SAFE CONGREGATION POLICY
Children and Youth Activities
Preventing, Reporting, and Dealing with Child Abuse
Initial Board Approval Date: November 20, 2007
Date First Issued: November 20, 2007
Date Board Approved Revision: April 20, 2015
Revision #: 2
Effective Date of Revision: May 1, 2015
The members of Northlake Unitarian Universalist Church (NUUC) pledge to promote and affirm the sharing of our Unitarian Universalist values and diverse religious heritages with our children in an atmosphere embracing the vision and wonder of their spiritual journeys. Although not common in church programs and activities, child abuse and inappropriate conduct does sometimes occur. This policy thoughtfully and openly addresses child abuse issues and sets out written guidelines intended to reduce the likelihood and potential adverse effects of child abuse and inappropriate conduct. A safe environment for our children and youth will promote their best interest and welfare and assist them in their search for growth and meaning as set out in the NUUC mission statement.
This policy is designed to:
Unitarian Universalists have a covenant with one another to act in ways that express the values of our principles: to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person; justice, equity, and compassion in human relations; spiritual growth; and the use of the democratic process within our congregation. These principles compel us to create a safe environment that protects children, youth, and adults from harm and promotes their spiritual growth.
In adopting this policy, we accept the responsibility to educate ourselves about child abuse and to take the steps that are necessary to assure the policy’s successful implementation.
It is ultimately the responsibility of the entire Congregation, in partnership with parents and other caregivers, to create and maintain a safe environment that supports the growth and welfare of children and youth in our church programs. However, this policy is devoted primarily to situations in which children are in a supervised relationship with church members other than their parents.
In an effort to protect our young people as well as our leaders, teachers, and all other adults who work with children and youth, all adults and older youth working with children and youth in the church will be required to sign the Code of Ethics for Adults and Older Youth Working with Children and Youth, found at the end of this document, before they assume child supervision roles. The policy also encourages other church members and friends to read and sign the Code of Ethics.
Greater understanding of the complexities of sexuality and abuse will help us avoid situations that could lead to abuse or false accusations. The Board of Trustees, Religious Education (RE) Committee, and Membership Committee will implement the following education program:
For our children and youth, the RE Committee will provide:
For RE Teachers and other volunteers working with children and youth, as well as temporary child care providers paid on an hourly basis, the RE Committee will provide:
For all paid staff, including those working with children and youth in a supervisory role, the RE Committee will provide:
For the entire Congregation, the Board of Trustees will provide:
For the new members of the church, the Membership Committee will provide:
The following guidelines will be put in place for the 2015/2016 program year commencing July 2015:
All RE Teachers and other adults working with children and youth in a supervisory role must have:
Child care providers paid on an hourly basis must have:
Criminal background checks will be conducted for all paid adult staff prior to hiring or contract signing, and for adult teachers working with the children and youth. In the case of paid staff, information will be shared with the Human Resources Committee and Board of Trustees as appropriate.
At least 1 teacher or childcare provider shall be present during classes for children and youth. In addition, whenever possible, there shall be 2 adults per classroom. In the event that there is only 1 adult, there must be at least 2 children/youth in the classroom and the classroom area must be visible to another adult. On outings with groups of children or youth, whenever possible, there shall be at least 2 adults present, but if only 1 adult is available then there must be at least 2 children/youth present. Exceptions to this guideline (for example, to transport children from 1 location to another) require written permission from parents. On overnight events, there must be at least 2 adults present without exception.
The RE Committee will also develop and publicize additional guidelines concerning other child safety issues such as:
Individuals who have been convicted of, are under current indictment for, or self disclose any act of sexual misconduct involving a child or child abuse are precluded from participation in the RE program and other children or youth church activities.
We encourage any congregant who has been convicted of, is under current indictment for, or has been involved in any act of sexual misconduct involving a child or of child abuse to make him or herself known to the minister, DLRE, or any member of the Board of Trustees. Other members or friends of the congregation, including the minister and DLRE, who become aware of such information, must report this to a member of the Board of Trustees. Any person receiving such information should inform the person that the information will be shared with the Board and a Response Team. The Board will then form a Response Team to decide how to handle the situation.
Situations of suspected child abuse are seldom simple and straightforward. Religious leaders should be guided by a commitment to the overriding priority of protecting the children. They should also be sensitive to the harm that can be done by false or mistaken accusations.
If a church member or friend or staff person has reason to believe that a child has been abused, either while in the church program or at other times, the person should report the incident to State authorities in accordance with RCW 26.44.030(b). Other laws may be applicable depending upon the facts and circumstances.
In addition, if the person with the concern believes the abuse occurred during a church program, the individual should report his or her concerns to:
Anyone who has concerns about inappropriate behavior or suspected child abuse by teachers, childcare workers, other adults or youth in the church community should report their concerns immediately to the minister, DLRE, or a member of the Safe Congregation Panel.
The recipient of information about alleged child abuse that occurs during a church program should:
The Board will appoint, with input from the minister, DLRE, and RE Committee Chair, a Safe Congregation Panel of at least 4 responsible and knowledgeable people who could be called upon to form a Response Team and who will be available to confidentially hear concerns about child abuse. The Safe Congregation Panel will be composed of at least 2 women and 2 men, and an effort will be made to reflect the diversity of the Congregation.
These people will be qualified by their:
The DLRE will keep an up-to-date list of the names and phone numbers of all members of the Safe Congregation Panel and will ensure that this list is posted at all times and available to all members and friends of the congregation. The Safe Congregation Panel may also be delegated such duties as arranging training for the congregation, development of RE teacher training, and screening material. The Safe Congregation Panel will review this policy annually and recommend any proposed changes at the beginning of the fiscal year.
A Response Team will be formed by the person who receives the initial complaint in consultation with the minister and DLRE. The Response Team will consist of people not involved in the incident and will include the minister (ex-officio), the DLRE (ex-officio), and 3 individuals from the Safe Congregation Panel, one of whom is a member of the RE Committee if possible and if the incident occurred within the RE program. If the allegation involves a staff person who is on the Response Team, then that staff person will be immediately removed from the Response Team and the Board of Trustees will be notified immediately.
The Response Team does not have the legal authority or the expertise to determine guilt or innocence. It is designed instead to protect members of the church community, and to ensure that the victim and accused are treated with dignity and respect. The team responding to the allegation should keep the following response guidelines in mind:
The President will report to the full board in a closed meeting at the earliest appropriate time.
In order to protect the children and youth in our programs from potential risk and to protect the accused from further suspicion, decisions about removing the alleged perpetrator from interacting with children in the RE program or other church programs will be made by the Response Team, including the DLRE and minister. A decision should be made and action taken in a timely manner based on the possible threat to the children, the credibility and seriousness of the allegation, and other factors that may relate to the situation. Actions other than removal from teaching or leadership will be given full consideration depending upon the situation. Alternative actions might include additional training, review of the policy, or changing classrooms.
Some incidents or allegations in the RE or other children or youth programs may involve behavior that is not clearly child abuse, but may be in other ways deemed inappropriate by a parent, by the DLRE, or by the RE Committee. In such cases, a Response Team may be called together to review the situation and decide what action to take.
The NUUC Board of Trustees will make the final determination of any additional consequences appropriate to the violation of this policy, including, but not limited to, termination of a staff person (except for the minister), and any additional action in the case of volunteers beyond that for which the Response Team is authorized.
Violation of this policy by the minister or DLRE shall constitute cause for discipline under the terms of the minister’s or DLRE’s contracts.
The Board of Trustees shall also inform the following of any determination of serious policy violations by the minister:
Adult – For purposes of this policy, an adult is defined as an individual eighteen (18) years of age or more
Child – Anyone up to age 10
Confidential – The identity of the child victim and/or reporting person, the details of the allegation or concern, and any other identifying information are limited to the members of the Response Team and the accused
DLRE – Director of Lifespan Religious Education
Leave of Absence – Removal from duties
NUUC – Northlake Unitarian Universalist Church
Older youth – Anyone 16 or 17 years old
RE – Religious Education
Strict confidentiality – Information will not be shared with the accused
UUA – Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
Youth – Anyone from age 11 to 17
This policy is based on the Safe Congregation Policy developed by the Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.
Code of Ethics
For Adults and Older Youth Working With
Children and Youth
Adopted by the Unitarian Universalist Association 1986
Adults and older youth who are in leadership roles are in a position of stewardship and play a key role in fostering spiritual development of both individuals and the community. It is, therefore, especially important that those in leadership positions be well qualified to provide the special nurture, care, and support that will enable children and youth to develop a positive sense of self and a spirit of independence and responsibility.
The relationship between young people and their leaders must be one of mutual respect if the positive potential is to be realized. Among the most important areas of growth are those of self-worth and the development of a healthy identity as a sexual being. Adults play a key role in assisting children and youth in these areas of growth. Wisdom dictates and research shows that children, youth, and adults suffer damaging effects when leaders become sexually involved with young persons in their care.
Therefore, I will not engage in sexual, seductive, or erotic behavior with children and youth. I will not sexually harass or engage in behavior with youth that constitutes verbal, emotional, or physical abuse.
I will not be under the influence of illegal drugs, alcohol, or any other drug that would impair my judgment or ability to function effectively while in a leadership role with children or youth.
I have read and understand the above Code of Ethics for leaders of children and youth, and I am in agreement with its spirit and purpose.
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