Child and Youth Protection Policy

PREAMBLE

We, the members of First Unitarian Church, as a religious community, recognize with sadness and outrage the reality of the physical, sexual and emotional abuse of children and youth.

We recognize its existence throughout all strata of society, including religious communities, and its potentially devastating impact on our children and youth, our families, our congregation, district and continental associations, and our wider communities.

We recognize that religious communities, which should be dedicated to the creation of safe environments for all their members, are particularly vulnerable to incidents of abuse because of the high level of trust, the welcoming spirit, and the strong reliance on and need for volunteers, especially in children and youth programs.

We recognize the inherent importance in a religious community of those very factors of trust, welcome, and volunteer commitment, and the necessity to adopt "reasonable precautions" as the watchwords for any ensuing guidelines and requirements regarding the issue of abuse. We further realize that institutions operating in the best possible manner with all due concern still cannot guarantee an absolutely risk-free setting.

We recognize the painful nature of this situation, and we realize that to adequately address it will mean change and a sacrifice of some convenience to which we have become accustomed: yet we know our responsibility to respond to these realities. Our faith calls us to do all we can to make our world a better place to live.

In this spirit we adopt Child and Youth Protection Policy and apply it to events conducted under the purview of First Unitarian Church. We urge our members and friends to confront the issue of abuse and its potential source in religious communities, to study this policy statement and other resource material, and to take appropriate action.

Doing so can help change the voices of denial that proclaim "it can't happen here!" to voices of affirmation that pledge, "We will do all we can to see that it won't happen here!"

BODY OF POLICY

Screening and Selection of Workers With Children and Youth

Workers who provide direct care or supervision to children and youth at First Unitarian Church events or programs must meet the following criteria:

A.    Advisors for youth and volunteer Religious Education teachers must be active participants at First Unitarian Church or another Heartland District Unitarian Universalist Church for at least six months. Active participants are church members or contributing friends who are involved with church committees, activities and /or events.

B.     Teachers and Advisors for High School Youth must be at least 25 years old. Teacher and Advisors for Middle School Youth must be at least 21 years old. All other volunteer Religious Education teachers or teaching assistants, at the discretion of the Director of Religious Education in consultation with the Religious Education Ministry may be under 21.

C.     Workers under 18 years old may be used as paid helpers for event childcare as long as they have completed the Red Cross Baby-sitter's Training or equivalent course and are on the church baby-sitters list. An adult meeting the above criteria will supervise them throughout the event.

D.    All compensated workers and volunteer religious education teachers and volunteer youth advisors and sponsors must complete an application form and read the policy and sign the Code of Conduct included in this policy.

E.     Occasional volunteers, parents or church members who serve in the nursery, classroom, or program occasionally, must read and sign the First Unitarian Church Code of Conduct (see below) before assuming their duties. A trained adult must be designated to supervise these volunteers.

F.      All compensated workers must meet the First Unitarian Church Personnel Policy requirements. First Unitarian Church reserves the right to conduct a criminal background check.

Definitions

A "group" is defined as those children who have been assigned to childcare (including Chalice Night or Sunday service), preschool, or individual elementary class or specific program or activity within the context of that class, as well as youth who are taking part in a planned, organized component of their program.

"Supervision" is defined as the reasonable exercise of thoughtful action and responsibility by adults working with their respective age groups, realizing that the immediacy of such direct supervision will vary with the ages of those in a group and the context of the activity.

Supervision Guidelines and Policies

There will be a minimum of two adults or, in the case of nursery or preschool, one adult and one trained childcare provider under 18, scheduled to supervise each group.

When a group of children are in a classroom at the church, the window coverings will be open or the door to the classroom will remain open.

Corporal punishment or abusive language will not be used under any circumstances.

Two adults will be present during all disciplinary meetings. Disciplinary meetings between a teacher, adult sponsor, advisor or other volunteer and a child must include another worker or the DRE. If such a meeting is necessary, the parents will be informed and the contents of the meeting will be discussed with them as soon as possible or when they pick up the child.

If an adult other than a parent or guardian (see also section below "Counseling by Minister or DRE"), has a private on-site, one-on-one meeting with a child or youth, the Director of Religious Education or another member of the Religious Education Ministry should be immediately notified of the meeting and its purpose. Such meetings are strongly discouraged and must be conducted in a room with a window or open door. At church-sponsored events no adult volunteer or compensated employee, other than the parent or guardian, is to be alone with a child or youth off-site without prior parent arrangement approved by the DRE.

Counseling by Minister or DRE

First Unitarian Church professional staff, the Minister or DRE, counseling children or youth must inform the other member of the professional staff or, if unavailable, the Chairperson of the Religious Education Ministry, of the counseling meeting and the name of the counseled. Advanced scheduling is strongly encouraged, but notice immediately after counseling is permissible if prior notice is impossible. Standard rules of ministerial confidentiality will be respected. Parents will be informed of the meeting, again respecting rules of confidentiality, unless it is deemed that to do so would endanger the child or youth.

Transportation to, from and during Church or District Events

It is the responsibility of parents to provide safe transportation to and from First Unitarian Church for Church and District events. Volunteers and compensated employees are not allowed to pickup or drive children and youth home from First Unitarian Church or to be alone in a car with one child or youth except by prior parental arrangement and notification of DRE.

All drivers must be at least 25 years of age and must provide proof of insurance. There must be enough seat belts for everyone and everyone must wear a seat belt.

Special Cases

For children with special needs, it may not be possible to serve a child's needs with two volunteers and other arrangements may be made. In such cases, the DRE and the child's parents will try to work out a reasonable supervision arrangement. Such arrangement will be agreed to in writing between the DRE and the child's parents. The Religious Education Ministry will approve the arrangement.

Conduct For Adults Working With Children and Youth

Adults who work with children and youth at First Unitarian Church are expected always to have the best interest of children and youth at heart. They are expected to nurture their physical, emotional and spiritual growth by fostering an environment of kindness, trust, respectfulness, and hopefully, fun. No one's enjoyment should ever be at the expense of another person's health or self-esteem. Their charge is to encourage kindness and genuineness among the children and youth, and to discourage unkindness and falseness. In this manner, we hope to create an environment in which children and youth will be able to explore the spiritual and religious nature of their lives, both as individuals and as communities. To accomplish this there are specific expectation that First Unitarian Church has for employees and volunteers.

"Friendship" with Youth

Although we hope that youth and adults will have genuine fondness for one another, any adult who looks to youth for friendship is not sufficiently mature to be in a position of responsibility over them. A "friendship" is reciprocal, where neither person has more responsibility for the health of the relationship that the other. This is antithetical to the adult/youth relationship, where the adult is the one who assumes primary responsibility for maintaining appropriate boundaries and cultivating an atmosphere of health and trust. Therefore, it is the adult volunteer or compensated worker's responsibility to avoid or discourage inappropriate friendships.

Unofficial Contact with Youth

Sometimes a genuine mentoring relationship will develop between a youth and an adult. These relationships can be healthy and transformative for both. However, it is our concern that someone, who might not have the best interest of the youth at heart, could try to disguise an unhealthy relationship with a youth as a mentoring relationship. Therefore, if an adult wishes to be in contact with a youth outside of the normal channels of church events, it is imperative that their behavior both be and appear to be above reproach. Any relationship developed between an adult and a youth outside of First Unitarian Church activities must be with the knowledge and consent of the youth's parents. This is for the protection of the youth and the adult. Adults will best protect themselves from false accusations of misconduct by keeping the parent informed of their actions.

Sexualized Behavior

It is never appropriate to engage in any manner of sexualized behavior with a child or youth. This refers not only to explicitly sexual behavior, but also to sexually provocative behavior or language. It is inappropriate to tell jokes with sexual content, for instance, or to make "double entendres." Physical expressions of affection such as hugs certainly have their place, but it is best to allow the child or youth to initiate them and the adult must be sensitive not to allow them to be prolonged.

Confidentiality

Adults who work with children and youth under the aegis of First Unitarian Church are responsible first to the children and youth, but to the church as well. Sometimes an adult will learn that a child or youth is the victim of abuse, is suicidal, has a serious drug problem, etc. It is First Unitarian Church policy that information be communicated to the Church's professional staff immediately. For this reason, please try never to give children or youth the impression that you will keep secrets for them. CONFIDENTIALITY IS NOT SECRET KEEPING. For the most part, a covenant of confidentiality will mean that you do not repeat information told to you in confidence. However when the information is of a major, crisis nature, encourage the child or youth to seek help from a parent or other authority figure. Consult with a person of greater authority in the church, the minister or the DRE, about an appropriate course of action.

Acceptance with this Policy and Code of Conduct

Any church employee or volunteer working children or youth who disagrees with any provision of the Policy or the Code of Conduct is free to discuss their opinions with the leadership of the church, but must abide by the Code as written. Signing the Code indicates the signatory has read the Policy and the Code and agrees to abide by them. The signatory further acknowledges that failure to abide by the Code or the provisions of the Policy will result in dismissal from either paid or volunteer positions involving children and youth at First Unitarian Church.

Reporting and Response Procedures Regarding Harassment or Abuse

Refer to First Unitarian policy on Sexual Harassment and Abuse.

Responding to the Public

If the media contacts First Unitarian Church about an alleged abusive situation involving First Unitarian Church, only the President of the Board of Trustees or his/her specific designee will speak for First Unitarian Church. In general, the following guidelines apply for these situations with the public media:

Because of the issue of confidentiality, in the best interests of the child, we cannot discuss specific cases in a public context. It is important that we protect the interest of the child and First Unitarian Church, particularly if litigation seems possible. The designated spokesperson will freely discuss what steps we have taken to guard against abusive situations.

Awareness and Implementation

Following approval of this policy it will be communicated to the congregation and implemented as follows:

1.   Copies will be made available to the congregation in the Volunteer area, and on the web page.

2.   Upon implementation, parents, teachers, and volunteers will receive a copy of this policy and appropriate forms to sign. Subsequently, parents, teachers and volunteers will receive a copy of this Policy each year at registration and be asked to sign a form indicating that they have read and understand the Policy. As new children enroll in the RE program their parents will receive copies of the policy and be asked to sign a form indicating that they have read the Policy. These forms will be kept in the DRE's office. The Policy will also be included in all new member information packets.

3.   The Policy will be provided to and discussed with all workers and volunteers who supervise or care for the children and youth of our community. New volunteer workers must complete an Application and sign the Code of Conduct before assuming their duties. Application forms will be kept in a locked file in the DRE's office.

4.   "Occasional volunteers" must read and sigh the Code of Conduct before assuming their duties. Forms will be kept on file in the DRE's office.

5.   At least once a year an Adult RE program will focus on the First Unitarian Church RE Program and include a discussion of the Policy and information on child abuse awareness and prevention.

6.   Mandatory teacher training on child sexual abuse awareness and prevention will be conducted annually.

7.   The Policy will be provided to and discussed with all compensated workers who supervise or care for the children and youth of our community. New workers must complete an Application and sign the Code of Conduct before assuming their duties. Criminal background checks will be required for all compensated workers working with children and youth at First            Unitarian Church and church-sponsored events as specific in First Unitarian Church personnel procedures. Application forms and background checks for compensated workers will be kept in a locked file in the Minister's Office.

8.   The Religious Education Ministry will include information on this Policy and its implementation as part of its annual report to the First Unitarian Church Board of Trustees.

Forms and Job Descriptions that follow:

First Unitarian Church's Code of Conduct

Application Form for Volunteer Workers with Children and Youth

Job Descriptions for Religious Education Worker

Reviewed and updated by the Board of Trustees, November 11, 2008

First Unitarian Church's Code of Conduct

Statement of Position:     Adults and older youth in leadership roles in this congregation are in a position of stewardship and play a key role in fostering the spiritual development of both individual and the community. It is, therefore, especially important that those in leadership positions be well qualified to provide the special nurture, care, and support that will enable children and youth to develop a positive sense of self and a spirit of independence and responsibility. The relationship between young people and their leaders must be one of mutual respect if the positive potential of their relationships is to be realized. Respect on the leader's part must include recognition of the absolute right of children and youth to the privacy of their bodies and minds.

Statement of Expectation of Behavior. As specified in the First Unitarian Child and Youth Protection Policy all compensated and volunteer staff are expected to adhere to the following behavior. (Job descriptions are defined below.)

Religious Education Workers shall not engage in behavior with children or youth that constitutes verbal, emotional, or physical abuse: this includes behavior or language that is personally threatening or demeaning.

Religious Education Workers shall neither indulge in sexually harassing behavior nor engage in sexual, seductive, or erotic behavior with children or youth.

Religious Education Workers shall not allow the use of tobacco, drugs or alcohol or any illegal activities among children or youth.

Statement of Action: In the case of paid or volunteer workers failing to meet the above expectation, First Unitarian Church will take appropriate actions.

Statement of Agreement: I have read and understand the First Unitarian Church Child and Youth Protection Policy and Code of Conduct. I agree to abide by the provisions of this Policy and this Code of Conduct and to honor and preserve the trust placed in me by the members of this congregation.

1.      Name (Printed): ­____________________________

2.      Signature:___________________________________                                                                                                                                             

3.      Date:_____________________                                                                                            

Application Form for Volunteer Workers with Children and Youth

This applications to be completed by all applicants for any volunteer position involving the supervision of minors, excluding occasional volunteers as defined in this Policy. The purpose of this form is to help the First Unitarian Church provide a safe and secure environment for the children and youth that participate in programs sponsored by the church. Any information you provide here will be used solely for the purpose of determining your qualifications for working with minors.

Personal Data

Name:                                                                                                                                                       

Last:________________________   First:________________   Middle:_______________

 

Street Address:_____________________________________________________                  

 

City:______________________   State:______  Zip Code:________________                      

 

Home Phone:                                      Other Phone:                                                                    

 

Employer:                                      Work Phone:                                                                          

 

Church History and Prior Work With Children and/or Youth

List of congregations you have attended regularly during the past three years and/or references. Please begin with First Unitarian Church.

 

Name of Congregation         City, State               Date of Membership/Attendance

 

 

 

 

 

 

List previous church and non-church work involving children and/or youth: (please include the name of the church or organization and role or duties)

 

 

 

Please share information on your talents, callings, training, education, gifts or other resources that you can share with the children and youth at First Unitarian Church:

 

Have you ever been convicted of or pleaded guilty to a criminal offense related to sexual misconduct or child abuse? (Circle one) YES  NO

 

Has any civil judgments ever been made against you for reasons related to sexual misconduct or child abuse? (Circle One)  YES   NO

 

Have you ever resigned from employment or been disciplined or terminated by an employer because you were accused of sexual misconduct or child abuse? (Circle One)  YES   NO

 

Other than above, is there any fact or circumstances involving you or your background that would call into question your being entrusted with the supervision, guidance and care of children and youth? (Circle One)   YES  NO

 

If you will be driving children and/or youth, please provide the following-

Driver's License Number: _______________________                                                 

Please attach a copy of your current Driver's License and Certificate of Automobile Insurance. (We recommend personal injury liability insurance of $100,000.00.)

 

Have you ever been convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs?

(Circle One) YES   NO  (IF yes, please state date of conviction)

 

If you answered YES to any of the above questions, please explain (use back or attach a separate sheet.)

 

Applicant's Statement:

The information contained in this application is correct to the best of my knowledge. I authorize any references or churches listed in this application to give you any information (including opinions) that they may have regarding my character and fitness for work with children or youth.

I have read and agree to be bound by the Child and Youth Protection Policy of First Unitarian Church. I understand that any information obtained about me through this application process will be kept in the strictest confidentiality among staff members of First Unitarian Church who will be screening applicants for compensated or volunteer positions. Any information obtained through this process which indicates that I may not have, in their opinion, the maturity or temperament to work with children or youth, will be sufficient grounds for denying this application.

 

Signature:  ________________________________                                           

 

For church Use      Application Review by:                                              Date:                          

Applicant Placed? YES   NO                   Volunteer Position Assigned:


Job Descriptions for Religious Education Worker

 

Minister

See the contract and job description for the Minister, which is on file in the church office.

 

Director of Religious Education

See the contract and job description for the Director of Religious Education (DRE), which is on file in the church office.

 

Nursery Caregivers

Nursery caregivers will be responsible for care of infants during Sunday morning worship services and occasional other daytime and evening church functions. In all aspects of their dealing with infants they will be expected to comply with the First Unitarian Church Child and Youth Protection Policy. In addition, they are expected to keep the nursery room clean and safe for the children under their care and provide the children with meaningful, age-appropriate experiences. They are directly supervised by the Personnel Committee and all contracting decisions will be made by the Personnel Committee. The Personal Committee may delegate direct supervision of the caregiving staff for events or programs at which the committee does not have a representative present. In the event of termination or resignation, two weeks notice will be given by the terminating party to the other party, unless termination results from noncompliance with the Child and Youth Protection Policy, in which case termination will be immediate.

 

Volunteer Religious Education Teachers

Volunteer Religious Education teachers have the responsibility to plan and coordinate the Sunday morning religious education class they have volunteered to lead. The planning will be in accordance with curricula and other activities selected, designed or approved by the DRE and/or the Religious Education Ministry. They will attend teacher training workshops and teacher meetings; if they are unable to attend scheduled training and/or workshops, the DRE will make arrangements to cover the topics with them. Teachers will receive ongoing support and training from the DRE. In all aspects of the dealing with children attending First Unitarian Church's religious education program, they are to comply with the Child and Youth Protection Policy.

 

The DRE will be informed on a timely basis of all teaching staff absences. Should the volunteer teacher or the DRE need to terminate this agreement, timely notification shall be given, unless termination results from noncompliance with the Child and Youth Protection Policy, in which case termination will be immediate.

 

Volunteer Youth Advisors and Sponsors

Volunteer Youth Advisors shall pursue a leadership development program with the senior high youth which will include participation in UUA District Youth events, and a meaningful program of local activities which may include outside service projects, social activities, fundraising and religious education, using materials reviewed by the DRE. Youth Advisors will attend district training seminars, and will receive ongoing support from the DRE. In all aspects of their dealing with your attending the religious education program, they are too comply with thePolicy of First Unitarian Church.

 

The DRE will be informed on a timely basis of all youth advisor absences. Should the Youth Advisor or the DRE need to terminate this arrangement, timely notification shall be given, unless termination results from noncompliance with the Policy, in which case termination will be immediate.

 

Occasional Volunteers

Occasional Volunteers are parents; members or friends (known by a church member for six months) who volunteer to "fill in" on an emergency basis as classroom teachers' aide, room parent, or youth group advisor or sponsor. They assist regular classroom teacher or youth group advisors as needed.

 

These volunteers will be guided by scheduled volunteer and be under the supervision of the DRE. In all aspects of their dealing with children and youth attending First Unitarian Church's religious education programs or events they are to comply with the Policy. Occasional volunteers receive guidance; support and supervision from the DRE and regular volunteer staff.

 

Occasional Child Care/Baby Sitting Workers for First Unitarian Church events

Childcare workers are employed by First Unitarian Church to care for the children of members and friends attending occasional daytime and evening church functions. In all aspects of their dealing with the children in their care they will be expected to comply with the First Unitarian Church Policy. They are expected to keep the nursery room clean and safe for the children under their care and provide the children with meaningful, age-appropriate experiences. The adult church member who selected them, or a designee, will supervise these workers during the event.