CHILD SAFETY POLICY
Approved and Adopted by the Board of Deacons
November 1, 2005
Approved and Amended by the Management Board
August 11, 2015
STATEMENT OF PURPOSE
The spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being of children and teenagers is our top priority in children’s and youth ministry (Deuteronomy 11:18-21; 1 Timothy 5:8; Ephesians 6:4). This policy is intended to ensure that church activities involving children and teenagers are consistent with the teachings and example of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the Christian tradition of nurturing young people (Matthew 19:14; 1 Peter 1:15-16). Our mission is to help boys and girls come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and to help them grow to maturity as Christians (Matthew 28:19; 3 John 2-4). Any sexual exploitation, abuse, or endangerment stands in contradiction to the mission and values of Grace Chapel Church and is a violation of the law. The primary purpose of this policy is to promote the safety and well-being of children and youth by providing clear instructions about the operation of children’s and youth ministries at Grace Chapel Church.
Service with children’s and youth ministries at Grace Chapel Church is not a right but provides an opportunity and a privilege to be instruments of God in the spiritual formation of boys and girls. As representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ, we must strive for the highest standard of trust (1 Peter 1:15-16). Therefore, everyone involved in children’s and youth ministries must avoid even the appearance of inappropriate behavior (1 Thessalonians 5:22). Due diligence must be given to avoid any conduct that appears wrong to a reasonable observer, even if no actual misconduct takes place (Romans 12:17; 2 Corinthians 6:3). We must err on the side of caution in making subjective decisions involving the well-being of children and youth. Those serving in children’s and youth ministries are expected to observe these policies and guidelines as well as other reasonable Christian standards of moral behavior.
ANNUAL TRAINING AND SCREENING
The Grace Chapel Church Child Safety Policy call for an annual training meeting held in August each year and an ongoing screening process through the year. Participation is mandatory of both paid staff and volunteers who work with children or teenagers in any capacity. Volunteers and staff who are added during the year will be screened at the time they begin service and will then participate in the annual training meeting in August. Confidential records will be kept on file. We reserve the right to re-screen paid staff and volunteers at any given time as deemed necessary.
The content of the annual training for all children’s and youth ministry workers will cover important information, methods and procedures such as:
The nature of the problem of child sexual and other abuse
Recognition of child abuse indicators in children, and in adults who may be abusers
Explanation of policies and rules that apply to each worker
Discussion of the church’s expectations, such as:
Avoiding the appearance of misconduct
Monitoring coworker’s behavior
Accountability for violations of rules
Recognizing inappropriate behavior and situations which are open to problems or misunderstandings
Requirements by the State of South Carolina
The church’s chain of command
How to respond in an incident or an emergency, including topics such as:
What to do when you believe a child is the victim of inappropriate conduct by a church worker
What to do when you believe a child in your program is a victim of abuse by family members or others
What to do when you believe two children in your program are involved in inappropriate sexual activity
The church’s touching policy
Appropriate discipline techniques
Sources for help or advice
Attendance and participation in the annual training is expected of everyone who has any involvement in children’s or youth ministry.
The components of the screening process for paid staff who work with children or teenagers are:
Questionnaires / applications answered and signed
References provided and checked
Criminal background checks
Regular check of internet child abusers list
Regular check of SLED Sexual Offenders Registry
The components of the screening process for volunteers who work with children or teenagers are:
Questionnaires / applications answered and signed
Criminal background checks
Regular check of internet child abusers list
Regular check of SLED Sexual Offenders Registry
This screening is required for anyone who desires to serve in any area of ministry involving children or youth. Grace Chapel Church will bear the financial responsibility of the criminal background checks and these checks will only be done with the applicant’s permission. Confidential records will be kept on file.
ADMINISTRATION OF THE CHILD SAFETY POLICY
The Management Board, in consultation with the Nominating Committee of Grace Chapel Church, will maintain an appointed Child Safety Administrative Committee composed of the Pastor and two (2) church members to oversee the Child Safety Policy. This committee will work with the Equipping Service Ministry Team to ensure that all aspects of this policy are being appropriately implemented and followed.
Annual Review of the Policy
The Child Safety Administrative Committee and the Equipping Service Ministry Team will annually review the Child Safety Policy and recommend any needed changes to the Management Board. This annual review will evaluate compliance with safety policies as well as potential risks and new needs that occur. This evaluation should include:
Consideration of any program changes, along with new needs that result from the changes
Any issues or situations which pose potential risks
A summary of any policy violations and the leader’s response
Any patterns of violations that suggest the need for policy changes
Waiver of Policy Provisions
Provisions of this policy may be waived under unique or exceptional circumstances. The goal is to promote safety while maintaining practical flexibility in the administration of our children’s and youth ministries. Any waiver of provisions will be approved and documented by the Child Safety Administrative Committee.
Modification of Policy Provisions
Changes in this policy must be approved by the Management Board and be documented in a policy revision or addendum. This policy may be modified or withdrawn by Grace Chapel Church at any time. This policy is not intended to create an implied or expressed contract with any person and is not intended to create a legally enforceable or binding promise or representation.
Activities Covered by Policy
All activities at Grace Chapel Church that require church workers age 18 or older – paid staff or volunteers – acting within the scope of their duties, to have contact with or custody of persons age 17 or younger, must be conducted in accordance with this policy.
OPERATING PROVISIONS OF THE CHILD SAFETY POLICY
Church staff and volunteers who supervise children’s and youth workers are charged with the diligent enforcement of these policies. Any violation of these policies may result in re-assignment or dismissal from children’s and youth ministries. This applies to volunteers and paid staff and is at the discretion of the Pastor and the Management Board. Ministry leaders and any workers who suspect any unhealthy or abusive activities must discuss their suspicions promptly with the Pastor or a member of the Child Safety Administrative Committee.
Church workers should endeavor not to be alone with a child or teenager. Whenever practical, there should always be at least two (2) workers – either two adults or one adult and one teenager – present when dealing with a child or teenager, whether individually or with a group. Whenever practical, one worker should be the same gender as the child or children. For example:
When working with a girl, one worker should be female.
When working with boys and girls, workers should be both male and female.
Hugging, along with other forms of appropriate physical affection between workers and children, is important for a child’s development and is generally suitable in our church setting. However, touching behavior should not give even the appearance of wrongdoing. The behavior of ministry workers must always be above reproach and must enhance trust (1 Thessalonians 5:22; 2 Corinthians 6:3). The following guidelines are designed to be carefully followed by anyone working with children or teenagers to promote a positive, nurturing environment for ministry to them.
Physical affection should be appropriate to the age of the young person.
Touching should be a response to the child’s need for comfort, encouragement, or affection. It should not be based upon an adult’s emotional need.
A child’s preference not to be touched should be respected. Do not force affection upon a reluctant child.
Touching and affection should only be given when in the presence of other children’s or youth workers. It is much less likely that touches will be inappropriate or misconstrued as such when two (2) adult workers are present and the touching is open to observation. This rule is especially important when diapering a baby, assisting young children in changing clothes, or assisting children in using the restroom (Romans 12:17).
All workers are responsible to protect children under their supervision from inappropriate touching by others (Hebrews 13:17; Romans 12:11). Any worker who observes questionable behavior or inappropriate touching by other workers must promptly discuss this with their ministry leader, a member of the Child Safety Policy Administrative Committee, or the Pastor.
All ministries must have the supervision of an adult age 18 or older. Younger persons may assist adults, but they may not take the place of adult workers.
Any applicant for ministry should have been a regular attendee of Grace Chapel Church for at least six (6) months. This time of interaction between ministry leaders and the applicant allows leaders time to evaluate the suitability of an applicant for the work they desire to do. In some situations, this rule may be waived (such as in the case of new church employees or college students such as those from Columbia International University). If the six-month rule is waived, ministry leaders must follow the normal screening process for the applicant and gain the approval of the Child Safety Administrative Committee and the Pastor. The waiver should be documented.
Anyone age 18 and older seeking paid staff or volunteer positions must complete and sign an application and any related waivers, giving permission to check references and background information. References will be required only of those applying for paid staff positions. They will be requested and checked prior to the applicant being hired.
Persons who drive vehicles for conducting church business or transporting children or teenagers – whether personal or church vehicles – must complete an Automobile Safety Certification Form. This will include providing a current copy of their driver’s license and proof of insurance. This form will be completed annually and filed with their annual ministry application.
Signatures on Guidelines
All applicants must agree by signature that they understand the guidelines pertaining to children’s and youth ministry at Grace Chapel Church, and that they agree to abide by them. This requirement will be met by having the applicant sign the printed Guidelines for Ministry to Children and Youth Form.
Confidentiality of Information
The church will keep confidential all information received in the applicant selection process. Selection information will be marked as such and stored with limited access afforded only to those on the Child Safety Administrative Committee, or those with a need to know.
Delays in Receiving Information
While the church is waiting for background information, applicants may begin working in contact with children. During this time, only closely supervised work should be done by the applicant. Failure to receive satisfactory responses in a timely manner may result in dismissal or a withdrawal of the offer to work in the children’s and youth ministries of the church.
Sickness and Participation Guidelines
A young person with a fever (defined as 100°F or higher) should not participate in any activity or attend any meeting or event. A child may participate in any activity after being fever free for 24 hours.
A young person who has been vomiting within the past 24 hours should not participate in any activity or attend any meeting or event.
A young person who has a contagious disease – anything that can be spread by contact, coughing, or sneezing such as flu, chicken pox, or strep throat – should not participate in any activity or attend any meeting or event. A young person may resume participation after beginning treatment by a physician and being declared non-contagious by a physician.
A young person with conjunctivitis – “pink eye” – should not participate in any activity or attend any meeting or event until they have been treated with medication prescribed by a physician for 24 hours.
A young person who has been found to have head lice should not participate in any activity or attend any meeting or event until they have been treated and checked by a person designated by the Child Safety Administrative Committee. The young person’s hair must be free of live lice before resuming involvement in any activity.
RESPONSE PROCEDURES FOR INCIDENTS OF ABUSE OR ACCIDENTS
Grace Chapel Church and its representatives will handle any allegation of abuse or any accident in the following manner.
Reports will be taken seriously. They will not be ignored or allowed to circulate without concern for the integrity and reputation of the accuser, the accused, and the church.
Allegations will be handled with sensitivity for individual privacy and confidentiality.
The church will cooperate with law enforcement and social service agencies.
The victim(s) should not be blamed.
The church will seek to provide support as appropriate for alleged victims, alleged offenders, and their families during this period of great stress.
The church’s insurance carrier will be contacted as soon as possible.
Response to reports of abuse or to an accident
Since the church cannot control how a report will surface, it is important that everyone – church officers, employees, and volunteers – follow the appropriate steps. This will ensure that the allegation is channeled to the appropriate person and that the problem is not compounded by an improper response.
Young people frequently choose to confide in church youth workers about abuse happening outside the church. It is important that reports of this type are also handled appropriately and with sensitivity. The policies of Grace Chapel Church apply to allegations involving both church activities and non-church related reports of abuse.
Any person hearing an initial report of abuse should follow these steps:
Hear the person out. Do not minimize or discount the allegation.
Do not judge the allegation negatively or positively.
If needed, ask basic questions to clarify facts, but do not try to investigate or verify the allegations of the report.
Note the pertinent details in writing as soon as possible after hearing the report, but do not take notes while the person is speaking. Full attention should be given to the person.
Do not discuss the allegation with anyone except those who have a need to know and are helping to respond.
If the safety of a child is at issue, the worker must use his or her own judgment to decide the best way to proceed.
Contact their ministry leader, a member of the Child Safety Administrative Committee, or the Pastor as soon as possible. In private conversation, they can help evaluate any suspicions, decide on the next step, consult with legal counsel, and make the report to law enforcement as necessary. The agencies to call are:
Lexington County Sheriff's Department
Incident Reports - (803) 785-2400
Criminal Domestic Violence - (803) 785-2481
Lexington County Department of Social Services
1. Child Protective Services - (803) 785-7333
Should a member of the Child Safety Administrative Committee or the Pastor be accused, the person receiving the initial report should contact another member of the Child Safety Administrative Committee or a member of the Management Board.
Any person who observes violations of the church’s guidelines, or has reasonable suspicions of inappropriate activity, is required to report these concerns to their ministry leader, a member of the Child Safety Administrative Committee, or the Pastor, who are then responsible for any further response to the situation.
All contact with the media should be handled through the Child Safety Administrative Committee. This committee should inform all necessary persons not to respond to media inquiries except to refer questions to the designated spokespersons for the church. Those spokespersons are, in order, the Pastor, the Chairman of the Deacon Ministry Team, and the Chairman of the Management Board.
The Child Safety Administrative Committee will document its activities in writing, noting what and when information is learned, and what and when actions are taken.
GUIDELINES FOR MINISTRY TO CHILDREN AND YOUTH
These guidelines apply to anyone working with children and youth, with ages ranging from infants up to age 18.
Six (6) Month Rule
Any applicant for ministry should have been a regular attendee of Grace Chapel Church for at least six (6) months. This time of interaction between ministry leaders and the applicant allows leaders time to evaluate the suitability of an applicant for the work they desire to do. In some situations, this rule may be waived (such as in the case of new church employees, or college students such as those from Columbia International University). If the six-month rule is waived, ministry leaders must follow the normal screening process for the applicant and gain the approval of the Child Safety Administrative Committee and the Pastor. The waiver should be documented.
Completion of Application - Anyone age 18 or older seeking paid staff or volunteer positions must complete and sign an application.
Release Authorization Form - All applicants for paid staff or volunteer positions must complete and sign a Confidential Authorization for Criminal Background and Court Records Check Form.
Automobile Safety Certification Form - All workers who will be driving children or teenagers or conducting other church business must complete and sign an Automobile Safety Certification Form.
Signed Agreement to Follow Guidelines - All applicants must agree by signature that they understand the guidelines pertaining to their positions and that they agree to abide by them. This requirement will be met by having the applicant sign the printed Guidelines for Ministry to Children and Youth Form.
Two (2) Person Rule
Church workers should endeavor not to be alone with a child or teenager. Whenever practical, there should always be at least two (2) workers – either two adults or one adult and one teenager – present when dealing with a child or teenager individually or a group of children. Whenever practical, one worker should be the same gender as the child or children. For example, when working with a girl, one worker should be female. When working with boys and girls, workers should be both male and female.
Only approved workers may be in the church nursery. There are two (2) exceptions to this rule - nursing mothers, and a parent called to the nursery to calm an upset child. Only adult caregivers can receive children from the church nursery. Nursery workers should release children only to the appropriate adult care giver, not to older siblings.
Overnight and Off-Campus Activities
At least two (2) adults will supervise any overnight or off-campus church activity. If the participants are male and female, then both male and female chaperones must be present. If these requirements cannot be met, the activity or event should be postponed. It is never appropriate for an adult chaperone to share the bed with a child or teenager, unless they are members of the same family. There must be separate designated sleeping areas for males and females, with separate access to bathroom facilities. Experienced adult workers should be included with adults who are new to children’s or youth ministry.
Team counseling is preferable whenever possible. Counseling should be done in a public place where private conversations are possible but occur in full view of others. Be very careful to avoid seclusion. If possible, have female adults counsel females, and male adults counsel males. A male/female team is generally appropriate for counseling either gender.
Workers with children and youth should not meet with a young person more than three (3) times to discuss the same issue. Volunteers and even some paid staff members are often not trained or equipped for long-term counseling or formal therapy and are encouraged to refer those whom they suspect have a serious need for counseling to professionals. Questions about referral should be discussed promptly with the Pastor or member of the Deacon Ministry Team.
Informal Contact (Independent of Church Activities)
“Informal contact” refers to telephone calls, letters, or face-to-face meetings between adults and young people unrelated to official church activities. Grace Chapel Church recognizes that informal contact frequently occurs. For example, workers may hire teens as baby sitters for their own children, or workers may see kids during social events with the child’s family. This interaction is usually legitimate and beneficial. However, workers should seek the permission of parents before having informal contact with their child. The worker should clearly let the parent know the nature of the contact, and that it is not part of a church activity. Parents are responsible for monitoring this informal contact.
Transportation to and From Meetings
Transportation to and from meetings is not normally part of any children’s or youth group activities. Parents are responsible for providing or arranging for this transportation. Parents are discouraged from asking leaders to transport children, and ministry workers are encouraged to use discretion in providing such transportation. However, if a worker does transport a child at the parent’s request, this should be recognized as an informal contact and not part of regular church activities, and thus subject to the “Informal Contact” guidelines above. In keeping with the spirit of this policy, any time a ministry worker or leader is providing transportation to or from an event or activity, the worker or leader should never be in a car alone with a young person.
Transportation as a Part of Church Programs
The church may provide transportation – either on the church-owned bus or in private vehicles – as an official part of church activities. When children or youth are transported as a part of ministry activities, all guidelines will apply, especially the two-person (two-adult) rule. All drivers must have completed an Automobile Safety Certification Form.
Children’s and youth workers must report to the Pastor or the Child Safety Administrative Committee any instance of a minor discussing harming himself or others, committing a crime, or being abused. There are limits to confidentiality when working with children or teenagers. Questions about such cases or other issues of confidentiality must be discussed promptly with the Pastor or a member of the Child Safety Administrative Committee. Any serious issues discussed in confidence will be reviewed by them, and they will protect the confidential nature of the discussion. Such consultation on sensitive issues is not considered breaking a confidence.
Youth Supervising Youth
Anyone 17 years of age or younger may assist in leading children’s and youth activities only under the direct supervision of adults but may not be used to meet the counseling guidelines discussed above.
Corporal punishment (spanking) and other forms of punishment involving physical pain are not appropriate in Grace Chapel Church activities. This rule holds true even if parents have suggested, or given permission for, corporal punishment. Children’s and youth workers should consult their ministry leader if they need suggestions for discipline techniques or help with a young person who is misbehaving.
Special precautions must be taken on high-adventure activities, such as rock climbing, hiking, overnight camps, raft trips, ropes courses, and so forth. Both physical safety and safety from abuse are at risk in high-adventure situations. High-adventure camping often raises unique circumstances involving matters of individual privacy, sleeping arrangements, and bathroom facilities. Adult leaders must be vigilant to avoid suspicious or misinterpreted behavior in these circumstances. A high ratio of adults to youth is recommended.
Dating or Sexual Involvement
No adult worker is to date, or be romantically or sexually involved with, a teenager involved in the youth ministry. Adults with prior incidents of sexual misconduct involving a child or teenager are prohibited from serving in any capacity of children’s or youth ministry at Grace Chapel Church.
Workers must immediately report suspected or observed misconduct by other workers, or any other individual, to their ministry leader, a member of the Child Safety Administrative Committee, or the Pastor.
Functions and Activities
The following forms must be submitted and/or on file for each activity involving children or youth.
Activity Permission and Waiver form - This is an annual form completed by any adult participant, and a parent or guardian for each child or youth age 17 or younger involved in the ministries of Grace Chapel Church.
Parent / Guardian Permission for Participation - This form is required for each activity. A parent or guardian of each participant age 17 or younger must sign this form giving their consent for the child’s participation.
Supervision and Communication
Youth workers must meet on a regular basis with their ministry leader – and ministry leaders must regularly meet with the Equipping Service Ministry Team and the Pastor – to discuss any issues regarding these guidelines which may be hindering their ministry efforts to children or youth.
Workers must avoid even the appearance of misconduct. This is necessary to maintain parental confidence and avoid mistaken allegations. Workers who disobey these guidelines may, at the discretion of the Child Safety Administrative Committee, face re-assignment or dismissal from children’s and youth ministries.
 Based on the policy of Lexington School District Two, 2013-2014 school year