Safe Church Policy
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Mark 10:14
The purpose of First Presbyterian Church’s Safe Church Policies is to implement and maintain a safe environment for children, youth, and adults that will help them participate freely in the church’s ministries and programs. Our goal is for all of God’s children to feel the welcome and love of Jesus Christ.
- Protect Children and Youth. Our intent is to provide a safe environment for children and youth to learn, grow, and experience God’s love. We believe that effective ministry for children and youth requires relationships with trustworthy, caring, loving, and mature adults and youth leaders who can demonstrate God’s love to them. The safety policies are intended to keep these relationships and all aspects of ministries with minors safe.
- Protect Adults and Leaders. When adults and leaders are interacting with children and youth, they need to be in a safe place as well. Our intent is to create an environment that sets appropriate guidelines and boundaries and to provide the support that staff and volunteers need to be effective in their roles with children and youth. It is also important that leaders remain accountable to other leaders and parents, by peer observance and mandatory reporting protocols, possibly involving law enforcement.
- Provide Trustworthy Role Models. All minors deserve to have trustworthy adults as mentors, role models and guides. We believe that only through the development of trusting relationships will our children and youth feel safe and comfortable allowing them to grow into the individuals God has called them to be.
All ministry areas and programs will incorporate these policies into all activities involving minors, and provide training for staff and volunteers working with children and youth, and communicate clear expectations for parents, children, and youth about adhering to the policies and procedures in order to keep minors safe.
The policies apply to all activity occurring on First Presbyterian Church of Bend premises and during Church-sanctioned activities off the Church grounds. It also applies to outside organizations using the Church building.
The following definitions are to clarify the Safe Church policies and procedures:
- Church Staff- Includes all personnel on the payroll of First Presbyterian Church of Bend, whether lay or clergy.
- Volunteer- Includes any unpaid person who enters into or offers him or herself for a church related service.
- Worker- Anyone doing work for the church paid or un-paid.
- Child- Anyone from birth through fifth grade.
- Youth- Anyone from sixth grade through high school graduation.
- Abuse- This includes all improper treatment of children, youth, or persons of diminished mental capacity. Abuse used in this document includes, but is not limited to the following types:
- Physical abuse– non-accidental injury, which is intentionally inflicted upon a child or youth.
- Verbal abuse– the use of words to cause harm to the person being spoken to. Verbal abuse may consist of shouting, insulting, intimidating, threatening, shaming, demeaning, or derogatory language, among other forms of communication.
- Sexual abuse- any contact or interaction between a child or youth and another person when the child or youth is being exploited for sexual gratification of such person, regardless of whether the exploitation involves touching by the person, and regardless of whether the child or youth consents to the exploitation. Or any conduct which violates an Oregon criminal statute on child or youth abuse.
- Emotional abuse- mental or emotional injury to a child or youth that results in an observable and material impairment in the child or youth’s growth, development or psychological functioning.
- Pornographic Images – sexually suggestive images of youth or children. Any image, which violates an Oregon criminal statute on child and youth pornography or abuse.
- Neglect- the failure to provide for a child or youth’s basic needs or the failure to protect a child or youth from harm.
SAFE CHURCH COMPONENTS
The five components for ensuring a safe church are: screening, training, supervision, responding, and accountability.
All staff and volunteers are expected to do everything reasonably possible to provide a safe environment for children. These instructions, although not an exhaustive list, are practical actions that can be taken.
All employees of the church shall be screened prior to employment.
All workers eighteen years of age and older, who may have direct contact with children or youth must comply with screening requirements before being allowed to serve. Screening will include a criminal background check, Children’s and Youth Work Application and reference checks. At least two references will be contacted when processing every worker’s initial application. The information provided for, and obtained by, the checks shall be retained First Presbyterian Church. Any relevant background information will be reported to the supervising staff. Rescreening shall take place every three years.
Any person who may pose a threat to children or youth will be prohibited from working in any ministry involving children or youth.
Workers with direct contact with children or youth are required to complete the on-line course SafeConduct™ Workbench and/or participate in Darkness to Light or Safeguarding God’s Children training within the first 90 days of serving. Each person will receive a copy of the Safe Church Policies and attest to having read and agree to follow these policies.
Workers who are responsible for the supervision of children or youth during ministry activities are expected to do everything possible to provide a safe environment.
This supervision will include the Two‐Adult Rule, which states that there must be two adults present when supervising one or more children or youth. We encourage youth to serve as leaders of children. A youth leader, age 12 or older, may count as an adult under the Two‐Adult Rule when working with an adult in a classroom or group where additional screened adults are present in the general area. All efforts will be made to ensure the two adults are not related.
Occasionally, workers will find themselves without another adult present due to unforeseen circumstances. The following procedures should be followed.
- Immediately inform ministry supervisor and parents/guardian.
- Visible location – For any time when there is only one adult present, the group must be in a location that is visible to others with an unobstructed window, open door, etc.
- Bathroom Procedures- Adults must not enter a private restroom with a child. Pre-school children should be escorted to the restroom. Escort will stay outside the restroom and listen. Children in grades K‐6 may use restrooms without an escort, as long as they inform an adult leader where they are going. That leader should watch to ensure they return.
It is understood that having an adult taking children to the bathroom may leave one adult alone in the room with multiple children for a short period of time.
- Physical Contact- Respect, safety, and appropriate boundaries are the guiding principles for physical contact between ministry leaders and children. The guidelines below are intended to avoid contact that is or may appear threatening or inappropriate.
Love and affection are part of church life and ministry. There are many ways to demonstrate affection while maintaining positive and safe boundaries with children and youth. Examples of positive and appropriate forms of affection:
- Brief hugs or side hugs
- Pats on the shoulder or back
- High‐fives, hand slapping and fist taps
- Verbal praise
- Touching hands, faces, shoulders and arms of children or youth
- Arm around shoulders
- Holding hands while walking with small children
- Sitting beside small children
- Kneeling or bending down for hugs with small children
- Holding hands during group prayer
The following forms of affection are considered inappropriate with children and youth in ministry. Many of these behaviors are used by child molesters to groom children or youth and their parents for later molestation. Others may be considered to be sexual abuse.
- Inappropriate or lengthy embraces
- Holding children over three years old on the lap
- Touching bottoms, chests or genital areas other than for appropriate diapering or toileting of infants and toddlers
- Showing affection in isolated areas such as bedrooms, closets, staff only areas or other private rooms
- Occupying a bed with a child or youth
- Touching knees or legs of children or youth
- Wrestling with children or youth
- Tickling children or youth
- Piggyback rides
- Any type of massage given by a child or youth to an adult
- Any type of massage given by an adult to a child or youth
- Any form of unwanted affection
- Comments or compliments (spoken, written, or electronic) that relate to physique or body development
- Snapping bras or giving wedgies or similar touch of underwear whether or not it is covered by other clothing
- Giving gifts or money to individual children or youth
- Private meals with individual children or youth
In many instances a need will arise to transport youth to, from and during church sponsored activities. In the event that transportation is necessary, the Two-Adult Rule will apply. The driver and one other adult must be in each vehicle containing any youth. Occasionally, workers will find themselves without another adult present due to unforeseen circumstances. The following procedures should be followed:
- If only one adult is present there must be at least two youth present in the vehicle
- If only one adult and one youth are present, the adult must contact their supervisor and the youth’s parent or guardian and the youth must contact their parent or guardian before they leave the pick up site and must contact both the supervisor and the parent again when they arrive at the drop off site
All workers have a responsibility to report actual or suspected abuse of children or youth, whether or not it may have occurred during church ministry activities or on church property.
First and foremost, all workers shall do whatever is necessary to ensure that the subject child is safe.
The witness or reporter shall tell a supervising staff member of the abuse, using the Abuse Incident Report Form. The form shall be completed within 24 hours of the suspected abuse.
If the child IS in immediate danger; the volunteer or staff shall call the Oregon Department of Human Services Children Protection Services (DHS) to report the abuse. As soon afterward as possible, the reporter and staff shall complete the Abuse Incident Report Form to the best of their ability. Staff shall report the incident to the Senior Pastor and the Safe Church Committee, which will do what is necessary from that point.
If the child is NOT in immediate danger, the witness or reporter shall tell staff, who will assist in the completion of the Abuse Incident Report Form. Staff shall report the incident to the Senior Pastor and the Chair of the Safe Church Committee. The Committee will determine whether the incident requires the intervention of DHS or whether the incident is a minor infraction of church policy. Appropriate steps will be taken to involve DHS, if necessary.
If the incident is a minor infraction, the supervising staff will talk with the subject and remind them of the Safe Church Policies. The conversation will be noted on the Abuse Incident Report Form, which will be retained on file. If a second minor infraction occurs, the worker shall be suspended from working with children or youth through the church. The supervisor and the Safe Church Committee shall determine the length of suspension. Should a third minor infraction occur, the subject shall not be able to return as staff or volunteer with children or youth with First Presbyterian Church of Bend.
Everyone involved with children and youth are responsible for making sure that the church’s Safe Church Policies are understood and followed. The Safe Church Committee is responsible for evaluating how well these policies and guidelines are being followed and providing the ongoing training and support necessary to make sure they are implemented consistently. Any person who has any information regarding a person failing to comply with the Safe Church Policy shall immediately report such information in person to the Chair of the Safe Church Committee and another Safe Church Committee Member.
Ministers are governed by the Presbytery Sexual Misconduct Prevention Policy and other Presbytery policies. In addition to conforming to Presbytery policy, ministers will be aware of all policies outlined here and will support staff and volunteers in their implementation. Ministers will also provide guidance and pastoral care in cases of suspected or actual child abuse. In addition, when individuals fail to pass the screening criteria for working with minors, the head pastor will be informed. The head pastor will make sure that key staff members are informed that such persons are not approved to have any contact with minors involved in church programs and activities.
Session will be responsible for ensuring that all Presbytery and church policies regarding Safe Church are followed. Specifically, Session is responsible for:
- Appointing members of the Safe Church Committee (SCC) and having the SCC report at least annually on the effectiveness of Safe Church policies and practices.
- Ensuring, through the SCC and Personnel Committee, that all elders, employees, and other church leaders have received and read these policies and participate in Darkness to Light or Safe Church training.
- Providing the funds and resources necessary for carrying out the Safe Church Policies.
All Ministry areas will work with the Safe Church Committee to make sure that Safe Church policies are implemented. Ministry areas with programs or activities involving minors will be responsible for:
- Training their volunteers on the specific rules and procedures for supervision and safety in their Ministry Area.
- Communicating clear expectations for behavior to children and youth.
- Adhering to the “degrees of separation” within the Overnight Hosting Guidelines, which states that one-hour must separate the time that children or youth are in the building and outside groups use of the facilities.
Safe Church Committee (SCC)
The Safe Church Committee will oversee the implementation and compliance of policies related to the protection of minors. The Committee shall contain both genders. It shall consist of the Director of Children & Family Ministry, the Pastor for Youth & Their Families, the Church Administrator, one member of personnel and one Elder of the Session. The Committee shall undergo Safe Church Policy training.
The SCC will be responsible for:
- Developing and implementing a confidential screening process for workers and making sure that anyone involved in the screening process receives the training and support necessary to handle screening information and maintenance of records in a confidential, legal, and ethical manner.
- Working with ministry areas to deliver training to staff and volunteers.
- Working with ministry areas, church staff, and the Personnel Committee to support the implementation of Safe Church policies and procedures.
- Reviewing and approving Safe Church procedures on a yearly basis.
- Promoting Safe Church principles throughout the church.
- Reporting to Session on an annual basis about the effectiveness of the Safe Church policies and practices.
Presbytery of the Cascades Sexual Misconduct Policy. Revised 1998. Presbytery of the Cascades. Accessed September 23, 2011 http://www.cascadespresbytery.org/SexualMisconductPolicy.pdf
Presbyterian Church (USA) Book of Order G-4.03. 2011-2013 Edition. Presbyterian Church (USA). Accessed September 23, 2011 http://oga.pcusa.org/pdf/boo-2011-2013.pdf
Oregon State Legislature Statute ORS 419B. 2009 Addition. Oregon State Legislature. Accessed September 23, 2011 http://www.leg.state.or.us/ors/419b.html
Revised February 2012