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ChildAbuse Plan and Prevention Guidelines

The process of developing and implementing a Child Abuse Protection Policy can be both difficult and confusing. Where do you begin? What are the necessary steps to implementing an effective policy? How long does it take? Where can you find answers to questions along the way? We have all asked these questions as we entered the maze of Child Abuse Protection Policies.
These and other questions are enough to scare a church away from tackling this issue. This option is completely unacceptable. Our children are far too valuable for us to stop short of doing everything we can to make our churches a safe place for children to learn and grow in their relationship with Jesus. In order to help you and your church adequately address the issues of volunteer screening and child protection, we have put together this short guide with some suggestions of how to proceed through the process.

5 Step Plan

"Reducing the Risk" is a set of material put together by Christianity Today and Church Law & Tax Report that is designed to help you develop a comprehensive program to protect your children and your church from predators. In their material they recommend this 5 step plan which includes:
1. Adopt a Six Month Rule - The idea here is to have in place a period of time (at least six months) from the time an individual becomes a member of your church until you allow them to begin working with children or youth. This step will eliminate many potential predators that are looking for quick access to potential victims. Many will not stick it out for long periods of time like this.
2. Use WRITTEN Applications - This process, while difficult and potentially time consuming, will help to document the screening process and will assist you in selecting qualified volunteers to work with your young people.
3. Conduct Reference Checks - Ask potential volunteers to provide individuals who can help give insight and background into their qualifications.
4. Conduct Interviews - Face to face interviews provide ideal times to explore more deeply the intentions and qualifications of an individual looking to work with children or youth.
5. Conduct Additional Background Checks - Background checks through organizations such as the Pennsylvania State Police and Childline of Pennsylvania provide documented information about a volunteer that can be invaluable in the screening process. There are organizations such as Protect My Ministries that can help you through this process and provide a multitude of checks for you (contact [email protected]) for more information).

Using Policies

In addition to the 5 step screening of volunteers entering your ministry, we recommend the development of policies to help guide and protect your volunteers as they work with children and young people. These policies can include a definition of minimum numbers of adults, adult to student ratio policies, facility monitoring and access policies, bathroom use policies, public observation policies, accountability policies, supervision policies, and abuse reporting policies. These are just a few of the policies you could develop to help protect your children.
The maze of developing Child Abuse Prevention Plan and Policies can be very confusing. However, it should NEVER go undone! In order to help make these policies and procedures a reality in every Evangelical Congregational Church, we would recommend a couple of options:
1.Order the "Reducing the Risk III Kit" and use it and its guidelines in helping you to develop your plan and train your volunteers in effectively preventing child abuse in your ministry.
2.Contact the Christian Education Committee and its members. We have done a great deal of work and research in this area and would be happy to come along side and assist you in developing these policies and plans.
3.Talk to other churches. Many churches in and out of the EC denomination have already gone through this process. Talk to them and "borrow" some of their work to help you implement a plan. (Some samples are available to help begin your thought process.)
4.Revisit your plan. Many churches developed these plans and procedures for their ministries years ago. These churches should periodically review and revise their plan in order to keep it current and effective.

Guidelines for Ministry Workers: Preventing Child Abuse in a Ministry Environment (Very helpful and informative FREE booklet from Brotherhood Mutual)  To order call 1-800-222-1840 or go to website: www.brotherhoodmutual.com (see Safety Central, then Guidebooks)