Child Safety at the Fellowship

Jesus loved children. He admonished his disciples to “let the little children come to me.” (Mark 10:13-14) The Fellowship has a rich tradition of ministry to children and youth. The church takes seriously its responsibility to maintain safety, both for children and their leaders. We provide ministry environments that are emotionally, physically, and spiritually safe, so that minors and vulnerable adults (those with physical or developmental disabilities which may leave them susceptible to harm) are free to experience God’s love and loving Christian community.
 
God’s Word says, “A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers consequences.” (Psalm 27:12) In our day, most churches have found it necessary to develop written guidelines for child safety. Here at the Fellowship, the Elder-mandated participation in our church-wide protection strategy includes several areas:

Personnel Precautions
Environmental Precautions
Child Safety Procedures
Reporting Procedures
Parental Involvement

 
Because we care, we take Personnel Precautions

  1. Screening. All persons who desire to work with minors are screened prior to beginning their role.  This screening process includes the following:
    1. Six month rule  No person will be considered for any volunteer position involving contact with minors until he/she has been involved with The Fellowship for a minimum of six (6) months.  This time of interaction between our leadership and the applicant allows for better evaluation and suitability of the applicant for working with children.
    2. Written application  All persons seeking to work with children must complete and sign a written application.  The application requests basic information from the applicant and inquiries into previous experience with children, previous church affiliation, reference and employment information, as well as disclosure of any previous criminal convictions.
    3. Personal interview  Upon completion of the application, a face-to-face interview may be scheduled with the applicant to discuss his/her suitability for the position.
    4. Reference checks  Before an applicant is permitted to work with children, at least two of the applicant’s references will be checked.  These references should be of an institutional nature as opposed to personal or family references, preferably from organizations where the applicant has worked with children in the past.
    5. Criminal background check  A national criminal background check is required for all employees and volunteers.  If an individual declines a background check, he/she will be unable to work with children.  Disqualifying offenses that keep an individual from working with children will be determined on a case-by-case basis in light of all surrounding circumstances.  Background checks are repeated every 2 to 3 years for all staff and volunteers.

    Prior to serving, the volunteer also reads and signs an agreement to abide by The Fellowship’s Safety Standards and Procedures. The appropriate ministry Director (Children’s Ministry, Student Ministry, or Special Needs Ministry) grants final approval to serve, and may decline approval for reasons criminal, moral, spiritual, or emotion-psychological. The department director is available to explain documents and policies, and to answer questions.

  2. Training. All volunteers must complete the appropriate annual training that includes safety procedures. When a worker fails to attend the training or to make it up in a timely fashion, procedures are in place to pursue compliance. If stubborn non-compliance is encountered, a worker can be suspended from their ministry role.
     
  3. Supervision. All volunteers serve under the supervision of their Directors. From time to time, random visits to observe classrooms and ministry areas are made by Directors or their designees. Directors take an active role in ongoing support, coaching, training, and counseling of volunteer staff, as needed. Our Directors are:
  • For children age 0 thru grade 5 – Jess Silva (kids [at] thefellowshiponline.org)
  • For youth (grades -12) – Richard Moskos (508-828-0353, moskos_richard [at] yahoo.com)
  • For special needs group – Pete & Sandy Willis (508-828-2603, psbk95 [at] gmail.com)

 
Because we care, we take Environmental Precautions

  1. Classrooms.
    All ministry areas are well lit. No meeting takes place behind closed windowless doors. The windows in doors are designed to provide a clear view of the room and must not be blocked.
     
  2. Security Cameras.  
    At various hall locations, security cameras record who enters classrooms, restrooms, etc.  These records add an extra layer of security.
     
  3. Access.
    Parents/adult guardians may observe their child’s class or program. No activity is closed or private.  If a parent chooses to observe a class or activity, they may be asked to check in and receive a visitor lanyard before entering the education wing.
     
  4. Restrooms.
    The church has multi-stall restrooms and single user restrooms. Young children from our classrooms should use the single user restrooms whenever possible. When a younger child must use the bathroom, they will be accompanied to the single user restroom by an adult who first opens the door to make sure the restroom is vacant, and then waits outside the door until the child is finished. If a child needs assistance in toileting, a parent will be called to assist. For bathroom accidents, a parent must be called to attend to the child.  

    For the protection of all, workers should never be alone with a child in a bathroom with the door closed and never be in a closed bathroom stall with a child.  Parents are strongly encouraged to have their children visit the bathroom prior to each class.

    Young children from the Worship Service should be accompanied by their parents (or parent-appointed responsible adult) to the restroom. Older children do not need to be accompanied to the restroom.

  5. Outdoors
    When weather permits, classes may move outdoors, as long as they remain on church property.

  6. Off Campus.
    For any activity occurring outside the church property, each child must have signed parental permission form and medical consent form. Chaperones must have a completed CORI and be informed of all policies. Names of chaperones are available to parents in advance. An adult must never be alone in a car with a minor other than their own child without having received prior authorization from the child’s parents.  In the event of an off campus activity being hosted by a couple, another adult leader should be present.
     
  7. Outside Ministries.
    When any outside group (such as Community Bible Studies or home school co-ops) uses our facilities, they are required to strictly follow our safety guidelines. When any childcare is provided at an event (such as a nursery at a wedding), the childcare workers must seek approval from our Director of Children’s Ministries.
     

Because we care, we follow Child Safety Procedures

  1. Check-In System
    We use a digital check in system to monitor and record student and volunteer attendance in the Education Wing.  Staff, volunteers, and visitors check in and receive a color-coded lanyard as they enter the wing.  Parents and children receive stickers with matching security codes.  Children in grade five and under must be picked up by a parent with a matching security code sticker at the end of class.  Junior High and High School students may be dismissed from class by the teacher.  
     
  2. Nursery/Diapering
    There must always be two non-related volunteers in the nursery, at least one over age 18.  Nursery toys are frequently sanitized. If a child appears sick at check-in, the nursery attendant has the right to gently refuse admission for the sake of the other children. If a child becomes ill or inconsolable or is not easily distracted from unsafe or noisy play, the nursery attendant will page or text the parent/guardian for assistance.

    Staff and volunteers are not allowed to change diapers. Parents will be summoned if a child requires a diaper change or assistance in toileting. The nursery is equipped with a toddler size bathroom for those who are potty trained and can take care of their own needs.

  3. Classroom Supervision
    It is our goal that a minimum of two unrelated adult works will be in attendance at all times when children are being supervised during our programs and activities.  Some classes may have only one adult teacher in attendance during the class session; in these instances, doors to the classroom should remain open and there should be no fewer than three students with the adult teacher.  No adult should be alone with a child.  If it is necessary to talk to a child one-to-one, it should be in a public place, such as a hallway or in a room with an open door in full view of anyone who walks by.

  4. One-to-one ministry
    Youth workers do not meet with any minors alone when the church building is empty. They do not visit them alone at home. Ministry can take place in public, open, visible places, or when ministering to two or more at once. Meetings with a minor should not take place without awareness of parents.
     
  5. Affection
    Church staff or volunteers should not ask children for hugs or any physical affection, but should receive it joyfully if it is given. Adults can feel free to pat a back, hold a hand, or put an arm around a child’s shoulder. We don’t allow tickling, wrestling, sitting in laps, or playing “dog pile” with children.
     
    Significant one-to-one gifts, long term one-to-one correspondence, or any conversation that has a flirtatious overtone between youth workers and minors are inappropriate and should be avoided.  Individual children or groups of children should not receive preferential treatment from staff or volunteers.
     
  6. Discipline
    The best method for handling discipline is prevention of problems. Adults supervising children should always have a plan for activities that will keep the children positively occupied. Adults leading activities for children need to communicate behavioral expectations clearly and repeatedly. We have one rule – love one another. This means children are expected to listen well, follow instructions, and express kindness and respect to others. Teachers and leaders will not allow physical violence of any kind.
     
    If a child is not able to interact with other children or adult leaders in a positive way, the child should be reminded about what is and is not allowed and why. Children need to be encouraged toward making good and godly choices on their own. If problems persist, the child can be removed from the activity or group for a time out. Younger children can often be redirected into another activity.
     
    Adults should treat children kindly and respectfully. They should not hit, spank, or verbally denigrate a child in any way. However, children's misbehavior should not be ignored. If a child's actions are repeatedly disrespectful or harmful to others, the parent/guardian should be called immediately. Parents should be regularly informed of behavior problems and any actions taken by the Director or by volunteers to correct the behavior. 
     
    If a child is disruptive during a group activity, these steps are often helpful:
    • Continue the lesson, but look directly at the child.
    • Continue the lesson, but move near the child.
    • Continue the lesson, but gently place a hand on the child’s shoulder.
    • Pause the lesson, and look directly at the child, use name.
    • Move the child to another place in the group.
    • Talk one-on-one or have a helper talk one-on-one with the child.
    • Take the child from the room to the supervisor.
       
  7. Accident or Injury/Illness
    In the event that a child is injured or becomes ill while under our care, the following steps should be followed:
    1. For minor injuries, scrapes, and bruises, workers will provide First Aid (Band-Aids, etc.) as appropriate and will notify the child's parent or guardian of the injury at the time the child is picked up from our care.
    2. For injuries requiring medical treatment beyond simple First Aid, the parent and/or guardian will immediately be summoned in addition to the appropriate Director.  There are several medical personnel in attendance at the Fellowship.  These may be summoned for additional help if necessary.  If warranted by circumstances, an ambulance will be called.
    3. Once the child has received appropriate medical attention, an Incident Report Form will be completed in the case of injuries requiring treatment.
       
  8. Fire Safety
    As all public buildings, the church is well equipped with fire alarms, fire extinguishers, and a sprinkler system. Evacuation paths are marked and teachers are instructed. (In the event of a fire alarm, teachers will lead their classes to the designated exits, gather outside by class, and take attendance.  Students will remain with their classes unless a parent specifically checks out a child.

 
Because we care, we employ Thorough Reporting

Every allegation of abuse must be taken very seriously.  When anyone hears such an allegation, or sees strong evidence (in physical injuries, in behaviors, or moods), there must be immediate reporting to the Report Chain.  Staff and volunteers are trained to be alert for such evidences.

This includes two kinds of reporting: the reporting of allegations of actual abuse and the reporting of suspicious behaviors and unintended boundary violations. In both cases, our intention is to protect both children and staff.  We strive to protect children from harm both by prompt reports of abuse, and by preventive measures.  We also strive to protect staff from false accusation by balanced, thoughtful reporting procedures.

  1. Report Chain 
    Our chain is: Volunteer, Team Leader, Director, Pastor/Elder, Civil Authorities.

    When a participant in this chain hears a report, he/she must assess its weight and proceed to the next level up the report chain.  Note that by law, the Pastor is a mandated reporter: he is required to notify authorities when he receives any clear report.

    Written reports are needed, but don’t wait to get it in writing. Report orally, then document it with date and details. If the next person in the chain is unavailable, go directly to the next level.
     

  2. Suspicious Behaviors
    Sometimes it is simply a matter of suspicious behaviors where there is no evidence of actual abuse. It may be merely an unintended violation of the boundaries in our safety procedures. Intended or unintended, do not ignore these. All workers have signed on to a mutual accountability to help keep one another from raising suspicions. Go directly to the person and point out your concern. That should settle matters and prevent further issues. However, if the person’s response is not cooperative, or if a repetitious pattern of boundary violations occurs, please consult with their supervisor.
     
  3. Self-Reporting
    A worker may find themselves in an unintended or unavoidable situation contrary to our policy. That worker should complete an Out of Procedure report to detail the incident. For minor siutations, an oral report to a supervisor may be sufficient.  This may help prevent false accusation.
     
  4.  Incident Reporting 
    In the event that an incident of abuse or neglect is alleged to have occurred, the following procedure shall be followed:
    1. The parent or guardian of the child will be notified.

    2. The worker or church member alleged to be the perpetrator of the abuse or misconduct will immediately be placed on leave pending an investigation and instructed to remain away from the premises during the investigation.  He or she should be instructed to have no contact with the victim or with witnesses.

    3. All allegations of abuse should be reported to the civil authorities, and the organization will comply with the state’s requirements regarding mandatory reporting of abuse as the law then exists.  The organization will fully cooperate with the investigation of the incident by civil authorities.

    4. The insurance company will be notified, and the organization will complete an incident report.  Any documents received relating to the incident and/or allegations will immediately be forwarded to the insurance company.

    5. The organization will designate a spokesperson to the media concerning incidents of abuse or neglect.  The advice of legal counsel will be sought before responding to media inquiries or releasing information about the situation to the congregation.  All other representatives of the organization should refrain from speaking to the media.

    6. A pastoral visit will be arranged for those who desire it.  This should be for the purpose of providing pastoral support during the time of crisis and not for the purpose of investigating the incident or influencing the investigation.

    7. Any person who is not found innocent of the alleged abuse or misconduct will be removed from their position working with children or youth.

 
Because we care, we encourage Parental Involvement

  1. Authority
    Parents have the ultimate authority and responsibility for a child’s welfare and training. Our activities at the church are only to serve and support parents. Our classes, safety procedures, and reporting must take place with all reasonable transparency for the parents of each child.
     
  2. Involvement
    Parents are encouraged to take an active role as volunteers in our ministries. They are also encouraged to interact at home with their children about what they are learning and experiencing in our ministries.
     
  3. Concerns
    Any concerns about your child’s experience in our programs should be reported to the child’s teacher or group leader, or to the appropriate director. This is especially true if there is a sense that some inappropriate relationship may be developing between a child and an adult.  Please bring any other questions, comments, or suggestions to the appropriate Director.

 

Safety policy last updated: 2018

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