Safe Sanctuaries

SAFE SANCTUARY POLICY

Pine Creek Valley UMC – Gaines, PA

INTRODUCTION

The General Conference of the United Methodist Church adopted a resolution in April 1996 aimed at reducing the risk of child abuse in the church. The adopted resolution calls for all churches to welcome the children and also to make our churches safe places for children to grow and learn. It is our responsibility to be proactive in our recruiting and training to find people with a gift for caring for children and also to protect those volunteers from false accusations. It is also our responsibility to oversee all programs involving children to make sure there is a safe environment and to have a plan of response in place should an accusation arise. The General Conference resolution affirmed that every local church shall have a policy in place for protecting children.

PURPOSE

Pine Creek Valley United Methodist Church’s purpose for establishing this Child Abuse Prevention Policy and accompanying procedures is to demonstrate our absolute and unwavering commitment to the physical safety and spiritual growth of all of our children and youth.

STATEMENT OF COVENANT

As a Christian community of faith committed to ministry to and with children, we pledge to conduct all our activities and ministries in such a way that assure the safety and spiritual growth of all children and youth entrusted to us. We will follow reasonable safety measures in the selection and recruitment of workers and we will be responsible in overseeing our programs and events and in training our staff, so that they are able and equipped to minister to children in Jesus’ name. We will report and respond to all suspected incidents of abuse as is required by state law and our moral conscience and we will be prepared to minister to the families of both the abused and the perpetrator.

BASIC OPERATING PROCEDURES

We adopt these standards for our ministries with children and youth answering this question as we proceed “Are we being prudent and reasonable?”

1. Recruiting–Screening–Hiring Practices

a. All workers with children and youth will have completed a written application form listing standard contact information, their gifts for that ministry.

b. They will also fill out a Personal Reference Form with 3 unrelated references and told that the references will be contacted.

c. They will be informed that a Driver’s License check will be done if they are transporting children or youth.

d. The pastor, education chair and appropriate program director will conduct personal face-to-face interviews, before they begin teaching.

e. All workers will complete the Six Month Hospitality Rule, where they demonstrate an active relationship before they are allowed to supervise children. f. All workers must agree to a Participation Covenant where they disclose any involvement in FaceBook, MySpace, Twitter accounts etc. to assure appropriate use of cyber space. All workers are encouraged not to participate in these social networking websites.

g. All workers will complete a Pennsylvania request for Criminal Background Check, Child Abuse History Clearance, and an FBI Clearance. In lieu of the FBI Clearance, a volunteer may submit a notarized Residency Affidavit. These will need to be renewed every 3 years. They will be informed that local, state and national Megan’s Law website will be checked. Individuals who have been convicted of child abuse (physical, sexual, emotional, neglect, or ritual) or whose name appears on Megan’s List, may not work in any church-sponsored activity or program for preschoolers, children, youth or vulnerable adults.

2. Supervision

a. Two UNRELATED Adult Rule – There will be two (2) UNRELATED Adults for each church activity involving children and youth. If it is not possible to have two (2) UNRELATED Adults, there will be a Hall Roving/Roaming Adult who moves amid the church activities during the program with unscheduled appearances into the activity on a random basis.

b. The buddy system (them and another classmate) shall be used when youth leave the classroom and go to the bathroom. The Hall Rover/Roamer should remain outside the bathroom until they come out and return to their classroom or activity.

c. No Worker Under The Age of Eighteen – no person under 18 years old shall be considered as one of the two (2) adults.

d. Windows In All Classroom Doors will be the standard to allow anyone outside the room to look into the room to view activities in the classroom. If the door does not have a window, it shall be left open.

e. Five-Years-Older Rule – No person shall supervise children or youth unless he/she is at least 5 years older that the oldest student.

f. Open Door Counseling – any counseling done will occur with the door open.

g. First Aid/CPR Training – When supervising children and youth one of the workers needs to be trained in First Aid and have CPR Training. It is suggested that more than one worker be trained so that back-ups are always available during any activity.

h. Annual Orientation for Workers – Training shall occur at least once a year and teachers and workers shall be trained to recognize the signs of abuse.

i. Advance Notice to Parents – All activities must be planned well enough in advance so that parents can be given appropriate notice of the activity.

j. Registration materials for activities in which children are outside direct supervision of their parents/guardians shall require signed written permission forms that include pertinent health information in order to participate.

k. Participation Covenant for All Participants and Leaders – if participants are old enough to understand, they shall sign a covenant of participation listing rules for all trips, overnights, etc.

l. Parent and Family Education – all parents and relevant family members will be trained in this Safe Sanctuary Program at least once a year.

m. Appropriate Equipment and Education – all equipment will be inspected with the safety of children kept in mind. All workers, staff and leaders will be trained in the safe use of all equipment on an annual basis.

n. All staff, workers and leaders will maintain an “appropriate use” of any social networking websites that they use including MySpace, Facebook, etc.

3. Reporting

a. LISTEN INTENTLY TO OUR CHILDREN AND YOUTH AND REPORT ANY POTENTIAL INCIDENT OF ABUSE.

b. Notify the parents of the victim and take any necessary steps to assure child’s safety. Child’s safety is the first concern.

c. Upon receiving information of abuse, the teacher or adult leader will report the incident immediately to the Childline & Abuse Registry at 1-800-932-0313. The pastor, education chairperson, or Adult leader will call proper law enforcement/child protective services.

d. If the abuse happened on church property by church volunteers or staff, they shall immediately be removed from contact with children until the incident report has been resolved. This should be handled in a discreet manner and they shall not be banned from other church ministries.

e. Treat the alleged abuser with dignity, but immediately remove him/her from further involvement with children and/or youth.

f. Notify annual conference authorities, insurance agent, and church’s attorney.

4. Responding

a. A quick, compassionate and unified response to an alleged incident of child abuse will be initiated and documented.

b. Prepare a brief and honest statement that can be made to the congregation. Do not give unnecessary details, blame, interfere with victim’s privacy or violate any confidentiality. There is a difference between confidentiality and secrecy. Make sure the statement is cleared with the Conference Communicator and your District Superintendent. The Director of Connectional Ministries is also available to check the statement.

c. The pastor shall be the only person authorized to make statements to representatives of the media. The pastor should check with the Conference Communicator or District Superintendent to review any statements before they are shared with the media.

d. If the allegation is against a staff person or the pastor, the Chair of the Staff Parish Relations Committee will contact the District Superintendent immediately.

e. Be prepared to cooperate fully with the investigation.

f. When the investigation is completed, send another letter to the congregation explaining the results of the investigation and steps taken.

g. Pastoral support will be available to all persons involved in the incident as indicated.

5. Cyber-Safety

a. Have parental permission information for children, youth, and vulnerable adults in writing for:

1. Posting photos on any websites or sending e-mail or text messages or making videos.

2. E-mailing, Instant Messaging (IM’ing), calling, texting or sending data to a child, youth, or vulnerable adult by computer, PDA, or cell phone.

3. The sharing of any full name or contact information.

b. Never post easily identifiable information online.

1. Use “Bcc” options in sending mass e-mails.

2. Be cautious when transmitting easily identifiable information.

3. Limit what is communicated in electronic prayer requests.

c. Limit individual communication with children, youth, and vulnerable adults.

1. Conduct any communications in a professional manner.

2. Save all communications you have with children, youth, and vulnerable adults. (An electronic “paper trail” can be important.)

3. If you are uneasy about any topic addressed in an e-mail or an e-mail in general, send a blind carbon copy to a parent/guardian (if appropriate) or another trusted adult. Honor privacy, but not secrecy.

4. If abuse is divulged electronically, follow standard reporting procedures.

d. Safety Measures for sharing photos electronically.

1. Consider obtaining copyrights for any photo posted directly on a ministry website or shared electronically. Keep in mind that copyright laws are not necessarily universal and can get rather complicated.

2. When posting photos, refrain from using names and never use last names or identifiable information.

3. Check photos for vulnerable/compromising situations and to make sure they uphold your mission. Check to make sure nametags are not distinguishable.

4. Use low-resolution photos whenever possible and slightly blur/pixelate photos.

5. Block “save photo as” options on websites (ask a web savvy person for assistance).

6. Limit access to photos by employing the use of a password.

7. Obtain additional permission to use photos elsewhere (i.e. a journal or website, local paper, etc.).

8. Consider or prefer using stock or purchased photos.

e. Safety Measure for using social networking sites.

1. Set privacy settings to limit who can see your profile.

2. Restrict who can be your friend.

3. Use higher level security features.

4. Do not post anything to your social networking site that you would not want on your resume or printed in the church newsletter/bulletin.

5. Remove or do not post inappropriate comments, photos, etc.

6. Encourage youth to follow these same guidelines.

f. Refrain from giving out passwords to your accounts.

CONCLUSION

In all our ministries with children and youth, this congregation is committed to demonstrating the love of Jesus Christ so that each child will be “… surrounded by steadfast love,… established in faith, and confirmed and strengthened in the way that leads to Life eternal” (“Baptismal Covenant II,” United Methodist Hymnal, p.44).

Revised 11/2015