Safe Sanctuary Policy

Established November, 2006

 Purpose:  The purpose of this policy is to demonstrate our absolute and unwavering commitment to the physical safety and spiritual growth of our children and youth.  We hope to ensure as much as possible that Aldersgate United Methodist Church will be a safe sanctuary where children and youth can be nurtured, confirmed and strengthened in their faith journeys.  It includes policies and procedures for all who use the church and work with children and youth.  It is our intention to always provide a safe and supervised environment wherever our ministries may take place.  We want to bring light to the issue of child abuse, so that there is an open atmosphere around this issue.           

 Guidelines:

 No person under the age of 18 will be left solely in charge of children or youth in any situation.  A volunteer or paid staff member must be at least five years older than the youth they are supervising.  

  1. Classrooms must be accessible to viewing at all times.  Windows to classrooms will be not be blocked by objects or curtains.
  2. Doors should be kept open at all times during “one-on-one” counseling or while advising youth in a church. 
  3. Two adults should be present at all programs working with children and youth.  A “floater” who moves from room to room will constitute a second adult, however the floater must be in the building during the program hours. 
  4. Bathroom doors will remain open.  Individual stall doors will be closed when in use.
  5. All adults working with children on a weekly basis must complete a volunteer application form and authorize a CORI check.  Random CORI checks may be completed on church schoolteachers and outside groups, such as scouting programs. 
  6. Adults will always accompany children seven or younger and a buddy system will be used for older children and youth who go somewhere outside of the classroom.
  7. Children seven years or younger must be accompanied by a parent or guardian to and from their classrooms or during an in-church event.  Parents/guardians must stay with children until both supervisory adults are present.
  8. If an adult unfamiliar to the adult supervisor has permission to pick up a child, this adult must present written permission signed by the parent or guardian.  
  9. No child under 12 should be outside the building without an adult
  10. No child under 12 should be in the kitchen area unless they are with a parent or guardian.
  11. Youth Group parents will complete an annual transportation and permission slip.  Long distance events will have a separate permission form.  All overnight youth events must have a minimum of two adult chaperones, one must be male and one must be female.  Youth under 18 are encouraged to have a medical release form on file with the youth group leaders. 

 Church Action:

  1. We will offer two opportunities each year for parishioners and families to learn the facts about child abuse prevention and about our church’s policy.
  2. All Sunday school volunteers, youth group volunteers and worship arts volunteers shall be required to attend a child abuse awareness training session.  This will also include training to establish a safe and nurturing environment including affirming diversity, physical environment, behavior guidance, enforcing a no corporal punishment stance and appropriate touch. The Director of Christian Education shall provide this training session on an annual basis, or more frequently, as it may be necessary to accommodate the needs of new staff and volunteers. Frequency of re-certification is to be at the discretion of the Education Committee.
  3. We will make resources available in our library to educate parishioners and families about child abuse prevention.
  4. We will offer CPR and First Aid class for all of our volunteers, including scout leaders and Fox Nursery School teachers.
  5. The Education Committee will review Tasks 1-9, pp. 44-49, Safe Sanctuaries: Reducing the Risk of Child Abuse in the Church, recommending adjustments to this policy to the Staff Parish Relations Committee.
  6. When an incident of child abuse occurs, we will respond according to the following procedure: 

    1. Reports of child abuse can be made to the chair of the Staff Parish relations Committee, Rev. Lisa Bruget-Cass, Senior Pastor, or Ms. Cheryl Ortolf, Christian Education Director.  If the report comes from someone other than a parent and does not involve a parent, the child’s parents will be notified immediately.  Emergency care, if necessary will be provided in consultation with the parents.  For the person receiving the report, the physical and emotional health of the child is of critical importance.  The question of reporting to the police will be raised with the family.  An incident report will be completed.  See appendix A.  
    2. Upon receipt of a report, the person receiving the report will call a meeting of the Review Committee (Staff Parish Designee, Senior Pastor, and Christian Ed Director) within one week. They will ensure that the accused perpetrator will no longer have (unsupervised) contact with children until the accusation is resolved.  Minutes of the review meeting will be kept and filed in a confidential file. 
    3. If the report is of sexual abuse, the Senior Pastor will notify the Sexual Abuse Response Team of the New England Annual Conference.  If the Senior Pastor is named as an enabler or perpetrator then the designee of the Staff Parish Committee will notify the Sexual Abuse Response Team.   
    4. After a meeting of the review committee, the person receiving the initial report will be in contact with the victim and/or family sharing the action that the church will be taking.  It is assumed that the review committee meeting will result in some action.  If not already reported and the Review Committee feels strongly about the need for reporting to the legal authorities, the family will be encouraged again to file a criminal report.       
    5. The Designee of the Staff Parish Relations Committee will serve as designated person to deal with the press.
    6. Documentation of these actions will be maintained in a confidential file. 
    7. Pastoral care will be provided for the child and family as long as necessary.  This policy suggests that there is a beginning and an end to an incident of child abuse, however we recognize that an end for the child and family may be in the distant future. Therapy may also be recommended.
    8. Pastoral care will also be provided to the accused perpetrator and their family by the Senior Pastor or by a neighboring pastor, if necessary and therapy may be recommended.