Children’s Protection Policy
HERITAGE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
Table of Contents
- Statement of Purpose and Procedure
- Safeguarding the Well Being of Minors
- Child Protection Procedures
- Prohibited Acts
- Consequences of Violation
- STATEMENT OF PURPOSE AND PROCEDURE
- SAFEGUARDING THE WELL BEING OF MINORS
The members of Heritage Presbyterian Church (hereafter “Heritage”) believe that we are called by God to create a safe haven for all the children and youth in our care, protecting those who are powerless and empowering them through faith and trust. During each baptism of an infant, child, or adult into this covenant community of faith, the members of this church pledge to uphold that person in Jesus Christ and to teach, strengthen, and support individuals’ relationships with the household of God.
Therefore, the members of Heritage are committed to the safety, welfare, and protection of all children – ages birth to 18 -year-old, hereafter called ‘minors’, participating in the activities and programs of this church. This policy addresses the preventable risk of any form of neglect, abuse, or harassment, whether physical, mental, sexual, or verbal, by any of the paid staff, teachers, or volunteers of this church while on church property or while engaged in church sponsored activities or programs. In addition, we are called to stand not in judgment, but in compassion for each other. We believe that any person who has been accused of committing an act of abuse can expect due process, our prayers, and acceptance as a human being.
Therefore, all Heritage sponsored activities and programs, regardless of location, involving minors, will be subject to the following policy:
- At all times, it is preferable to have a minimum of two adults assigned to supervise or lead all activities involving minors.
- A Parent Permission Form must be completed and signed for all programs and activities outside the regular classes and meetings on campus. These would include, but not be limited to: overnight lock-ins; off campus service trips; off campus fellowship activities; and out-of-town trips.
- A signed Parent Permission Form must be completed any time a minor and single adult are in a situation where a second adult is not present, such as (but not limited to) a tutoring situation or mentoring relationship.
- No person shall be recommended to the session of Heritage as a lead teacher or volunteer leader of minors until such person has been an active member of the church for one year (a person may teach in tandem with an active member before that one year requirement is reached), has completed a Paid Staff/Volunteer Information Form, security check has been completed, and references checks have been completed.
3. CHILD PROTECTION PROCEDURES
The process presented below is intended to include not only volunteers, but also paid staff and church leaders who work with minors. These procedures are intended to establish safeguards against minor abuse in our church. While the process understandably intrudes into the privacy of our lives, the security of our children outweighs the personal invasion inherent with such investigation and disclosure. All personal information voluntarily disclosed, the results of all security background and reference checks, and the refusal of any person to participate in a program or activity in lieu of such disclosure requirements will be considered confidential. Guest speakers and leaders approved by the session will be exempt from this policy. Friends of Heritage (regular visitors for 6 months) will only be able to serve in non-leadership roles.
Whether disclosed voluntarily or by the results of the security background check, the following terms will automatically disqualify a volunteer from participating in the leadership or sponsorship of any church activity or program for minors:
- Any indictment alleging the offense of, or any conviction for: murder; aggravated assault; sexual abuse (rape); aggravated sexual assault; injury to a child; incest; indecency with a child; inducing sexual conduct or sexual performance of a child; possession or promotion of child pornography; the sale, distribution, or display of harmful material to a minor; employment harmful to a child; or abandonment or endangerment of a child.
- For Drivers of Minors: a DWI/DUI conviction or traffic violation involving reckless behavior (defined as driving more than 20 mph over the speed limit or running a stoplight or stop sign) within the last three (3) years will disqualify the individual from driving minors on church activities.
- All other convictions or charges for any other crimes not listed above will be reviewed by the Administrator. If an applicant disputes information that appears in his or her criminal history record transcript, he or she may appeal through the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Screening and Selection of Volunteers
- Supervisors of programs for minors to distribute Paid Staff and Volunteer Information Forms and conduct interviews. ( Christian Education elder, Director of Christian Education, Pastor)
- An “Administrator” is appointed to oversee the procedure, to follow through on criminal record checks, and to review the reference checks. This person will need to document and record criminal record checks and results of reference checks.
- Trained volunteers to make calls for the reference checks.
- Selection of all who work with minors, full-time or part-time, paid staff or volunteer:
- Any volunteer working with minors must be an active member of the church for at least 1 year. Those with membership for less than 1 year may only work in tandem with a current, active church member. This excludes guest speakers or guest leaders approved by the session.
- Any volunteer working with minors must be at least 14 years of age. Volunteers under the age of 18 must work in tandem with one adult (who is a member for 1 year or more) in each room; must complete the Paid Staff/Volunteer Information Form to be signed by their parents. Those under 18 who work with younger minors do not count in the adult/student ratios.
- All volunteers and paid staff are required to fill out a confidential Paid Staff/Volunteer Information Form that allows for a criminal record check and reference check:
- Conduct criminal background check, ages 18 and over.
- Require at least three references.
- Check all references. If a person comes from another community, a reference from their former church should be contacted where applicable.
- Make a record of contacts with references and prior churches .
- Conduct a personal interview.
- Assure confidentiality by filing the reference checks and criminal background checks in sealed envelopes stored in a secured location with limited access. The envelopes will not be opened unless a problem occurred with a paid or volunteer worker.
- Periodically update the Paid Staff/Volunteer Information Forms.
Occasional Volunteer Workers:
- Required to fill out a Paid Staff/Volunteer Information Form and provide one reference.
- Volunteers between the ages of 14 and 18 must have a Paid Staff/Volunteer Information Form signed by their parents and kept on file.
- At least two adult volunteers should be present during any church sponsored event or activity for minors, including transportation. The two adults should not be related (for example: husband/wife, parent/child, siblings, etc.). If the two adults are related, a third unrelated adult must be present as well.
- Obtain written and signed parental permission in these situations:
- When an adult might be spending time alone with a minor in an unsupervised situation (for example when tutoring or mentoring a minor);
- For any off-campus church activity;
- For special programs such as lock-ins and out-of-town mission trips.
- Open blinds in classroom and office windows; leave doors open when with minors.
- Use the church identification procedure for nursery, preschool and up to second grade. Obtain, in writing, from parents specifically which adults may pick up their child (for example parents, grandparents, etc.).
- Review list of violations (see Prohibited Acts).
- Educate all volunteers and paid staff who work with minors on the church’s policies and procedures regarding violations.
- Apprise all workers in training sessions as to the reporting procedure and as to the requirements of state and local laws regarding the reporting of abuse of a minor. Refer to Appendix E for reportable acts of abuse and neglect.
- Report any incident of abuse to the supervisor of the program in which the paid staff or volunteer is working. The supervisor will then contact Director of Christian Education, who will help the paid staff member or volunteer through the reporting process.
- The Christian Education elder will contact the pastor or the Session. In the event any of the designated people can not be reached, any active elder may be contacted as an alternate. All phone numbers can be found on the roll sheet at the front of the church telephone directory.
- The person initially contacted by the alleged victim or witness should immediately fill out a written Suspected Abuse Incident Report verbatim.
- The church office maintains a list of individuals at agencies and governing bodies to be contacted, for example: Presbytery, Children’s Protective services, insurance company etc.
The following steps are to taken in the case of any occurrence of a violation:
- PERSONALLY SECURE THE SAFETY OF THE MINOR(S)
- REPORT THE INCIDENT IMMEDIATELY TO THE DESIGNATED PERSON.
- DO NOT LEAVE THE MINOR UNSUPERVISED WHILE REPORTING THE INCIDENT.
- DO NOT PERSONALLY CONFRONT THE ALLEGED OR ACCUSED VIOLATOR.
- ALLOW THE DESIGNATED PERSON TO PROVIDE YOU WITH INSTRUCTIONS FOR REPORTING OF THE INCIDENT TO THE PARENTS OR GUARDIAN OF THE MINOR.
- THE RESPONSE TEAM WILL BE SOLELY RESPONSIBLE FOR ALL COMMUNICATIONS ON BEHALF OF THE CHURCH.
- REPORT ABUSE INCIDENT TO CHILDREN’S PROTECTIVE SERVICES IF APPLICABLE IN THE PRESENCE OF A RESPONSE TEAM MEMBER.
Responding to Allegations
The Response Team includes these individuals:
- Church Attorney
- 3 Active Elders (selected each year to serve on team)
- 1 Deacon
The Response Team handles communication with the police, insurance, District Attorney’s office and the media. Team members will also provide counseling for both the alleged victim and the accused person.
For each incident, clear descriptions of each team member’s responsibilities are written.
Prepare a written media statement with the assistance of Presbytery.
To report incidents of Child Physical, Sexual and Emotional Abuse or Neglect:
- Statewide Intake at 1-800-252-5400
- Visit the DFPS Web Site at www.dfps.state.tx.us
All incidents of Child abuse whether physical, emotional or sexual should be reported using the 800 number provided.
For additional information regarding help available for child sexual abuse please visit the Children’s Assessment Center Web Site at www.cachouston.org.
4. PROHIBITED ACTS
The following acts are prohibited by this Policy and will not be tolerated or accepted during any Heritage sponsored activity or program. Any observation or personal knowledge of such violations must be immediately reported to the Supervisor of the program, the DCE, the pastor or any active elder after the safety of the minor has been assured.
- Any display or demonstration of sexual activity, abuse, insinuation of abuse, or evidence of sexual conduct towards a protected minor;
- Sexual advances or sexual activity of any kind between any adult and a protected minor;
- Sexual advances or sexual activity of any kind between an older child and a younger child;
- Infliction of physically abusive behavior or bodily injury to a minor;
- Physical neglect of a minor, including failure to provide adequate supervision in relation to the activities of Heritage;
- Causing mental or emotional injury to a minor;
- Possessing obscene or pornographic materials at any function of Heritage;
- Possessing or being under the influence of any illegal substances;
- Consuming or being under the influence of alcohol while leading or participating in a minors’ function of Heritage;
- Any kind of verbal remarks with sexual connotations, overtones, or innuendo directed to or about a minor;
- Carrying any type of weapon on church property.
Upon accusation the accused is entitled to prompt and fair disposition of such serious charges and to receive due process of law including the presumption of innocence unless proven guilty.
5. CONSEQUENCES OF VIOLATION
Any person accused of committing a Prohibited Act, whether a paid staff member or volunteer will immediately be suspended from participation in all church sponsored activities and programs with minors. Such suspension shall continue during any investigation by the church or law enforcement or child protection agencies.
Any person found guilty of a Prohibited Act shall be prohibited from future participation in all church sponsored activities and programs with minors. If a person is a paid staff member such conduct may also result in termination of employment.
As required by Texas law , all reports of abuse will be reported within 48 hours to the appropriate child protection and law enforcement authorities. Such reporting must be accomplished in addition to complying with this Children Protection Policy. The church’s legal representative shall also be notified.
Failure to timely report a Prohibited Act to the designated person shall be considered a procedural violation of this Child Protection Policy and shall be grounds for termination of employment of a paid staff member or employee and suspension and dismissal from participation in all children and youth activities and programs of Heritage by any person.