Safe Church Orientation*:
*Safe Church orientation is required of all new members during new members class and an annual review is provided for all volunteers and staff who work with children or youth.
SAFE CHURCH ENVIRONMENT
POLICIES AND GUIDELINES
Purpose: to ensure a safe environment at WACC, UCC in which children, young people and adults can learn about and experience God's love.
STATEMENT OF POLICY
I. Prohibition of Exploitation and Harassment (See definitions in Appendix A)
All persons associated with the WACC, UCC should be aware that the church is strongly opposed to sexual exploitation and harassment and that such behavior is prohibited by church policy. It is the intention and responsibility of the church to take whatever action may be needed (including but not limited to assistance in the prosecution of criminal acts) to prevent and correct behavior, which is contrary to this policy.
II. Ministerial Conduct (See definitions in Appendix A)
All persons engaged in the ministry of the WACC, UCC (including, but not limited to, lay ministers, authorized ministers and employees) are responsible for knowing the possible impact of their words and actions in ministering to the emotional, mental, and spiritual needs of persons to whom they minister or over whom they have any kind of authority. Sexual harassment or sexual exploitation of members or other individuals by anyone engaged in the ministry of WACC, UCC is unethical and unprofessional behavior and will result in disciplinary action including termination.
Ministers (including lay ministers, authorized ministers, and employees) often deal with individuals who are emotionally and psychologically fragile or otherwise personally vulnerable. It is imperative that those engaged in the ministry of this church maintain their own psychological, emotional and spiritual health and that they have adequate preparation and education for helping those individuals they seek to serve in ministry. It is the policy of WACC, UCC to encourage its lay ministers, authorized ministers and employees to nurture safety within ministerial relationships by being attentive to self-care, education, and the importance of referring those in need to supportive and helpful resources. It is also expected that those engaged in providing ministry will complete the necessary training and submit a signed Statement of Compliance. (See Appendix B)
III. Children and Youth Protection Policy
We expect that all people called to minister with minors will have been members for at least six months or friends of the church for one year, or have provided adequate reference, as determined by the Safe Church Environment Committee, from their prior church home. It is the policy of the church to provide adequate supervision for all children's and youth activities. We also expect all lay ministers, authorized ministers and employees who work with children, young people and adults to submit the standard WACC application form and attend one in-service on WACC's Safe Church Environment.
IV. Training and Education
All employees, mandated reporters, and volunteers as deemed appropriate by the Safe Church Environment Committee will be trained regarding the Safe Church Environment Policy and Guidelines. All ministers (including lay ministers, authorized ministers, and employees) will receive in-service training on the prohibition of exploitation and harassment and on providing a safe environment for our children and youth. This in-service will provide information and expectations as well as an opportunity for discussion and questions.
Children and youth participating in church programs shall be informed at least annually of these policies as they pertain to people of their ages and in a manner that will encourage their being comfortable talking about these issues.
At the end of the training each individual will be asked to sign a Statement of Compliance (see Appendix B). Individuals with ongoing ministries at WACC will be required to attend refresher training no less than annually. A record will be kept in the church office of who has received training.
GUIDELINES ON INTERNAL SUPERVISION
All individuals serving in children's (infant through grade 8) and youth (grades 9 through 12) ministries are subject to the supervision of the Associate of Christian Education, the Senior and Associate Ministers and the Safe Church Environment Committee. Everyone is expected to comply with the following guidelines to prevent the occurrence and/or allegations of child abuse and sexual harassment.
1. For church programs and church events: It is recommended that every group of children and youth, including but not limited to the Sunday School, Children's Choir, and Youth programs operate on the rule of threes (see Appendix A).
2.Additionally, for all away from site and/or overnight church programs or church events: These programs or events must have a minimum of 1 adult or older youth per 8 children or youth and there must be at least one adult of each gender present. The adult must be at least 2 years older that the oldest child or youth participant attending. The Older Youth must be at least 3 years older than the oldest child or youth participant. Youth who are assisting the leaders, but are not yet 3 years older may participate as assistant youth leaders or leaders in training, but may not count as a part of the above ratio for minimum coverage, and they should have an adult to report to who is acting as their supervisor. Drivers for away trips must be 21 years of age or older.
3. It is recommended that the outside door near Rooms 3 and 4 be kept locked from the outside when Sunday School classes are in session.
4. Window blinds and doors must be kept open in rooms where children, youth and adult activities are taking place. Closed doors with un-curtained windows are acceptable.
5. Physical contact with children, youth and adults should be made with care and discretion, and should be given only in the presence of other leaders and/or in the public view.
6. Whenever possible, small children should be taken to the restroom by their parents/guardians prior to reporting to their program/event. Failing that the rule of threes will be in effect (please see definitions section). For Sunday school the superintendent may act as the third person either with another adult or with 2 children as circumstances dictate. Children should have as much privacy as possible when using the restroom, but supervision must always be available. The adult or assistant should remain in the proximity of the restroom door. In special need situations, a parent should be summoned from worship or class.
7. All church related activities or outings outside of the normal planned children and youth ministries events must be approved by the Associate of Christian Education or the Senior or Associate Minister. Signed parent/guardian permission slips are required for all off-site programs.
8. During Coffee Hour on Sundays and at other family orientated programs with in the church building or on the grounds, the parents or other adults who are acting as guardians are responsible for the care and monitoring of their children, but should circumstances warrant intervention, each adult is encouraged to verbalize concerns to children who appear to be at risk of injury to themselves or others, or who may be engaged activities which will deface or damage the church.
B. Screening and Orientation
1.A six-month waiting period for new members and a one year waiting period for new friends of the church or adequate reference from the previous church home is required prior to using any person as a leader in children or youth ministries.
2. A copy of these policies, guidelines and procedure will be given to participants in new member groups. The church membership and wider community may obtain copies through the church office, Associate of Christian Education, Senior or Associate Minister or the Safe Church Environment Committee.
3. Every person working in a position of trust with children and youth shall fill out a Volunteer Disclosure Statement (see Appendix C). When someone completing the form is under the age of 18, a parent or guardian must also sign the form.
4. There will be appropriate independent third-party screening of final candidates for salaried positions including Senior Minister, Associate Minister, Associate of Christian Education and Director of Music, which will include local, state and nationwide criminal background checks.
5. All applications, interview records, character reference reports, etc. will be kept in strict confidence in the files of the Safe Church Environment Committee.
6. The Safe Church Environment Committee and/or the Associate of Christian Education will provide training for educational and advisory staff having contact with children and youth. The training will include definitions, needs, concerns, policy, procedures, forms, etc. This information will be presented at least annually for first time trainees, with follow-up support provided as needed. Education and Advisory staff will also be provided an annual refresher course which will contain at minimum a review of the general guidelines as stated above and any additions or deletions to the Safe Church Environment Guidelines, and be lead by the Safe Church Environment Committee or the Christian Education Associate.
C. Procedure for Reporting Suspected Child Abuse or Harassment
1. Any incident causing suspicion should be reported to Church Council, the Senior Minister and/or the Churchâ€™s Safe Church Environment Committee, as soon as possible.
2. The person reporting the incident should not interview the child regarding the alleged abuse/harassment. The person reporting the incident should not discuss the matter with anyone other than the person to whom the report was made or the Safe Church Environment Committee.
3. The Senior Minister or the Safe Church Environment Committee will determine whether a Report of Suspected Child Abuse or Suspected Harassment should be completed. All information regarding such a report will be kept confidential and all reports and other follow-up material will be kept in a designated locked file.
4. The Senior Minister or the Safe Church Environment Committee, in good faith and in accordance with the laws of the State of Connecticut, shall make such reports as required. (It is a legal requirement in Connecticut that reasonable suspicions and known instances of child abuse be reported to the Department of Children and Family Services.)
5.The Senior Minister or the Safe Church Environment Committee will make arrangements for the spiritual guidance and counseling, as needed, of those involved.
6.If the minor involved is in a situation of risk, the responsible person shall remove the child and leader from the abusive situation and take necessary steps to protect the child.
7.The Senior Minister or the Safe Church Environment Committee will endeavor to maintain the confidentiality of reports and other follow-up material. Investigation of the incident should be discreet, confidential, expeditious and written and include all parties involved including the parents of minors involve.
8.The Senior Minister or the Safe Church Environment Committee shall notify the parent(s) or legal guardian of a reported abuse if the person is a minor.
9. The Church Council shall designate a spokesperson to handle dissemination of information and communication with the church membership and press. All questions or requests for information about any abuse or harassment issues should be referred to that person.