Safe Sanctuary Policy and Procedures


SAFE SANCTUARY POLICY AND PROCEDURES

amended 8/16/2011
First United Methodist Church, Stanley, NC

INTRODUCTION

He took a little child and had him stand among them.  Taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me, but the one who sent me.  Mark 9:36-37

Children and youth are a vital part of the United Methodist Church and our community of faith.  We take the responsibility given to us by Christ to include and provide for them.  This includes accepting the serious responsibility of providing a safe and secure place for them to develop as Christians.

In keeping with the resolution adopted by the General Conference of the United Methodist Church in April 1996, the resolution adopted by the Western North Carolina Conference in June 2004, and the biblical teachings and the traditions and beliefs of the United Methodist Church, we, the congregation First United Methodist Church , Stanley, adopt the following policy and procedures in order to provide a safe sanctuary for children and youth.

PURPOSE

First United Methodist Church, Stanley, adopts the following policy and procedures to provide a safe and secure environment within the church as well as for any event that is connected with the ministries and operations of this church. While the primary reason for this policy is to prevent any kind of abuse and neglect of children and youth, it has been adopted to protect all who enter our doors.  “Youth” or “Child” shall be deemed synonymous and shall be defined as any person less than eighteen (18) years of age. “Adult” shall be defined as any person at least eighteen (18) years of age.

STATEMENT OF COVENANT AND POLICY

As a Christian community of faith First United Methodist Church-Stanley pledges to conduct the ministry of the gospel in ways that assure the safety and spiritual growth of our children, youth, and adults as well as all workers with children, youth and adults. We as a congregation pledge our utmost to protect all who enter our doors by adopting the following procedures.  We will educate all of our workers with children and youth about appropriate policies and methods; we will have a clearly defined procedure for reporting suspected incidents of abuse that follows North Carolina law; and we will be prepared to respond to media inquiries if an incident occurs.  The procedures are designed to prevent any type of child, youth or adult abuse, neglect or exploitation as defined by the general statutes of North Carolina. These can be specifically found in Chapters 7,7a, 7b, and 14 of the North Carolina criminal law and procedure. Nothing in this policy or procedure is designed to hinder or prevent the investigation of suspected, reported or confirmed violations of any North Carolina criminal laws.

POLICY and PROCEDURES:  Although the following are the basic procedures to insure a safe physical and emotional environment, there is a need for common sense procedures in dealing with hazardous conditions.

SUPERVISION AND CONDUCT:

  • All teachers and those who supervise directly or indirectly children/youth must be at least 18 years of age, at least 5 years older than the oldest person in the group, and an active  participant in good standing for at least six months.  The exception to the church membership rule could be the scouting programs, which have their own set of requirements. Another exception would be workers with the outdoor sports ministry (soccer).
  • All teachers supervising children/youth must have completed a volunteer application including references, and be willing to submit to a criminal background check from local and, when appropriate, state and national law enforcement agencies. (These background checks may be provided by law enforcement agencies, approved investigative agency, or an attorney).  Effective 1/6/06, all paid employees of the church will be required to have a criminal background check.  The Staff-Parish Relations Committee must check out all references for paid staff.
  • Results of the criminal background check will be kept in strict confidence and under lock and key. The pastor, chairperson of staff-parish committee, and Administrative Council Chair will be the only persons with this information.  Generally, any person who has a criminal history of child-abuse-type offenses or a history of any other violent crime, such as armed robbery, rape, weapons or drug related charges could reasonably be prevented from serving as a teacher, leader, etc.
  • All paid or volunteer teaching/supervising staff working with children/youth must be trained in safe sanctuary policies and procedures before teaching or supervising. Thereafter, all teachers /supervisors should be re-trained yearly. This training may be provided by the individual church, district or conference training programs.  It will be the responsibility of the Pastor or their designee to insure that annual training takes place.  All adult volunteers and staff shall sign a pledge to follow this policy and these procedures prior to being permitted to participate in activities with children/youth.
  • All volunteers and employees are required to take training on the reality of child abuse and sexual misconduct, risk factors that lead to child abuse, and prevention strategies.  These sessions must be documented and include date, time, and persons attending; retraining should occur every 2 years and as new volunteers/workers are added.
  • All classrooms or areas being used by children/ youth should have a glass panel in the door to allow for outside monitoring. This glass panel must not be covered and should allow monitoring of all spaces within the classroom or area. In addition, one person must be designated as a “roamer” and should make unscheduled visits to check on all classrooms or areas. This person will be the Superintendent of Sunday School or a designee.  If a children/youth activity is held in any room not having a window in the door, then the door to the room must remain fully open during all aspects of the activity.
  • The Pastor’s Study should have a small glass window in it, as well as any other room where pastoral counseling or consultation is common.  An open door policy may also be used when necessary.  Pastoral counseling is expected to be confidential in nature, but it is preferred that such sessions take place where other people are nearby even though not within hearing distance.
  • “ Rule of two”:  A minimum of two adults shall be present for any church sponsored program or event involving children/youth.  When possible, the two adults should be unrelated.  If the “rule of two” is not possible, the door to the classroom must remain open or have a glass panel. The roamer rule should also be followed.
  • “The Buddy System”:  Using the guidelines that the Scouts use, we encourage parents, teachers, and leaders of anyone under the age of 18 to make sure the children or youth always have a “buddy” who is close to their age so that no child is ever alone while in the church buildings, or while on any activity, trip, or overnight.
  • Parents shall always be given advance notice and information regarding any activity in which their child/youth will be particpating which deviates from the traditional classroom instruction offered at the church during Sunday school, God’s Kids, UMY or youth Bible Study, or Vacation BibleSchool.  Parents may be required to give permission for their child/youth before the child/youth’s participation in divergent activities.
  •  It is encouraged that a parent or guardian accompanies any child/youth needing assistance in the restroom. When this is not possible the door to the restroom should be kept open or ajar with as much privacy as possible provided for the child/youth.
  • Children/youth must be supervised at all times by responsible adults  (at least eighteen (18) years of age and five years older than those being supervised) to lessen the likelihood of any situation that could result in injury, abuse or neglect. (Rule of 2 and the Buddy System shall be followed).  This procedure does NOT prohibit adults who are less than five years older than the youth or children in an activity from participating as a  “helper” for the activity.  This procedure DOES require that persons meet the “two adult rule” and be at least five years older than the children/youth in any activity.
  •  Overnight youth retreats or mission trips   All counselors must be twenty-one (21) years of age.  On an overnight retreat where there are both male and female youth, there must be both male and female counselors.  Youth will not share a bed with an adult. A minimum of three persons shall be assigned to a room; males and females are to be housed in separate rooms, with the exception of married couples.   Visitation between male and females in bedrooms is prohibited unless directly supervised in a group setting with the counselors for devotional or group discussion times.
  • Appropriate touch:  Appropriate demonstrations of affection or physical contact would be:  never initiate a hug (unless there are other adults in the room); keep hugs brief; always be the one to end a hug; hug from the side rather than the front; never impose your touches on the children/youth in your group.  A leader/counselor should never be alone with a child/youth.
  • Insurance: The church will provide adequate liability insurance for their facilities in case of accident or injury to anyone participating in a church-sponsored activity, as well as coverage for sexual and other forms of abuse.
  • Sunday Morning Security: (amendment added by approval of church council on 8/14/2011)

All doors except sanctuary front doors will be locked 5 minutes after worship begins to insure the safety of our children and teachers in the nursery and children’s church

SAFETY AND FIRST AID:

  • The church will maintain at least four first aid kits: One at the nurse’s office, one in the kitchen, one in the activity building, and one that can be checked out for outside activities.  The Health Cabinet or their designee will be responsible for maintaining these first aid kits.
  • The church should offer a course for CPR/First Aid for staff and volunteers annually. This is especially for those working with children/youth and older adults.  The Nursery worker should be required to obtain this certification as a term of employment.  Others – children/youth workers- should be strongly encouraged to complete this certification.  This course shall be from the American Red Cross or similar organization.
  • In all the buildings, fire evacuation routes will be posted and the Trustees will maintain fire extinguishers and smoke alarms annually.

TRAVEL:

  • Any teaching or educational experience that requires travel from the church or overnight travelmust have the written permission and insurance information from the parent or guardian of each child/youth, and, where necessary, the approval of the pastor or Sunday school superintendent.  The permission/medical information file must stay with the coordinator for the entire trip.
  • The “rule of two adults” must be followed with no exceptions when traveling.

 

  •  No youth may drive a group to any youth group activity that is located outside of Stanley.  No youth may leave the church with any person other than a parent without parental permission.

PROCEDURES TO FOLLOW IN CASE OF ALLEGATION OF ABUSE:

  • Any suspected or reported case of neglect or abuse (physical, sexual, or other abuse) should be reported immediately to the Pastor, the Sunday school superintendent, or the Administrative Council chairperson. In the event that the Pastor is implicated, the chairperson of the Administrative Council or the Sunday school superintendent must notify the chairperson of the Staff-Parish Relations Committee and the District Superintendent within 24 hours.
  • The Children’s Director, Youth Director, or Pastor should thoroughly explain the process of filing a complaint with the person who is making the allegation to insure that he/she is fully aware of the actions that will be taken by the church as outlined-formal complaints, submitted by the completion of a complaint form will then be given to the pastor who will then take over the procedure
  • Notify the parents of the victim immediately of any formal allegations; take appropriate steps from there to contact the proper law enforcement, annual conference authorities, the church’s attorney, and the church’s insurance agent; the pastor would be responsible for making these notifications.
  • The pastor, the Sunday School superintendent, or Administrative Council chairperson to whom the incident has been reported must immediately cause an incident report to be filled out with all available details.  Report forms will be kept in the church office. The District Superintendent must be notified by the next business day. It will then be the decision of the District Superintendent, Pastor and Sunday school superintendent or Administrative Council chairperson as to the appropriate action to be taken. The District Superintendent shall have final local authority in the matter. The WNCC Director of Communications will also be notified.
  • In case of an incident the pastor or church attorney will be the only person to speak to the congregation and media about the incident.
  • However, in no event shall any of the above fail to report substantiated abuse or neglect to the proper law enforcement or social service agency as required by North Carolina law.  Contact should be made with the Stanley Police office and the Gaston County Department of Social Services to communicate the complaint.
  • Any person named as an alleged offender in a complaint shall immediately be required to cease any contact with children or youth through First United Methodist Church -Stanley activities.  The alleged offender may resume activities with children youth at such time as the District Superintendent, Senior Pastor, and Staff-Parish Relations Chair shall deem it appropriate.
  • Take all necessary steps to protect the privacy and confidentiality of both the victim and the accused. However, it might be necessary for a staff member or pastor to have confidential discussions with other workers to discern what they might have seen or heard.

CONCLUSION:

We must keep in mind that these policies and procedures are not meant to cause discomfort for anyone in the church.  They are intended to provide protection.  According to Joy Melton, “Currently no congregation can afford, either financially, ethically, or morally, to fail to implement strategies for the reduction and prevention of child/youth neglect or sexual abuse. We, as Christians, are not called to discontinue our congregations’ ministries with children and youth.  We are called to engage in these ministries with great rejoicing and with the knowledge that we are making every effort to provide ministry to our children and youth in ways that assure their safety while they grow in faith.”  This policy and proposal is to educate and protect any and all parties who might be affected by an event like this.

Attachments:  Volunteer application; authorization to do background checks; accident report; report of suspected incident of child/youth abuse; forms for reference checks, Participation Covenant for all workers with children/youth. –All forms from “Safe Sanctuaries” by Joy Melton.

[References Used: SAFE SANCTUARIES FOR YOUTH By Joy Thornburg Melton; Central UMC Safe Sanctuaries Policy -Denton NC; FUMC Safe Sanctuaries Policy-Murray KY]