Child/Youth Security and Safety - Policy, Purpose and Administration - 5.1
Policy: It is the policy of the Apostolic Faith Church to ensure that all children are physically, spiritually, and emotionally safe while in our care. When a church-sponsored event takes place away from the church premises, all safety policies and guidelines regarding children and youth must be followed.
Purpose: The Apostolic Faith Church will maintain practices designed to protect and support the children and youth who attend our functions, our staff and volunteers, and the entire organization.
Administration: The pastor in each church is responsible to authorize all activities involving children and youth. He or she will coordinate with Sunday school leaders and youth activity directors to ensure proper direction and supervision of all church-sponsored youth activities. However, it is the responsibility of all workers in the Apostolic Faith organization to act in the best interest of children.
Child/Youth Staff Requirements - 5.2
All church staff and volunteers who work with minors must undergo the following screening, selection, training, and retention process, in addition to completing any training requirements deemed necessary for the applicant’s prospective role in the church.
Screening and Selection
Prospective employees and volunteers will be screened and interviewed by the pastor, ministry supervisor, or other representative of the organization as designated by the pastor. All applicants who serve in any capacity in which they interact with children and youth are required to have been in regular attendance at the Apostolic Faith Church for at least one year.
Prior to serving, applicants must do the following:
- Read the Apostolic Faith Church Volunteer Handbook.
- Take the online child safety training recommended by the church insurance company. (Information on how to access this training is available at www.apostolicfaith.org/safety.) Print documentation which indicates successful completion of the training, and provide a copy to the pastor.
- Read the Procedure Guidelines for the area(s) of ministry in which he/she will serve.
- Watch the video regarding how to give CPR posted online by the American Heart Association. This can be accessed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O9T25SMyz3A
- Fill out and submit a Worker Application (or Youth Worker Application for those under the age of eighteen) upon completion of all training requirements. Applicants are asked to disclose any matter which may affect their suitability to work with children and youth. Authorization to do a background check is included as part of the Worker Application form. (The information obtained through this process will be kept confidential.)
In addition, we recommend that all workers who participate in activities involving children and youth read the document “What You Can Do About Child Abuse,” published by the Oregon Department of Human Services, publication #DHS 9061. It is available at https://apps.state.or.us/Forms/Served/de9061.pdf.
These requirements must be completed before an applicant begins assisting in any church-sponsored event. The application must be kept on file in the local church office for insurance purposes.
Anyone who has been convicted of child abuse will not be allowed to work with children. Allegations of abuse, or other criminal offenses, may also disqualify an individual from working with children.
Young people under the age of eighteen who assist in Apostolic Faith ministries for children such as the church nursery or Vacation Bible School must have been in regular attendance at our church for at least one year, and be at least the age required by state law for babysitters. They must be approved by the pastor and the activity supervisor on a case-by-case basis.
Youth workers should read the Procedure Guidelines for any area of ministry in which they expect to serve. They must submit a Youth Worker Application form, which includes two personal references, and a commitment to abide by the guidelines and policies established by the Apostolic Faith organization. This application also includes permission and a liability release by the parent/guardian of the applicant.
These requirements must be completed before an applicant begins assisting in any church-sponsored event. The application must be kept on file in the local church office for insurance purposes.
Prospective workers must be informed when they are invited to participate and/or submit their Worker Application (or Youth Worker Application) form that their certification as a church worker is limited in duration and includes an expiration date. At that time they will be required to complete any additional training and re-evaluation procedures designated by the Apostolic Faith organization in order to be recertified and continue serving in the designated capacity.
The Apostolic Faith organization reserves the right to immediately dismiss any volunteer or employee who is accused of violating the Apostolic Faith Church policies.
Child/Youth Record Keeping - 5.3
The documentation and records management practices as outlined in this Apostolic Faith Church Safety and Security Manual must be followed in all Apostolic Faith churches in the United States.
Child/Youth Records Retained at the Local Church
- Worker Applications and Youth Worker Applications. Since Worker Application forms include a Social Security number, they should be kept in a secured file in the local church office. Access to this file should be granted only on a need-to-know basis. A list of approved workers also is to be kept on file and updated annually.
- Child/youth safety training records. This file should include login information, and a list of those in the local church who have completed the online training required for those who serve in ministries involving children or youth.
- Sunday School Registration forms and attendance records. Enrollment information must be on file for each child in the Sunday school program using the Sunday School Registration form. This form includes transportation information and emergency contact numbers, so they should be reviewed and updated annually. Weekly Sunday school attendance records must be kept for both teachers and students.
- Van transport records. Weekly attendance records must be kept for each Sunday school van route recording the driver, attendant, and names of minors and adults who were transported.
- Youth activity records. Attendance records must be kept of all church-sponsored youth activities noting names of both the minors in attendance and the supervising staff.
- Minors who attend church-sponsored youth events other than Sunday school (such as youth camps, retreats, or Sunday school class outings) must have a Youth Activity Permission form filled out by the parent/guardian.
- Minors who regularly attend a church-sponsored Boys or Girls Club must have a Boys/Girls Club Permission Form filled out by the parent/guardian.
- Driver certifications. A record must be kept of all approved transportation providers, including a copy of current drivers’ licenses and certification that the online training required by insurance has been completed.
- Accident/Injury Report forms. Any accident, injury, or medical emergency involving either minors or adults being transported on church-provided transportation is to be documented on an Accident/Incident Report form. If an insurance claim is made, the information must be sent to the headquarters office.
- Vehicle Accidents. Any vehicle accident occurring while minors or adults are being transported by church-owned vehicles are to be documented on a Vehicle Accident Information Form. A copy of the completed form must be sent to the Portland headquarters office for insurance purposes.
Child/Youth Records Sent to Headquarters
- If an insurance claim results from an accident or injury which occurs either at church or at an off-site church activity, the information must be sent to headquarters.
- If the pastor receives credible information suggesting that abuse has occurred, the pastor must immediately contact Children’s Services Division or the appropriate law enforcement agency. He must also inform the Superintendent General at headquarters of the allegation.
Supervision Policy - 5.4
The presence of trained and watchful staff and volunteers is a fundamental component of a successful security and safety plan. All those in the Apostolic Faith Church who work with minors in church-sponsored activities are required to know and follow the established policy guidelines.
Detailed instructions and written Procedure Guidelines must be included in the training of all staff and volunteers for ministry involving children and youth.
Even though the security and safety of children is primarily the responsibility of the parents/guardians when they are present, workers should be watchful and report whenever they observe circumstances that are suspicious, unusual, or raise concern about potential risks to youth.
- Any church-sponsored activity involving minors must be staffed with an adequate number of qualified adults. At least two adult volunteers or employees must be present at all church activities involving children and youth. This includes, but is not limited to making sure an appropriate worker-to-child ratio is maintained. Following are minimum recommendations:
- Two- and three-year-olds: two workers per twelve children
- Four- and five-year-olds: two workers per eighteen children
- Six-year-olds and older: two workers per twenty children
- Higher risk activities require more supervision. While a 2-20 worker-to-student ratio would be acceptable at a backyard barbecue, a weekend camping trip might require a 1-4 ratio.
- All church staff and volunteers must follow the “two adult rule.” This means that no individual child is to be alone with one adult behind closed doors or in a secluded location. All interaction between staff and minors must be observable and interruptible. One adult is allowed to supervise a group of children (similar to the public school setting).
- All church-sponsored activities for children and youth must be conducted in rooms with window-view doors. If the door does not have a viewable window, the door should be left open. Window blinds should be left open except when an educational activity necessitates a dark room (for example, when showing a video.)
- Any two children in an unseen or less-easily-viewed area must be redirected to another more open area.
- Children under school age are not to be left unattended.
- Youth workers must be at least three years older than the children they work with, unless they are working in the same room with and under the supervision of a qualified adult staff member.
Check In/Check Out Procedure
- Children are not to be taken out of the designated activity area or immediate vicinity, except in the case of a preplanned event in another part of the building, or an emergency evacuation of the premises.
- Children under school age are only to be released from their designated activity area into the care of a parent/guardian or parent-approved individual.
- Children under school age cannot be allowed to leave the designated activity area without an escort. Staff members should monitor the doorways and refuse an exit if a child attempts to leave without an appropriate escort.
Restroom Assistance Policy - 5.5
We recommend that children who participate in our early childhood programs be self-sufficient in toileting. However, there may be times when assistance is required. In such cases, the parent/guardian should be summoned to take care of their child’s needs if possible. If a parent/guardian is not available, the following procedures must be observed.
While we ask that children be toilet trained before participating in church programs, the following guidelines must be followed in any situation where diapering is a necessity.
- Only female staff members or volunteers are permitted to diaper children of either gender.
- Children are to be changed at changing stations only.
- A child must never be left unattended on a changing table.
- Diapering should be done in plain sight of other staff or volunteers.
- Any special instructions given by parents leaving children in the nursery or church program are to be recorded in writing.
- Children are to be re-clothed immediately upon completion of a diaper change.
- Only female staff members are permitted to take children to the restroom.
- Staff members are never to take one child to the restroom alone. One adult may take two children at a time to the restroom, but only one child should be sent into a stall at a time.
- When children are taken into a restroom, the exterior restroom door should be left partially open.
- Young children are never to be left unsupervised in restrooms.
- Children are to receive the minimum amount of assistance needed, based upon their individual capabilities.
- If necessary, children may be assisted in straightening clothing before returning to the activity area.
School-age children may be accompanied to the restroom for supervision and assistance when needed. In such cases, the following procedure will be followed:
- Staff members are never to take one child to the restroom alone. One adult may take two children at a time to the restroom, but only one child should be sent in at a time.
- If there is a need to check on an individual child, two staff members should go together. If a second worker is not available, the staff member should go to the exterior bathroom door, knock, and ask if the child needs assistance. If the child requires assistance, the worker should leave the exterior bathroom door open when entering the bathroom area, and try to verbally assist the child in completing their activities, while the child remains behind the door of the bathroom stall.
Children with special needs:
When children with special needs are enrolled in Sunday school or other childhood programs at the church, the department leader or activity supervisor should discuss with the parent/guardian how toileting needs are to be handled. For Sunday school children, any special instructions or authorizations should be noted in writing, and kept with the enrollment information.
Communication Policy - 5.6
All communication between church workers and minors must be appropriate, discreet, and positive. Children should never be addressed in a manner that could be construed as harsh, unreasonable, shaming, or derogatory in any way. No swearing or abusive language is tolerated.
Staff members and volunteers are prohibited from engaging in any private, sexually-oriented conversations with children, and are not permitted to discuss any sexually-explicit information about their own personal relationships, dating, or marriages with any child or youth.
The section of this handbook titled “Internet Safety” provides guidelines concerning electronic communication.
Guidance and Discipline Policy - 5.7
All staff and volunteers who work with children in Apostolic Faith Church programs are expected to follow established procedures for dealing with behavioral concerns, and to treat every child with dignity and respect.
- Staff and volunteers must be thoroughly familiar with appropriate disciplinary techniques as outlined in the Procedure Guidelines for all ministries involving children and youth.
- Disciplinary action is to be carried out only by adult staff members.
- No one may spank, hit, or use any type of physical discipline with children.
- Clear directions and guidance should be given at the child’s level of understanding.
- Verbal directives should always be positive and uplifting.
Approved Discipline Procedures
Discipline should be limited to corrective steps designed to retain the child’s self-worth while correcting inappropriate behavior.
When a child misbehaves, time-outs and other non-physical methods of behavior management are to be used for redirection. In employing a time-out, staff members should observe the following guidelines:
- Verbally redirect the child before physically intervening. With younger children, additional intervention may be necessary (for example, removing a toy from the hands of a child who is hitting another child with it.)
- If the misbehavior continues, or if the conduct endangers the child or others, move the child away from the group to another area of the room while taking care to avoid being alone with the child.
- Provide the child with a simple, understandable reason for the time-out, along with a clear explanation of your expectations. Be verbally reassuring, as being removed from the situation may upset the child. Do not physically hold the child in time-out.
- Provide the child with a chair, pillow, blanket, or carpet square to sit on until the time-out is complete.
- Follow the rule of thumb that a time-out is ineffective if it lasts longer than one minute for every year of a child’s life (for example, three minutes for a three-year-old).
- Monitor the child during the time-out without giving him/her your undivided attention. Offer intermittent praise to reassure the child.
- Praise the child once he/she has completed the time-out and tell them the reward is being able to rejoin the group. Remind him/her that repeating the initial behavior will result in an additional time-out.
Staff members should discuss with their ministry supervisors any child who exhibits uncontrollable or unusual behavior. If chronic behavior concerns develop, the following actions may be implemented:
- Document and communicate incidents to the parent/guardian.
- Introduce specific behavior plans or incentives for the child.
- Restrict attendance at church-sponsored activities, either temporarily or permanently based on the specific issues.
The following actions on the part of children in our care are not allowed, and could result in dismissal from church-sponsored activities and programs, though the pastor and ministry supervisor will work with the parent/guardian to determine the outcome that is best for the child and the program.
- Endangering the health and safety of children and/or staff.
- Stealing or damaging church property.
- Leaving the department or activity boundaries set by the staff without permission.
- Continual interruption of the program.
- Ongoing refusal to follow the behavior guidelines or instructions of the staff.
- Continued use of profanity, vulgarity, or obscenity after being warned by the staff.
- Physical violence.
- Possession of tobacco, alcohol, or illegal drugs.
- Possession of explosives of any kind (including firecrackers), firearms, or other weapons.
- Acting in a lewd manner or exhibiting sexual behavior.
Physical Contact Policy - 5.8
The Apostolic Faith organization has a physical contact policy which promotes positive, nurturing relationships with the young people in our care while offering protection as well. The following guidelines must be followed by anyone serving in church-sponsored activities for children and youth.
- Common expressions of affirmation (an arm around shoulder, light hugs, a pat on the back), support (carrying, or guiding a small child by the hand), and comfort in distress are generally suitable in the church setting. However, these must be offered with discretion, maintaining awareness that what is appropriate for a toddler or early school-aged child would be inappropriate for a pre-adolescent or older youth.
- Any touch that could be viewed as inappropriate must be strictly avoided. Contact should be restricted to non-intimate, neutral, or “safe” zones, such as the upper arm or across the shoulders. Physical interaction with children and youth should never give an appearance of wrongdoing.
- Physical contact must occur only in observable locations and in full view of others.
- Physical contact should be for the benefit of the child, and never be based upon the emotional needs of a staff member or volunteer.
- A child’s expressed preference regarding physical contact must always be respected.
- Staff members and volunteers are responsible for protecting children under their supervision from inappropriate or unwanted touch by others, including peer-on-peer.
Abuse Prevention and Reporting Policy - 5.9
The Apostolic Faith organization is committed to providing a safe, secure environment for children and their families, so we make every effort to safeguard the children who have been entrusted to our care. We have zero tolerance for abuse in church programs and activities. It is the responsibility of every staff member and volunteer in the Apostolic Faith work to act in the best interest of all children in every program.
While suspicions or knowledge of abuse are extremely difficult situations, we do not have discretion in this matter: we are legally obligated to immediately fulfill our responsibilities in accordance with state requirements. According to Oregon law (the state in which this organization is registered as a corporation), mandatory reporters include ministers and school teachers, along with law enforcement personnel and medical professionals. (Oregon Statutes: ORS 419B.005, ORS 12.117) For that reason, staff members or volunteers who observe any policy violations or suspected abuse, or receive an allegation of abuse, must immediately report the matter to their ministry supervisor or the pastor.
Definition of Abuse
In general, the term “child abuse” refers to any injury to a minor not caused by accident, which results in observable and substantial impairment of a child’s ability to function, including any injury which appears to be at variance with the explanation given of the injury. This includes sexual abuse or exploitation, negligence, maltreatment, or threatened harm to a child.
Staff members and volunteers should have a basic understanding of the characteristics of sexual predators and their behaviors in “grooming” a child for sexual abuse. Grooming is the process used by an abuser to select a child, win the child’s trust (and the trust of the child’s parent or “gatekeeper”), manipulate the child into sexual activity, and keep the child from disclosing the abuse.
The Apostolic Faith maintains and enforces a legally-approved risk management policy regarding children and youth. The following procedures are strictly enforced:
- All church employees and volunteers who work with children and youth are screened, selected, trained, and certified according to the guidelines recommended by legal and insurance advisors.
- Any individual who has been convicted of child abuse is prohibited from working with children in the Apostolic Faith Church. Allegations of abuse or other criminal offenses may also disqualify an individual.
- Church employees and volunteers who work with children and youth are required to adhere to the procedures and guidelines established by the Apostolic Faith Church.
The Apostolic Faith reserves the right to immediately dismiss any volunteer or employee who is accused of violating the procedures and guidelines established by the organization.
Failure to report a prohibited act to the designated person is a violation of policy and grounds for termination of employment of an employee of the church. Volunteers who fail to report a prohibited act may be restricted from participation in any church activities involving children or youth.
What to Report
Reasonable grounds to report suspected abuse exist if:
- A child says that he/she has been abused. This is known as “disclosure.”
- A responsible individual states that a child is being abused.
- There is basis for concern based upon physical, emotional, or other indicators of possible abuse.
Steps in Reporting
If a child or young person discloses that he/she is being abused, or his/her actions suggest that abuse is occurring, staff and volunteers are instructed to take the following steps:
- If the alleged incident occurred on site, make sure that the child is not in immediate danger. If the suspected abuser is present, separate the child and other children from that individual.
- Listen carefully.
- Reassure the child that he/she took the right step in telling.
- Tell the child that people who can help will be notified.
- Write down exactly what was said, noting the time, place, and context in which the disclosure was made.
- Immediately report the alleged abuse to the department or activity supervisor, who will report the allegation in writing to the pastor.
- Make it apparent to the child that you are shocked.
- Ask specific questions, as these could influence the clarity of the child’s memory.
- Promise that the abuse will stop.
- Conduct any personal investigation.
- Share information with those outside the proper reporting channels.
Organizational Response to Allegations of Abuse
When the pastor receives credible information suggesting that abuse has occurred, he will immediately contact Children’s Services Division or the appropriate law enforcement agency in the state. He will also inform the Superintendent General of the allegation. The church will coordinate its internal investigation with the governmental entity involved.
A designated church representative will interact with legal counsel and insurance representatives, and will respond as directed to questions from the media concerning allegations of abuse or neglect. Other staff members should refrain from comment. During the investigation, the alleged abuser will not participate in any church activities involving minors.
If the internal or external investigation results in credible evidence supporting the allegations, the pastor will impose appropriate disciplinary restrictions, which may range from dismissal from duty to barring from church attendance.