Child, Youth, Special Needs Persons and Workers Protection Policy and Procedure
PROVIDENCE REFORMED PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
St. Louis, Missouri
CHILD, YOUTH, SPECIAL NEEDS PERSONS AND WORKERS PROTECTION POLICY AND PROCEDURE
Adopted by the Session 2/16/2016
Providence Reformed Presbyterian Church (PRPC) desires to be a safe place for all children and adults who attend any activity or ministry. Each year in our broader society, Children and Special Needs Persons are victimized by individuals they know and trust. PRPC is not immune to the potential for such abuse or neglect of children and special needs persons, either by its members or by those in leadership positions. Incidents of Child or Special Needs Persons abuse or neglect cut across racial, social, economic, and religious boundaries. This Child, Youth, Special Needs Persons and Workers Protection Policy (Policy) and Procedure reflect PRPC’s commitment to protect children and others from harm. The Policy applies to all compensated workers and volunteers of PRPC. This Policy is specifically designed to prevent incidents from ever occurring, although it addresses actions that must be taken if an incident does occur.
PRPC will not tolerate Child or Special Needs Persons abuse or neglect. Your cooperation with this Policy not only reflects your concern about our children and others’ safety in this society, but also your willingness to take steps toward preventing child or special needs abuse and its detrimental effects. For the safety and protection of our Children, Special Needs Persons and Workers, all people who participate in church-sponsored activities with children or special needs persons are required to comply with this policy.
In this Policy the following definitions will apply:
1. Child: Any person under the age of 18.
2. Adult: Any person age 18 and over.
3. Special Needs Person: Any adult requiring direct adult supervision as a result of mental or physical limitations.
4. Child or Special Needs abuse and neglect: Physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, or neglect of a Child or Special Needs Person by an adult or adolescent Caregiver responsible for the Child’s or Special Needs Person’s welfare.
5. Physical abuse: Maltreatment which results in physical injury, including but not limited to bruises, cuts, welts, fractures, and internal injuries.
6. Emotional abuse: Maltreatment which results in impaired psychological growth and development, including, but not limited to, belittling, rejection, constant unequal treatment, verbal assaults, bullying, excessive demands on Child’s or Special Needs Person’s performance, and/or isolation from normal social activities.
7. Sexual abuse: Maltreatment which consists of sexual contact or interactions with a Child or Special Needs Person, including, but not limited to, physical contact (fondling, genital/oral stimulation, sexual intercourse) and non-physical contact (exhibitionism, prostitution, pornography, voyeurism, offensive/sexual language, stalking).
8. Neglect: Failure or inattention on the part of the Caregiver to provide for a Child’s or Special Needs Person’s basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and supervision.
9. Compensated workers: Hourly, salaried, part-time, or full-time employees who work with Children or Special Needs Persons at any PRPC sponsored activity.
10. Volunteer workers: Any non-compensated individual who works with Children or Special Needs Persons at any PRPC sponsored activity.
11. Caregiver: Any compensated or volunteer worker, adult or supervised responsible adolescent.
12. Worker: Caregiver
13. Pastor: The Senior Pastor or ranking Pastor at any given time.
14. Session: The Pastor(s) and the active Ruling Elders of PRPC.
15. Mandated Reporter: Any person with responsibility for the care of Children or Special Needs Persons is a mandated reporter. If a Caregiver has reasonable cause to suspect that a Child or Special Needs Person has been or may be subjected to abuse or neglect, or observes a Child or Special Needs Person is being subjected to conditions or circumstances which would reasonably result in abuse or neglect, that person must immediately report or cause a report to be made to one of the two Missouri hotlines: If the alleged victim is a Child, report to the Missouri Department of Social Services, Children’s Division 24 hour hotline 800-392-3738 (REPORTING REQUIREMENT 210.115.1 – 210.115.3 RSMo.). If the alleged victim is an Adult, report to the Department of Health and Senior Services, 7 am to midnight hotline 800-392-0210.
SCREENING FOR COMPENSATED AND VOLUNTEER WORKERS
The following procedures reflect our commitment to provide protective care for all Children, Special Needs Persons and Caregivers who participate in PRPC sponsored activities.
1. Volunteer Workers must be members in good standing and regular attendees of PRPC or approved by the Session.
2. All compensated Workers and Volunteers must have read and signed this Policy, and a copy of this document given to the Worker or Volunteer.
3. All compensated Workers and Volunteers shall be screened by a background check for the purpose of obtaining information regarding criminal history or abuse. An approved list of qualified Workers and Volunteers will be maintained.
4. Any member of the congregation, compensated Worker, or Volunteer who has been convicted of a crime against a Child or Special Needs Person or a violent crime against another adult, shall not provide service in any PRPC related activity or program for Children or Special Needs Persons. Those who have been convicted of either sexual or physical abuse can be forgiven for, and cleansed of their sin. However, sin does have consequences and while such persons may serve in certain other areas of ministry at PRPC, they will be prohibited from serving in the Children’s and Special Needs ministries.
5. The results of any screening background queries or interviews shall be kept confidential by authorized PRPC staff, limited to members of the Session and the person in charge of the particular affected ministry (e.g., nursery, Sunday School, Youth Ministries, camp outs).
GENERAL POLICIES FOR CAREGIVERS
1. Caregivers shall not engage in any form of physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect.
2. A minimum of two adults or an adult with a supervised adolescent will work together with Children or Special Needs Persons. In a small group or similar teaching environment, it is acceptable to have individual classes/groups with only one adult Caregiver provided there are other adults present in the general area.
3. Any classroom door windows shall remain uncovered to allow a clear view of classroom activities. If the door has no window, the door must remain open.
4. Caregivers need to clearly understand what behaviors are considered appropriate and loving, and what behaviors are inappropriate and abusive. Touch is a powerful and important tool in working with Children or Special Needs Persons. Touch can communicate warmth, concern, and care. When used properly, it enhances trust and safety, but must be a conscious choice. Touch misused can be destructive, creating confusion and a sense of violation. Appropriate touch is non-demanding, gentle and on the shoulders, hands, arms or back. Inappropriate touch includes kissing, demanding or initiating hugs, touching the chest, genitals, upper legs or buttocks.
5. When possible, Children and Special Needs Persons are to be encouraged to take care of their own bathroom needs. Unless there is an obvious need, no Caregiver should go inside the restroom with any Child or Special Needs Person. If a female Child or Special Needs Person needs help, a female Caregiver will help while another Caregiver stands by. If a male Child or Special Needs Person needs help, either a male or female Caregiver may assist.
6. Children in a nursery shall be released to parents, guardians or family members after the event. Persons other than the Child’s parents, guardians or family members must be specifically authorized to pick up the Child.
7. A positive approach to discipline shall be practiced. Clear, consistent, age-appropriate limits will be established to help the children function appropriately.
8. The Pastor and/or Session must approve any activities that are held offsite. Written parent or guardian permission must be obtained for each overnight offsite activity and there shall be a minimum of two adult Caregivers present.
9. Overnight events that are attended by Children of both genders must be chaperoned by adult Caregivers of both genders.
10. It is recognized that certain counseling and ministerial situations may preclude the presence of two adult Caregivers and that the general guidelines for supervision of Caregivers should not restrict situations where individual counsel and guidance is necessary. In this case, the door must be left open or the window of the door must remain uncovered.
11. For camps, retreats, or similar activities, two adult Caregivers shall work as a team when it is not possible to have two adults in the same sleeping room. The second Caregiver should be in reasonable proximity to help if needed.
REPORTING SUSPECTED ABUSE OR NEGLECT
It is the responsibility of the Mandated Reporter to immediately report all cases of suspected Child or Special Needs Person abuse or neglect to the proper legal authorities. When it becomes necessary to report suspected abuse or neglect, the protection of the Child or Special Needs Person must be the most important concern.
As a Caregiver, you are a Mandated Reporter of Child or Special Needs Person abuse or neglect. It is the legal responsibility of a Mandated Reporter to report all cases of Child or Special Needs Person abuse or neglect they observe, and further, to report visible signs of alleged abuse or neglect. Failure to report could lead to liability on the part of the PRPC, the observer, or both. Reporting probable cause of Child or Special Needs Person abuse or neglect has the potential for helping individuals receive help for a previous problem and may prevent further harm to self and others. Failure to report is a Class A misdemeanor for a person who is required under the law to report. Filing a false report is also a Class A misdemeanor.
What is probable cause? Probable cause means that the available facts when viewed in the light of the surrounding circumstances would cause a reasonable person to believe a Child or Special Needs Person was abused or neglected (Section 210.110(4) RSMo.). A report based on probable cause does not require proof that abuse or neglect has actually occurred; rather, it is a request for an assessment of the condition of a possible victim.
Because we believe Children and Special Needs Persons are a most important concern, we have adopted the following guidelines for reporting suspected abuse:
1. Upon observing or suspecting abuse, the Caregiver shall immediately make sure the possible victim’s safety and comfort are secured, and then make sure the suspected abuser is safely away from the possible victim.
2. Report the abuse or neglect promptly to the proper state agency and then to a member of the Session. To preserve confidentiality, it is important to discuss the incident initially only with these individuals.
RESPONSE OF PRPC
PRPC’s primary function in responding to allegations of sexual abuse or neglect is to provide pastoral care to all who are affected, to ensure the safety and protection of persons who have been or may be harmed, to seek healing by providing pastoral care and other needed assistance to all who are affected, and, to the extent possible, to respect the privacy and rights of the parties involved and the confidentiality of communications.
If the Session receives an allegation of child abuse or neglect, the Elders will respond with the utmost concern for the victim, parent, and the party making such an allegation. The accused will be treated with dignity and support. Without clear and convincing evidence to the contrary, the Session will assume that such complaints are made in good faith. Persons making such complaints should have no doubt that PRPC takes them seriously and will take appropriate action.
If an alleged abuser contacts PRPC officials about a complaint, they may only confirm that they have received such a complaint. They should avoid discussing the allegations or making any further comments until the proper authorities have an opportunity to conduct their investigation. They should not identify the alleged victim or complainant during an investigation.
If the press or other parties contact a PRPC official about a pending allegation of abuse, they should be referred to the Pastor. Only the Pastor or his designee shall make comments about the allegation.
RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE PRPC SESSION
In accordance with PRPC’s position that Child or Special Needs Person abuse or neglect shall not be tolerated, the Session must do the following:
1. Take all allegations of abuse and/or neglect seriously.
2. Document all efforts at handling the incident.
3. Assist if necessary for the Caregiver to report the incident to the proper state agency. Do not attempt an in-depth investigation. This should be left to professionals who are familiar with these cases.
4. Report the incident immediately to PRPC’s insurance company and attorney. This will normally be done by the Clerk of Session.
5. Do not try to handle this without professional outside assistance.
6. Notify the parents or guardians.
7. Do not confront the accused until the safety of the Child or Special Needs Person is secured. The accused should be notified of the nature of the complaint.
8. Do not prejudge the situation, but take the allegations seriously and reach out to the possible victim and the victim’s family. Showing care and support will help to prevent further hurt. Extend whatever pastoral resources are needed. Remember that the care and safety of the victim is the first priority.
9. Treat the accused with dignity and support. If the accused is a Caregiver, that person must be relieved temporarily of his/her duties until the investigation is finished.
10. Use the text of a prepared public statement to answer the press and to convey news to the congregation. Be careful to safeguard the privacy and confidentiality of all involved.
RESPONSE AND ACCEPTANCE BY PRPC STAFF OR VOLUNTEER
I have read the above Policy and understand my responsibilities and expectations as a Providence Reformed Presbyterian Church employee, volunteer or member, and I agree to abide by the guidelines and policies described above, and I have been given a copy of this document for my records. Further, I understand that Providence Reformed Presbyterian Church retains the right to change the terms of this Policy as it deems advisable.