“Safe Sanctuary” policy

The congregation of First Congregational Church, UCC aspires to be a God-centered fellowship.  Here, all can seek a closer relationship with God in a trusting, nurturing place.  As part of this mission, one of our goals is to provide a safe environment for the children and youth who are entrusted to our care as they participate in our programs and use our facilities.  We want our congregation to be a haven, free of sexual misconduct or harassment.  To help reach these goals, we have adopted the following policies, procedures and educational programs to reduce the possibility of child sexual or physical abuse, or any type of sexual misconduct or harassment from occurring in our congregation.  The educational aspect will make us aware of potential problems and the implementation of prudent policies should help safeguard our children, youth, and members.  While not all policies can anticipate and prevent all misfortune, they can state a purpose and provide guidance to achieve the purpose.  These policies express our keen interest in protecting our children and youth, while maintaining the trusting atmosphere of our congregation for the entire congregation.

 

Procedures

 

Hiring of Staff and Paid Employees:  All staff and paid employees will adhere to the policies and procedures of this Safe Sanctuaries policy. All staff and paid employees of First Congregational Church must have a current Criminal Background check on file. The Accountant will be responsible for conducting the Criminal Background check.  Once the information is compiled, the Senior Minister will confirm the applicant or present staff member’s suitability for service.

Recruiting Congregation Workers: Our congregation welcomes volunteers who desire involvement in the educational and youth programs of our Church.  Church membership is mandatory for all prospective teaching positions.  All children’s and youth ministry volunteers are required to adhere to the policies and procedures of this “Safe Sanctuary Policy and Procedures”. The Minister of Education shall be responsible for screening applicants for such volunteer and staff positions.

 

Primary Screening Procedure: Those workers such as church school teachers, confirmation mentors, and youth group leaders who will have appointed and frequent contact with children and/or youth must undergo the primary screening procedure of reviewing this policy and completing the participation covenant statement for church school teachers, youth workers and mentors.  Church membership is mandatory for such involvement.  Current congregation volunteers are requested to submit to screening procedures to signal to the entire congregation their support of the steps being taken.

 

The Minister of Education will arrange for a Criminal Records Background Check for all primary church school teachers, youth workers and mentors. Background checks are considered current for five years.  Once all the information is compiled, the Minister of Education will confirm the applicant’s suitability to serve.

 

Any person who has been convicted of a crime against another person or institution will have their application and Criminal Background Check reviewed by the Advocacy Panel to confirm the applicant’s suitability to serve.

Any person known to have committed previous acts of sexual misconduct with children or youth shall be strictly prohibited from being on the staff of our church or serving our children or youth.

 

Congregational Involvement of Known Sex Offenders: Church Council bears responsibility and authority for the participation of any known sex offender in the life of this congregation.

 

Code of Behavior

 

The Two Adult Guideline: The children in the kindergarten and younger classes of our congregation shall be under the care and supervision of two adults, one of whom may be a high school aide.  No teacher, advisor, aid or anyone else working with our children or youth should place themselves in a compromising situation by being alone with a child or with children out-of-sight of other teachers, advisors, aides, or parents.   Adults serving as confirmation youth mentors will meet with their student in public places and will keep parents informed of the time and place of meetings.

 

Guidelines for Adult Supervision: Adult leaders for a youth ministry activity function as representatives of the church and as such are held to different standards than when acting as a parent or adult in their own family.  The rules and guidelines of the church must be followed by all leaders at all events, thereby providing appropriate supervisions for the youth.  Illegalities and irresponsibility cannot be allowed. Supervision must be consistent, reasonable and prudent.

 

Adults are encouraged to remember that they will be providing both supervision and modeling adult Christian behavior for the youth in their care, and should endeavor to see that the example they set is consistent with the values and expectations of the church community.

 

Five Year Separation Guideline: When utilizing high school and young adults in the Educational Department, Youth Programs and Off-site Activities there shall be five year separation between these young persons and those they supervise.

 

Nursery Workers:  Every attempt will be made first to use youth who have reached the age of 16 as workers in our nursery.

 

Parental Consent: Parents of youth and children participating in youth/church activities outside a 10 mile radius of the church (310 Bluff Avenue, Sheboygan WI) provide a signed consent form which will cover their child for all such activities throughout the year.

 

Discipline: The purpose of discipline with children and youth is to maintain order in a manner consistent with the teaching of religious responsibility, respect and cooperation.  No child shall be disciplined by the use of spanking, hitting, slapping, or any form of physical punishment.  Verbal reprimands shall not include destructive criticism, insult or shouting.  Teachers, advisors and aides and others helping in the classroom are encouraged to listen to the child, communicate expectations of appropriate behavior, use time-outs or give alternate choices.  If a child is disruptive, a teacher or aide from the class or a neighboring class may be sent to locate the Church School Contact.  If the Church School Contact is not readily available, the parent or guardian should be contacted and brought to the room.

Overnight Guideline: Any adult chaperones supervising overnight stays at our facilities or on congregational sponsored trips shall have been cleared to do so by the Minister of Education.  At least, one adult male will dorm with boys and one adult female with girls.  The chaperones shall be required to adhere to this “Safe Sanctuaries Policy”.

 

Youth Group Activities: No adult leader, staff or volunteer, should initiate or encourage physical or intimate contact with children or youth.  Setting boundaries is the responsibility of the adults.  There will be no inappropriate physical contact between volunteers and children or youth.  There will be no inappropriate physical contact between any children or youth participants.

 

The Youth Group is a group ministry.  All participants are expected to remain with the group throughout the times listed in congregation publications.  No pairing or otherwise separating off from the group to other parts of the building or grounds is permitted.

 

Leaving and Locking: The situation where one adult and one youth or child are left at the facilities door waiting to be picked up by parents at the end of an evening activity should try to be avoided.

 

Drugs, Tobacco, Alcohol: The use of any non-prescription drugs, tobacco or alcoholic products on or in congregational facilities or at congregation sponsored youth events is not permitted.

 

Transportation: Transportation for field trips, to activities, or for events by groups and to/from the congregation facility will only be provided when there is parental permission (written or verbal).

 

Parental Guidelines: We strongly encourage parents, when on the premises with their children, to know where their children are, who they are with, and what they are doing.

 

Sign out of children:  Children up to and including 4 years old shall be “signed out” of their Sunday Church-School classes by a parent or guardian.

Reporting Responsibilities: Any inappropriate conduct or relationship between an adult and a child or youth shall be promptly reported to the Minister of Education, Senior Minister, or Church Moderator.

 

If You Suspect a Violation of the Code: If a suspected case of abuse has either been reported to you or is suspected by you to have occurred at a congregational-related function or program, immediately contact the Minister of Education, Senior Minister, or Church Moderator.

 

Abuse can include:

  • Sexual remarks
  • Inappropriate kissing
  • Fondling
  • Touching parts of the body which would be covered by a swimsuit.
  • Watching any sexual activity
  • Intercourse
  • Showing pornography

 

If you are unsure whether or not your suspected case falls under this definition, it is strongly recommended that you err to the side of caution and report your suspicion immediately.

 

Establishment of Advocacy Panel: A panel composed of five members (Senior Minister, Minister of Christian Education, Moderator, Appointed Member of Church Council and appointed church member) will be established by Church Council to oversee the implementation of this policy and the response plan.  The makeup and membership of the Advocacy Panel will be reviewed annually.

 

 

Note: A detailed “Response Plan” with procedures is on file in the office for any members who would like to see it.

 

 

– Originally drafted on 7/19/05; updated by Council on 5/6/08.