SAFE church volunteer policy

First Church of Christ, Congregational UCC, Bethany Connecticut

Safe Conduct Policy

Adopted 4/9/2015

I.          PURPOSE

The purpose of this policy is to protect children, vulnerable adults and volunteers from the experience of inappropriate behavior and/or illegal action.

II.         CLARIFICATION

When clarification of this policy is needed, we will refer to the policy outline at http://www.insuranceboard.org/safety_solutions/safe_conduct_workbench.aspx  and/or seek the counsel of the current staff member at the Connecticut Conference with responsibility for Safe Conduct policies.  In any case in which a question is raised about a potential incident, the laws of the State of Connecticut will be followed and the Area Minister will be immediately notified.

III.        BACKGROUND CHECKS

Best Practice: All persons working with our children on more than an emergency fill-in basis will complete a background check, using the current criteria of the recommended policy.  A new background check will be required every three years.

Our pastor will complete a background check every three years and will comply with the current standards and expectations of the New Haven Association with regard to boundary training.

Background checks for volunteers and employees (other than authorized ministers) will be administered by the pastor and approved by the pastor and chair of the relevant committee.  Under no circumstances will a convicted sex offender be approved to work with children or vulnerable adults.

Best Practice: Adults who travel with our children must have a background check on file. DMV records will be particularly scrutinized for those adults who will be driving cars.

Background checks and employment records will be kept for twenty years.  All records will be kept confidential.  It is recommended that each year’s background checks be retained in sealed envelopes.

IV.       TRAINING:

On-line training is available and it is recommended that volunteers take the training.  In addition, it would be preferable to have a training session for all volunteers on a yearly basis.  From time to time, training may be offered by the Connecticut Conference; volunteers will be urged to take advantage of such training.  The Christian Education Board is charged with making such training available.

V.        PUBLIC NOTICE OF POLICY & REPORTING PROCEDURES:

Public notices of the policy will be posted in the church building, including to whom to report possible incidents (pastor, chair of Christian Education; Chair, Deacons; Church Moderator; Area Minister) along with phone numbers and email addresses.

Best Practice: We will post in Church School Room, in the Parish Hall, on the Parlor Bulletin Board, on the Church Website.

VI.       REPORTING PROCEDURES:

The Pastor shall immediately report any accusation of possible criminal behavior to the Connecticut State Police for investigation.  If the Pastor is suspected of possible criminal behavior, the Church Moderator shall make the report AND immediately notify the Area Minister.  Further details about requirements and responses can be found here:  http://www.ct.gov/dcf/cwp/view.asp?a=2556&q=314388

Parents shall be notified of an incident involving their child.

Incidents which require medical or psychological care for a victim shall be reported to the UCC IB in order to determine the need for and initiate Crisis Management services.

Incidents which do not involve breaking the law will be dealt with on a case by case basis, taking into account the nature of the infraction, past occurrences and other pertinent data.  Violators may be counseled, warned, suspended or their employment (volunteer or paid) may be terminated.  In all cases, a written record of the incident shall be maintained for twenty years.

Best Practice: In any incident, any party wishing pastoral care will have that care provided, either within the church or through the conference by referral.

VII.      TALKING WITH THE MEDIA:

If an incident involves the media, advice must be taken immediately from the Connecticut Conference.  ONLY ONE PERSON from the Church may speak on behalf of the church.  Normatively, that person would be the Moderator.  Prior to speaking with media, check with the Conference about what is appropriate to say, what is confidential, what is private, and so on.

VIII.     MANDATED REPORTERS:

Any member of the church who is a Mandated Reporter must follow Connecticut state laws if they believe abuse is taking place or a child is in imminent danger.  Teachers, medical personnel, law enforcement personnel, clergy and other people who work with children are Mandated Reporters.  A complete list of Mandated Reporters may be found here:  http://www.ct.gov/dcf/cwp/view.asp?a=2556&q=314384

IX.       ANONYMOUS COMPLAINTS AND ANONYMITY

Anonymous complaints will not be accepted.  However, the anonymity of a reporter will be maintained, if possible, and within the bounds of the laws of the state of Connecticut.

X.        NO BULLYING HERE:

In addition to sexual abuse, this church will not accept, allow or tolerate bullying, dangerous behaviors, sexual harassment or exploitation of vulnerable adults.  We are an Open and Affirming Congregation:  All people are welcome here.

XI.       OUTSIDE GROUPS:

Outside groups which rent our facilities are subject to our Safe Conduct Policy.  A copy of the Policy shall be made available to them, and their willingness to comply with the policy should be noted on the rental agreement.

XII. Known abusers are welcome to worship with the congregation, but will not be allowed into the Church School area of the building.

XIII. Best Practice: Two adults with any child/children/vulnerable adult/s at all times.

XIV.     DEFINITIONS:

Vulnerable Adult —

Any adult person who by reason of profound physical disability or dependence, developmental disability, mental illness, relative social power or cultural circumstances may be susceptible to physical abuse, sexual exploitation, financial exploitation or manipulation as a consequence of being unable to physically resist, or render judgments regarding physical, mental, financial or environmental well-being.  Such persons may be unable to act independently and may, to their detriment, manifest high levels of trust or fear of persons of perceived power or authority.

Suspected Abuse —

Actual abuse consists of physical, sexual or mental abuse inflicted by a person responsible for a vulnerable adult’s or child’s health, welfare or care, who may be a parent, guardian or other person having access to a child.  Abuse may include neglect of a person’s health as a result of failure to properly feed, clothe or attend to apparent illness or mental well-being.

As a caregiver in ministry, one need not directly witness, nor is one likely to directly witness actual abuse.  It is sufficient to suspect abuse based upon observations of general health, physical condition, patterns of irregular behavior and environmental factors.  Examples of observations might include: bruising on multiple occasions, weight loss, chronic physical illness, and anti-social or excessively withdrawn behavior.  Environmental factors may include highly contentious divorce and custody battles, or parental drug use.  One must use judgment in assessing multiple factors which lead to suspicion of abuse.

While “suspected abuse” is defined here for the benefit of “mandated reporters” for children, the definition, for the purpose of this policy, includes “suspected abuse” of a child or “vulnerable adult”.