PROTECTION AND ABUSE PREVENTION POLICY
Spokane Friends Meeting
I. Background Principles
Safeguarding the physical, emotional, and spiritual well being of young people and other vulnerable individuals may be one of the most important responsibilities for ministry organizations. The physical, mental, and sexual abuse of children and adults with disabilities has claimed the attention of our nation and society. We at Spokane Friends Church are deeply aware of the responsibilities associated with caring for, teaching, and training vulnerable people and will take necessary steps, both legally and morally, to prevent and report the abuse of vulnerable people with whom we minister.
This policy reflects Spokane Friends Church’s commitment to provide:
A. Protective supervision and care for all children, youth and adults with disabilities.
B. Guidance and protection for paid and volunteer workers who minister with children, youth, or adults with disabilities.
C. Protection for the various ministries ofSpokane Friends Church.
D. Information and instruction regarding policies and procedures relating to the protection of children, youth and adults with disabilities and prevention of abuse.
The following definitions will be used for the purposes of the Protection and Abuse Prevention Policy of Spokane Friends Church
A. Abuse – Any recent act or failure to act which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.
1. Emotional Abuse – threats, critical words, demeaning terms or names, or depriving a child of any sign of affection or other similar spoken or unspoken emotional cruelty. It conveys a message that the person is worthless and undeserving of love and care.
Behavioral Indicators of Emotional Abuse: Severe depression, withdrawal from activities, severe lack of self-esteem, suicide threats or attempts, speech or eating disorders, high need for adult approval, extreme passive/aggressive behavior.
2. Sexual Abuse – sexual contact between a minor and an adult (or older, more powerful youth). A sexually abused person also may be physically and psychologically dependent upon the abuser.
Behavioral Indicators of Sexual Abuse: Advanced sexual knowledge or behavior, often crying without reason, promiscuous behavior, withdrawal from activities, running away, walking or sitting difficulties, bruising/bleeding in the genital area, frequent headaches/stomachaches, or extreme fatigue.
3. Physical Abuse – intentional, deliberate behavior that causes bodily harm, including but not limited to assault, shaking, kicking, choking, and bone fractures.
Behavioral Indicators of Physical Abuse: Hostile, aggressive behavior toward others, fear of parents andor other adults, destructive behavior (self, others, property), unexplainable bruises or fractures, burns, facial injuries (often reoccurring), sexually transmitted diseases.
4. Neglect – refers to a child, youth or adult with disabilities who is without proper care and control, subsistence, education, medical or other care or control necessary for well-being because of the conduct or omission of parents, guardian or other custodian.
Behavioral Indicators of Neglect: Poor impulse control, sadness and listlessness, fatigue, theft of food, reports that no caregiver is at home, poor hygiene, lack of basic food and clothing, lack of education as required by law.
B. Child/Youth: An unmarried person under the age of eighteen (18) who is not an emancipated minor.
C. Adult with disabilities: A person who is eighteen (18) or over who has a cognitive, emotional, or physical impairment.
D. Staff worker: A person who is employed by the church to perform a specific function, e.g., pastor, youth coordinator, or secretary.
E. Volunteer Worker: A person who is not employed by the church and who does ministry, e.g., Sunday School teacher or small group leader.
F. Occasional Worker: A volunteer who does not have a regular assignment and serves as a substitute when needed.
G. Church Officer: Persons who are approved to fill an office in the church.
H. Field Trip: An organized event taking place beyond church property.
III. Specific Policies
A. Screening Requirements: In order to adequately protect our children and adults with disabilities, the procedures for screening employed and volunteer ministry staff are listed below.
1. All workers, employed and volunteer, who minister with children or adults with disabilities must have a background check done by the Education Committee. These records are confidential and will be kept in a locked area restricted to appointed designees.
2. All workers, employed and volunteer, who minister to/work with children or adults with disabilities must agree in writing that they have read and agree to follow Spokane Friends Churchabuse prevention policies.
B. Restrictions: Any person who has a founded report of abuse against another person of any age, or is known to be under investigation, is prohibited from working in any ministry involving vulnerable persons.
C. One-on-One Rule: We discourage adults meeting one-on-one with children. If this is determined to be the most appropriate ministry approach, the parent or guardian must be apprised.
D. Physical Contact: Appropriate physical contact used by adults working with children, youth or adults with disabilities may include, but is not limited to, touching a child’s hand, side rather than frontal hugging. Touching of private body areas is never appropriate. Appropriate touching takes into account the situation and location. For example, a hug may be appropriate in a public, but not in a private location in the church.
E. Discipline: Workers should never spank, hit, grab, shake, or otherwise physically discipline anyone. Physical restraint should be used only in a situation where it is reasonably necessary to prevent individuals from physically harming themselves or other individuals. Disciplinary problems should be reported to the Education Committee, the pastor, and/or the parent or guardian.
F. Immediate Reporting: Adults working with children should immediately report any behavior that appears to be abusive or inappropriate to the pastor and/or Clerk of Meeting. Any physical or mental injury in evidence on any child in their care must be reported as required by state and local laws.
G. Occasional Workers: There may be situations where occasional volunteer workers are required to fulfill a specific ministry with children. When occasional workers who have to serve as a substitute have not been through worker screening or training, they should serve alongside a worker who has been through the screening and training.
H. Review of Policy: All policies, procedures and guidelines with respect to Child Protection and Abuse Prevention should be reviewed by the Education Committee when needed, but no less than every 3 years to make certain they are up to date.
I. Classroom Observation: All classrooms must have either a Dutch door or a door with a window in areas used by children so that parents and church members may observe activities.
J. Restroom Visits: Young children will be given as much privacy as possible when taken to the restroom. If assistance is required, a screened adult may assist the individual.
K. Nursery Policies: Nursery workers will not release nursery-age children to any person except a parent or an individual designated by the parent prior to leaving the child.
L. Field Trips/Transportation:
1. Drivers to/from field trips will be approved by the event supervisor.
2. Permission slips and medical releases signed by a parent or guardian must be carried by the event supervisor.
3. Permission slips may be signed annually and kept in an appropriate file.
IV. Training and Education
A. The Education Committee shall be responsible to ensure adequate training and education for all children’s workers at the local church level.
B. All staff that work or volunteer with children, shall receive a copy of this policy and shall sign a statement that they have read and received a copy of the policy.
V. Screening Procedures
In order to adequately protect our children, employed and volunteer children’s workers will:
A. Complete an oral applicant interview with the Education Clerk or designee.
B. Agree to a criminal background check every three years through the state and/or local police departments.
VI. Applicant Interview Forms
Any information gathered from interviews and background checks for child/youth workers shall be kept confidential except to the extent required for reporting purposes. This information will be stored in a locked file in an appropriate location with controlled access.
VIII. Procedure for Reporting Child Abuse Suspected or Witnessed
A. If a child reports sexual abuse or improper touching to anyone, that individual should:
1. Believe the child.
2. Protect the child.
3. Report the abuse (see the procedure below).
4. Limit the amount of follow-up questions asked of the child, youth or adult with disabilities so as not to interfere with a further investigation by trained interviewers.
B. Who Should Report Abuse?
1. When a staff member or volunteer witnesses child abuse or is told of child abuse by a party involved, that person must promptly contact the pastor and youth pastor and make a report, or cause a report to be made, to Child Protective Services. This is not to be discussed with the child in question.
2. When a staff member or volunteer has cause to believe that abuse has occurred but has not observed the abusive conduct, such as abuse by a parent, that person must report the information to the pastor and youth pastor. If they concur that the situation warrants, a report will be made to Child Protective Services. The child’s parents or other suspected individuals should not be contacted yet.
C. How Should an Abuse Report be Made?
1. Witnessed or suspected child abuse shall be reported on the Protection and Abuse Prevention Reporting Form (attached). Additional copies are available in the Education In Box in the Church Library.
2. The form shall be completed as soon as possible following the verbal report and should be in as much detail as possible. Special attention should be given to time, place, what was witnessed or suspected, person making the report, indicators of abuse, family background, visible signs of any injury on the child, remarks by the child (without interviewing the child), etc.
3. Confidentiality shall be maintained regarding all aspects of the report, verbal and written, except to the extent required for reporting purposes in order to avoid mistaken accusation.
4. Completed reports will be maintained in a confidential location at the church office.
VII. Responding to Allegations of Abuse
A. Proper responses to allegations of child abuse can minimize the pain and liability for all parties involved in a given situation. It is the church’s goal to respond to allegations in a manner that maintains people’s rights to privacy and confidentiality at the highest possible level. Adequate care and support for both the alleged victim and the accused shall be considered mandatory at all times.
B. In the case of an allegation of abuse against a worker serving in the ministry of the church, the following steps shall be taken:
1. The person(s) in charge of the program or activity shall document all efforts used when dealing with the allegation.
2. The accused shall be relieved of duties until the prompt investigation of the accusation is completed.
3. If the victim is under the age of 18, the parents/guardian shall be notified as soon as possible.
4. If the accused is under the age of 18, the parents/guardian shall be notified as soon as possible.
5. The alleged victim must be treated with dignity, support and Christian love.
6. The accused must be treated with dignity, support and Christian love.
7. Although all means must be taken to ensure confidentiality at all levels of this process, if abuse is confirmed, a report of the incident will be made to Monthly Meeting. When deemed appropriate, SFC will inform NWYM of any confirmed report of abuse.
Many of the definitions and policies in this document are adapted from Northwest Yearly Meeting’s suggested Protection Abuse Prevention Policy, dated July 10, 2010. The Spokane FriendsChurch Policy was last updated May 20, 2012.