Safe Practice Policy
I. Introduction and Purpose of Policy
Yorkfield Presbyterian Church (YPC) is committed to protecting all young people who participate in church-sponsored Programs from physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, and harmful neglect. It also is committed to protecting the integrity of the people who are called to work with our Children and Youth. This Safe Practices Policy is intended and designed to meet these goals. It establishes standards and procedures for selecting, training, and overseeing Children and Youth Volunteers. It also sets forth the methods for effectively responding to matters of concern.
This policy is not intended to be a set of rigid rules, but one that sets expectations, and recognizes the ever-changing world in which we minister. It considers the importance of connecting with youth in the spaces where they are and through channels which they are comfortable using.
It is important to define certain terms used in a policy of this type to assure that persons guided and affected by the policy understand all of its provisions. It is difficult, however, to define some terms exactly without lengthy and technical writing. Accordingly, the users of this Policy should responsibly apply each term defined in this section and be guided by the context within which the term appears and by the purposes and goals of this Policy.
A. Activity, Event, and Program: each mean a gathering of Children sponsored by Yorkfield Presbyterian Church and for which YPC has responsibility, or oversight of, the leadership staffing. These terms generally are used collectively in this Policy, but when one word is used separately for convenience, it is meant to be inclusive of the others.
B. Child(ren), Minor or Youth: These terms are used interchangeably to define a person under the age of 18 or not yet a graduate of high school, whichever occurs later. Additionally, if the person chooses to participate in youth activities after his/her graduation from high school or attainment of age 18, this policy is intended to cover that person’s participation in youth activities until the start of the next program year. The words also mean any person without regard to age who has special needs.
C. Ethically Bound Reporter: an individual volunteering in a Program, who is not required to report an Incident to Department of Children and Family Services, but who is asked to share any Incident with the Safe Practices Team.
D. Incident: A non-accidental injury or pattern of injuries to a child for which there is no reasonable explanation. This may include non-accidental physical injury, neglect, sexual molestation, and emotional abuse. The abuser may be an adult, an adolescent, or another Child. An incident may be sexual in nature and such abuse includes behavior that involves touching and non-touching aspects.
E. Volunteer: Any person, generally over 18 years of age or over, who works with children in any Activity, Event, or Program sponsored by YPC and for which YPC has responsibility, or oversight.
F. Mandated Reporters: Individuals who are required by law to report any Incident or suspected Incident known to him or her to the Department of Children and Family Services which includes any member of the Clergy, including the Pastor, Associate Pastor, and all paid Staff working with Minors.
G. Member: A member of the YPC congregation.
H. Non-affiliated Group: This is a group solely making use of YPC facilities. It is not led or organized by anyone affiliated with YPC.
I. Policy: This means this Safe Practices Policy.
J. Safe Practices Committee (SPC): The group of persons designated by YPC to address reports of incidents and acts of child abuse.
K. Staff: Anyone compensated employee of YPC.
L. Adult: Anyone over 18 years of age.
III. Distribution of Policy
This Policy shall be the policy of YPC at all times and with respect to all circumstances. It shall accordingly apply to any and every Activity that occurs on YPC premises as well as to any official YPC Event that occurs off the premises of YPC. Violation of this policy will be grounds for corrective action, pastoral counsel and/or legal action.
A. YPC Members and Non-members attending YPC Programs
Each person over 18 years of age shall be provided with a copy of this policy and will be asked to read and sign the Acknowledgment Form attached in Attachment C. The SPC will oversee the receipt of these forms and keep them on file. In addition, the committee will keep a copy of the policy on the church’s website and distribute the policy to the new members’ classes.
B. Application Of Policy To Non-Affiliated Groups/Off YPC Premises
Non-Affiliated Groups that make use of YPC facilities for any purpose shall therefore be expected to be aware of and comply with this Policy at all times while present on YPC premises. Prior to any Non-Affiliated Group making use of any YPC facility, a copy of this Policy shall be given by the Safe Practices Committee to the individual(s) organizing or responsible for the Non-Affiliated Group and the individual(s) organizing or responsible for the Non-Affiliated Group shall certify annually in writing his/her understanding that the Non-Affiliated Group shall comply with the Policy as a condition of being permitted to use YPC premises.
IV. Volunteer Requirements
The mission of YPC depends on the dedicated efforts of Volunteers in many capacities, including Volunteers who work with, and around, Minors in a number of different ways. While YPC shall encourage every interested individual to pursue extensive volunteering effort, including volunteering to work with, and around, Minors, prior to any individual working with, or around, Minors he, or she, must meet the following requirements:
A. Be a Member for at least one year;
B. If not a Member or a Member for less than a year, partner with an experienced Volunteer at YPC for a period of one-year.
C. Exceptions to this Policy may be made on a case-by-case basis by YPC’s Director of Children and Youth Ministries (DCYM) after consultation with the leader of the affected Program or Activity after all reasonable attempts to comply fully with this Policy are made.
D. Every Volunteer shall satisfactorily complete a background check and be approved by the SPC. Thereafter a new background check will be required every three years. Individuals unwilling to submit to a background check will not be permitted to work as a Volunteer.
E. Each Volunteer shall be expected to attend one training session every 3 years led by the SPC and/or the DCE.
F. Minor Volunteers (Middle and High school youth) will be required to attend a meeting to go over this policy so they are aware of rules and guidelines set in place. They will not, however, be expected to fulfill all of the Volunteer requirements as there will always be a Volunteer working with them.
G. All Volunteers should be at least four years older than the oldest participant they are supervising, with exceptions approved by the DCE.
- Each Activity (class, childcare setting and YPC sponsored youth group) shall be led by at least two Volunteers. In the event of a short-staffing situation, a class may be staffed by one Volunteer provided that a supervisor or another Volunteer without specific responsibility is present in the building, visits the short-staffed class or Activity periodically, and is generally available to assist as needed.
- YPC follows a “five-years-older” rule, under which all YPC Staff must be at least 60 months older than the oldest child participating in the activity.
- In general, parents are responsible for arranging transportation. However, simply as a convenience to parents when it would be substantially inconvenient or impossible for a parent to transport a child home, the parent may ask the driver to drive his or her child if the driver has written permission or verbal permission witnessed by another.
- Exceptions to this Policy may be made on a case-by-case basis by YPC’s DCYM after consultation with the Volunteer leading the affected program or activity after all reasonable attempts to comply fully with this Policy are made.
VI. Incident Reporting Procedures and Requirements
In keeping with the mission of YPC, any suspected Incident should be reported using the form in Attachment B. A person shall do so without fear of reprisal.
A. Mandated Reporters will contact Department of Children and Family Services, as well as, notify the SPC and Session. See Attachment A.
B. Ethically Bound Reporters shall report any suspected or alleged Incident promptly to a member of the SPC. However, the Child’s safety and well-being are paramount before any reporting. If there is an immediate danger to the Child, the staff member or Volunteer shall first take all necessary steps to ensure the Child’s safety.
C. As soon as possible after receiving the initial report of an Incident, a member of the Safe Practices Committee shall inform the Child’s parent or guardian of the Incident.
D. Each report, and all circumstances that lead to a report, are highly sensitive and strictly confidential information. No person may disclose any information to any person outside of the Safe Practices Committee.
VII. Misconduct Not Clearly Abuse Reporting Procedures
At times, issues arise regarding the conduct of our Children and Adults at the Church, whether directly involved in Programs or not. While these actions are not clearly abuse related issues, they may impinge upon Child protection and safety and require attention and review. Sometimes there is a pattern of questionable actions that may be noticed. This section provides a means to report such issues other than Child Abuse.
A. All Volunteers, Adults, and Children are encouraged to report any issue as soon as possible to the Volunteer in leadership role at the time the issue is observed. This may be done orally or in writing. Such issues to be reported include:
1. Child safety issues and behavior issues during Programs
2. Inappropriate conduct by Adults during Church-sponsored activities such as inappropriate language, dress, conduct, safety leadership, discipline, and substance abuse
3. Lack of adhering to the Policy
4. Inadequate, inappropriate, or poor choices in leadership of Children activities.
B. When it is appropriate, anyone who wishes to have a concern addressed, should bring the issue to the attention of the SPC, either verbally or in writing. All Volunteers are encouraged to be responsible in identifying issues.
C. The SPC will record and monitor any issue presented. The Committee will determine if and when any action is required.
Each child who will participate in YPC’s Programs must be registered by her or his parents annually. YPC will provide a registration form for that purpose.
IX. Guidelines and Standards
YPC appreciates that Minors have different supervision requirements at different ages, and that ministry to children and youth not only can be, but must be, achieved through different channels that may be appropriate for some age groups but not appropriate for others. In recognition of these realities, this Policy has set age-specific guidelines that all individuals should seek to follow where possible and consistent with the specific ministry need in a given set of circumstances.
A. Classroom/Space Policy
Children will be welcome to enter our classrooms/program spaces when adequate supervision is available. See below:
1. Supervision by at least two Volunteers will be provided 5 minutes before any program starts. Volunteers must remain in sight of one another at all times except in emergency situations. Volunteers in leadership roles are expected to avoid situations where they are alone with Children.
If a class is unexpectedly short-staffed, the following steps will be taken:
a. Combining of Classes: Two classes may be combined, if practical, to meet the staffing requirements. A notice will be posted for parents telling them where to pick up their children.
b. Utilization of Parent Helpers: If combining classes is not an appropriate option, a known and trusted parent will be asked to assist temporarily before additional children will be admitted to the classroom. The teacher will assume supervisory responsibility. The parent will be given a list of the relevant Protection Policy guidelines for their specific responsibilities, sign their pledge to follow those guidelines, and never be alone with a Child.
B. Safe Space Standards
1. Interior windows, or when necessary, open doors provide easy viewing by parents and supervisors and should be employed. Sight lines through the windows and doors will remain unobstructed at all times.
2. Diaper changing tables/areas shall be in clear view.
3. First aid kits shall be displayed/stored in the kitchen.
4. Evacuation plans shall be displayed at the doorway
C. Bathroom Visits
Routine “bathroom breaks” are recommended to minimize disruption caused by Youth visiting the bathroom during classes. It is recommended that a Volunteer escort children under age 6 to the bathroom. Adults may choose to remain outside of the bathroom after first checking the safety of the room. When a pre-school Child or a Child who needs assistance uses the bathroom, a Volunteer may enter to assist. In that circumstance, the door for the bathroom must be left open while the Volunteer is assisting.
1. At least one approved Volunteer of the same gender (when possible) must accompany the Children to any hallway bathroom. An individual Volunteer must take at least two Children. If necessary, take another Child as a “buddy”. Volunteer should normally remain outside the bathroom door. If a Child requires assistance, a Volunteer of the same gender may enter the bathroom and (if needed) the stall but keep the stall door open. Another Volunteer or “buddy” must remain in the bathroom. NEVER ONLY TWO IN A CLOSED STALL!
2. Children in 2nd and 3rd grades may use hallway bathrooms with at least one other child as a “buddy” with teacher’s permission.
D. Proper Displays of Affection
Physical contact with Children should be age and developmentally appropriate. Volunteers must be sensitive to the Child’s comfort level, to differences of personality or family backgrounds, and to special needs.
1. Examples of proper displays of affection:
a. One-arm side hugs (avoid full body contact hugs & kisses)
b. Touch during activities on Children’s heads, shoulders, arms, and hands. Backrubs should only occur as a public group activity. It is inappropriate for Volunteers to request any physical touch.
2. Appropriate Lap-sitting may occur with children five years old and younger. Encourage Children to sit next to you if older.
3. Informal contacts between Volunteers, Staff members and Children should be with the prior approval of parents (if possible). Such meetings should occur in public places.
4. At no time shall anyone working with Youth pursue a dating relationship with a Youth. Volunteers and Staff should always be alert for, and sensitive to, “student crushes" and their own “emotional attachment” to particular Youth. The danger is that emotional attraction can lead to physical expressions.
Physical punishment of all kinds is strictly prohibited. In general, discipline must be administered carefully and sparingly, with careful consideration of a Child’s dignity and psychological and social development. Gentleness, respect, and understanding must guide all acts and words of discipline. Discipline will be carried out through instruction, training, and verbal corrections.
F. Social Media Policy
Adults should be aware that they will be viewed by a Child as an adult leader of YPC even when they are not on church property. Therefore, all interactions, including those on social media, must be appropriate and reflect relationships of a trained Volunteer to a child. Volunteer should observe the following guidelines when communicating with youth, and when using internet and social media to transmit information about church events:
1. Parent/Guardian consent must be obtained annually before any pictures of a Child or group of Children are posted on a social media site or on the YPC website;
2. Names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses or other identifying information for Children should not be transmitted through social media or the YPC website;
3. Parental Permission should be sought if adult leaders will be will be contacting Youth via mobile phones
4. Youth may request friendships with adults, and adults should discern the level of contact they want to maintain with Minors prior to responding to these requests. Adults can accept a “friend/follow request” of a Child but may not initiate one. Adults should keep all social media communications in the public forum, not private messages. Adult who choose to accept friend requests from Minors should use all privacy settings applicable to shield youth from any inappropriate content that may exist within the adult’sAny social media site where content automatically disappears is not permitted.
G. Nursery Identification Policy
1. Parents of children 0-3 years old will be issued a pager. The pager is used to release children back to their parents. A nursery Staff member or Volunteer will oversee the pickup process to ensure a child is only released to a parent or person authorized by aOnly parents with pagers and nursery staff are permitted in the nursery.
2. All approved nursery Volunteers may change children’s diapers.
H. Transportation Guidelines
1. Volunteers or Staff who drives Youth in connection with an outing shall have a valid driver’s license and current automobile insurance providing acceptable limits. Drivers will be required to provide written proof of a valid driver’s license and current automobile insurance.
2. The number of persons in a car shall never exceed the number of functioning seat belts in that car. Seat belts must be worn at all times.
3. When a Volunteer or Staff member is driving a Child home, he or she should never be alone with a Child. If the possibility arises, call the Child’s parents and ask if someone could pick up the Child or if you may drive the Child alone. If you aren’t able to speak with a parent, be sure to notify a Volunteer or Staff member before driving the student alone.
I. Supervision for Overnight Activities and Outings
1. Overnight Activities conducted by YPC shall be supervised by at least two Volunteers in leadership roles and sufficient additional Volunteer chaperones. The Child-to-adult ratio is 7 to 1
2. Each Youth who participate in an overnight Activity, before the start of the event, must submit a copy of the Youth Covenant to a Volunteer leader or Staff. The Youth Covenant must be signed by the Youth and by a parent or guardian.
1. Volunteers and or Staff should use caution when disclosing personal experiences. While personal disclosures can build rapport and trust and encourage Children’s honest discussion of their life situations, they can also create an unhelpful and confusing emotional intimacy. Your personal disclosures should be infrequent and brief and always for the benefit of the Child, not yourself.
2. At times Children may reveal highly personal information. This communication may be an opportunity for significant ministry. However, total confidentiality cannot be promised. Everything significant - risk of harm to self, others, or abusive situations- need to be reported to the Pastor or DCYM who will contact the appropriate professional to address the Child’s needs. Volunteers and Staff can offer significant Christian care but are not employed as professional counselors at YPC.
K. First Aid and Emergency Response Guidelines
1. A first aid kit and ice packs shall be available in the kitchen of YPC.
2. Each injury and accident involving a Child that requires first aid or other medical attention must be reported by the Volunteer in charge, if one is available, and to the child’s parent as soon as possible.
3. If the circumstances warrant it, a Volunteer will administer minor first aid immediately. Depending on the nature and severity of the injury or illness, additional medical attention, including a call to “911,” may be taken, particularly if a parent cannot be located.
4. The Volunteer involved in the incident requiring professional attention will complete an accident report maintained in the church office.
X. Safe Practices Committee
A. Committee Composition
1. The DCE will serve as the Chair of the Committee.
2. The Pastor or the Associate Pastor
3. A member of the Christian Education Commission who is also currently an Elder actively serving on the Session;
4. An at-large individual who is a Member of YPC, selected by the Christian Education Commission (2 year term).
B. Business of Committee
1. The committee will review any application for new Volunteers, review background check information, and may conduct interviews as necessary.
a. A paid Staff member will review the results of the background check solely for the purpose of verifying that the background check has been completed to determine any record of sexual assault, physical assault, sexual abuse, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, or any other incident involving misconduct toward a child and is consistent with the standards and goals of this Policy. If necessary, the results of the background check will be reviewed with a Pastor or DCYM.
b. A member of the Committee or the person in charge of the Activity for which the Volunteer is applying may interview the Volunteer.
2. If an Incident occurs, the SPC shall meet as soon as possible to discuss all necessary items and issues relating to the Incident, including steps to take to resolve the Incident and to prevent any repeat occurrences of situations similar to theAs part of that consideration and discussion, the SPC shall determine whether there are any legally mandated notifications that must be made and if so make them.
a. The member of the Safe Practices Committee who receives a report shall convene the Safe Practices Committee promptly to review the report and to determine the appropriate response to the report, including gathering the facts and circumstances related to the allegation.
b. The SPC will determine whether disciplinary or preventive actions should take place.
c. The SPC will notify the Session promptly about an investigation. That notice will not describe the facts or circumstances related to the report and will not identify any individual involved in the matter.
d. After the Incident has been presented and addressed through the proper channels, the Committee will determine whether any communication shall be made to all Staff, Session, the congregation or the media about any report or investigation.
e. The Safe Practices Committee shall determine whether to advise any law enforcement officials or any state or local agencies about any report.
f. No person who is the subject of a report of an alleged incident may serve as a Volunteer or on the Safe Practices Committee in any capacity until all aspects of that Incident are resolved. Any resulting vacancy shall be filled by the Session, Pastor, or DCYM.
3. The Committee shall meet at least twice a year at a regularly scheduled date and time to discuss and consider the following:
a. The ongoing practicality, functionality and efficacy of this Policy;
b. How to invite, solicit and receive ongoing feedback regarding the Policy from the Congregation;
c. Address any concerns or recent Incidents that are implicated by this Policy;
d. Keep record of any Volunteer who does not pass a background check or has been asked to not serve as a Volunteer.
e. Review any safe practice matters for recurring and non-recurring special events where variance from the presumptive requirements of this Policy may be necessary. For events, including, but not limited to:
Youth mission trips
Offsite Confirmation events; and
f. Other business as necessary and appropriate.
XI. Adoption And Modification Of The Policy
A. Adoption of Policy: This Policy shall become the policy of YPC when it has been approved by the Session and distributed to the majority of the Congregation.
B. Modification of Policy: The Policy may be amended at any time upon recommendation to the Session by the SPC and approval by theThe Session shall have the discretion to determine whether any proposed amendments to this policy should be approved by majority vote of the Congregation.
ATTACHMENT A: MANDATED REPORTER SUPPLEMENT
Most states have child protection statutes that provide for reporting incidents of child abuse or neglect. In Illinois, the applicable statute is the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act (“IANCRA”), 325 ILCS 5/1 et seq., which is administered by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (“DCFS”).
Who Are “Mandated Reporters” at YPC
Under the IANCRA, the term “mandated reporters” refers to professionals who work with children in the course of their professional duties. Under Illinois law, mandated reporters are required to report to state authorities when they have reasonable cause to suspect that child abuse or neglect may have occurred. Teachers, school personnel, child care workers and members of the clergy are specifically included in the list of individuals who are deemed “mandated reporters” under the IANCRA.
Under its Safe Practices Policy, and by the Book of Order (Sections G-4.0302; G-2.0102), YPC deems the following positions to be mandated reporters for purposes of complying with the IANCRA:
Director of Christian and Youth Ministries
Youth Fellowship Director
Paid Childcare Personnel
In compliance with the IANCRA, YPC requires that individuals holding the foregoing positions sign a statement acknowledging their status as mandated reporters before they commence employment. The statement is made on one of two DCFS forms – either the Acknowledgment of Mandated Reporter Status or the Acknowledgment of Mandated Reporter Status (Clergy). YPC will retain the originals of all signed Acknowledgments.
YPC staff and volunteers who are not clergy, who are not among the categories of professionals specifically identified in the IANCRA and who do not hold one of the six positions specified above are not considered mandated reporters under YPC Safe Practices Policy.
2. Making a Report to the Child Abuse Hotline
A mandated reporter who has reasonable cause to suspect child abuse or neglect is required to immediately report or cause a report to be made to DCFS. In many cases, the reporting requirement will be satisfied if the Pastor makes the report, but if the Pastor fails to report, the mandated reporter must nevertheless make the report if he or she has reasonable cause to believe that child abuse or neglect may have occurred.
In compliance with the mandated reporting obligations upon members of the clergy imposed by the IANCRA, YPC requires that whenever the Pastor or Associate Pastor has reasonable cause to believe that child abuse or neglect has occurred (either through his or her own observation or based on a report received under the Safe Practices Policy), he or she must personally make the report to DCFS and may not rely upon any other member of the church staff or volunteer to make the report. Additionally, the Pastor or Associate Pastor should inform the Executive Presbyter of the Presbytery of Chicago that he/she has made a report to DCFS.
The initial report is an oral report made by calling the Child Abuse Hotline. Following are hotline numbers:
Illinois Department of Children and Family Services: 1-800-252-2873 National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-422-4453/1-800-4-A CHILD
Section 5/7 of the IANCRA, 325 ILCS 5/7, provides, "Any person who knowingly transmits a false report to the Department commits the offense of disorderly conduct under subsection (a)(7) of Section 26-1 of the Criminal Code of 1961. A first violation of this subsection is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a term of imprisonment for up to one year, or by a fine not to exceed $1,000, or by both such term and fine. A second or subsequent violation is a Class 4 felony."
The oral report to the Child Abuse Hotline must be followed by a written report on the applicable state reporting form. In Illinois, the written report must be made within 48 hours after the initial hotline report.
In addition to mandated reporters, persons who are not mandated reporters are also permitted to make reports of suspected child abuse or neglect. Whether or not the person making the report is a mandated reporter, his or her identity is protected by statute, and a person who makes a report in good faith is immune from civil or criminal liability.
Criteria prompting a child abuse or neglect investigation:
1. The alleged victim is a child under 18 years or person of diminished capacity.
2. The alleged perpetrator is a parent, guardian, foster parent, relative caregiver or any person responsible for the child’s welfare at the time of the alleged abuse or neglect. (This applies only to filing a report with DCFS. Any person who abuses a child must be reported under the other provisions of YPC’s Safe Practices Policy)
3. There is a specific incident of abuse or neglect or a specific set of circumstances involving suspected abuse or neglect.
4. There is demonstrated harm to the child or a substantial risk of physical or sexual injury to the child.
Information the reporter should have ready to give to the Child Abuse Hotline:
1. Names, birth dates (or approximate ages), genders, races, etc. for all adult and child subjects.
2. Addresses for all victims and perpetrators, including current location.
3. Information about the siblings or other family members, if available.
4. Specific information about the abusive incident or the circumstances contributing to risk of harm.
5. When the incident occurred and the extent of the injuries.
6. How the child says it happened and any other pertinent information.
7. Reporters should be prepared to provide phone numbers where they may be reached throughout the day in case the Hotline must call back for more information.
For additional information on reporting statutes and procedures, see the DCFS website at www.state.il.us/dcfs.