November 21, 2017

Developing an Effective Child Protection Policy (Part 2)

Originally published the Jan/Feb 2012 edition of FrontLine. Part 2 of 2 – see here for Part 1.

Recap from Part 1:

Every church or other ministry ought to adopt a policy to help prevent child sexual abuse. Below are some ideas that can help with this process.

Tailoring a Policy for Your Ministry

Involve key ministry leaders and workers to help in the process of crafting the policy to achieve these objectives:

  1. It helps achieve “buy in.” That is, help convince the people of the church of the need for and value of an effective policy.
  2. It helps ensure that the plan is actually workable in the regular functioning of the ministry.
  3. It provides a way to further develop and disciple church leaders and workers.

Basic Elements of a Child Protection Policy

There is no universal standard for child abuse prevention policies. However, there are major elements that are regularly recommended by those who work in this area.

  1. Statement of purpose
  2. Definitions
  3. Coverage
  4. Worker selection
  5. Training

Part 2, Basic Elements of a Child Protection Policy, continued:

  1. Boundary policies:These are common-sense rules which all workers must agree to follow that set limits on their contact with children. They cover such matters as not being alone in private with a child, not having sleepovers at one’s home, rules for social networking with children, and what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable physical contact.
  2. Supervision:In addition to boundary policies, churches often put procedures in place for the oversight of children’s ministries. Such procedures can include keeping unused rooms locked, maintaining clear sight-lines into all ministry spaces, setting a minimum ratio of workers to children, and providing for unannounced visits to classes and activities.
  3. Response:This section sets forth the procedures for responding to suspected or alleged abuse. Such policies should establish reporting procedures and should include a reprinting of the state laws concerning mandatory and permissive reporters. In addition the policy should prohibit internal investigation and should provide rules for such things as the handling of information and protection of privacy, restriction from ministry involvement of the suspected abuser, and ministry to the victim and his or her family. This section needs to be especially well thought out, since responding to suspected abuse often involves significant legal, ethical, and spiritual responsibilities that are sometimes in tension with one another.
  4. Ministry to sex offenders:If a church has the opportunity to minister to sex offenders, it should have a procedure that will ensure the safety of children in the ministry. Such policies should include, among other things, restrictions on the places where sex offenders can sit in the service or go within the facilities, an arrangement for trained chaperones to remain with the individual, and the prohibition of attendance if one of the offender’s victims attends.
  5. Acknowledgment: Every person subject to the policy should receive a copy of the policy and should acknowledge that he or she has read it and understands its terms. These written acknowledgments should be kept on file. This should be done before the person begins working with children and every year thereafter.

Helpful Resources and Information for Developing a Policy

There are many resources available for churches and other institutions to help them develop a child protection policy. Various websites contain model policies that can be adapted for the individual needs of a church. The following are some sources for information and model policies.

Several companies specialize in proving insurance coverage for churches. These companies have an interest in reducing potential claims against their clients. In addition, they have made policies and other resources available to the public through their websites. These policies are designed for churches. Three of these companies are

  1. Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company: “Guidelines for Ministry Workers: Preventing Child Abuse in a Ministry Environment.” This manual contains a sample policy as well as other forms and guidelines.
  2. Church Mutual Insurance Company
  3. Guide One Insurance Company

Various churches and other religious organizations have made policies available online.

  1. The Baptist General Convention of Texashas developed a sample policy for Baptist churches.
  2. The Catholic Diocese of Phoenix, Arizona, has written a policy manual with the cooperation of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Bureau of Sex Crimes. The policy is very thorough. It is more complex, due to the diocese hierarchy, than would be necessary for independent churches or ministries. The policy is available in English and Spanish.
  3. Reducing the Risk, a service of Christianity Today, provides various policy and training resources for purchase as well as free articles.
  4. The Southern Baptist Convention website has a page of Local Church Resources. It includes a number of very helpful resources, including two presentations by Rachel Mitchell (“Creating a Safe Environment—An Arizona Convention Training Video for Church Leadership,” Parts 1 and 2).

Many other churches and religious organizations have posted their child protection policies online. Other churches in your area may have policies that they would be willing for you to consult or to adapt for your ministry. Finally, you should consult one or two policies from secular organizations for comparison purposes.

Although it will involve planning and effort, developing a well-thought-out child protection policy that works for your church can help inform your congregation of the great need, provide significant protection for children in your congregation, and help grow spiritual leadership for the ministry.

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Part 2 of “Developing an Effective Child Protection Policy” – Part 1.

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The preceding article is excerpted from the Jan/Feb issue of FrontLine. Due to the importance of the issue of child protection, we are publishing these articles in their entirety, albeit in a serialized format. The articles on Protecting Our Children will be made available in pdf format as soon as our serialization is complete.

This article may be shared in its entirety as long as no alteration is made to the text and full acknowledgement is made as to the author and source.

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