Praesidium is transforming the way organizations protect those in their care.
Aaron Lundberg was an only child who grew up with dozens of siblings as his parents were foster parents. This is where he first witnessed the effect abuse has on children.
“My parents didn’t shield me from what abuse the foster children had suffered and why it was so important we provided them with a safe and nurturing home,” said Lundberg. “It was difficult but important to learn about my foster siblings’ past experiences.”
Largely due to this experience and his parents’ role modeling, Lundberg knew early on he wanted to work in a mission-driven field and make a positive impact on vulnerable populations and communities. Through his experiences in undergraduate and graduate studies, he focused on working with and treating children who experienced sexual abuse.
While at graduate school, he studied under a couple of researchers who were the founders of Praesidium, a small organization that specialized in helping organizations prevent abuse of the children they serve. “I was immediately attracted to Praesidum’s mission and thought it might be an opportunity to apply my passion for preventing sexual abuse and working with organizations who serve vulnerable populations,” recalled Lundberg.
Today, Lundberg is the president and CEO of Praesidium, a leading innovator of scientifically-based solutions designed to transform the way organizations approach the prevention of sexual abuse. He leads with the same mission and vision the organization started with over 30 years ago:
- Mission: To help organizations protect those in their care from abuse and to help preserve trust in organizations.
- Vision: To transform the way organizations protect those in their care and to be known as the gold standard for prevention of abuse.
This longevity is credited to Praesidium’s passionate and experienced team members who work tirelessly to consult, train and support clients. “They not only know and have experience within the community recreation industry, but they also take the time to learn our individual client’s culture, strengths and challenges,” said Lundberg. “Then, they work in partnership to help YMCAs, camps or JCCs to develop and maintain a youth protection program they will take ownership in and maintain.”
Another key to the organization’s success is its data-driven approach. When Praesidium first started, Lundberg shared little was known about how abuse occurs within organizations. At that time, the team collected over 400 cases of sexual abuse within organizations and performed root cause analysis to determine how they could deliver services and resources based on what was learned.
“Thirty years later, we still remain data-driven and are always striving to deepen our expertise and promote external research that will help guide organizations,” Lundberg added. “To date, we’ve analyzed well over 5,000 cases of abuse and partnered with leading researchers in this space. This research drives our best practice standards, consultation and products.”
In addition to extensive experience and research, Praesidium understands there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Lundberg elaborated every community recreation organization is unique. Sometimes, what’s realistic in one program is not possible in another. “Our experience working with thousands of other organizations allows us to identify unique risk mitigation measures to ensure our clients are receiving customized advice that will work with their specific programming and culture,” he said.
Another benefit to partnering with Praesidium is the convenience of a one stop shop. Along with expert consultation, organizations also receive a full suite of products including:
- Background screening.
- Online training.
- An online self-assessment tool.
- A helpline service providing real-time consultation in the event of an incident.
“We’re not just a criminal background check and online training provider because the research and our experience show these are necessary, yet insufficient, to prevent abuse,” said Lundberg. “Organizations must take a comprehensive approach so we must provide a comprehensive set of solutions that can be tailored to an individual client or industry.”
This comprehensive approach includes action from the organization itself. Lundberg shared three best practices for recreation operators:
1. Leadership Buy-in and Voice at the Top
The board, CEO and upper-level leadership within the organization must set the tone. Lundberg pointed out staff, managers and volunteers are busy and have many demands vying for their attention. “Without leadership’s constant reminder youth protection is their No. 1 priority, staff and volunteers will let their guard down,” he explained. “Preventing abuse requires constant vigilance and this will only be maintained by leadership’s on-going commitment to making this a priority.”
2. Implement Best Practice Standards
With research and legal trends moving at record speed, Lundberg said the standards organizations must adhere to are rising and their protections — if they don’t maintain them — are decreasing. “Judgements and financial settlements have never been higher and a push for removing or opening up the statute of limitations in many states has made it easier for lawsuits to be filed,” he added. “Now is the time to ensure your organization is exceeding industry standards to stay ahead of these trends.”
3. Maintain a Culture of Safety
Lastly, Lundberg advised to ensure best practice standards are sustained and lived within the organization. Equally important to ensuring organizations have implemented best practice standards is ensuring these principles are part of an organization’s day-to-day activity.
Every organization knows an incident of sexual abuse has devastating consequences for the victim as well as the organization’s ability to fulfill its mission. Leading Praesidium, Lundberg said it’s rewarding to know the work they do plays a role in protecting missions and ensuring the children and adults they serve are protected from abuse.
“We have the privilege of working with amazing organizations whose programs and services are vital within their community,” said Lundberg. “Through our work, I get to meet amazing leaders, staff and volunteers who are doing the hard work day in and day out to serve their communities and keep the children they serve safe.”
Produced in Partnership with Praesidium