Effective January 1, 2015
STATEMENT OF PURPOSE
The congregation of the Memorial United Church of Christ, Fitchburg aspires to be a God-centered community. 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, harassment or inappropriate interaction.
This booklet contains many details about the ways Memorial UCC will work to keep its children and youth safe. Here is a quick summary of the main points:
• All people working with children and youth must be screened.
• The ideal is for there always to be two adults in any situation involving young people. When that is not possible, it is vital to notify another adult of the circumstances and when possible, to notify the parents.
• Never put yourself in a situation where you are alone with a child out of sight from anyone else. In rooms without windows, keep a door open.
• Off-site transportation requires written parental permission.
• Discipline, when necessary, should never involve physical punishment or verbal abuse.
• If anyone feels a child has been abused in any way in a church-related setting, the concern will be treated seriously, respectfully and promptly. If potential illegal activity is involved, the police will be called immediately.
VOLUNTEERS: Someone new or returning to our congregation who wishes to work with children or youth must have taken an active part in the life of Memorial UCC for at least six months before becoming a volunteer in our programs for children or youth. This may be waived for someone who recently has been active in youth work at his or her previous congregation if the youth leader or pastor of that congregation is willing to provide a reference to our Faith Development Director or our pastor.
SCREENING: The Faith Development Director shall be responsible for screening and accepting all applicants for children’s and youth programming volunteers. There are two levels of screening: primary and secondary.
Primary Screen Procedure: Those workers such as, but not limited to, teachers and youth group leaders who will have appointed and frequent contact with children and/or youth must undergo the primary screening procedure by
1) reviewing this policy;
2) completing the attached Covenant of Relationship for People Working With Children and Youth and Statement of Disclosure; and
3) authorizing a criminal background check.
The Faith Development Director or Pastor will do a Wisconsin criminal background check and a check on the National Sex Offender Registry. Once all the information is compiled, the Faith Development Director will confirm the individual’s suitability to serve in consultation with the Pastor if necessary. Background checks will be updated annually.
Secondary Screening Procedure: Those individuals who will have limited contact with children or youth over the course of a year, such as the occasional nursery assistant, youth group driver or chaperone, will be given a copy of the highlights of this policy.
PAID STAFF: All paid staff will be subject to a background check and are expected to abide by this policy. The background checks, done through the Wisconsin Department of Justice and the National Sex Offender Registry, are done annually.
MINISTERIAL CONDUCT: The Pastor and any other authorized ministerial staff serving the congregation are expected to abide by the UCC’s Ordained Minister’s Code, with particular attention to the section on “The Ethics of Ministry.”
MAINTENANCE OF RECORDS: Records collected in compliance with this policy shall be kept for at least seven years in a secure and confidential place with access limited to the Pastor and the Faith Development Director.
EDUCATION: Faith Development Director will be responsible for educating the congregation about this policy and procedures.
VULNERABLE ADULTS: While much of this policy is written with the protection of children in mind, Memorial UCC is also concerned about providing a safe environment for vulnerable adults. Anyone witnessing instances of sexual harassment, verbal abuse or efforts to take advantage of people should let that be known to a member of the congregation’s executive committee, which is composed of the Council president and vice president, the chair of the trustees, the financial secretary and the Pastor.
REVIEW OF POLICY: The Safe Sanctuary policies will be reviewed and updated at least every three years.
INCIDENT REPORT: Any teacher or other volunteer working with youth, who is involved in or witnesses any incident that may come under the Safe Sanctuary policy, should document what occurred on an Incident Report (available in the main office and the Faith Development Director’s office) and give it to a member of the Response Team.
RESPONSE TEAM: A Response Team will receive and review written allegations of misconduct under this policy. The team shall consist of the Pastor, Faith Development Director, chair of the Faith Development Committee, and a parent chosen by the Executive Committee. At least one member of the team will have attended a Safe Sanctuary workshop or training session. All members of this team shall maintain confidentiality.
GENERAL APPROACH: No teacher, advisor, aide 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. If there is a situation where a staff member or volunteer needs to be alone with a child, that person should let another adult know the circumstances as soon as possible.
TWO-ADULT RULE: The children and youth in both educational and social settings of our congregation shall be under the care and supervision of two adults. There may be an exception to this rule if classes allow for constant visual access and frequent observation by staff members. If there are situations where only one adult will be with children or youth, parents will be notified in advance or, if that is not possible , parents will be notified as soon as practical after the fact. During intergenerational activities at church, we recognize that adults and children will be moving freely around the building, but adults should still avoid being alone one-on-one with a child.
OFF-SITE PARENTAL CONSENT: Any time children or youth are attending programs away from our church building, they must provide a written consent form, signed by their parent or guardian, to the adult supervisor of the activity. The form will include the plans for the outing as well as, when possible, the names of the adults who will be serving as chaperones and drivers. If these names are not known at the time the forms are printed or if there are changes made, the parent or guardian will be notified later. The forms must be turned in to the church office by the activity supervisor.
OVERNIGHT OUTINGS: The Faith Development Director or a pastor will approve any adult chaperones supervising overnight outings. When there are mixed groups of boys and girls, there must be at least one male and one female chaperone along.
TRANSPORTATION: Staff and adult leaders or teachers with parental permission may transport children or youth between the church and the young people’s homes. Transportation to off-site activities requires written permission (see above).
DRUGS, TOBACCO, ALCOHOL AND GUNS: Adults working with children or young people in our congregation may not use any illegal drugs while involved in any church-related activity. They may not smoke tobacco in the presence of children. When driving or chaperoning youth, adults may not have used alcohol or other substances that would impair driving and they may not have guns with them.
DISCIPLINE: No child shall be disciplined by the use of spanking, hitting, slapping or any other form of physical punishment. Verbal reprimands shall not include destructive criticism or insults. Teachers, advisors, aides and others helping in the classroom are encouraged to listen to the child, communicate expectations of appropriate behavior, use time-outs or give alternative choices. If a child is disruptive, a teacher or aide from the class or from a neighboring class, may be sent to locate the parent or the Faith Development Director.
These procedures will be followed when allegations of inappropriate behavior are reported. Any member of the congregation who is aware of a possible inappropriate interaction should notify the Pastor or the Faith Development Director.
1) All allegations will be taken seriously with due respect for everyone’s privacy and confidentiality.
2) Care and safety of alleged victim and family are the first priority. Extend whatever pastoral resources needed to all involved. Notify the parent of the alleged victim.
3) Whoever receives the complaint should complete an Incident Report form (available in the church office and the Faith Development Director’s office) and submit it to the Response Team.
4) The Response Team will conduct an initial investigation of the allegation as soon as possible and determine if referral to police is required. (The pastors and parish nurse are required by state law to report any potentially illegal sexual activity immediately. They do not need to wait for a determination by the Response Team.)
5) Document all activity involved in handling the incident; note date, time, persons involved as well as the content of what was done. All documentation shall be held confidential.
RESPONSE TO POSSIBLE ILLEGAL ACTIVITY:
If the allegation involves possible illegal activity:
1) A member of the Response Team shall notify the Fitchburg Police at 270-4300 or the police department in the jurisdiction where the incident occurred, the church’s insurance carrier and the associate conference minister who serves the Southwest Association.
2) All should treat the accused with dignity and respect.
3) If the accused is a volunteer, he/she should be relieved temporarily of his/her duties until the investigation is completed. If the accused is a paid employee, the Council will decide on a course of action until the allegations are cleared or substantiated.
4) The Pastor or Council president should be prepared to issue a public statement to inform the congregation and respond to press inquiries. This statement should communicate that the congregation regards these allegations seriously and offers responsible action, concern and support for all involved. Only the Pastor or the Council president (or someone designated by them) should speak to the media.
RESPONSE TO INAPPROPRIATE ACTIVITY:
If the allegation involves inappropriate but not illegal activity, the Response Team shall determine an appropriate course of action.
DEALING WITH SEX OFFENDERS
Memorial United Church of Christ strives to be an inclusive community, respecting our differences in beliefs, opinions and life experiences. However, concern for the safety and well-being of the congregation as a whole must be given priority over the privileges and inclusion of an individual.
To the degree any person’s actions seriously compromise the health of this congregation, our response as a people of faith must reflect our concern for the overall safety and well-being of our members.
PROCESS FOR ACCUSED OR CONVICTED SEX OFFENDERS
If someone with a pending accusation or a conviction of a sexual offense wishes to become a regular part of our congregational life, he or she must be willing to abide by Memorial United Church of Christ’s policy to ensure both the well-being of our members and to help the individual avoid any situation where he or she may face false allegations. This policy also applies to current members and friends should they face charges or conviction for sexual offenses.
The individual with a pending accusation or a conviction of a sexual offense must meet with the Pastor to discuss his or her desire to become part of the regular life of this congregation. The individual must indicate a willingness to make available to the Pastor and Safe Sanctuary Team any background material that would be helpful in evaluating his or her situation. For persons already convicted of a sex offense and on extended supervision, the Pastor must be in contact with the probation/parole officer. The individual also must express a willingness to sign and abide by a covenant worked out with the Pastor and Safe Sanctuary Team.
Our safe sanctuary team – the Pastor, Faith Development Director and Council president – must evaluate the risks and decide whether it is appropriate for this person to participate in any way in the life of the congregation. The team will also decide on any conditions that need to be part of our covenant with the individual. One part of that plan typically would include setting up a support group from the congregation to work with the offender.
If the safe sanctuary team determines that participation is appropriate, the individual will then be given the covenant and asked to sign it. Any violations of this covenant could result in the person being asked to no longer participate in the life of our congregation.