By Brad Shrum
In an earlier blog post, we looked at introducing a safety ministry startup for your church. Today we will focus on developing a child protection policy. The safety team will want to include the children’s ministry minister, youth minister and all volunteers working in these areas.
By implementing the practices below, our goal is to protect children from incidents of misconduct or inappropriate behavior while also protecting staff and volunteers (workers) from false accusations.
The importance of having a policy and procedures manual for children and youth safety cannot be overly stressed. This should be put together with the safety team, children and youth ministers, along with lead and associate pastors. This is best created in a handbook type format and reproduced so that the church staff and workers can have access to it and be referred to in training sessions.
Definitions in Child Protection Policy For purposes of this policy, the terms “child” or “children” include all persons under the age of eighteen (18) years. The term “worker” includes both paid and unpaid persons who work with children. The term “volunteer” means anyone involved in a daycare or school, in overnight activities involving minors, in counseling of minors, or in one-on-one mentoring of minors.
Child Protection Policy
1. Selection of Workers
All persons who desire to work with the children participating in our programs and activities will be screened. This screening includes the following:
a) Six Month Rule
No volunteer will be considered for any position involving contact with minors until she/he has been involved with the church for a minimum of six (6) months. This time of interaction between our leadership and the applicant allows for better evaluation and suitability of the applicant for working with children.
b) Written Application
All persons seeking to work with children must complete and sign a written application in a form to be supplied by us. The application will request basic information from the applicant and will inquire into previous experience with children, previous church affiliation, reference and employment information, as well as disclosure of any previous criminal convictions. The application form will be maintained in confidence on file at the church.
c) Personal Interview
Upon completion of the application, a face-to-face interview may be scheduled with the applicant to discuss his/her suitability for the position.
d) Reference Checks
Before an applicant is permitted to work with children, at least two of the applicants’ references will be checked. These references should be of an institutional nature as opposed to personal or family references, preferably from organizations where the applicant has worked with children in the past. Documentation of the reference checks will be maintained in confidence on file at the church.
e) Criminal Background Check
- A national criminal background check is required for all employees (regardless of position) and volunteers as defined above.
- Before a background check is run, prospective workers will be asked to sign an authorization form allowing the church to run the check. If an individual declines to sign the authorization form, s/he will be unable to work with children.
- A disqualifying offense that will keep an individual from working with children will be determined by the safety team with the input of the specific ministry leader on a case-by-case basis in light of all the surrounding circumstances. Generally, convictions for an offense involving children and/or for offenses involving violence, dishonesty, illegal substances, indecency and any conduct contrary to our mission will preclude someone from being permitted to work with children. Failure to disclose a criminal conviction on the application form will also be a disqualifying event.
- The background check authorization form and results will be maintained in confidence on file at the church.
2. Two Adult Rule
It is our goal that a minimum of two unrelated adult workers will be in attendance at all times when children are being supervised during our programs and activities. Some youth classes may have only one adult teacher in attendance during the class session; in these instances, doors to the classroom should remain open and there should be no fewer than three students with the adult teacher. We do not allow minors to be alone with one adult on our premises or in any sponsored activity unless in a counseling situation.
3. Responding to Allegations of Child Abuse
For purposes of this policy, “child abuse” is any action (or lack of action) that endangers or harms a child’s physical, psychological or emotional health and development. Child abuse occurs in different ways and includes the following:
• Physical abuse – any physical injury to a child that is not accidental, such as beating, shaking, burns, and biting.
• Emotional abuse – emotional injury when the child is not nurtured or provided with love and security, such as an environment of constant criticism, belittling and persistent teasing.
• Sexual abuse – any sexual activity between a child and an adult or between a child and another child at least four years older than the victim, including activities such as fondling, exhibitionism, intercourse, incest, and pornography.
• Neglect – depriving a child of his or her essential needs, such as adequate food, water, shelter, and medical care.
Childcare workers may have the opportunity to become aware of abuse or neglect of the children under our care. In the event that an individual involved in the care of children at the church becomes aware of suspected abuse or neglect of a child under his/her care, this should be reported immediately to the children’s minister for further action, including reporting to authorities as may be mandated by state law.
In the event that an incident of abuse or neglect is alleged to have occurred at the church or during our sponsored programs or activities, the following procedure shall be followed:
- The parent or guardian of the child will be notified.
- The worker alleged to be the perpetrator of the abuse or misconduct will immediately be placed on leave from working with children, pending an investigation, and instructed to remain away from the premises during the investigation.
- Civil authorities will be notified, and the church will comply with the state’s requirements regarding mandatory reporting of abuse as the law then exists. The church will fully cooperate with the investigation of the incident by civil authorities.
- Our insurance company will be notified, and we will complete an incident report. Any documents received relating to the incident and/or allegations will immediately be forwarded to the insurance company.
- The person or group designated as the spokesperson to the media concerning incidents of abuse or neglect, unless he or she is alleged to be involved. We will seek the advice of legal counsel before responding to media inquiries or releasing information to the congregation. All other representatives of the church should refrain from speaking to the media.
- A pastoral visit will be arranged for those who desire it.
- Any person who is not found innocent of the alleged abuse or misconduct will be removed from their position working with children or youth.
5. Teenage Workers
We recognize that there may be times when it is necessary or desirable for babysitters (paid or volunteer) who are themselves under age 18 to assist in caring for children during programs or activities. The following guidelines apply to teenage workers:
- Must be at least age 14.
- Must be screened as specified above.
- Must be under the supervision of an adult and must never be left alone with children.
6. Check-in/Check-out Procedure
For children below third grade, a security check-in/check-out procedure will be followed. The child will be signed in by a parent or guardian, who will receive a “child check” for the child similar to a claim check. The parent or guardian must present the “child check” in order to sign out the child from our care. In the event that a parent or guardian is unable to present the “child check,” the children’s ministry minister should be contacted to determine releasing the child to the care of a parent or guardian after discussing the surrounding circumstances with the parent or guardian.
7. Sick Child Policy
It is our desire to provide a healthy and safe environment for all of the children at the church. Parents are encouraged to be considerate of other children when deciding whether to place a child under our care. In general, children with the following symptoms should NOT be dropped off:
- Fever, diarrhea, or vomiting within the last 48 hours;
- Green or yellow runny nose;
- Eye or skin infections; and/or
- Other symptoms of communicable or infectious disease.
Children who are observed by our workers to be ill will be separated from other children and the parent or guardian will be contacted to request that the child be picked up for the day.
8. Medications Policy
It is the policy of the church not to administer either prescription or non-prescription medications to the children under our care. Medications should be administered by a parent at home. Parents are reminded of our sick child policy.
Exceptions to the medications policy may be granted to parents of children with potentially life-threatening conditions (such as asthma or severe allergic reactions). Parents of such children should address their situation with the children’s minister to develop a plan of action.
9. Discipline Policy
It is the policy of the church not to administer corporal punishment, even if parents have suggested or given permission for it. There should be no spanking, grabbing, hitting, or other physical discipline of children. Workers should consult with children’s minister if assistance is needed with disciplinary issues.
10. Restroom Guidelines
Children five years of age and younger should use a classroom bathroom if one is available. If a classroom bathroom is not available, workers should escort a group of children to the hallway bathroom. They should always go in a group, never taking a child to the bathroom alone. The workers should check the bathroom first to make sure that it is empty, and then allow the children inside. The workers should then remain outside the bathroom door and escort the children back to the classroom. If a child is taking longer than seems necessary, the worker should open the bathroom door and call the child's name. If a child requires assistance, the workers should prop open the bathroom door, and leave the stall door open as they assist the child.
For children over the age of five, at least one adult male should take boys to the restroom and at least one adult female should take girls. The worker should check the bathroom first to make sure that the bathroom is empty, and then allow the children inside. The worker should then remain outside the bathroom door and escort the children back to the classroom.
For the protection of all, workers should never be alone with a child in a bathroom with the door closed and never be in a closed bathroom stall with a child. Parents are strongly encouraged to have their children visit the bathroom prior to each class.
11. Accidental Injuries to Children
In the event that a child or youth is injured while under our care, the following steps should be followed:
- For minor injuries, scrapes, and bruises, workers will provide First Aid (Band-Aids, etc.) as appropriate and will notify the child’s parent or guardian of the injury at the time the child is picked up from our care.
- For injuries requiring medical treatment beyond simple First Aid, the parent and/or guardian will immediately be summoned in addition to the worker’s supervisor. If warranted by circumstances, an ambulance will be called.
- Once the child has received appropriate medical attention, an incident report will be completed in the case of injuries requiring treatment by a medical professional.
The church will provide training on this child protection policy to all new childcare workers along with youth and Sunday School workers, and will strive to provide opportunities for additional training classes or events on an annual basis. All workers are strongly encouraged to attend these training events and the foundation of the training should revolve around the policy and procedures manual. As an added feature of children’s and youth ministry safety, common sense, kindness along with compassion are characteristics that can’t be taught and the church should consider individuals that have strong traits in these areas.
Attention Kansas City Area Churches: Are you a member of your congregation’s team that is responsible for choosing insurance for your church? I would love to help you. Contact me direct at 913-754-3823 or firstname.lastname@example.org. I am located in our Overland Park, KS office location and would be happy to meet at your congregation.
Location: Overland Park, KS
Brad has worked at MAX for the past 16 years and has over 30 years of experience in the insurance industry doing underwriting, field management work, and sales. Outside of the office, Brad is an ordained Southern Baptist Deacon and a Sunday School teacher of 30 years. In addition, Brad is a long-time Vacation Bible School teacher and has an ongoing 20+ year Nursing Home Ministry. Since he was a young teenager, Brad has been an avid goose hunter, traveling across North America while pursuing this noble bird and enjoying the outdoor world.