Presentation on theme: "Safe Sanctuaries ® Policies and Procedures for the Prevention of Abuse."— Presentation transcript:
Safe Sanctuaries ® Policies and Procedures for the Prevention of Abuse
Scripture: Luke 18:15-17 People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they sternly ordered them not to do it. But Jesus called for them and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”
As we begin to consider Safe Sanctuaries, we begin with scripture that will guide us in our thoughts. Luke 18:15-17 (read the scripture) gives us a basis for our understanding that we must protect our children. Yet, Safe Sanctuaries is more than just protecting children, it is about protecting the youth and the vulnerable adults as well.
History of Safe Sanctuaries ® The short answer … 1996 Since 1996 there has been a push to encourage every church to have a Safe Sanctuaries policy and procedure. The United Methodist Church is the leader across all denominations in Safe Sanctuaries. Other churches are coming to The UMC for policies and procedures as well as training
Why do all churches need a policy? If every church has a policy and procedures that will protect their children, youth, and vulnerable adults then the church will be protected. Each church needs to honor their children, youth, and vulnerable adults enough to protect them. You are protecting them from bodily harm, emotional damage, and spiritual destruction.
Even if your Annual Conference has a policy that will over arch and cover the local congregation, each congregation needs to take the responsibility to have a policy and procedure for the protection of all children, youth and vulnerable adults. It is our Christian responsibility to make sure we actively provide the resources and the guidance for the protection of all in the church. Most importantly, if we the church do not take this responsibility then we are increasing the risk of bodily harm, emotional damage, and especially spiritual destruction of a child, youth, or vulnerable adults. If we could have prevented any of this we will be held accountable by our God.Annual Conference
Does abuse really happen in the church? Yes, abuse really does happen in the church. Abuse happens in churches of all sizes and in all areas. We can help prevent most of the abuse that happens in a church with a set of procedures. We will not eliminate 100% of abuse, but by having procedures in place within a local congregation, predators will be deterred.
Churches who do not follow Safe Sanctuaries Policies and Procedures are exposed to those people who wish to do hard to our children, youth, and vulnerable adults. For our small and mid-size churches this is important to understand. The large churches have the resources to put into place the monitoring systems and paid staff to protect our children, youth, and vulnerable adults. The small and mid-size churches then are the most susceptible to predators. The predators are looking for easy access to what they want, our children, youth, and those vulnerable adults. We are the church, which means we want to offer grace and peace and acceptance to all people. It is not our nature to be suspicious of people and to want to hold people at an arms length until we have gotten to know them. Even though we put policies and procedures into place to protect our children, youth, and vulnerable adults we will not eliminate 100% of the abuse within the church. Not putting these policies and procedures in place allows for the risks of abuse to increase. With policies and procedures in place within the church our children, youth, and vulnerable adults will be more protected and predators will seek to find other places where they have easy access to those they wish to victimize.
Who are children, youth, and vulnerable adults? Children are birth through about 6 th grade depending on the school system you follow Youth are about 7 th grade through 12 th graders Vulnerable adults are two groups Those who are mentally and / or physically disabled Those adults who volunteer under the assumption that the church is protecting them -- all of our Sunday School teachers and other volunteers
The UMC defines youth as those who have entered into the Middle School through those who are self-sufficient. For Safe Sanctuaries purposes we define youth as ending at graduating high school or 18 years of age. If a youth is 18 but has not graduated high school they are still a youth. If they are 18 and have graduated high school they can serve as assistants and can have a background check run. It is important to think of our vulnerable adults as those with special needs and those who need for the church to speak on their behalf. Additionally vulnerable adults are those who volunteer. Our adult volunteers go into a classroom assuming that we the church are protecting them. Therefore, we must make all efforts to protect them.
Safe Sanctuaries® Policy and Procedures At least 2 adults in classrooms who are not related Windows in the doors of classrooms or open doors
There should be at least 2 adults in a classroom or educational environment with children, youth, and vulnerable adults. It is best if these 2 people are not related. If 2 people cannot be installed in this setting then there should always be an open door and a monitor floating up and down the hallway keeping an eye on what is happening in each classroom. The goal should always be to have 2 non-related persons in leadership in classrooms and other educations settings with children, youth, and vulnerable adults. All doors to classrooms and offices and supply closets should have windows in the doors. These windows need to be large enough to allow for full visibility of the classroom or office or supply closet. Windows in doors allow for accountability of all that is happening in the classroom or office. Yes, there are times when privacy is needed, but the safety and protection of all involved should take priority. Children should not be left alone and equally as important, children should not be left alone with 1 person. No person in authority should be less than 18 years of age. There should always be 5 years of more between the oldest child or youth and the leader or helper. Those who desire to be assistants need to be at least 12 when working with toddler or preschool children and 16 when working with older elementary children. For all activities or ministries for children there should be sign-in and sing-out procedures. Procedures for youth to sign-in and sign-out of ministries are recommended.
Safe Sanctuaries® Policies and Procedures No child left alone with just 1 adult No authority person younger than 18 years of age
There should always be 2 adults when children, youth, and vulnerable adults are present. Therefore, stating that no child should be left alone with 1 adult would seem redundant. Unfortunately, this must be stated. In addition, it must be stated that no child, youth, or vulnerable adult should be left alone. This is important information and warrants repeating. Those adults in leadership should be at least 18 years of age and at least 5 years older than the older child or youth in the care of the adult. Younger persons may volunteer to be helpers or assistants, but they do not count as adults in the adult to child ratios. In addition those who are assistants need to be at least 5 years older than the oldest child in the room in which they are volunteering. This means that a 12 year old may be a helper in a 5 year old classroom but is not counted as an adult but is counted as a child helping.
Safe Sanctuaries® Policies and Procedures Sign in and sign out procedures for children so you know that the right adult has the child
All children should be signed-in by a parent or guardian and signed-out by the same or other authorized adult. Children should not be picking children up from the nursery and the children in a ministry program need to be matched up with the authorized adult at sign-out. These procedures can be simple paper sign-in and sign-out with the parent/guardian being given a tag to return when they sign-out the child or an electronic sign-in and sign-out process. No matter the process, it is important to make sure that children and their parent/guardian are matched upon sign-out. Youth should go through a sign-in and sign-out process so there is accountability of their presence within the ministry of the church and acknowledgement of their participating within the ministry. This process may seem tedious and cumbersome for youth programs but it is important to know who are participating and where they are in the ministry program. Vulnerable adults within a ministry should be treated as youth allowing for accountability of their presence within the ministry.
Safe Sanctuaries® Policies and Procedures 6 month rule for new attenders – 6 months active within the congregation before volunteering with children, youth, or vulnerable adults Checking references for both volunteers and new hire employees Doing a background check on those who work with children, youth, and vulnerable adults either as a volunteer or a hired capacity Training in what is abuse and how to report abuse
Those who wish to serve in ministries with children, youth, and vulnerable adults need to have been active in the congregation for at least 6 months. Sitting on the back pew for six months is not active. They need to have been involved in Bible Studies, worship, Sunday School, and other ministries for at least 6 months. This does not mean they have become members, but that the people serving with our children, youth, and vulnerable adults are known in the congregation. Check the references for those who wish to serve in the ministries with children, youth, and vulnerable adults. This is for those who are paid and those who are unpaid. Reference checks give the leadership the opportunity to know more about those who wish to serve such as their strengths, creativity, and the places they do not need to be serving. Beware of the questions asked. You may not be able to ask why an employee was let go from a position, but you can ask if the employee would leave their own children in the care of the person. Background checks for paid and unpaid persons are a must. There is more about background checks in the following slides. Volunteers and paid persons need to be trained on what abuse is, how to identify abuse, and report abuse, especially within the church procedures.
Safe Sanctuaries® Policies and Procedures Adults should not be sleeping in rooms with children when traveling – if must sleep in same room not sharing a bed with a child or youth 2 adults in vehicle when transporting children and youth
When youth, children, and vulnerable adults are traveling away from the church or having lock-ins at the church, no child should be in the same bed as an adult. Even if that adult is the parent of the child, on church trips children, youth, and vulnerable adults should never sleep with an adults. The parent and child are participating in a church ministry and should follow all procedures even though they are related. It is about procedure and due diligence. It is preferable that adults sleep in separate rooms from children, youth, and vulnerable adults. When this is not possible or safe, there should be at least two children in the room with the adult, never an adult alone with a child, youth, or vulnerable adult. When transporting children, youth, or vulnerable adults for a church ministry, there should always be 2 persons in the vehicle for two reasons. Driving is a full time job when you are driving for a church ministry. The other person is to watch the children. Secondly, there is a requirement that there be two adults for ministries with children, youth, and vulnerable adults. Note that even and especially if there is only one child in the vehicle, two adults should be present. Example, if an adult is transporting a youth from the football game to the church for a “Fifth Quarter” without another adult, the adult has the opportunity to abuse the child, the child has the opportunity to say the adult abused them and there is no accountability, or the parent of the child is able to accuse the adult of abuse and there would be no other person to discount the claim. Understand that children, youth, and vulnerable adults have personal space and we as adults need to respect that space. Adults should never be the initiator of a hug. If a child or youth wants a hug and asks for one, the hug should be a side hug allow for accountability of space and respect of the child or youth’s space. No children under age 3 should be sitting in the laps of adults riding “piggy back”, or being carried unless there is a physical need to be carried.
Safe Sanctuaries® Policies and Procedures Understanding personal space boundaries and not invading the child’s or youth’s space
Personal space is important. Always ask permission to give a child or youth or vulnerable adult a hug… we need to respect their answer and respect their space. My example here is from Dirty Dancing… my space, your space. Yes, I know, I am showing my age here. But remember we all have our own space boundaries and should respect each others boundaries. When giving hugs, adults should give a “side hug” allowing the child to maintain space and respecting the child. In respecting personal boundaries and space, children should not be sitting the laps of adults after the age of 3. Children need to sit beside the adults. Children do not need to be carried on the backs of adults either. Personal space is an important aspect of Safe Sanctuaries. Adults should always respect that space of children, youth, and vulnerable adults.
Background Checks Need and Necessity
Background Checks Background checks are needed for those who are hired to work with children, youth, or vulnerable adults. If these persons will be transporting children, they need a Motor Vehicle Registration (MVR) as well. Background checks are needed for adults volunteering with children, youth, and vulnerable adults.
Background checks are needed for all persons who serve in ministry with children, youth, and vulnerable adults. This includes all volunteers and paid staff. Motor Vehicle Registration (MVR) checks are needed for those who will be transporting children, youth, and vulnerable adults. Background checks include but are not limited to criminal record checks, sexual predatory list checks, social security number check, address history check, and employment history check. If a MVR is done it will extend the background check to include checking for vehicle registration and history check picking up on all tickets registered to the person.
Background Checks Background checks allow us to know who is working with our children, youth, and vulnerable adults. Background checks also deter predators.
Background checks do not deter 100% of the predators but will deter the majority. The term here is due diligence. When we do due diligence then we are making all efforts to protect those we need to protect. Those who wish to do harm and abuse to our children, youth, and vulnerable adults want to have immediate access to their prey with no limitations. If churches require that those who serve with children, youth, and vulnerable adults to have participated in the church ministries for at least 6 months and to have a clear background check then the majority of the predators will move on to other locations. It is my prayer that the next location will have a Safe Sanctuaries policy and procedure and will continue to deter them from their actions.
Background Checks Background checks are technically good for 5 years. We recommend that background checks be redone at least every 2 years or when a physical move of address happens. Affidavits of Background Check can be used from other places that hold your background check if they are done every 2 years and are up-to-date.
The courts are saying in the midst of lawsuits that 5 years is too long between background checks due to the mobile nature of our society. Therefore it is recommended that background checks be run at least every 2 years if not every year. Each time a background check is run, a new authorization for background should be completed. This allows for confession by the person whose background or MVR is being checked. For churches who do background checks on a regular basis on those who serve with children, youth, and vulnerable adults, if there are those few volunteers who occasionally volunteer while not being active in the congregation it is imperative that a background check be done on them annually. This is due to a lack of relationship with the person. An example would be a grandchild of one of the church matriarchs coming into the congregation every summer to volunteer for Vacation Bible School. Affidavits are useful tools for background checks if the place of business does background checks as regularly as the church requires. Note that there are businesses and organizations who do an initial background check upon hire but do not do another one unless they feel there is an issue with the employee.
Background Checks We recommend United Methodist Insurance
When Safe Sanctuaries was first introduced to our churches, fingerprint background checks were recommended. At this time, in order to run a fingerprint background check there is a 6 or 8 month lag time between submitting the fingerprints and getting a report. Therefore, the appropriate trend at this time is to do a social security number check through an organization or company that maintains a database. Such organizations and companies charge the church according to the background check run and the type of check. The United Methodist Insurance company resources Trak-1 for background checks. Trak-1 has a strong relationship with UM Insurance and strives to make sure their databases are kept up-to-date and to work with local churches to make sure the background checks are accurate and affordable.
Protecting Children and Youth
What happens if you do not have a policy and procedure and an incident happens? Without a policy and procedure, if there is an incident, you are liable. A church that has even an accusation can find itself in spiritual ruin, emotional ruin, and financial ruin. If you do not have a policy and you are sued you will find that there is not much leg to stand on. If you have a policy and have not followed your procedures you are in as bad a place. you are liable
For many of our congregations, they understand that they must protect our children, youth, and vulnerable adults, but they do not believe they need to have a policy and procedure in place because it won’t happen in their church. Churches who choose not to implement a policy and procedure are putting their children, youth, and vulnerable adults at risk. In today’s time, our churches have to make all efforts to protect the children, youth, and vulnerable adults. It is our responsibility and our spiritual imperative. If there is an incident in the church, the victim and their family are physically harmed, emotionally hurt, and can and most likely will be spiritually devastated. No we cannot prevent 100% but if we as the church do not make any effort to prevent abuse then we are breaking our covenant with each other in the sight of God. Equally, if you have a policy and procedure in place and choose not to follow it, you are putting all the children, youth, and vulnerable adults at risk.
Protecting Children and Youth If you have a policy and procedure and you have been following it and there is an incident One - You know what to do Two - You have done due diligence to protect the children, youth, and vulnerable adults Three - You have a higher chance of not being found at fault in a law suit Following your policy and procedure will enable you to know what to do at any time. When a church practices their policies and procedures then they are doing due diligence and any court will see that as a positive.
Adopting Safe Sanctuaries® Policies and Procedures Several options are available to local congregations for adopting policies and procedures Adopt the Annual Conference policies and procedures and begin to follow themAnnual Conference Adjust the policies and procedures from other churches or annual conferences adding to make the policies work for your congregation and begin to follow them check for already approved policies is the conference website and the General Board of Discipleship [GBOD] websiteGeneral Board of Discipleship Talk with other churches in your area about their policies
Adopting Safe Sanctuaries® Policies and Procedures Prepare the policies as a subcommittee of the Trustees Trustees must approve of the policies and procedures Trustees take policies to Administrative Council or Administrative Board depending on organizational model your church uses Administrative Council adopts Trustees are the administrators of the policies and procedures They can then establish a subcommittee to oversee the policies and procedures and to update regularly and begin the process over
Updating Safe Sanctuaries® Policies and Procedures At least every 2 years The Safe Sanctuaries Policies and Procedures need to be read through carefully at least every 2 years to make sure they meet the ministries of the church and that the laws have not changed. These policies do not need to gather DUST.
Safe Sanctuaries policies and procedures are not a one time done and never look at again policy and procedures. These policies and procedures must be used daily within the life of the congregation. Additionally, these policies and procedures need to be examined for updates at least every 2 years. Laws change, predators change, and ministries change. All of that has to be taken into account as policies and procedures are examined. Remember that when changes are made, if the group examining the policies and procedures are not the trustees, then changes must be taken to the trustees for approval and then on to the Administrative Council for approval.
Closing Thoughts Safe Sanctuaries policies and procedures are necessary within the church to protect our children, youth, and vulnerable adults. Safe Sanctuaries may be a policy and procedure that is difficult at first, as you live into it the processes become more natural. There are also people available to assist in the process of developing, approving, and implementing policies and procedures. Gracious God, we ask your blessings on our churches who seek to protect our children, youth, and vulnerable adults. May they have your guidance through the process. In the name of Christ. AMEN.
Resources For additional information and resources on Safe Sanctuaries®, go to:
Contact Information Toll Free Number: Melanie C. Gordon Ministry with Children, GBOD Telephone: Chris Wilterdink Young People's Ministry, GBOD Telephone:
Out thanks to Reverend Leigh Meekins for compiling the content of this PowerPoint. For Webinars on Safe Sanctuaries®, go to: