Reduction of Risk of Abuse Prevention Policy
St. Timothy United Methodist Church
Reduction of Risk of Abuse Prevention Policy
(This policy supersedes previous policy)
We believe that it is our responsibility to restrict access to children while they are under our care. We will accomplish this at all cost in support of the parents’ trust. Only those people who have been cleared through our children’s ministry screening process will be granted access to children.
We believe in the value of a team. A team (two or more) serving together is good for the children, the ministry, and the team members themselves. A team also protects the children’s ministry and the church from false accusations about team member behavior.
Child (and children) is defined as any person attending St. Timothy or its sanctioned activities who is not yet 18 years old.
Selecting and Screening of Paid and Volunteer Workers
- All potential workers will have been actively involved in the congregation or ministry at St. Timothy at least six months before being able to be in any position of responsibility working with children. An exception can be made for those who are recruited for their position, i.e. children’s choir directors brought in from local universities upon recommendation of a faculty member.
- All potential workers will have a National Criminal Database Search, National Sex Offender Registry Search and Parish Court Search if they are 18 years old or older.
- Educational background and degree will be verified, if required.
- Two references will be verified for any new employee or volunteer working with children.
- All potential workers will be on probation for three (3) months.
- All records pertaining to the screening of paid and volunteer personnel will be kept on file documenting the screening that was performed.
- No one under 18 years old may be alone with children in a position of authority, either as teacher or helper. Helpers as young as 12 years old may assist adults only under constant, direct supervision.
- There must be at least a five-year difference in ages between the ages of the primary onsite supervisor and the supervised.
Categorization of Personnel
Level 1 personnel:
- All paid full time or part-time, employees of St. Timothy.
- Have undergone risk reduction policy training (repeated annually) and a criminal background check.
- Will undergo refresher training at least annually and have recurring background/reference checks every 1 to 3 years.
- Clergy commissioned or ordained at or after Annual Conference 2007 and Local Pastors (and Certified Lay Ministers) in their first appointment (assignment) have undergone a background screening process sufficient for the purpose of this policy.
Level 2 personnel:
- A volunteer who regularly supervises, or works around, children or youth.
- Have undergone risk reduction policy training (repeated annually), a criminal background check, have been an active participant in the life of the congregation or ministry for at least six months.
- Will have completed a volunteer application/info sheet with verification (appendix -Volunteer Application form).
- A personal interview will be preformed with the applicant/volunteer.
- The volunteer will sign a copy of the ministry’s risk reduction policy.
Level 3 personnel: Safe Sanctuarie
- Volunteers used only in emergency or occasional situations (e.g. Vacation Bible School, Festivals, drivers, speakers, musicians, etc.).
- Have been made aware of the risk reduction policy; agree in writing to abide by the policy and to “work” only when level 1 or 2 personnel are present and supervising.
Policies and Observations
- All classes, studies, workshops, fellowship/recreation opportunities, one on one counseling sessions, private meetings or mentoring, etc. with youth or children shall be conducted in a public place or in a room with an open door where there’s regular, human traffic.
- All doors should have windows, which shall remain uncovered at all times. If a door does not have a window, it will remain open if less than two unrelated adults are inside with children.
- No adult of any age will be alone with any child who is not in his immediate family in an isolated or closed environment.
- A ratio of no less than one (1) adult to every 10 children/youth. Note: The two unrelated adult rule always applies.
- If an overnight event will take place parents will be provided information about the event and will return a permission slip allowing their children to take part in the event. The permission slip will provide medical information/release, emergency contact information and a liability release.
- Whenever youth attend an overnight event we will have at least adult to 8 students with a corresponding number of male and female chaperones represented. At no point will girls and guys sleep in the same room, unless a common room is the only option and then guys will sleep on one side and the girls on the other with the adults in between.
- Each department head will periodically interview children periodically to hear about their experiences in the program. The department head will keep a log of these interviews and discuss any concerns with the executive pastor.
- Department Heads must make frequent and unannounced visits to observe staff as they work with children, including (for 24 hour programs) late night visits and shower times. A log will be maintained of each visit.
- Staff may not use physical punishment, verbally abusive comments, or denial of necessities of care in dealing with children.
- Staff must immediately report any signs of injury or possible child abuse to the Executive Pastor or Director of Children Ministry.
Each of the following items assumes the child is not related:
- Only women may assist children with bathroom and diaper care.
- If an older boy has need of and personally requests bathroom assistance, a man may assist him as long as there is someone else in the room or the outer bathroom door remains open.
- If a child is injured and requires first aid, at least two unrelated adults will be present at the examination of injuries.
- Children may not be touched on areas of their bodies that would be covered by swimming suits.
- If a child (newborn through 6th grade) arrives with a bruise or some type of significant injury, the teacher will fill out a physical injury/incident report. This report will be signed by the parent, teacher and department head and kept on file. If an accident occurs at St. Timothy, while in our care, this same form will be filled out and provided to the parent. A copy of the report will be kept on file by the department head.
- Report any suspicious or observed sexual misconduct or other abuse or violation or these policies immediately to your supervisor or department head. If this does not correct the problem or the supervisor/department head is an active participant in the misconduct, then contact the executive pastor or senior pastor or Chairman of the Staff-Parish Relations Committee directly.
- Refer to attached Louisiana Children’s Code regarding reporting of suspected abuse.
Who are mandated reporters for suspected or observed incidents of child abuse?
The following information comes from the LA Department of Social Services. Three things should be noted:
- The reporting required here is to 0CS or an appropriate law enforcement agency. A mandated reporter simply notifying her/his supervisor is not adequate without certainty that the supervisor has reported to law enforcement.
- Law requires these persons to report anytime they are performing their associated duties. For example, if a public school teacher is not employed by the church but volunteers as a Sunday school teacher, he/she is still a mandated reporter because of the duty they are performing.
- Though Sunday school teachers are not specifically named, the “teaching or child care provider” category could be widely interpreted to include our Sunday School Teachers, Bible study leaders etc.
The best practice is to always report suspect incidents of abuse to OCS. The protection of our children should be a primary concern for us whether or not we are “mandated” to report. Policies should contain statements that call for training our volunteers/staff to recognize and report child abuse.
According to the State of Louisiana, mandated reporters are any of the following individuals performing their occupational duties:
- “Health practitioner” is any individual who provides health care services, including a physician, surgeon, physical therapist, dentist, resident, intern, hospital staff member, podiatrist, chiropractor, licensed nurse, nursing aide, dental hygienist, any emergency medical technician, a paramedic, optometrist, medical examiner, or coroner, who diagnoses, examines, or treats a child or his family.
- “Mental health/social service practitioner” is any individual who provides mental health care or social service diagnosis, assessment, counseling, or treatment, including a psychiatrist, psychologist, marriage or family counselor, social worker, member of the clergy, aide, or other individual who provides counseling services to a child or his family.
- “Member of the clergy” is any priest, rabbi, duly ordained clerical deacon or minister, Christian Science practitioner, or other similarly situated functionary of a religious organization, unless the information of abuse/neglect is learned in a confidential communication.
- ”Teaching or child care provider” is any person who provides training and supervision of a child, including any public or private teacher, teacher’s aide, instructional aide, school principal, school staff member, social worker, probation officer, foster home parent, group home or other child care institutional staff member, personnel of residential home facilities, a licensed or unlicensed day care provider, or any individual who provides such services to a child.
- Police officers or law enforcement officials.