Central United Methodist Church
Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Safe Sanctuaries Policy

 

Safe Sanctuaries Policy

Central United Methodist Church

Fitzgerald, Georgia

 

Introduction

This document serves to comply with the mandate of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church for all churches to develop safe sanctuary policies for the protection of children and youth as well as those who work with them. The purpose of this document is to define specific policies and procedures which will help to protect all children and youth (under the age of 18) that come to us, to protect both paid and volunteer staff from potential false allegations of abuse, and to limit the extent of legal liability.
 
National statistics concerning child abuse give rise for concern in all geographic areas of our country. It is our responsibility to be proactive in outlining requirements that will greatly reduce the risk of child abuse, and assure our church is a safe haven for not only our children and youth, but also for those called to minister and teach.
 
The plan presented addressed the steps put forth in the resolution adopted by the General Conference of the United Methodist Church. The resolution states local churches should:
 
  1. Develop and implement an ongoing education plan for the congregation and its leaders on the reality of child abuse, risk factors leading to child abuse, and strategies for prevention;
  2. Adopt screening procedures (use of application forms, interviews, reference checks, background clearance, and so forth) for workers (paid and unpaid) directly or indirectly involved with the care of children and youth.
  3. Develop and implement safety procedures of church activities such as having two or more non-related adults present in classroom or activity; leaving doors open and installing half-doors or windows in doors or halls; providing hall monitors; institution of sign-in and sign-out procedures for children ages 10 years or younger;
  4. Advise children and young persons of an agency or a person outside, as well as, within the local church whom they can contact for advice and help if they have suffered abuse;
  5. Carry liability insurance that includes sexual abuse coverage;
  6. Assist the development of awareness and self protection skills for children and youth through special curriculum and activities; and
  7. Be familiar with annual conference and other church policies regarding clergy sexual misconduct.

 Our Pledge

As a Christian community of faith committed to ministry to children, youth and their families, we pledge to conduct our activities and ministries so as to assure the safety and spiritual growth of all children and youth entrusted to us. We will follow reasonable safety measures in the selection and recruitment of workers, and in the supervision of our children and youth. We will be responsible in overseeing our programs and events and in training our staff. We take seriously our moral and legal responsibility to provide a safe environment for children and youth, as well as to support those who work with them, as we seek to proclaim our faith and follow in the ministry of Jesus Christ in our world.
 

Screening Procedures

  1. All workers with children and youth will have completed an application/commitment form listing standard contact information and three unrelated character references.
  2. All workers will be interviewed by the pastor, education chair, youth director or children's director before they begin teaching.
  3. All workers will demonstrate an active relationship with this church for at least 3 months before being allowed to supervise children. Exceptions will be allowed on a case by case basis with approval from the pastor.
  4. All new workers will need to complete a criminal records check and driver's license check. Results of these checks will be viewed only by the pastor or associate pastor.
  5. Anyone convicted of a crime involving sexual, physical or emotional abuse of children will not be permitted to serve in direct contact at church-sponsored activities for children or youth.
  6. Exceptions to the screening process will be allowed for Vacation Bible School leaders whose direct exposure to the children will always be in a group setting with other adults.
 

Supervision

  1. Workers with children and youth shall observe the "Two-Adult Rule" at all times so that no adult is ever alone with children or youth. If this is not possible, there will be a "roving" teacher who moves amid the classrooms during the program period.
  2. No person shall supervise an age group unless he/she is at least 5 years older than the oldest student.
  3. No person under 18 shall be considered as one of the two adults.
  4. Each room will have a window, or the door will be left open at all times.
  5. Events that require overnight accommodations shall have at lease two leaders present.
  6. All outside organizations, groups, or individuals who use any of the Central UMC facilities involving children or youth shall sign a statement that they are in compliance with this policy or have an equivalent policy in force.
 

Training

  1. Workers in a supervisory role shall be trained in child abuse prevention and abuse recognition.
  2. Workers in a supervisory role shall be trained in safety, first aid, CPR and first response.
  3. Training shall include information, explanation, and discussion of Annual Conference policy, behaviors or other indicators which may signal problems, requirements of Georgia law for reporting abuse and for reporting incidents of abuse.
  4. Workers shall sign a covenant of agreement that they have read and are familiar with CUMC's Safe Sanctuary Policy and procedures.
 

Reporting

  1. Upon receiving information of an alleged abuse, the worker should first secure the safety of the child, if possible.
  2. The worker should then report the incident immediately to the staff person directly in charge of the activity (generally, the youth, children or music director), who shall immediately inform the pastor.
  3. It is never the responsibility of a worker with children or youth to investigate the allegations of child abuse.
  4. The youth or children's director, staff member or pastor will then follow all appropriate procedures for reporting to the child's parents or guardian, authorities of the annual conference when applicable and local law enforcement or child protective service agencies.
  5. Any person who is the object of the report will be required to refrain from all children and youth activities until the incident is resolved.
  6. All reports will be kept strictly confidential (by the pastor and reporting persons) until which time, if necessary, the report would become public as stated by law.

Response

  1. A quick, compassionate and unified response to an alleged incident of child abuse is expected. All allegations will be taken seriously.
  2. The pastor shall serve as the official spokesperson for any reported incident, and shall be the only person authorized to speak to any media regarding the incident. In the event that the pastor is the subject of the allegation the Valdosta District Superintendent will serve as the church spokesperson.
  3. Pastoral care and support will be available to all persons involved with the incident
  4. In addition, those suffering abuse will be advised of an agency or person outside the church whom they can contact for advice or help.

Implementation

  1. The policy as stated in this document will go into effect January 1, 2008, with a compliance date of March 1, 2008.
  2. All current staff, Sunday school teachers and program volunteers will be required to receive the training and follow all other procedures as outlined in this document.

Conclusion

We take our policies to reduce the risk of child abuse seriously and we are committed to their enforcement for the safety and security of all our children, youth and those who work with them.

 

Addendum to Safe Sanctuary Policy

Central United Methodist Youth Ministries exist to teach our youth about God's Word, to unite in friendship, to grow as followers of Jesus Christ, and to place others before ourselves, so that we may learn to honor God with our lives. Ministries to our youth include Sunday school, UMYF, Wednesday night activities, youth choir, youth trips and any activity that includes our youth. We want our youth program to be a safe "refuge" for all of our youth. The following policies are in place for the safety and protection of our youth. Youth Leaders will take appropriate action to address any violations of these policies.
 

Policies for Ministries to CUMC Youth

  1. Bullying or threatening communication will not be tolerated! No practical jokes or hurtful humor. Respect will be shown to youth leaders and youth.
  2. Absolutely no "bad" language, drugs, alcohol or any illegal substances allowed at any time in youth or in any of the activities listed above. *If this rule is broken, your parents will be called immediately and you will be sent home with consequences to follow.
  3. Inappropriate public displays of affection absolutely will not be tolerated. "Couple" (boy/girl) will be asked to sit on the front row of van on all trips. Inappropriate touching of girls or boys will not be tolerated at any youth activity. If a youth feels he/she has been touched inappropriately, he/she must immediately tell one of their youth leaders. If a youth has been found touching anyone inappropriately, he/she will be confronted and parent(s) will be contacted immediately. Inappropriate communications which include but are not limited to texting, emails,letters, telephone calls will not be tolerated. (Same rule applies as with inappropriate PDA's)
  4. Personal CD players are allowed on trips BUT...if your player sounds like you're "sanding wood", it is too loud! Personal music systems should be personal. It is not a shared experience.
  5. Absolutely no CDs allowed with any type of foul language. If a chaperon hears or sees a CD with this type of language, your CD will be confiscated and given to your parent(s).
  6. Youth members of CUMC will have first priority for any youth event or trip up to two weeks after announcement of the trip. Any youth outside our group will have to be pre-approved by Youth Director or Youth Leader. No Youth living outside of Fitzgerald will be allowed to go on our youth trips unless they are well known by Youth Director.
  7. No items deemed inappropriate or dangerous shall be brought to youth meetings or trips such as knives (including pocket knives), lighters, matches, any type of fireworks, etc. Items will be confiscated at the discretion of the Youth Director of Youth Leaders.
  8. No offensive, immodest or seductive clothing shall be worn at any youth activity.
  9. No pornography of any kind will be permitted. Example - cell phones, television, music, language, computer...
  10. When on trips, no boys in the girl's rooms and no girls in the boy's rooms.
  11. Any illegal behavior or activity will not be tolerated and will immediately be placed at the third offense if it happens.
 Three Step Plan
First Offense:Based on the seriousness of the infraction, parent(s) will be called and youth may be asked to remain in the presence of an adult.
Second Offense: Based on the seriousness of the infraction, parent(s) will be asked to be in the presence of their youth at all church youth activities to help curb any behavioral problems, until youth leader(s) determine youth's behavior has improved.
Third Offense: Based on the seriousness of the infraction, parent(s) and youth will be notified that youth is not to participate in any church youth activities until parent(s) and youth counsel with Pastor and/or SPR Chair concerning the behavioral problems. Youth will be suspended from "fun" youth activities for one month and all church youth activities must be attended with parent(s).
 
This arrangement will be in effect until youth leaders, in consultation with parent(s), determine that youth's behavior - observed during youth's participation in activities with parent - has noticeably improved.
 
The goal of our policy is to provide a safe environment for all of our youth, and to encourage positive behavior in our youth.
 
Youth Signature ___________________________________________________    Date_______________
 
Parent S ignature___________________________________________________   Date_______________