Stehman Memorial United Methodist Church
Monday, July 24, 2017
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Safe Sanctuaries Policy

SAFE SANCTUARIES
Reducing the Risk of Abuse in the Church
As Amended January 6, 2015

Stehman Memorial United Methodist Church

Eastern Pennsylvania Conference

 
PREAMBLE

God has called us to make our ministries safe, protecting our children, youth and vulnerable adults from abuse and exploitation.  God has also called us to create communities of faith where children, youth and vulnerable adults can be safe and grow strong.

Jesus taught: “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me” (Mark 9:37 NRSV) and “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones…it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6 NRSV)

At each child’s baptism, we affirm our responsibility to their safety by our congregational response, pledging:

“With God’s help, we will so order our lives after the example of Christ that this child, surrounded by steadfast love, may be established in the faith, and confirmed and strengthened in the way that leads to life eternal.”  (The Book of Worship, Baptismal Covenant, Congregational Pledge II)

Building on these foundations, we recognize that our faith calls us to offer hospitality and protection to all children, youth and vulnerable adults, as well as those who are committed to ministering to them as volunteers and employees.  This policy is intended to help to 1) prevent abuse from happening in our church; 2) make our church a place where children can feel safer in disclosing abuse; and 3) protect the loyal volunteers and employees who minister to our children, youth and vulnerable adults.

DEFINITIONS:

Bodily Injury: Recent act or failure to act (within 2 years of the date of report) that causes impairment of physical condition or substantial pain.

Child or children or youth – any person who has not reached his/her eighteenth birthday.

Child Abuse: Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly doing any of the following:

–  Causing bodily injury.

–  Causing or substantially contributing to serious mental injury.

–  Causing sexual abuse or exploitation.

–  Causing serious physical neglect.

–  Creating a reasonable likelihood of bodily injury or sexual abuse or exploitation.

- Engaging in any of the following acts:

                  Kicking, biting, throwing, burning, stabbing, or cutting a child in a manner that endangers the child.

                  Unreasonably restraining or confining a child.

                  Forcefully shaking, slapping or otherwise striking a child under one 
year of age.

                  Interfering with the breathing of a child.

                  Causing a child to be present at a meth lab.

                  Knowingly leaving a child with a known sexual predator.

                  Causing the death of a child through any act or failure to act.

Creating A Reasonable Likelihood of Bodily Injury or Sexual Abuse or Exploitation

Putting a child in a situation where the child could easily suffer a bodily injury or sexual abuse, but by good fortune, luck, “the grace of God,” or by chance, injury or abuse was averted.

Imminent Risk – (As defined in the PA Child Protective Services Law, Title 23 Pa. C.S.S. Chapter 63) – An act or recent act or series of such which creates an imminent risk of serious physical injury to or sexual exploitation of a child.

Mental Abuse – (As defined in the PA Child Protective Services Law, Title 23 PA C.S.S. Chapter 63) – An act or failure to act that results in a psychological condition, as diagnosed by a physician or licensed psychologist, including the refusal of appropriate treatment that: Renders a child chronically and severely anxious, agitated, depressed, socially withdrawn, psychotic, or in reasonable fear that the child’s life or safety is threatened; or Seriously interferes with the child’s ability to accomplish age-appropriate developmental and social tasks.

Persons who work with children, youth, and/or vulnerable adults – any person who works with young people under the age of 18 or vulnerable adults in any regular capacity such as Sunday School teacher, youth group leader, choir director, regular driver, regular food servers, and general helpers on a schedule that repeats such as weekly, monthly, quarterly; or who participates on-site or in transportation for an overnight or longer program.

Physical Abuse – (As defined in the PA Child Protective Services Law, Title 23 PA C.S.S. Chapter 63) – A recent act (within the past two years) or failure to act, which causes a non-accidental serious physical injury that causes the child severe pain or significantly impairs the child’s functioning, either temporarily or permanently.

Serious Physical Neglect

- Repeated, prolonged or unconscionable egregious failure to supervise appropriately.

- Failure to provide adequate essentials of life.

- Any of which endangers life or health, threatens well being, causes bodily injury, or impairs health, development or functioning.

Sexual Abuse - Having a child engage in or assist someone to engage in sexually explicit conduct, including, but is not limited to:

- Looking at the sexual or other intimate parts of a child or another individual for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire in an individual.

- Participating in sexually explicit conversations either in person, by telephone, by computer or by a computeraided device for the purpose of sexual stimulation or gratifying of an individual.

Actual or simulated sexual activity or nudity for the purpose of sexual stimulation or gratification of an individual.

      - Actual or simulated sexual activity for the purpose of producing visual depiction, including photographing, videotaping, computer depiction or filming.

      - Any of the following offenses committed against a child: rape, statutory rape, involuntary deviant sexual intercourse, sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, indecent exposure, incest, prostitution.

Supervision – to oversee or direct a ministry or activity.

Vulnerable Adult – A person eighteen (18) years of age or older who, because of a mental or physical dysfunction, is unable to manage his/her own resources, carry out the activity of daily living, or protect himself/herself from abuse or neglect without assistance from others.

SCREENING AND SELECTION OF STAFF AND VOLUNTEERS:

All new applicants for employment or volunteer service with children, youth or vulnerable adults shall complete the following prior to start of service:

1)     Written Application – All prospective workers with children, youth or vulnerable adults shall complete a written application that shall include at least the following information:

a.     Name
b.     Address

c.     Phone Number

d.     Work/Volunteer History

e.     This information may be provided as part of the background check paperwork.

2)     Background Checks – The following background checks shall be obtained for all EMPLOYEES age 14 and older responsible for the welfare of a child, youth or vulnerable adult or having direct contact with children, youth and vulnerable adults:

a.     Pennsylvania State Police Criminal Report – A report of criminal history information obtained from the Pennsylvania State Police or a statement from the Pennsylvania State Police that the State Police central repository contains no information related to that person.  The report or statement shall have been obtained within a on-year period proceeding initial application.  A new State Police Criminal History Report shall be obtained every three (3) years.  The original document shall be kept in file, or a copy shall be made of the original and be kept in the file with a notation that the original was shown by the applicant.

b.     Pennsylvania Child Abuse History Clearance – A certification obtained from the Department of Public Welfare as to whether the applicant is named in the central register as the perpetrator of a founded report of child abuse, indicated report of child abuse, founded report or indicated report for school employee.  The certification shall have been obtained within a one-year period preceding initial application.  A new Childline report shall be obtained every (3) years.  The original document shall be kept in file, or a copy shall be made of the original and be kept in file with a notation that the original was shown by the applicant.

c.     Federal Bureau of Investigations Clearance (fingerprinting)

d.     All the above must be repeated every 3 years

3)     All ADULT VOLUNTEERS OR PROSPECTIVE VOLUNTEERS responsible for the welfare of a child, youth or vulnerable adult, or having direct contact with children, youth or vulnerable adults, must obtain the following:

a.     Pennsylvania State Police Criminal Report – A report of criminal history information obtained from the Pennsylvania State Police or a statement from the Pennsylvania State Police that the State Police central repository contains no information related to that person.  The report or statement shall have been obtained within a on-year period proceeding initial application.  A new State Police Criminal History Report shall be obtained every three (3) years.  The original document shall be kept in file, or a copy shall be made of the original and be kept in the file with a notation that the original was shown by the applicant.

b.     Pennsylvania Child Abuse History Clearance – A certification obtained from the Department of Public Welfare as to whether the applicant is named in the central register as the perpetrator of a founded report of child abuse, indicated report of child abuse, founded report or indicated report for school employee.  The certification shall have been obtained within a one-year period preceding initial application.  A new Childline report shall be obtained every (3) years.  The original document shall be kept in file, or a copy shall be made of the original and be kept in file with a notation that the original was shown by the applicant.

c.     Federal Bureau of Investigations Clearance (fingerprinting) UNLESS:

- The prospective volunteer has been a resident of Pennsylvania for all of the past 10 years

- The prospective volunteer affirms in writing that he or she has not been convicted in any other state of any of the Pennsylvania 
offenses that prohibit service.

d.     All the above must be repeated every 3 years

(4)    Based on the results of the background checks obtained from sections (a), (b), and (c), the following, as found in the PA Child Protective Services Law, Title 23 Pa. C.S.S. Chapter 63, shall be grounds for denying employment or volunteer service.  Grounds for denying employment or volunteer service is not limited to this list only:

                                                        i.     No applicant may be hired or used in volunteer service that is named in the central register as the perpetrator of a founded report of child abuse.

                                                       ii.     No applicant may be hired or used in volunteer service if the applicant’s criminal history record information indicates the applicant has been convicted of one or more of the following offenses under Title 18 (related to crimes and offenses) or an equivalent crime under Federal law or the law of another state:

1.     Chapter 25              Relating to criminal homicide

2.     Section 2702            Relating to aggravated assault

3.     Section 2709            Relating to harassment and stalking

4.     Section 2901                        Relating to kidnapping

5.     Section 2902                        Relating to unlawful restraint

6.     Section 3121                        Relating to rape

7.     Section 3122.1         Relating to statutory sexual assault

8.     Section 3123                        Relating to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse

9.     Section 3124.1         Relating to sexual assault

10.   Section 3125                        Relating to sexual aggravated indecent assault

11.   Section 3126                        Relating to indecent assault

12.   Section 3127                        Relating to indecent exposure

13.   Section 4302                        Relating to incest

14.   Section 4303                        Relating to concealing death of a child

15.   Section 4304                        Relating to endangering welfare of children

16.   Section 4305                        Relating to dealing in infant children

17.   A felony offense under Section 5902(b) Relating to prostitution and related offenses

18.   Section 5903(c) or (d)           Relating to obscene and other sexual materials and performances

19.   Section 6301                        Relating to corruption of minors

20.   Section 6312                        Relating to sexual abuse of children

21.   The attempt, solicitation or conspiracy to commit any of the offenses listed above

                                                      iii.     No applicant may be hired or used in volunteer service if his/her criminal history record information indicates the individual has bee convicted of a felony offense under the Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act (P.L. 233, No. 64), committed within the previous five (5) years.

b.     Applicants may be provisionally hired or used as volunteers for a single period not to exceed 30 days or, for out-of-state applicants, 90 days, if all of the following conditions are met:

                                                        i.     The applicant has applied for the required background checks and the applicant provides a copy of the appropriate completed request forms.

                                                       ii.     The administrator has no knowledge of information pertaining to the applicant, which would disqualify them from employment or volunteer service pursuant to the grounds for denying employment or volunteer service listed above.

                                                      iii.     The applicant swears or affirms in writing that he is not disqualified from employment or volunteer service pursuant to the grounds for denying employment or volunteer service listed above.

                                                      iv.     If the information obtained in the background checks reveals that the applicant is disqualified from employment or volunteer service, the applicant shall be immediately dismissed.

                                                       v.     The applicant will not be permitted to work alone with children, and the applicant will work in the immediate vicinity of an employee or volunteer who has completed the screening process.

c.     Applicants who cannot obtain background checks for administrative reasons may be used as volunteers if all of the following conditions are met:

                                                        i.     The administrator has no knowledge of information pertaining to the applicant, which would disqualify them from employment or volunteer service pursuant to the grounds for denying employment or volunteer service listed above.

                                                       ii.     The applicant swears or affirms in writing that he is not disqualified from employment or volunteer service pursuant to the grounds for denying employment or volunteer service listed above.

                                                      iii.     The applicant will not be permitted to work alone with children, and the applicant will work in the immediate vicinity of an employee or volunteer who has completed the screening process.

(5)    Relationship with Church – All prospective workers with children, youth or vulnerable adults shall demonstrate an active relationship with the local church for at least six months before being allowed to be in a supervisory role in activities for children, youth or vulnerable adults.  In the case of new staff hires, references deemed adequate by the hiring supervisor will replace the six-month waiting period.

(6)    Records – All written records shall be confidential.  All files shall be maintained for three (3) years after service ends. 

ADDITIONAL SCREENING MEASURES:

Additional screening measures that can be considered include, but are not limited to, the following:

1)     Written Position Descriptions – A written position description defines duties, performance expectations, and general qualifications necessary and to whom the position reports. 

2)     Additional background checks – In addition to the State Police, Childline, and FBI background checks, the church may conduct additional checks that include the following:

a.     Commercially available background searches including:

                                                        i.     Multi-state criminal records

                                                       ii.     Multi-state sex offender records

                                                      iii.     Drivers license records

b.     Internet search on applicants (e.g. Google)

c.     Checking the Megan’s Law website (www.pameganslaw.state.pa.us/)

3)     Formal Interview

TRAINING:

Persons who work with children, youth or vulnerable adults shall participate in orientation training.

The orientation shall include an explanation of the Safe Sanctuaries program including:

1)     The need for Safe Sanctuaries policies and procedures

2)     Supervision requirements

3)     Appropriate discipline practices

4)     Recognizing signs of child abuse

5)     Reporting procedures

SUPERVISION:

Supervision procedures are designed to reduce the possibility of abuse or exploitation of children, youth or vulnerable adults, and to protect staff persons and volunteers from unfounded accusations.

Supervision Standards:

1)     The two-adult rule – Regardless of the size group, there will always be at least two adults present.  This may include the presence of an adult ‘roamer’ who moves in and out of rooms/ministry activities.

2)     No child, youth or vulnerable adult will be left unsupervised while participating in a ministry activity/event.

3)     All ministry activities should occur in open view.  Each room or space where ministry activities/events occur must be open to public view.  For example:  enclosed spaces such as classrooms shall have a viewing window, a glass panel in the door, a ½ door configuration or an open door.

4)     No person shall supervise an age group unless he/she is at least 18 years of age or older and is at least 5 years older than the children/youth being supervised.

5)     Ministry events involving transportation shall require a written consent form signed by the parent or guardian of the child/youth/vulnerable adult.

REPORTING:

Reporting of an allegation of child abuse is required whenever there is “reasonable cause to suspect” that abuse has occurred (PA Child Protective Services Law), Title 23 Pa. C.S.S. Chapter 63).  Reasonable cause to suspect abuse can occur (1) when any staff or a volunteer personally witnesses an incident of abuse, (2) when an allegation of an event of abuse is made to staff or volunteer by a third party, and/or (3) when a child or vulnerable adult discloses abuse to staff or a volunteer.  It is crucial that reporting be immediate and the allegations dealt with as soon in time as possible to the incident or disclosure.

The following persons are mandated by law to report in any case involving reasonable cause to suspect abuse, as described above:

- All clergy.

- Any adult, paid or unpaid, who, on the basis of the individual’s role as an integral part of a regularly scheduled program, activity or service, accepts responsibility for a child.

The mandated reporter observing the behavior or receiving the allegation or disclosure must immediately file the report to the Pennsylvania Child Abuse Hotline.

A mandated reporter who fails or delays reporting may be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on whether the nonreporting is willful and how serious the abuse is.

Reports of suspected child or youth abuse are made to: Pennsylvania Child Abuse Hotline (24/7 service) at 8009320313.

- Immediately after filing the report, the person filing the report must inform the pastor or a designated church leader.

- Within 48 hours, the person filing the report must also make a written report on the appropriate form (CY47).

- Persons making reports have immunity from civil and criminal liability. It is presumed that reports are made in good faith.

- Releasing the identity of the person making the report is prohibited. This applies to law enforcement, child welfare workers, and the church.

RESPONSES FOR ALLEGATIONS OF ABUSE:

All allegations will be taken seriously.  In all cases of reported or observed abuse there shall be cooperation with all official investigating agencies.

Response to victims of abuse:

In the instance of any allegation of abuse, there shall be a reaching out to the victim and the victim’s family.  Pastoral resources shall be extended, and the conference I-Care Team can be contacted to assist in providing this service.  The care and safety of the victim shall be considered the first priority.  Response to the victim and the victim’s family shall be done in a positive and supportive manner.

The parents of the victim shall be notified and steps shall be taken to address the safety and well being of the child or youth until the parent(s) arrive.  NOTE:  If one or both of the parents is the alleged abuser, the direction of the child welfare authorities shall be followed concerning notification of others.

Response to all alleged perpetrators of abuse:

The alleged perpetrator shall immediately, yet with dignity and respect for their sacred worth, be removed from further involvement with children or vulnerable adults and advised that there has been an allegation of abuse.  Details of the allegations of the abuse shall not be discussed with the alleged perpetrator at the time of removal.  In any removal of a staff member or volunteer from any activity/ministry, care shall be taken to handle the removal in a discreet manner, recognizing that there will be an investigation by either state or church authorities, or both.

When it has been alleged that a member of the church staff or a volunteer has committed an act of abuse, the staff member or volunteer shall be required to refrain from all ministry activities/events with children, youth and vulnerable adults until the incident has been fully resolved by state authorities and/or in accordance with the Book of Discipline.

Response to the Media:

The District Superintendent, the Conference Director of Communications and pastor shall decide on a single spokesperson for contact with the public/media.  All media requests for statements shall be directed to that spokesperson. 

Compliance:

Compliance with this policy shall be a matter of record at each annual Charge Conference

 

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