backwards to avoid being associated with child endangerment, so why are they keeping this woman, who coworkers and parents have complained about?

      2. Jeanne

        I agree with you. So many managers are not willing to do the difficult work. It is easier to lose the good employee than to deal with Kim’s temper tantrum. We’ve all seen it. I hope the OP can find a new position utilizing her skills.

  3. Verde

    That’s really too bad. I feel like I’ve been hearing a lot of stories like this lately – I have a friend who dealt with a similar situation in a similar field, as well as several other people I know who have left long-term positions due to management choosing to continue to “work with” blatantly poor employees rather than move or remove them.

    1. Ruffingit

      I’ve seen this a lot too. I’m sure there is a whole psychology around this, but at the end of the day, they lose good people and good people lose jobs. It’s screwed up.

  4. T3k

    It’s too bad you can’t send a heads up email out to parents. I, for one, would immediately withdraw any children I had in such a program (or not sign them up) if I knew such a person was in charge. Granted, it sounds like a lot of parents were noticing Kim’s inappropriate behavior and word tends to spread among them, so who knows.

    1. Adam V

      Yes, this would be great. All you’d have to do would be to get the word out to one or two of the more-connected parents, and it’d filter around to the others – “Take your kids over to [OP’s new job] and leave this place behind”.

      1. AnonyManager

        Which makes the organizations actions (or inaction) even worse. All these parents and children with no recourse!

        1. OfficePrincess

          A paper trail of reporting it to your former boss? Absolutely

          A paper trail of conveying the same thing to parents? No way. I can hear the slimy old employer now “gossip” “slander” “unfounded accusations”

          1. Adam V

            Just tell them “unfortunately, I’m no longer at [X] organization. I’ve moved over to [Y] organization now! Best of luck in the future!”

            1. puddin

              This…if she has a solid reputation with parents as well as within the industry (in her locale) this type of statement speaks volumes.

      1. Jeanne

        That’s what I was thinking. If OP puts anything in writing, it could cause trouble. But talking to a couple people may help. As mentioned above though, will the parents have other options? Hard to say.

  5. Myrin

    Oh wow. What an absolute bummer. It really seems like this is one of these situations where something drastic needs to happen (as if what happened isn’t already drastic enough, especially the hazardous area, what even!), like Kim becoming touchy-feely in a sexual way and parents officially complaining about it. I sure hope this is not going to happen for the sake of the poor children and coworkers who were also uncomfortable with Kim, but it seems like this is the only kind of thing management there will actually understand. Or they won’t. Who knows. :|

    1. catsAreCool

      I hope the parents “vote with their feet” and get the kids out of there! Best case scenario if the supervisors refuse to do anything about it is to get the kids away.

  6. NJ Anon

    Wow. Just Wow. Unfortunately, I think you hit the nail on the head. They would rather lose you than deal with a terrible employee. I hope the parents take their kids elsewhere.

    1. Marian the Librarian

      > “They would rather lose you than deal with a terrible employee.”

      I don’t understand this reasoning at all! What could be going through the minds of the director and supervisor? How could it possibly be worth keeping Kim on staff when she is such a huge potential liability to the organization, even if OP hadn’t made it clear that she would leave? The fact that they are losing a valuable employee of 7 years to keep this woman on staff (even after PARENTS have complained about her behavior) is just bizarre! Just… What????

  7. YaddaYaddaYadda

    OP – PLEASE think of the greater good, and find a way to take this public. VERY PUBLIC. I respect the anonymity of AAM, but as many pointed out in the original thread, Kim’s behaviors are so wildly inappropriate and risky to the long term future of children, that people deserve to know what they may be subjecting their children to.

    1. Yet Another JD

      +a billion. As a parent and a survivor, this is my greatest fear. I keep a close watch on my kids and this kind of thing is why. I don’t want them to ever go through what happened to me.

    2. Anonymous for this one

      Yes. As someone who was abused as a kid, please don’t let this go. Report it to whoever you can, and if that goes nowhere, go to the media.

  8. KT

    This is awful. I am so, so sorry OP. Just know and take pride in the fact that you spoke up and stood your ground–so many people won’t–and you did the right thing. At least some people heard your complaints and you’ve at least planted the seed in their heads about her inappropriate behavior.

  9. NJ Anon

    Not sure what state you are in but perhaps an anonymous call to the authorities is warranted?

    1. fposte

      Somebody mentioned this upthread, and I’m puzzled–what authorities are you thinking of? The OP doesn’t suspect that anything criminal is happening here.

      1. Steven

        Things don’t have to be necessarily criminal to file a report with the police. They keep records of things that might imply some criminal behavior. It won’t do anything on its own, but it could make it easier to prosecute or identify a crime that might happen in the future.

        It’s similar to rape allegations. There might not be conclusive evidence of a crime, but a rape charge paired with a handful of non-prosecuatable reports is easier to prosecute than a rape charge on its own.

      2. LisaLee

        If the program is under a larger national organization, she could try reporting it there. But yeah, it doesn’t sound like Kim has done anything that law enforcement would be interested in

      3. Green

        Yes. It’s not exactly inherently “molestery”, just really bad practice and inappropriate for anyone in that industry to create opportunities for exploitation.

      4. MK

        There might be some kind of supervisory authority? In my country, programms such are these are supervised either by a municipal department or the Ministry of Education. But, frankly, I don’t think a complaint about behavior that doesn’t directly violate a law will get much notice.

        1. Jill

          I work for an urban public school district that partners with many, many organizations that provide after-school / camp-esque type services as PAID service providers of our district – using public school (i.e. taxpayer) dollars. If OP’s organization is such a provider, OP should report it to the entities that they are hired by. If this was happening to my school district’s students we’d want to know in order to re-evaluate our contract with them.

          Similarly, if it’s a non-profit that’s funded by grants, OP could report it to the funders. It’s not necessarily a government oversight or law enforcement entity that might be interested in this information…

        1. fposte

          I think this was the division in the original post’s comments. What’s happening is somebody doing a shitty job of taking care of kids in a way that makes the organization and the kids more vulnerable. Some people were stating that because it was inappropriate that made it abusive; some of us were considering the two to be different standards.

          I don’t think it would be terrible or wrong for her to call DCFS/CPS, but I don’t think it rises to the level of a mandatory report, and I don’t think they’re likely to do much. And that’s without getting into the level of overwork of most investigative divisions these days.

    2. PegLeg

      I second the make a hotline suggestion. Perhaps this isn’t enough to warrant an investigation, but you also don’t know if other reports have been made on Kim in the past, or if other reports will be made on her in the future. In my state any reports are kept on file, so if something were to come up with Kim in the future, the fact that a report on her is on file, even if it isn’t taken or isn’t substantiated, would potentially help protect other kids.

  10. Jerzy

    OP, that stinks! It’s awful that you were forced to leave because of someone else’s inappropriate (seemingly compulsive) behavior. I don’t know if anyone mentioned this after your initial letter, but I can’t believe if the inappropriate toucher was a man, he would have been allowed to stay on after so many repeated warnings. This is a terrible double standard.

    You can be assured at least that you did what you could to remedy the situation in a professional way, and now all you can do is continue to move on with your life making the best decisions for you.

    1. Mimmy

      Although the touching is inappropriate, CPS is unlikely to be interested in investigating this. Actually, I think they only deal with abuse in the home, not a daytime program. (Please correct me if I’m wrong).

      1. fposte

        I suppose it’s possible there are jurisdictions with different rules, but in general CPS is your first stop for child endangerment anywhere.

        1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

          In most places, CPS gets involved with abuse and neglect only by caregivers (parents, child care providers). If it’s a stranger, or even a family member who is not a caregiver, that goes to the police only.

          1. fposte

            Okay, useful differentiation, thanks. And presumably each will tell you to call the other if you’ve started with the wrong one anyway.

      2. april ludgate

        Accredited daycares are monitored by CPS, I used to work in one and they audited the daycare once a year and would’ve been the ones contacted if anyone suspected abuse or neglect (or any kind of infraction, they have very specific guidelines) occurring at the school. I’m not sure if they cover sports programs, but it’d be worth looking into.

      3. cake batter

        “CPS is unlikely to be interested in investigating this.”

        I work for a child protective agency. It is OUR job to determine whether the allegations warrant an investigation. We have staff specially trained to do exactly that. PLEASE, everyone, don’t be discouraged from filing a report because you’re not sure whether the facts that you know constitute abuse or neglect. We have the resources and manpower to investigate that and determine whether the state has any recourse within the boundaries of the law. Do not make that decision yourself.

        Child welfare agencies DO investigate child abuse/neglect in schools, day cares, camps, foster family homes, and institutional settings (like juvenile detention or residential placement facilities).

        1. Mimmy

          Thanks guys for the correction. Wow, I’m in the human services field….you’d think I’d know this!! :(

        2. June

          Do not make that decision yourself.

          This is the MOST important thing. I work with kids too and we are mandated reporters. If we even suspect something, we are told to report to CPS. Also–correct me if I’m wrong but anyone can report something to CPS, correct? And OP can do it anonymously.

          1. fposte

            Mandated reporter standards vary from state to state, though. Mine is “reasonable cause to believe.”

            I’m not on the ground, but what the OP describes doesn’t to me constitute reasonable cause to believe abuse is taking place. It gives me reasonable cause to believe that abuse *could* take place without the organization knowing, but preventative actions are beyond the scope of most CPSs.

              1. Honeybee

                Not everyone in PA is, but the law was expanded in 2014 to cover a LOT of people. For example, in my last job, I was a mandated reporter because I was a “school employee.” “School” meant any school in the state, even a university – which is where I worked (at Penn State, actually). And I was a research scientist so I didn’t even work with kids, but every school employee was a mandated reporter.

                But employees of private companies or even state or nonprofits aren’t mandated reporters if they don’t come into regular contact with children or accept responsibility for them.

            1. cake batter

              Legally, the question of who is a mandated reporter varies by state law. Morally, I believe all adults have an obligation to protect children unable to protect themselves. Either you’re wrong about the perceived abuse/neglect and the investigation is closed, or you save a child by alerting the state to a dangerous situation. Most, if not all, states allow people to report anonymously.

              Even if there is no overt abuse or neglect, having the child welfare agency knocking on your door alerts you that someone is watching. Sometimes that’s enough to get people to alter their “borderline” behavior.

          2. Anlyn

            She might be able to contact them anonymously, but if CPS suddenly shows up at this program investigating the exact issues the OP has repeatedly brought up, they’re going to know who contacted them.

            Not saying she shouldn’t, mind you, just that it won’t really be anonymous.

        3. The Other Alice

          Yes, thank you for saying this! And maybe they won’t do anything, but they’ll have that information on file. Next time someone calls with a similarly ‘look I’m not sure if this is a thing, but it’s making me uncomfortable’ comment about Kim and this place, they’ll be able to see there’s a pattern, and they’re then more likely to act. Worst case scenario is they do nothing.

  11. Katie the Fed

    Wow. Worst update ever!

    OP – good on you for sticking to your guns though. Sometimes you just can’t save organizations from themselves, no matter how hard you try. Kim is a liability – they’re being complete idiots.

    1. MashaKasha

      I, too, came here to post that this is nuts precisely because Kim is a lawsuit waiting to happen. Does her management not understand this or do they just not care somehow? This makes no logical sense to me. Sorry, OP, and best of luck at your next place of work.

  12. Nina

    Thank you for the update, OP, and I’m sorry it had to end up this way. This is truly disturbing that Kim’s behavior has been allowed to go on for all this time, despite the numerous complaints from coworkers and parents alike. I don’t get why they would want to keep this woman on because she’s damaging the reputation of the whole program. Parents talk and word gets around. She can’t be that convenient. I wonder if Kim knows someone who got her the job and is helping her to keep it.

    I hope you move on to greener pastures, OP. You did all that you could do. Best of luck.

    1. Beancounter in Texas

      I’m wondering about political leverage too, but I’m leaning that management is falling for Kim’s lip service and that they really don’t want to dig into the problem and make it stop.

      1. Nina

        But there’s been so many complaints. That’s why I think someone is protecting her. As an employee, is she really worth all this trouble and a damaged reputation?

        And even if mgmt does believe her lip service, the complaints from parents alone should be enough for disciplinary action because this woman is working with kids.

        1. Stranger than fiction

          Just thought of something – maybe they’re afraid Kim will retaliate or something. Still no excuse though

        2. Aim Away From Face

          She’s either somebody’s relative, or banging someone in high in the food chain.

          I’ll put money on it.

    2. Myrin

      I was wondering that as well, especially as the trade-off for keeping Kim is losing an employee of seven years! I could kind of understand their reasoning if the OP were the only one to ever utter any kind of discomfort with regards to Kim (although even then keeping an eye on Kim would be a good thing to do!), but we know from the original letter that both parents AND coworkers complained about her. Why is Kim worth alienating basically all of your customers AND employees? (I understand the answer to that is probably nothing, they really just want to avoid conflict at any cost, but if that truly is their stance I have to say they lack a certain kind of foresight because Kim is a walking conflict waiting to exploder her conflict bomb.)

      1. Brightwanderer

        I seem to remember from the original letter that the parents etc have only complained TO the OP, not to her supervisor – so they may still be seeing this as all coming from the OP, if she’s passing it on.

        1. Anna

          That’s what I was thinking. The “so many complaints” aren’t ones the supervisor or director have heard; they’ve only heard things from the OP. The OP could contact the parents who did complain to her and recommend they take their concerns to the supervisor. It’s easy to ignore OP; it’s definitely more difficult to ignore the parents.

        2. Myrin

          I remember the OP talking about people complaining TO her but I don’t think that means she’s the ONLY person they complained to. Might as well be they brought this to a supervisor or other coworker and OP just doesn’t know about it. Of course I might be totally wrong about this but it’s a possibility, I think.

  13. Clara

    If this program is funded by government or private funders (and not just fees,) the funders would want to know about this. Especially if this program is government funded, you should report this immediately to the funder. This is something they would take very seriously.

  14. Clever Name

    You work with children, so I assume this means you are a mandated reporter. I think you really need to report this. Even if you haven’t witnessed abuse per se, your evidence is damning enough that this woman needs to be reported. Now.

    1. Colette

      But for what? She’s not acting appropriately, but there is no evidence that she’s doing anything harmful. She’s not following best practices and she could be grooming children for abuse or setting them up to be abused by others later (by not modelling appropriate boundaries), but unless the OP has the reason to believe abuse is taking place, I don’t think she’s obligated to report it, nor do I think reporting it would result in much happening.

      1. Colette

        Replying to myself to add that I believe the reason why organizations who work with vulnerable people/children have standards (criminal record checks, code of conduct, policies about who can be alone with a child, etc.) is not because a governing body says they have to, but because they are expected to take reasonable precautions to keep their clients safe, and if they don’t, they will lose a lawsuit if someone abuses a child. It’s a paper trail to prove they’ve done their due diligence.

        Also, if you report abuse, I assume you have to identify a victim/victims. You can’t just say “this adult is doing things that are a little off”.

        1. Clever Name

          If I were in OP’s shoes, I guess I’d call whatever agency I’m supposed to report stuff to and explain the situation and then ask what needs to be done. I’m taking such a hard line on this because the safety of children is involved.

          1. Colette

            The OP can certainly do that, although I don’t think it will result in much more than a phone call. I’m not actually convinced there is evidence of anyone’s safety being compromised. Something unsafe may be happening, and certainly Kim shouldn’t be in her job, but a lot of it depends on details. Leaving 10 3-year-olds alone for 10 minutes is different than leaving 3 10-year-olds alone for one minute while you run back to grab a paper. Swinging a child around on top of a slide is different from swinging a child around on a lawn.

          2. Ad Astra

            Other than the horseplay, I’m not convinced any child’s safety is at risk. We just don’t know enough to evaluate that. We do know that Kim’s behavior is making the children’s experience at this business unpleasant or uncomfortable, and that’s a problem. But that’s something the managers should be handling, not the agencies and regulators.

            1. catsAreCool

              I think it should be called in anyway. The agency can tell LW if this is something they can act on or if LW should call another agency. Can you imagine if something bad was going on, how LW would feel if LW didn’t report it?

            2. Honeybee

              But it’s not employees’ responsibility to evaluate that. That’s up to child protective services. Reporting it would at least let them have the information on file and decide what to do with it.

        2. NJ Anon

          I worked for an organization that dealt with vulnerable children. We had those things for both reasons.: they were mandated by the governing body AND because we were expected to keep their clients safe. If something arose in-house, we would have to call IA on ourselves and self-report, even the slightest possible infraction. OP has written documentation. Trust me, they would be interested and would at the minimum come out and do an investigation.

          1. Colette

            Was this an external organization? If the OP’s organization is governed by a body that mandates standards, she should report this. I don’t think that’s always the case, though (and IA makes me think this was an internal group within your organization).

    2. Clever Name

      Well, I know one daycare teacher who was fired on the spot because she forgot a kid in the fenced-in play area when the rest of the class came inside. Leaving the kids unattended for any amount of time is considered unacceptable in those situations. The daycare makes kind of a big deal doing headcounts at periodic intervals and checking each kid off, and the parents signing them in and out. I’m sure they are doing it because it’s mandated by the state.

      1. Colette

        I doubt it’s mandated – I haven’t been able to find any laws about it (although I could have missed some). I suspect it’s about publicity, lawsuits, and actually wanting to take good care of the children.

      2. fposte

        “Unacceptable” isn’t the same thing as “illegal,” though, and it’s likelier to be demanded by insurance (or recommended by lawyers) than by the state. (Come to think of it, whoever’s insuring this program would probably be the most interested in all this, but it’d be tough to find who to mention it to there.) And this isn’t a daycare, so daycare laws don’t automatically apply.

        I agree that it would be great if somebody made this place straighten up their act and that this is a really bad management inclination for an org dealing with any kind of vulnerable population. I just doubt that there’s much leverage here for sloppy, risk-incurring management short of an actual Bad Thing happening.

        1. Colette

          Agreed. I think they’re opening themselves up to risk – not just that someone will do something actually abusive (although that’s certainly a big risk), but also to frivolous lawsuits, since they won’t be able to prove they’ve taken reasonable steps to keep children safe.

        1. Clever Name

          Okay, so as someone who helps clients follow regulations, I’m sure the regulation is something like, “Steps will be taken to ensure children are accounted for and not left unattended” and that’s how my son’s particular daycare takes care of that requirement. Maybe it was a poor choice of an example on my part.

          But none of that is relevant. What is relevant is that the OP believes that children are being put at risk and her employer would rather sweep the problem under the rug than put on their big boy/girl underpants and deal with the situation like adults.

          The more I think about this the angrier I get. I really don’t care that there isn’t a flashing neon sign pointing to clearly illegal behavior. The OP believes kids are at risk, and nothing is being done. Period. That is abhorrent.

          1. Colette

            I think the fact that management hasn’t acted is horrible. I also think that if the OP believes that children are in danger, she should report that. Most of what I see in her letters is about policy issues, rather than danger, though. They’re important policy issues, but I don’t think anyone has the authority to act on policy issues other than management, who has declined to do so.

  15. Beancounter in Texas

    Can the parents complain to the supervisor? Sometimes outside pressure hurts more than an internal complaint. Or is there a state authority on whom you can call to investigate? I imagine if you’re dealing with young children, the state has *some* authority over the program. Maybe a social worker can help point you in the right direction?

    Sorry you’re going through this.

    For what it is worth, at a summer camp for teenagers, a man squeezed my bare knee and I felt weird about him touching me. I’d never been taught about bodily autonomy, so I didn’t know why I felt weird about it, but I knew I didn’t like it. I told my cabin counselor and she helped me avoid him for the rest of the camp. I have no clue whether he was disciplined for it, but in retrospect, the fact that the counselor protected me from him was such a relief and reaffirmed my feelings that what he did was wrong. I urge you to continue to search for someone who can do something about Kim. As you say, it grooms them to be susceptible to abuse in the future, although I realize that it’s easy for me to write it from far away. Good luck.

    1. Elizabeth West

      Happened to me too–one of the camp directors sat behind me on the bench (we were both straddling it) during an announcement at lunchtime and put his hand under my arm, just far enough up so his fingers were touching my breast. I had no experience with that kind of thing, and didn’t know what to do or say. In hindsight, I should have gone to my counselor immediately, but I did have experience being verbally and emotionally abused by a teacher whom another teacher constantly backed up (and even participated–and physically, if you consider constant paddlings abuse). I figured no one would do anything. I wish I’d said something; this was a huge Christian camp that very rich people sent their kids to, so they might not have believed me. But I still wish I’d said something now, or something. I don’t know. Thanks, Jimmy, for leaving that in my head forever.

      This is why it’s so damaging to let stuff like this go. Even if Kim is not or would not become abusive, tolerating the inappropriateness of the touchy-feely stuff will make some kids think it’s okay in that context. Or it will make them feel like no one will do anything and complaining about it is useless.

      1. Slimy Contractor

        That was NOT your fault. You couldn’t have been expected to know how to react, but, more importantly, that camp director should NEVER have touched you in the first place. I’m so sorry that happened to you, and I hope you can forgive yourself–you did NOTHING wrong.

      2. Anna

        And it’s likely a few of those children are already seeing abuse in some form, and this just reinforces their powerlessness in the situation. While there’s nothing illegal (apparently), the management’s lack of addressing it in a serious-with-consequences way is disturbing and shows serious lack of character.

        As much as we tell children they should and can speak up, you have to be willing to assume they can’t or won’t and be the person who does it. Even if Kim is not actually abusive, she’s a danger and the management sucks.

        1. Honeybee

          Or they will experience abuse in the future, and their powerlessness and exposure to it from Kim will make them think it’s normal and/or that no adults will do anything about it even when they are uncomfortable.

  16. JMegan

    Aw, OP. Your assessment sounds exactly right, that they chose to let you go because it was easier than having the difficult conversation with Kim. That’s a horrible way to handle things. I know you know that, but I hope it helps to hear us all agreeing with you here.

    I also hope your next job is fantastic, and they appreciate your willingness to take a tough stand and do the right thing.

  17. yikes anon

    Wow. Thanks for the update, but wow, I am so sorry they went with cowardice and conflict-avoidance instead of stepping up and protecting the kids and the program’s integrity and reputation.

  18. CaliCali

    I’d bet money that Kim is someone who is being kept on for political reasons, such as personal ties to a benefactor of the organization. Otherwise, this makes no sense. I’m sorry for this series of events.

    1. Adam V

      I thought the same. That’s even worse, though – such relationships should be out in the open, so that you know it’s unlikely to change, instead of thinking “okay, I told my boss, it might take some time but it’ll get taken care of in the end”.

    2. catsAreCool

      That’s what I thought too. This doesn’t seem like a tough decision. They’re likely to lose their business (at best) if they let this go on. At worst, they could get in trouble with the law.

  19. Ad Astra

    You know, I agree that Kim needed to be fired or reassigned or somehow disciplined, and I don’t blame the OP for leaving when it became clear her managers weren’t going to take action. Still, something doesn’t sit right with me about telling your boss “Fire this person or I’m leaving.” Not necessarily in this situation, but in general, that seems like a really unfair tactic. I can’t quite figure out why it bothers me so much.

    1. Colette

      I suspect it bothers you because it’s manipulation. (I do think leaving was the right thing to do in this situation, though. Sometimes all you can do is vote with your feet.)

    2. Nina

      Usually, I would feel the same, but the OP mentioned in the original letter that she and her son were also subject to Kim’s touchy-feely behavior once or twice. So it’s not just Kim doing it to other people, OP has been personally affected.

    3. Adam V

      It’s not saying “fire this person or I’m leaving”; it’s saying “we don’t see eye to eye on how things work around here and I can’t continue to work for you if we disagree so strongly on something I consider important”.

      Think of it this way – if you went into work tomorrow and found that your company had just taken on Westboro Baptist Church as a client, or Al Qaeda, or some other group you find similarly revolting, couldn’t you see yourself going to your boss and saying “I can’t work for you if it means working with them”?

      Yes, this is a drastic example. Nevertheless, my point is, everyone’s got an invisible line that their company, or friends, or family, can’t cross without you having to rethink your relationship with them.

      1. Ad Astra

        In this case, I agree with you. But I can see so many people getting fed up because they simply don’t like someone they work with and putting their managers in a really uncomfortable position by setting an ultimatum. Maybe my opinion would depend on whether it’s a cultural/operational issue like this one is, or if it’s more of an interpersonal issue.

    4. Lily in NYC

      I think there are lots of ways one can make this clear to an employer without it being unfair. To me, it’s enforcing one’s boundaries. I’ve talked about this here in the past – I told a boss once that if something wasn’t done about a specific situation with a coworker that I wasn’t sure how long I’d be able to tolerate it (it was a performance problem that caused me many hours of extra work per week; it wasn’t personal). I phrased it more like it was something I was internalizing and mulling over instead of like a threat. It wasn’t Do This Or I’m Out! It was more: Hmmmm, I’m not sure this is going to work for me if nothing changes…
      .
      I knew boss was way more worried about losing me than coworker, but she was dragging her feet because she was non-confrontational to the extreme. Once she realized her inaction would have consequences (my leaving), she dealt with the issue. I wasn’t being manipulative, I was being honest and drawing a line in the sand about what I was willing to put up with. Nor was I bluffing – I think that would be manipulative.

    5. Jennifer

      It’s an ultimatum and they generally don’t work?
      Which is a shame in this case. But I’m so blackhearted cynical I’m not even shocked any more.

      1. Mephyle

        I suppose you mean that they “generally don’t work’’ in the sense that the threat of leaving (as in this case) is not enough to make the bad situation change. But if you have to leave a situation because you can’t put up with it any longer, you leave. It “works” in the sense that you are no longer in the intolerable situation.

    6. Dani X

      She also didn’t say “fire them or I am leaving”. She said “This is an inappropriate situation – deal with it or I am leaving”. Based on the letter if they had change Kim’s role, or added a supervisor to make sure she is acting appropriately, or just done something that would work the OP would have stayed. But saying “I hear you – she is not acting right but we prefer not to deal with it” would be a deal breaker for a lot of people.

    7. MK

      Did the OP actually say that, though? I mean, she says they knew she wouldn’t stay if Kim did, not that she outright gave them an ultimatum. And while giving ultimatums is inappropriate, if your more reserved complaints are ignored, I don’t think it’s wrong to make it clear that you won’t put up with the situation any longer.

      1. Ad Astra

        I interpreted it as an ultimatum, but you’re right that we don’t know exactly what was said or how the OP presented the situation.

    8. Ask a Manager Post author

      Sometimes it’s really the truth though, and if it’s the truth, there’s no reason you shouldn’t let your manager know that. If you’re doing it to manipulate the situation or you’re not really sure you’ll follow through on leaving, then no. But if your mind is made up that you can’t stay if X continues, it’s reasonable to calmly and professionally raise that so that everyone involved has all the facts. They can choose to continue X if they want; you’re not forcing their hand.

      Frankly, I’d appreciate the opportunity to hear an employee out and consider their viewpoint and the consequences now in play. It might mean that I go back to them and say, “I appreciate your position. X isn’t going to change because __, and I understand that means you may leave as a result. I wish that weren’t the case, but I respect your stance.”

      1. JB (not in Houston)

        Yes, I totally agree. It’s more like what Adam and Lily in NYC said. It’s wrong to throw around empty threats or just to manipulate people to get your way. But being clear with your employer that you can’t continue working with X situation, that’s information your employer would usually want to know. I would certainly want to know if a good employee was going to leave if X was not fixed.

    9. fposte

      I think we have an understandable resistance to something that sounds like an ultimatum, and you sure don’t want to present it as “Either she goes or I go!” But I think there’s a subtle and important difference, whether we’re talking relationships or work, between “If you don’t do what I want, I’m out of here,” and “I can’t stay here with things the way they are.” And I think you always have the option of saying the second. Honestly, even if Kim had quit to leave town, it would have been hard to stay with the organization knowing how bad they were at this important stuff.

      1. LQ

        +a lot

        “Either you need to stop hitting me or I’m leaving you.”
        Why is this bad?
        People have such a weird push back to ultimatums that they miss that sometimes they are incredibly important tools for both people in whatever the situation.

        1. Not So NewReader

          Not always, but some times part of the caution is that a person may paint themselves into a corner and have to go forward with their threat. That may catch people by surprise.

    10. LBK

      I’m not a fan of that kind of threat either but I think the fairness of it depends on the context. 99% of the time, the kind of people who say “it’s me or them” are the drama llamas to whom you’d probably like to respond “Fantastic, here’s your last paycheck, have a nice life”. I think it’s therefore understandable to have a distaste for that idea that’s hard to hold back in cases like this where it’s not dramatic – it’s necessary.

      1. Ad Astra

        I think you hit the nail on the head. So often this kind of “threat” (not exactly the right word in OP’s situation) comes from a drama llama looking for validation.

        1. Anna

          That’s what I was thinking, too. It is most often an empty threat meant to manipulate, but sometimes it has that backbone to support it and it’s a truth instead of manipulation.

    11. Mephyle

      It’s pretty much the same thing as the difference between a threat and a consequence. A threat is manipulative, and a consequence is a … a consequence.

  20. Jenna Maroney

    Is there someone higher than the facility director? I am thinking of the letter writer who forwarded the CEO the racist cartoon and the CEO was very glad to have been told/shown what was going on within the organization

  21. AndersonDarling

    That was not the update I wanted.
    OP, it sound like you are really dedicated to your work. I bet there is a great job waiting for you where you can do even more good. It sounds like the organization has some terrible leadership and may be heading downhill. You’re probably lucky to get out now.

  22. Mimmy

    I missed the original post, so I skimmed it before reading the update. OP, this is definitely not cool. So many employers these days are afraid to have these difficult conversations, and I think it’s at least partly due to our litigious (sp?) society–employers fear a lawsuit.

    Here’s hoping your next job is a better fit. Good luck!!

    1. catsAreCool

      I’d be more afraid of a lawsuit or scandal by keeping Kim on. I worked in a daycare when I was a teenager, which was a while ago, and there were certain things you absolutely did not do, at least at that daycare. You never left kids unattended. You didn’t horseplay with kids, especially not in a hazardous area (if I remember correctly, the kids were kept away from hazardous areas). We even had a few rules about safety that I thought were a little overcautious, but they weren’t unreasonable, and we all enforced them. There wasn’t a no touching rule, but this type of touchy touchy would not have been OK.

  23. RNPALS

    Wow. You would think a place that takes care of children would have management that has a clue about supervising others and setting clear expectations. Glad to see all the comments firmly on OP’s side. Having to quit a job you’ve worked so hard at for several years just to save the higher-ups a little bit of discomfort is BS. I agree with telling parents where she’s going should OP still continue to work in childcare.

  24. The Expendable Redshirt

    What the Hell.

    I’m so sorry OP, you did the best you could. I don’t think I’ve been more disappointed by an update. Bad organization!

  25. NickelandDime

    The OP did everything they could. This is how awful things happen, you read the news and you wonder, how did no one know or see anything? And you can’t shake that awful feeling that someone, probably quite a few, knew something was off and they chose to do nothing.

    I’m sorry OP.

  26. Observer

    In New York, child care facilities need to be licensed, and something like this is likely to raise a huge red flag. Is there something like this in your jurisdiction? If so, could you pass this information on?

  27. Dana

    Write a Yelp review? An editorial in the newspaper? It’s sad that OP had to leave her job because the organization/management sucks so much, but the problem is still there and not changing…I’ve got to believe SOMEONE, SOMEWHERE would care about this?

    I also missed the original post and my heart just kept sinking lower and lower as I read the letter and skimmed the comments. I don’t have children, I don’t know anything about children, I don’t even particularly like being around them, but it still gave me the willies.

  28. Bend & Snap

    What a shitty update. I’m sorry OP. You should feel good about doing everything you could to get this addressed.

  29. B

    Wow OP what a sad update but I thank you for bringing it to us. I was wondering what ended up happening with this situation. What horrible management, if I sent my kids there I would be infuriated.

    1. NickelandDime

      She’s going to get too touchy feely with the wrong kid. They’re going to tell mom and dad and then all hell is going to break loose. I’m glad the OP got out of there.

      1. Anonsie

        We were talking about this where I work recently, how it always seems like there have been plenty of alarms and warnings and opportunities for intervention before there’s a serious problem, and they all get ignored.

        1. Not So NewReader

          How many times do we see this in the news? “Oh, everyone knew about it, but no one did anything.”

        2. Anonymous for this one

          Abuse may be ignored until it affects more people than only the abused children, becoming a problem of optics.

          It happened in my school. It happened in my friend’s school, where I heard about a “creepy” coach 12 years ago and he was only arrested last year. And I see it in the news over and over and over.

      2. Kyrielle

        I hope that’s how it plays out. Before she, or someone else taking advantage of the setup she’s provided, does something worse.

        I will say that if this were happening to my kid, the instant I found out about it, I would be That Mom. And frankly? This organization deserves to have a That Mom come into their lives and bring it.

  30. Career Counselorette

    Ugh. As someone who dealt with a similarly inappropriate and all-around unprofessional colleague in a setting with young children and families, I am really annoyed on your part, but ultimately agree that you have to separate from that situation. In addition to being totally attention-seeking and careless with many of the students, my Kim also hated my guts because she saw that a lot of the kids openly preferred working with me, so she directed all her ridiculous bullshit at me, and would try to start with me (without being my supervisor) in front of the kids. You know it’s pretty horrible when a 9-year-old is telling an adult, “Oh my God, do you hear yourself? STOP!” My supervisors were sympathetic but always rationalized her behavior because I think they preferred the illusion of no conflict than having to actually discipline anyone. (That actually was similar to the way they dealt with a lot of the behavioral issues the students had, too.) I missed my kids when I left, but I’m so much happier in the long run.

    1. Elizabeth West

      That actually was similar to the way they dealt with a lot of the behavioral issues the students had, too.

      That is not a dynamic I would want any of my kids picking up.

  31. Career Counselorette

    Also, speaking of inappropriate, Alison, I’m getting nothing but really overt KY jelly and Durex video ads when I load this page. Thank Christ my computer’s sound is muted.

    1. Creag an Tuire

      Quack?

      Also, I have to say the un-pausable video ads are what got me to use a flash blocker; I know sites need ad revenue but this is intolerable.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        You have my blessing to use an ad blocker. This isn’t how the ads are supposed to work, but you shouldn’t have to put it with it when they go wrong.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      Any chance you can send me a screenshot or the URL they link to (I realize you probably don’t want to click on them, but that would let my ad network more easily find and block them)? They’re not supposed to be coming through at all.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Whoops, no need to do that. Just got this from my ad network:

        “We’ve pinpointed the advertiser that is running these ads, and this morning we got in touch with them and told them that if these ads weren’t completely removed within 24 hours that we would permanently ban them from working with us. So, either way it will be resolved very soon!”

  32. Anonsie

    This is disappointing but not surprising. Can’t even tell you the number of times I’ve seen management decide the easiest way to deal with a problematic employee is to double-down in their defense and push out anyone who isn’t willing to deal with it. Shooting the messenger, I guess.

  33. Jo

    Hi OP. So sorry to hear about what you went through. But good for you to keeping to your guns. Yes it does suck to leave a place after 10 years, but everyone needs principles. The truth of the matter is if you don’t stand up for something, you’re fall for anything.

    1. catsAreCool

      Plus, when the whole thing does hit the fan, LW doesn’t want to be working there. Even if there’s nothing secret that Kim’s doing that LW doesn’t know about, this some parent or other, sooner or later is going to get very, very upset about it. At that point, LW will be in a situation to say “I reported it to the management repeatedly and finally left when they wouldn’t do anything about it.” It would be good if LW could also say “I reported it to X agency.”

  34. AcidMeFlux

    I’m sorry it turned out this way for the OP. However, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the end of it. I would consult with various professionals in pertinent agences to get their take on it. Don’t go in breathing fire and shouting “child abuse”, but say you have very serious concerns about a person’s continuing behavior with children as well as adults. You may get someone’s attention. But don’t go the the press or publicly bad-mouth Kim or the program (and certainly, don’t write a Yelp review). This person sounds so manipulative that you could end up with accusations of slander and legal action. I’d also tread lightly with contacting parents; don’t send out a mail to everyone, but if asked by a parent, say you weren’t happy with how your administrators handled a behavior problem with another employee. Word will spread…

  35. Brownie Queen

    Wow, this is disturbing in so many ways. Kudos to you OP for leaving and keeping your reputation intact. I agree with the others who have said it is just a matter of time before the s*** hits the fan with her behavior with the kids and no way do you want to be associated with that.

  36. Kat A.

    The video ad on the right of the screen may be why this page keeps freezing on me and has to be reloaded. Just an FYI.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      The only way I have to track them down and get them stopped is if you’re able to give me the URL it clicks through to. Sorry, I know they’re a huge pain in the ass, but if you’re able to do that, I’d be grateful!

  37. The Other Dawn

    Your former employer took the easy way out. Little do they know this will likely come back to bite them in the ass and it will be much harder in the long run. Sorry to hear this, OP.

  38. Anju

    I have to echo everyone else’s comments that this is very upsetting and sad. So sorry OP that you had to leave and they preferred to do nothing and lose you rather than handle the situation.

    I’m wondering if they refuse to discipline Kim because they would rather have the illusion of everything being all good, rather than open themselves to liability suits for ignoring Kim’s behavior for >1 year. I’m not saying it’s a valid choice but I can imagine poor managers who think avoiding the issue helps to maintain their organization’s reputation.

  39. hayling

    Alison, what would you recommend the OP say in job interviews when she is asked why she is leaving her current position?

    1. Rae

      I’m not Alison, but in this situation I’d say, “I really loved what I did, but there were some issues that I felt were putting children in danger. Management was in a place to correct this but chose not to. Because I couldn’t partake in this, I felt it was best to remove myself from the situation.”

      1. Kyrielle

        Unfortunately, it’s a he-said she-said in that context, and employers don’t know if the person they’re interviewing is giving a calm and factual report of a really bad situation, or is a drama llama and making it up. As long as the situation isn’t public knowledge (and if it becomes public knowledge, ‘why did you leave?’ is no longer likely to be a question – and in any case then the factual answer CAN be given since news reports, etc., can be referenced), the OP would be better off with something more neutral.

        If the new position isn’t doing the same exact thing they were looking for, “I enjoyed what I was doing, but I felt it was time for a change” might work. If it’s a very similar position, that’s harder. (“The requirements of the job changed over time, and I wanted to get back to the core part, helping children excel” – unspoken, the requirements of the job changed to include putting up with a coworker who couldn’t keep her hands to herself!)

  40. Suzy Q

    First, go see an attorney, if you plan to report this to CPS (which it sounds like it should be). You need to protect yourself from possible criminal or civil charges from witnessing Kim’s behavior and letting it continue. Yes, I know you weren’t in charge of her, and you reported/complained about her multiple times. But, you never actually stopped her. Based on some of the angry parent comments, they would gladly sweep everyone up in any legal suit or complaint directed at the facility.

    1. Rater Z

      This was my thought as well as I keep reading the comments. The lawyer should be able to tell the OP what to do in regards to reporting the situation, how to protect herself in case of lawsuits and how to project herself as she looks for work in the future.

  41. BethRA

    Hate to sound like a broken record, but wow. Just wow.

    And as much as it sucks for the OP to have the organization opt for “less effort and unpleasantness” over her contributions, what really kills me is that they’re putting their own discomfort over the well-being and safety of the kids they serve.

  42. Alaskan in Denver

    I have to wonder if Kim was named ‘Tim’ would management have allowed the behavior to continue… I kinda doubt it.

    1. Transformer

      I agree! Honestly, how do we actually know that Kim isn’t abusing the kids? Are we saying that she is not… just because she is a woman??? Or because she hasn’t been caught red handed? Jerry Sandusky exhibited several of these behaviors at Penn State and people didn’t take note or action and look at the consequences. This person is actively using grooming tactics. She is continuing to do so regardless of being told not to and is crossing all sorts of boundaries. She left children alone… my thought is that she is testing the response time, reaction, and/or consequences. She offered to take a participant a ride home. I am assuming that would mean that she would be alone with the child for a significant amount of time. How do you know that in this circumstance that there is no abuse? Is it because she is a woman? Women can abuse kids too. Look at Mary Kay Letourneau. Is the OP and the leadership group really able to determine that? It seems like an official external group needs to do an investigation with expert resources.

      1. Honeybee

        That was my thought, too. Just because the OP has never actively witnessed Kim directly harming a child doesn’t mean that she’s not; she’s enacted some pretty flagrant grooming behaviors and has refused to stop even when asked. That would be enough to cause “reasonable suspicion” to me and report it to someone. (And when I worked at Penn State, I would’ve been required to do so, or face criminal charges if something happened and it came out that I knew!)

    2. anon for this

      I’ve had women as well as men be sexually inappropriate with me when I was young so seeing how dismissive the company is about it and how sure they are that nothing bad is going on is making me really uncomfortable. It doesn’t even have to be overt sometimes things just feel “wrong”.

  43. CAK

    OP, please please PLEASE call CPS. So many red flags with this woman, something needs to be done because as people have mentioned before, these are abuse grooming tactics. Please contact CPS, tip someone, encourage parents, ANYTHING because that Kim is a horrid person and there is just something very, very wrong about all of this, and what she’s doing is just the tip of the abuse iceberg.

  44. Chloe

    Make a refferal to social services, an accrediting agency and/or a background service company if they have to report refferals (I’m a Brit, just basing this on my own experiences). As well as going higher in the agency if you can.

    If you’re concerned enough to go through all this and write in to AAM twice, you’re concerned enough to make those calls.

  45. Caro

    I remember this letter and have to echo everyone else’s disappointment at the outcome. I hope the OP goes on to somewhere where their dedication is appreciated.

  46. Not So NewReader

    Well, OP, I am sorry it came to this. It went on way too long and you definitely had to do something.
    And technically speaking, you had to leave. Because when the crap hits the fan, you don’t want to be there and blamed for negligence. Which as we all know, if you are in the situation, then you had something to do with it, some how and a higher up will figure out that “how” part.

    This is a management group that is holding itself wide open to all kinds of corruption. You really did not have a choice, it’s leave or have your own reputation ruined.

    Thank you for taking a stand for kids. I am sure parents will wonder where you went. They will have to answer questions from the parents and the kids. Not a consolation right now, maybe. But you will forever know that you did the right thing. In the end, sometimes the best we can do is pull ourselves out of a bad situation.

    Please consider the above advice about calling CPS. The part that grabbed me was we should not decide for ourselves if it is a CPS case or not. Let them decide.
    If nothing else you may lay the ground work for the next complaint and that complaint will get action. We just don’t know how these things will play out over time.
    I am sorry you went through all this.

    1. catsAreCool

      “You really did not have a choice, it’s leave or have your own reputation ruined.” This!

      And also “we should not decide for ourselves if it is a CPS case or not. Let them decide.”

  47. Jillyan

    Don’t think you wasted 7 years: think of how much you have learned and grown in that time. Even if you leave a bad work situation, try to look for the good in the bad. It helps so much when you’re trying to find your next role- and you will, God willing. Trust me, I speak from experience. Good luck.

    1. Not So NewReader

      I agree. You will probably find that your next work place is no where near as difficult as this one was. And you will also start to see just how much knowledge you have accrued over the years. (New coworkers help with that, they point out your clever ideas and let you know that you are making a contribution.) NO experience is ever wasted. Your seven years is going to pay off for you in ways you never thought of.

  48. knitchic79

    Oh Op! Your original post made me want to throw up, this…I’m so sorry this program is taking the “easy” way out. You deserve so much better than this. I don’t know if you answered this already, I haven’t read all the comments, did you save all of the written communication and/or note the reason for your leaving in your resignation? I wouldn’t put an organization that was willing to brush this off above throwing everyone they could under the bus when it all blows up in their face. I’m probably being alarmist. In another life I was a day care/ preschool assistant director so I filter through an overly cautious lense. Best of luck wherever you land!!

  49. Biff

    I’m really, really shocked. Kim’s behavior is out-and-out disgusting!

    I have no suggestions beyond what is already here. Personally, I’d use the screech and confront method. As in, she touches you, you screech and then inform her to STOP TOUCHING YOU, as she is scaring you. I’d also document it as sexual harassment and go to your manager with a formal complaint of that.

  50. Isben Takes Tea

    I have to echo everyone’s feelings of distress and helplessness.

    I’d strongly consider making detailed reports (I dearly hope you have copies of all your emails) with as many people as you can think of (board of directors, CPS, etc.), not because they would necessarily do anything with it now, but because then there would be a record. As someone upthread pointed out, if something were to happen in the future, it would give more weight to the victim in a he-said/she-said argument if suspicious behaviors had already been documented.

  51. snuck

    I’m going to come back and read all the comments later…

    But for now…

    I’m sorry this is how it’s come about OP… I know you’ve worked hard there, and I know you really cared and really valued working there, and this is a cruddy end to the whole situation, and most importantly, it’s a cruddy way to treat you.

    I’d hunt up another job. Use that fabulous reputation you’ve earnt to get yourself something fabulous elsewhere. You deserve it… go to the competitor even and say “Hey, I’m looking for a new space, a new environment and to mix it up a little, do you have anything for me?” (don’t bad mouth the old place, talk up the chance to be somewhere new.)

    And get out. If you haven’t already, know that you are totally worth it, and can.

    And THEN if you still feel like you want to battle this out, that’s when you could go through your industry and / or child safety reporting groups and mention this stuff. There’s no rush… sadly there never is, following this stuff up takes weeks, months, many months usually. I wouldn’t tell the parents, I wouldn’t go widely public, I wouldn’t tell the competition… what you have could be hearsay and innuendo and misappropriated and interpreted wrongly. I would go to whoever is responsible for child safety and child care registration in your state (I’m in Australia so it might work differently here) and say “Look, I could be wrong, but I just wanted to say this about this person, because if I’m am not wrong I don’t want it on my conscience, I want to know I said something when I could” and then they’ll listen, they might investigate, they might not, but it’s on record. You might never hear a moment more on it, but someone who has the ability to triage this stuff has listened.

  52. JGray

    I apologize for the long post. I used to work for an after-school program (grades K- 12)- not as a program coordinator but as the administrative assistant. All employees (including me & I had no direct contact with the kids) were required to pass a background check. We also used a lot of volunteers and about 3 years ago it was changed so that all volunteers had to pass a background check as well. From what I know of the federal guidelines if you have any child abuse convictions of any kind you cannot be hired and/or volunteer at an organization that works with kids. Other posters have debated on whether this should be reported and to whom. I agree with both those that say who to report it to and then also who would it be reported to. I think that a report needs to be made to CPS or the appropriate state agency because even though there is no proof of abuse yet it could happen. Child abusers don’t go straight to abuse- there is grooming. Think about Penn state- no one thought anything was wrong there and look at how many kids were harmed. I don’t think that the state could do much with the report but at least it will be on file. Unfortunately, I don’t think it is a matter of IF but WHEN. At my old job, we had a volunteer about 6 years ago who would cross boundaries by hugging, ect. and luckily we got rid of him before he tried to go further but he tried to go further at another organization he volunteered for with a middle school student. The director of the other organization called the director of my program to ask about the volunteer and his behavior at our organization after the incident. Fortunately we had a rule that you are never to be alone with a child and if you are (i.e. the last child to be picked up) than you should never close the door to the room you are in (This was rare because at a minimum there was the program coordinator and a volunteer around). So the volunteer was never alone with any children- he tried though with the hugging. At that time there was also discussion by several organizations about having a volunteer black list (i.e. a list of volunteers who have been inappropriate with children and therefore not allowed to volunteer with your organization) but apparently you can’t have that because it violates the persons privacy. So to me err on the side of caution. Kim could be harmless but I don’t think that you should ever take that risk.

  53. Not for me

    Does this camp have a Facebook page/Twitter account? Or is there some way to leave a review on some kind of public website?

    I might even go so far as to send an anonymous email to the local news (maybe a bit extreme, but this needs to be made public – parents should know what kind of person is working at this camp).

  54. Anonymous Teacher

    I’ve read the OP and the update, and I fully agree that Kim’s behavior was wildly inappropriate… but I’m at a loss as to why many of the posters think hugging is so terrible. I’m an elementary teacher, and my kids come to me and every other teacher in the building for hugs on a daily basis. Maybe it’s a regional/cultural thing (Southern US)? It just strikes me as odd that so many posters have an issue with this one particular thing that’s so normal at every school I’ve worked at.

      1. Anonymous Teacher

        At first that’s what I thought as well, but my impression from some of the other commenters is that they find hugging inappropriate 100% of the time.

    1. Tyrannosaurus Regina

      I think hugs can be dangerous precisely because so many kids (and vulnerable adults fwiw) WILL seek them from authority figures. Every place I’ve worked at where kids or vulnerable adults were present had STRICT rules about physical contact and hugs were almost always prohibited. (Sometimes the “side hug” was ok.) At one place where I taught reading classes to all ages, we even had a procedure for what to do if a little kid crawled into your lap. (Stand up; remove lap!)

      If you’re a decent person of goodwill who would never hurt a child or try to cross boundaries, I’m sure it seems weird and overly sensitive to ban hugging—but as the teenage recipient of more than one uncomfortable-but-not-overtly-molesty hug from vaguely creepy authority figures, hugs I didn’t feel I could refuse (because then *I* would have been the one “making it weird”), I’d so rather put a line in the sand and keep hugs on the “no” side.

      There are lots of other ways to affirm and comfort folks—fist bumps, high-fives, verbal stuff, etc.

  55. Kate McKee

    With allegations of inappropriate touching, context is everything.

    Video documentation is helpful. If Kim “really can’t help it,” a random video of kids on the playground will catch 3-5 Kim “episodes.” They can be reviewed by a neutral third party/child abuse forensic professional who (as many have pointed out) can take cultural nuances into account, without the personal investment in a particular outcome that the OP or her former bosses have.

    On the other hand, if Kim knows the camera is running and doesn’t touch any kids at all, then that also tells you something.

  56. SaraHC

    I’m concerned about whether OP could face legal liability. If a parent found out that this had been going on, that OP had actively tried to intervene, and that OP then dropped it after leaving the organization, s/he could try to hold OP responsible for inaction, regardless of whether OP is a mandated reporter. Even if there were no grounds for this claim, it could still be devastating. I’d add my voice to the chorus of people saying to OP — tell someone. The ramifications of not doing so are potentially disastrous.

  57. BevT

    My bet – Kim is a coach of a winning sports team (kids went to state!) and the administrators don’t want to lose her in that capacity. Still sickening.

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