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General Purpose Statement

Grace Lutheran Church seeks to provide a safe and secure environment for the children and youth who participate in our programs and activities.  By implementing the below practices, our goal is to protect the children and youth of Grace Lutheran Church from incidents of misconduct or inappropriate behavior while also protecting our staff and volunteers (workers) from false accusations.[1]

Definitions

For purposes of this policy, the terms “child” or “children” include all persons under the age of twelve (12) years.  The term youth includes all persons who are at least twelve (12) years old, but not yet eighteen (18) years old.  A youth may also be an individual who is eighteen (18) years or older, but still in high school.[2]  The term “worker” includes both paid and volunteer persons who work with children.

Selection of Workers

Persons who desire to work with the children participating in our programs and activities may be screened.  This screening includes the following:

  1. Personal Interview

    If applicable, upon completion of the application, a face-to-face interview may be scheduled with the applicant/volunteer to discuss further his/her suitability for the position.

  2. Criminal Background Check

    A national criminal background check is required for all employees (regardless of position) and for the following categories of volunteers;

  • Those who will be involved in overnight activities with children and/or youth;

  • Those involved in one-on-one mentorship of children and/or youth; and

  • Those having occasional one-on-one contact with children and/or youth (such as, Grace Lutheran Church vehicle drivers).

Before a background check is run, prospective workers will be asked to sign an authorization form allowing Grace Lutheran Church to run the check.  If an individual declines to sign the authorization form, she/he will be unable to work with children and/or Youth.

What constitutes a disqualifying offense that will keep an individual from working with children and/or youth will be determined by the Executive Board/Church Council of Grace Lutheran Church on a case-by-case basis in light of all the surrounding circumstances.  Generally, convictions for an offense involving children and/or for offenses involving violence, dishonesty, illegal substances, indecency and any conduct contrary to our mission will preclude someone from being permitted to work with children.  Failure to disclose a criminal conviction on the application form will also be a disqualifying event.

The background check authorization form and results will be maintained in confidence on file at the Grace Lutheran Church office.

[1] Template taken from Guide One Child Protection Policy Model, unless otherwise stated.

[1] Model Policies for the Protection of Children and Youth from abuse, Church Pension Group, p. 3

 

General Conduct for Staff and Volunteers[3]

The following guidelines are intended to assist staff and volunteers in monitoring and supervising behaviors and interactions with children and youth, to identify and stop those that may be inherently harmful to children or youth.  These guidelines should be used to make decisions about interactions with children and youth occurring at Grace Lutheran Church, including sponsored activities and programs.  They are not designed or intended to address interactions within families.  When exceptions to these guidelines must be made, they should be reported to the pastoral leadership at Grace Lutheran Church.

  1. All staff and volunteers who work with children or youth must agree to comply with Grace Lutheran Church Guidelines for Appropriate Affection.

    (Appendix A)

  2. All staff and volunteers are prohibited from the use, possession, distribution, or being under the influence of alcohol, illegal drugs, or the misuse of legal drugs while participating in or assisting with programs and activities specifically for children or youth.

  3. Parents or guardians must complete written permission forms prior to each trip before staff or volunteers transport children and youth for Grace Lutheran Church sponsored activities or programs.

  4. All staff and volunteers will respond to children and youth with respect, consideration, and equal treatment regardless of sex, race, religion, sexual orientation, culture, or social-economic status.  Staff and volunteers will portray a positive role model for children and youth by maintaining an attitude of respect, patience, and maturity.  They will avoid even the appearance of favoritism.

  5. One–to-one counseling with children and youth will be done in an open, or public or other place where private conversations are possible but occur in full view of others.

  6. All staff and volunteers are prohibited from dating or becoming romantically involved with a child or youth.

  7. All staff and volunteers are prohibited from having sexual contact with a child or youth.

  8. All staff and volunteers are prohibited from possessing any sexually oriented materials (magazines, cards, videos, films, clothing etc.) on church property or in the presence of children or youth except as expressly permitted as part of a pre-authorized educational program.

  9. All staff and volunteers are prohibited from using the internet to view or download any sexually oriented or explicit materials on church property or in the presence of children or youth.

  10. All staff and volunteers are prohibited from discussing their own sexual activities, including dreams and fantasies, or discussing their use of sexually oriented or explicit materials such as pornography, videos, or materials on or from the internet, with children or youth.

  11. All staff and volunteers are prohibited from sleeping in the same beds, sleeping bags, or tents with children or youth unless the adult is an immediate family member of the children or youth in the bed, sleeping bag or tent.  It is acceptable to have multiple adults sleep with all the children or youth participating in one open space such as a church basement or camp lodge.

  12. All staff and volunteers are prohibited from dressing, undressing, bathing or showering in the presence of children or youth.

  13. All staff and volunteers are prohibited from using physical punishment in any way for behavior management of children or youth.  No form of physical discipline is acceptable.  This prohibition includes spanking, slapping, pinching, hitting, or any other physical force.  Physical force may only be used to stop a behavior that may cause immediate harm to the individual or to a child, youth or others.

  14. All staff and volunteers are prohibited from using harsh language, degrading punishment, or mechanical restraint such as rope or tape for behavior management.

  15. All staff and volunteers are prohibited from participating in or allowing others to conduct any hazing activities relating to children’s or youth ministry or camp activities.

  16. No movies above the rating of PG-13 can be shown to youth without consent of pastoral leadership and parents or guardians.

  17. All staff and volunteers chaperoning overnight events/trips must be at least twenty-one (21) years of age or older.                                                                                            1] Church Pension Group p. 7-8

 

Responding to Allegations of Child Abuse

For purposes of this policy, “child abuse” is any action (or lack of action) that endangers or harms a child’s and/or youth’s physical, psychological or emotional health and development.  Child abuse occurs in different ways and includes the following:

  • Physical abuse – any physical injury to a child or youth that is not accidental, such as beating, shaking, burns, and biting.

  • Emotional abuse – emotional injury when the child or youth is not nurtured or provided with love and security, such as an environment of constant criticism, belittling and persistent teasing.

  • Sexual abuse – any sexual activity between a child/youth and an adult or between a child/youth and another child/youth including activities such as fondling, exhibitionism, intercourse, incest, and pornography.

  • Neglect – depriving a child of his or her essential needs, such as adequate food, water, shelter, and medical care.

Volunteers may have the opportunity to become aware of abuse or neglect of the children and/or youth under their care.  In the event that an individual involved in the care of children and/or youth at Grace Lutheran Church becomes aware of suspected abuse or neglect of a child and/or youth under his/her care, this should be reported immediately to the pastoral leadership at Grace Lutheran Church for further action including reporting to authorities as may be mandated by state law.

In the event that an incident of abuse or neglect is alleged to have occurred at Grace Lutheran Church or during our sponsored programs or activities, the following procedure shall be followed:

  1. The parent or guardian of the child will be notified.

  2. The worker alleged to be the perpetrator of the abuse or misconduct will immediately be placed on leave from working with children and/or youth pending an investigation and instructed to remain away from the premises during the investigation.

  3. Civil authorities will be notified, and Grace Lutheran Church will comply with the state’s requirements regarding mandatory reporting of abuse as the law then exists.  Grace Lutheran Church will fully cooperate with the investigation of the incident by civil authorities.

  4. Our insurance company will be notified, and we will complete an incident report.  Any documents received relating to the incident and/or allegations will immediately be forwarded to the insurance company.

  5. The Senior Pastor will be our spokesperson to the media concerning incidents of abuse or neglect, unless he or she is alleged to be involved.  We will seek the advice of legal counsel before responding to media inquiries or releasing information to the congregation.  All other representatives of the church should refrain from speaking to the media.

  6. A pastoral visit will be arranged for those who desire it.

  7. Any person who is not found innocent of the alleged abuse or misconduct will be removed from their position working with children and youth.

 

Training

Grace Lutheran Church will provide training on this child and youth protection policy to all new workers and will strive to provide opportunities for additional training classes or events on an annual basis.  All workers are required to attend these training events. 

 

Teenage Workers

We recognize that there may be times when it is necessary or desirable for volunteers who are themselves under age 18 to assist in caring for children during programs or activities.  The following guidelines apply to teenage workers.

  • Must be in seventh (7th) grade or higher.

  • Must be screened as specified above.

  • Must be under the supervision of an adult and must never be left alone with children.

 

Open Door Policy

Classroom doors should remain open unless there is a window in the door or a side window beside it.  Doors should never be locked while persons are inside the room.

 

Restroom Guidelines

Parents are strongly encouraged to have their children visit the restroom prior to each class.

Staff or volunteers should escort children, in preschool and/or kindergarten to the hallway bathrooms(s).  The staff or volunteer should check the bathroom first to see that it is unoccupied, then allow the child inside.  The staff or volunteer should then remain outside the restroom door and escort the child back to the classroom.  If a child is taking longer than seems necessary, the worker/volunteer should open the restroom door and call the child’s name.  If a child requires assistance, the workers/volunteers should prop open the bathroom door and leave the stall door open as they assist the child.

For the protection of all, worker/volunteers should never be alone with a child in a bathroom with the door closed and never be in a closed bathroom staff with a child.

 

Check –in/Check-out Procedure

For children in Pre-K through 2nd grade a security check-in/check-out procedure will be followed.  The child will be signed in by a parent or guardian.  When the parent/guardian picks up the child they will also sign the child “out”.  Only parents/guardians may pick up a child from an activity at Grace Lutheran Church.  Please not, Grace Lutheran Church staff and volunteers are required to abide by any court order regarding child custody/care.

 

Sick Child Policy

It is our desire to provide a healthy and safe environment for all of the children at Grace Lutheran Church.  Parents are encouraged to be considerate of other children when deciding whether to place a child under our care.  In general, children with the following symptoms should NOT be dropped off for Grace Lutheran Church sponsored activities or programs:

  • Fever, diarrhea, or vomiting within the last 48 hours.

  • Green or yellow runny nose

  • Eye or skin infections

  • Other symptoms of communicable or infectious disease.

 

Medications Policy

It is the general policy of Grace Lutheran Church not to administer either prescription or non-prescription medications to the children under our care.  Medications should be administered by a parent at home.  Parents are reminded of our sick child policy above.

Exceptions to the medications policy may be granted through written permission by the parents on a case-by-case basis.  Parents of such children should address their situation with our Staff to develop a plan of action.

 

Discipline Policy

It is the policy of Grace Lutheran Church not to administer corporal punishment, even if parents have suggested or given permission for it.  There should be no spanking, grabbing, hitting, or other physical discipline of children.  Workers should consult with Staff if assistance is needed with disciplinary issues.

 

Accidental Injuries to Children

In the event that a child or youth is injured while under our care, the following steps should be followed:

  1. For minor injuries, scrapes, and bruises, workers will provide First Aid (Band-Aids, etc.) as appropriate and will  notify the child’s/youth’s parent or guardian of the injury at the time the child/youth is picked up from our care.

  2. For injuries requiring medical treatment beyond simply First Aid, the parent and/or guardian will immediately be summoned by the Staff.  If warranted by circumstances an ambulance will be called.

  3. Once the child has received appropriate medical attention, an incident report will be completed in the case of injuries requiring treatment by a medical professional.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Template taken from Guide One Child Protection Policy Model, unless otherwise stated.

[2] Model Policies for the Protection of Children and Youth from abuse, Church Pension Group, p. 3

[3] Church Pension Group p. 7-8