Child Protection Policy

Purpose

As individuals called to convey God’s love to young people and develop trusting nurturing relationships with them, we recognize the great responsibility we, as members of Second Presbyterian Church, have to be accountable before God, our church, and our community for the safety and well being of our children and youth.  We recognize that certain logical guidelines will help us in this ministry, and we agree to maintain the following standards for interaction with young people.  Thus, failure to adhere to these guidelines and standards by any employee or volunteer working with young people at Second Presbyterian Church may result in disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal from their position of employment or volunteer service.  However, nothing in this policy or in any other document or statement shall limit the church’s right to terminate any employee or volunteer at will.

The intention of this policy is:

  • To provide safe and secure environments for children and youth (defined as those less than 18 years of age).
  • To protect children and youth from any incident or conduct that might cause physical, emotional, spiritual or sexual harm while participating in activities at Second Presbyterian Church.
  • To guide Second Presbyterian church as an institution in the required conduct of its employees and volunteers in children’s and youth programs with the goal of preventing incidents and allegations of abuse.
  • To protect adult volunteers and employees from unwarranted allegations of child abuse.
  • To provide a mechanism to deal with reported concerns and take appropriate subsequent actions.

Components of the Policy

This policy addresses four components of child and youth protection:

1.        Screening and selection of applicants for employment and volunteer service to rule out any record of prior abusive behavior.

2.       Training and supervisingof employees and volunteers. 

3.       Reporting allegations and concerns regarding child and youth protection issues.

4.       Respondingto allegations and concerns that have been reported.

Screening and selection of workers

All paid staff and all scheduled volunteers will be screened before working with children or youth at Second Presbyterian Church.  Each paid position will have a job description that clearly defines the qualifications and responsibilities of the position and provides a basis for recruitment, screening, training, supervision, and evaluation.  Scheduled volunteers are those who supervise or have custody of minors on a scheduled or recurring basis.

1.       Paid Workers:  Before hiring any paid worker for a position which includes supervision or custody of minors we will:

·         Obtain a completed employment application.

·         Personally interview the applicant.

·         Explain this policy, and have the applicant complete and sign the Child Protection Policy (CPP) screening form for employees acknowledging understanding of this policy, receipt of a copy of this policy, and authorizing background checks.  (See Appendix A).

·         Contact the applicant’s references and record comments.

·         Conduct a criminal, administrative, prior employment and civil records check on the applicant.

·         Obtain a negative (or negative dilute) result on a pre-employment drug screen, if a drug screen is thought to be advisable.

·         Obtain driving records, when pertinent to job responsibilities (e.g. drivers on Youth trips).

Individuals in paid positions may also be subject to reasonable suspicion, post-accident, and random drug and alcohol testing if indicated during their employment. 

2.       Scheduled Volunteers:  Before assigning a volunteer as a teacher, leader or caretaker of minors we will:

·         Interview the volunteer, at least by telephone, but preferably in person.

·         Explain this policy, in a scheduled training session or individually, and obtain a completed CPP screening form for volunteers acknowledging understanding of this policy, receipt of a copy of this policy, and authorizing a background check.  (See Appendix B).

·         Confirm membership or active participation in the church for at least six months, or secure a reference from the supervising staff member at the volunteer’s most recent church.

Occasionally volunteers will be needed in a spur of the moment situation to fill in for a regularly scheduled volunteer or employee.  In this case, we will make every effort to select volunteers from among those who have been members or active participants in our church for at least six months.  They should be placed with accompanying adult(s) who have been screened as outlined above and trained as provided in this policy.  They will not be used in a recurring assignment until they have been successfully screened as a scheduled volunteer.

Once a person has fulfilled the requirements of this policy for work as a paid staff member or a scheduled volunteer, that person will be considered cleared for other areas of assignment (e.g. a person successfully screened for volunteering with the Youth Group will be considered acceptable for teaching Church School).

The Director of Christian Education will supervise the screening, selection and training of workers.  Completed CPP screening forms must be signed by the worker and forwarded to the Director of Christian Education who will keep them on file.   CPP screening forms and the results of record checks and any drug testing will be maintained by the Director of Christian Education and treated as confidential.

It is the responsibility of each employee and volunteer covered by this policy to report to the Director of Christian Education or supervising pastor as soon as possible any subsequent arrest, conviction, treatment or proceeding that would have been the subject of a required disclosure on the CPP screening form at the time it was completed.  An employee’s failure to report any such subsequent development as required will be considered a violation of this policy.

Information disclosed on the CPP screening form or subsequently, or which is discovered by the church before or after employment or volunteer service begins does not automatically require adverse action against an applicant, employee or volunteer.  Rather, we consider a variety of factors such as the nature of the position, the nature of the information disclosed or learned, and the age of the applicant, employee or volunteer when the incident or conduct occurred.  However, any individual who has been convicted of a crime involving a child (regardless of how long ago the incident occurred), or who has been convicted of a violent crime within the past seven (7) years, is not eligible to be engaged or to continue as a paid or volunteer worker with minors in any program affiliated with Second Presbyterian Church.

This policy adopts the definitions of criminal activity used in the Code of Virginia to the extent they are relevant to the purposes of this policy, though these are not exclusive in delineating what may constitute inappropriate behavior or relationships prohibited by this policy. 

Training and Supervising Workers

These practices will be followed in an effort to prevent any child abuse from occurring:

Conduct CPP training annually:  At least once a year child and youth workers should be required to review this policy and encouraged to attend training which includes a discussion of the reasons why the policy is so important to our church, as well as the legal implications in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Maintain the “two adult” rule:  Two adult workers must be present during all church activities involving one or more minors.  Every effort should be made for both adults to remain present during all activities.  Any meeting where two adults cannot be present requires both parental and supervisor notification.  If scheduled workers do not arrive, classes or other groups should be combined to ensure the presence of two adults.

While recognizing that some meetings, such as those between prospective confirmands and their mentors, may be enhanced by private conversation, it is recommended that these conversations take place within sight of others (pairs of people scattered in a room, or in a public place).  Pastoral counseling sessions with a minor should be held in a place where they are in view of others (open door or door with a glass window).  Parental consent and notification of program supervisor is advised in any situation where an adult worker will be alone with a minor, except in pastoral counseling sessions where privacy is requested by the minor.

Schedule adequate supervision:  In addition to following the two-adult rule, adult supervision should be maintained before and after events until all children are in the custody of their parents or another responsible adult with the parent’s permission.  In the case of Youth Group activities, when students may drive or carpool to the activity, adult leaders will remain at the site of the church sponsored event until the last youth leaves.

Approve overnight chaperones: All chaperones for overnight activities must be approved in advance by the responsible staff person and be in compliance with this policy.

Return children to parents:  A system will be engaged to assure that only the parents or their assigns are able to claim young children from the nursery or church school classes for children under the third grade.

Report suspicious behavior:   Any inappropriate conduct or relationships between adult workers and children or members of youth groups must be reported immediately in accordance with the reporting procedures outlined below.

Reporting Obligations

An effective reporting system is essential to prevent child abuse.  Those likely to harm children are less likely to remain in a church where workers are trained to spot symptoms of child abuse and report suspicious activities to church authorities.  Similarly, church staff should take all reports seriously and treat each with care and discretion.

Pursuant to this policy, any staff member, worker (paid or volunteer), teacher, aid, or other adult participant in any Second Presbyterian sponsored program involving children or youth must report any incident, activity, behavior or evidence noticed that reasonably appears to indicate that child abuse has occurred or may occur in any program associated with Second Presbyterian Church.  Persons making reports will not be identified, without their permission, except as necessary in connection with any potential or pending legal action or criminal investigation.

Reports should be made to the Director of Christian Education, the Associate Pastor, or to the Pastor (Head of Staff).  The Pastor will be notified and will convene a Response Team consisting of:

·         One pastor (Head of Staff or Associate)

·         One member of Session

·         One member of the Christian Education Council or a member of one of the Council’s subcommittees (Children’s Education, Youth Education, or Adult Education)

·         The Director of Christian Education or Associate Pastor

The Response Team will respond to the report as described in the following section.

Response to Allegations

Once a report has been received, the Pastor (Head of Staff) will convene a Response Team.  The Response Team will:

·         Notify the parents of the child or children involved.

·         Select a spokesperson to handle inquiries in a discrete, informed and diplomatic way.

·         Document all matters related to the reported incident and accumulate all files related to the hiring or selection of the worker(s) involved.

·         Report the incident to legal counsel and to our insurance carrier, if indicated.

·         Contact the appropriate civil authorities, if indicated, under the advice of legal counsel and insurance carrier and in accordance with the Book of Order of PCUSA. 

If a report of child abuse is made, it is essential that everyone involved handle the matter as promptly, thoroughly and discretely as possible.  The following guiding principles will apply:

·         All allegations will be taken seriously.

·         Each report will be handled forthrightly with due respect for privacy and confidentiality.

·         The victim will be cared for and not held responsible in any way.

·         Full cooperation will be given to church and civil authorities under the guidance of legal counsel and in accordance with the Book of Order of PCUSA.

Both the victim and the accused will be treated fairly and with dignity.  The care and safety of the child is the first priority.  The accused should not be confronted until the child’s safety has been ensured.  As soon as a report is made, the accused should be temporarily removed from his or her duties pending resolution of the matter.  Paid workers may be suspended with or without pay.

This policy is intended to assure families and those working with children and youth in our programs that we will not tolerate child abuse in our church in any form, physical, emotional, spiritual, or sexual.  Effective prevention will reduce the risk of harm to our children and the threat of legal liability for our church and its leaders.  We hope that these guidelines will assure a safe, loving, and welcoming experience for all children and youth attending Second Presbyterian Church, and will reflect the spirit of the ministry of Jesus Christ.