Mary Byler, born Amish, standing in front a buggy in Amish dress

Dove’s Nest’s statement on Dr. Jeanette Harder’s Amish/Plain work

by | Jul 4, 2022 | 0 comments

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Dove’s Nest Apologized May 2022

On May 11, 2022, the faith-based child abuse prevention organization Dove’s Nest released a public statement accepting responsibility for and apologizing for the harm caused by their promotion of a deeply problematic book, For the Sake of a Child, a co-authored volume by Dove’s Nest founder Dr. Jeanette Harder. The board of Dove’s Nest–minus Dr. Harder herself, who was on the board at the time but recused from the process–drafted and voted on this statement.

Mary Byler, born Amish, standing in front a buggy in Amish dress

used with permission from Mary Byler of The Misfit Amish

The statement responded to survivor advocates from The Misfit Amish, A Better Way, and Into Account’s months-long engagement, outreach, and discussion with Dove’s Nest board members, and after twenty Amish and Plain survivors released an open letter to Dr. Harder, asking her to stop speaking with authority about the abuse in their communities. (For more information on our three organizations’ outreach to Dr. Harder and to Dove’s Nest board members, see the Communications Timeline in Dr. Harder: A Case Study in Well-Intentioned Intervention Into High Control Groups, co-authored by our three organizations.)

Dr. Jeanette Harder Leaves Dove’s Nest

Soon after Dove’s Nest released their statement, Into Account noticed that Dr. Harder was no longer listed as a member of Dove’s Nest board or speaker’s bureau. We have confirmed that she is no longer affiliated with the organization. Recently, advocates and survivors serving the Plain and Amish communities have reached out to Into Account, as well as to our colleagues at A Better Way and The Misfit Amish, asking for a copy of the statement.

The statement is available through the Internet Archive. We’re including the text here in its entirety.

Dove’s Nest Statement

5/11/22

Dove’s Nest connection to Plain community work, origin of For the Sake of A Child

In 2014, Dove’s Nest received a call seeking help with engaging with Plain Communities (Old Order Mennonite and Amish) in child protection. Though this had not been a part of Dove’s Nest’s work, this call pointed to a gap in child safety in Anabaptist communities. A co-founder and board member of Dove’s Nest, Dr. Jeanette Harder, took up the challenge with the board’s blessing. For several years, Dr. Harder engaged with Plain communities to learn about child protection in their context, and also provided “cultural awareness trainings” to social work and child welfare professionals seeking to engage with Plain communities. The last of these trainings happened in 2021.*

In 2019, Dr. Harder and Allen Hoover, an Old Order Mennonite man, co-authored the book For the Sake of a Child. The target audience of this book is Plain families, and the intended purpose is to provide information about positive parenting; how to identify, prevent, and report child abuse; and the importance of collaboration with social services. It also includes appendices providing recommended resources, both books and organizations.

Concerns Raised about suggested resources in For the Sake of a Child

Recently, we have learned that some of the resources in the book do not follow best practices for child protection, and have perpetuated abuse and silenced survivors. Further, in an open letter , Mary Byler, director of The Misfit Amish, has identified some culturally incompetent perspectives that reflect a lack of expertise in the community.** More information can be read in the article, Review: For the Sake of a Child: Child Abuse Prevention Book Aims to Protect Children, but Falls Short in Key Areas, by Amanda Crist and Hope Anne Dueck from A Better Way.

Dove’s Nest Board responds to these concerns

Dove’s Nest takes these concerns seriously. A Better Way and The Misfit Amish are deeply embedded in child protection and survivor advocacy within Plain communities, and have first-hand knowledge that we at Dove’s Nest do not. Because Dove’s Nest was involved in the origin and distribution of For the Sake of A Child, we are deeply sorry for harm caused by errors and inappropriate resources*** offered in For the Sake of a Child.

In 2021, Dove’s Nest and Dr Harder mutually agreed to separate the work with Plain
communities from Dove’s Nest. We will not engage further in this work, and we encourage all work on child safety in Plain communities to seek out the perspectives and experiences of survivors of abuse within the community.

(Dr. Harder recused herself from the creation of this statement.)

* We are aware of at least one such training that Dr. Harder has given in 2022, on June 9-10 at Clinton Community College in New York. The subject was “Amish Cultural Awareness and Child Safety.”

**While Mary Byler of The Misfit Amish was one of the signatories on the open letter, there were nineteen additional signatories. Some of these names were redacted in public postings of the letter, but Dove’s Nest and Dr. Harder received a copy of the letter with all twenty signatures visible.

***To see Byler reading out loud from “To a Girl of Eleven,” part of the Sacred Subjects series recommended by Dr. Harder, see the docuseries Sins of the Amish, Episode One, “The Unveiling,” on NBC/Peacock.

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Support for Survivors of Sexualized Violence

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