aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,
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aefenglommung

Protecting Children, Youth, and Vulnerable Adults in Church

This is in response to the post of prester_scott regarding sex offenders in the church. He asked about getting training and writing rules for a local congregation. There are lots of resources available. This is from the South Indiana Conference Guidelines, which I had a hand in writing.


GUIDELINES FOR THE PROTECTION OF CHILDREN, YOUTH, AND VULNERABLE ADULTS

Introduction

The South Indiana Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church is a spiritual community which takes seriously its responsibility to provide a safe and nurturing environment for children, youth, and vulnerable adults who participate in our ministries. All volunteers and paid staff who are in leadership roles in these ministries are living out the vows we take in baptism to nurture each other in the Christian faith. Every church worker plays a key role in fostering the spiritual development of individuals and families in our church community.


I. Conference responsibilities

In an effort to help our local churches protect our most vulnerable members from harm and their leaders from possible misunderstanding, the South Indiana Conference urges every local church to adopt a child protection policy. The essential elements of a local church child protection policy are:

(1) defining what and who are covered by the policy;
(2) a method of screening for all who work with children, youth, and vulnerable adults;
(3) regularly renewed training in the area of child protection and in each local church's guidelines;
(4) guidelines for the proper conduct of ministry with children, youth, and vulnerable adults;
(5) procedures for responding to an allegation of abuse.

To further assist our local churches in formulating and implementing their respective child protection policies, the Annual Conference offers these guidelines as minimum standards for such policies. Churches are free to adapt and extend their guidelines to cover situations not addressed here; however, no local church should enact a policy with less stringent guidelines than these, and in any case where action is governed by more than one set of rules (e.g., State law, The Book of Discipline, local church policy, BSA or GSUSA rules, etc.) the stricter requirements shall take precedence.

Here follows a section on what the Annual Conference will do. It is not really relevant to what was asked about.


II. Definitions

Sexual Abuse is any sexual contact or interaction (i.e., indecent exposure and liberties, communication for immoral purposes, fondling, rape, etc.) between an adult or significantly older youth and a child, youth, or vulnerable adult. Force, threats, bribery, dissemination of pornography, misrepresenting right and wrong are some of the ways this crime is perpetrated. Even if a child, youth, or vulnerable adult, out of ignorance, innocence, or fear does not resist, it is still abuse.

Physical Abuse is any physical force applied by an adult or older youth in a position of care or authority to a child, youth, or vulnerable adult. Physical force (hitting, spanking, shaking, shoving, etc.) is not to be used by leaders in our programs.

Emotional Abuse is belittling, hateful, or angry words and/or actions directed toward a child, youth, or vulnerable adult. Discipline by humiliation is also emotional abuse.

Neglect of Basic Needs is a form of abuse. Denial of food, water, cleanliness, clothing, and sleep are not appropriate means of discipline.


III. Guidelines

1. All ministries to children, youth, and vulnerable adults conducted or sponsored by a local church are subject to these guidelines. Leaders of events and on-going programs in ministry to children, youth, and vulnerable adults should be formally associated (e.g., paid staff, members, or constituents) with the local church sponsoring the event or program.

1a. Groups renting facilities or granted use of facilities on a case-by-case basis (e.g., a community youth rally, a series of Chrysalis team formations, a Service Unit or Roundtable meeting under its own leadership, or a group given overnight shelter on a cross-country trip) are not the responsibility of the local church, unless the local church is significantly involved in the planning or supervision of their program; however, groups associated with and/or advertised by the church should be considered part of the local church's ministry, and need to be in compliance with these standards (e.g., a Boy Scout or Girl Scout troop, a day care operating at the church, a summer recreation program).

1b. Local church policy needs to address whether and how to cover leaders of local church ministries who are not themselves formally associated with the local church sponsoring the program (e.g., a member of another religious organization who is also a Cub Pack Committee member, a Girl Scout Troop Leader, a 4-H club leader, or volunteer day care staff person).

1c. Some activities that include children, youth, or vulnerable adults are of such a general or open character (e.g., public worship, a church picnic) that the leaders need not meet screening and training requirements, unless local church policy addresses particular situations. Likewise, some activities designed for family participation, where children, youth, or vulnerable adults attend as part of family groups or parent-child pairings (e.g., a breakfast for men and boys, a Mother/Daughter banquet) need not have leaders who meet screening and training requirements, unless local church policy so specifies. However, all activities that include children, youth, or vulnerable adults need to be properly conducted according to local church guidelines.


2. All leaders of events and on-going programs should be screened before being used as leaders. Checking references should be part of this screening. Persons convicted of any form of sexual, physical, or other abuse of children, youth, or vulnerable adults, or who have a history of inappropriate behavior with children, youth, or vulnerable adults, will not be approved for leadership.

2a. In introducing a policy, people who are acting as leaders or who have acted as leaders before the policy takes effect may be approved for service without further screening; this is a one-time only action.

2b. Some body or person(s) within the congregation needs to be responsible for conducting screening and maintaining records of applicants. Records need to be handled in a confidential manner.

2c. Local church policy needs to address the use of one-time helpers, drivers, and hosts for activities. These may be exempted from screening procedures as long as sufficient approved leadership is present to conduct the activity, and as long as the definition of "one-time" is not interpreted in such a manner as to avoid submitting to screening requirements.

2d. Local church policy needs to address the issue of other organizations' screening procedures, which may meet or exceed the standards established by the local church (e.g., BSA application procedures). Local churches may design screening policies that avoid duplication of application procedures, so long as the local church does not neglect checking references for itself.

2e. Local church policy needs to address the issue of the minimum age for leadership in a given program or level of program, including babysitting in the church nursery.


3. All leaders of events and on-going programs should undergo training as a regular part of their service as leaders. This training should include general information in spotting and preventing abuse, as well as information on the specific guidelines and procedures to be followed.

3a. Some body or person(s) within the congregation needs to be responsible for conducting training and maintaining records of leaders' training.

3b. Local church policy needs to address the need to keep training certification current. Local church policy also needs to address the use of leaders or assistants who have not yet had an opportunity to receive training, and the use of one-time drivers, helpers, or hosts of activities who have not received training, under the direction of sufficient trained leaders to insure the safety of the participants.

3c. Local church policy needs to either specify the training modules which will qualify leaders under its guidelines, or charge some body or person(s) within the congregation with the responsibility of examining and approving training modules for leaders (e.g., Conference resources, commercially available resources, CYSA resources).


4. All events and on-going programs in ministry to children, youth, and vulnerable adults shall be conducted according to the following guidelines.

4a. Every event or program must have at least two adults in leadership. When there is multiple use of a facility (e.g., many classes meeting at the same time, or two groups meeting in different areas of the building), there need not be two adults in every room where program with children, youth, or vulnerable adults is being conducted. In such cases, rooms should have doors with windows or remain open. Adults avoid situations where they are one-on-one with a child, youth, or vulnerable adult, away from other persons (this does not apply to parent-child or sibling relationships).

4b. Local church policy should address when specific, parental permission is required (e.g., off-site meetings, pickup of children by non-parent adults from meetings or nursery care, overnight programs). Local church policy should address who may drive participants; no one may be transported in a vehicle without wearing a seat belt. Specific, parental permission, including medical release information, should be required for overnight or extended trips.

4c. On overnight or extended trips, adults do not share beds with children, youth, or vulnerable adults. Adults do not share sleeping facilities (e.g., tents or hotel rooms) in a 1:1 ratio with a child, youth, or vulnerable adult; adults may share group sleeping facilities (e.g., cabin or bunkhouse) with children, youth, or vulnerable adults, but only if two adults are present in the camp site. Parent-child and sibling relationships are an exception to this guideline. Coed overnight trips require at least one leader of each gender.

4d. Adequate personnel to supervise each activity will be provided in the following ratios of leaders to expected attendance:
Children (ages 0-2) 1:4
Children (ages 3-5) 1:5
Children (ages 6-11) 1:6
Youth (ages 12-17) 1:10

Local church policy should address how to seek additional help when expected attendance is significantly exceeded.

4e. Leaders will not use or tolerate abusive actions (as defined, above) in the conduct of activities with children, youth, or vulnerable adults. Youth in leadership positions should be properly supervised by the adult leaders so that they are not abusive in their leadership of their peers; hazing in any form is forbidden.


5. When incidents of abuse are suspected, the local church will follow appropriate procedures.

5a. All adults involved in ministry to children, youth, or vulnerable adults need to know their responsibility to report incidents of abuse according to law.

5b. Some body or person(s) within the local congregation needs to be responsible for receiving allegations of improper conduct. Discretion and diligence are both necessary for this responsibility. Early documentation of incidents is important.

5c. Some body or person(s) within the local congregation needs to be responsible for cooperating with local authorities, with the bishop or designee, and handling the flow of information to the public. Advice of legal counsel will be followed. One sole spokesperson will be appointed.

5d. Some body or person(s) within the local congregation needs to be responsible for investigating allegations of improper conduct, and where necessary, recommending removal of persons from leadership. Proper documentation is important in all cases.
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