Safe Church Practices

Dear Friends:Church Safe Practices Logo

We at First Presbyterian Church, an institution entrusted with the care of children and youth, believe there should be an established abuse prevention program. We are committed, both to efforts that promote a safe environment for every child and youth involved in our program ministry, and to an environment which protects our staff and volunteers from unfounded allegations of abuse.

While recognizing that written practices cannot guarantee protection from abuse or false accusations of abuse, our congregation has designed these Safe Church Practices to address these concerns proactively.

As one who will be working with children or youth at First Presbyterian Church, you will be asked to sign an Affirmation and a Background Check form. These forms will be kept in a locked file in the church building, and will be available, to the professional staff only, as needed.

If you have concerns, or special circumstances regarding these forms, please contact the Director of Christian Education or the Chair of the Christian Education Committee.

Sincerely, Christian Education Committee

SAFE CHURCH PRACTICES
At First Presbyterian Church we strive to provide opportunities for Christian Education and faith development that teach children mutual respect and love of self, neighbor, and the world. We view every child, youth, and adult as one of God’s children, created in the image of God and deserving love, respect, and a place to belong in this community of faith. Therefore, these practices have been designed to give guidance and protection to our staff, volunteers, children, and youth.

Staff and volunteers are asked to follow these Safe Church Practices during all church related activities, on or off church property.

  1. All pastors, staff, and volunteers working with children and/or youth shall sign an affirmation stating they have not been the subject of a complaint, investigation, or action involving a reported instance of sexual abuse. If someone cannot sign the affirmation, he/she may be given an opportunity to explain the reasons for not signing. In some instances, such a person may still qualify after careful review and approval by the staff.
  2. Adult volunteers and staff should follow a 2:1 rule. This asks that at least 2 adults be present if there is only one child, or at least 2 children be present if there is only one adult. If at any time a volunteer or staff person feels he/she cannot follow this rule because there is only one adult and one child involved in an activity, the adult will move the shared activity to an open, public area, where others are present.  If a professional staff person is in a mentoring or counseling situation with one child or youth, and privacy or confidentiality is an issue, the adult will try to arrange the meeting at a time when someone else nearby in the building is aware of the meeting. The meeting will take place in a room where the door does not need to be completely closed.
  3. Classroom doors without windows will remain open.
  4. In most cases, a 6-month waiting period, beginning with evidence of church involvement, is required before a volunteer works with children or youth.
  5. Children and youth will only be transported by adults who have a completed driving record check on file.
  6. Drivers for church related events with children or youth will carry with them copies of the Activity Consent and Waiver Form for each child or youth they are transporting.
  7. Driver’s transporting children or youth on behalf of the congregation are responsible for insuring that their vehicles are in good operating condition. All persons in the vehicles shall wear seat belts in compliance with state law. Drivers shall follow all state and federal traffic laws and speed limits.
  8. National and statewide criminal background, sexual offender, and social security checks will be conducted on all volunteers and staff working with children and youth. In addition, for those who have resided outside of Wisconsin within the past 7 years, a county courthouse check will be conducted in each county where they have resided. Background checks will be updated every 3 years.
  9. At least once a year a check will be run using the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access online database.
  10. Training on Safe Church Practices will be provided yearly for volunteers. After each training, adult volunteers will be required to verify their participation by signing an attendance sheet.
  11. All reports of sexual abuse at First Presbyterian Church, Neenah, shall be made directly to the Senior Pastor. In the event that the report should involve the Senior Pastor, the report shall be made directly to the Clerk of Session.
  12. A child attending the Nursery and Preschool Sunday School classes will only be allowed to leave with a parent/guardian or the person who brought the child to class. Older children attending Sunday School classes may leave on their own unless teachers are advised otherwise by the child’s parents.
  13. Parents are responsible for their children once they have left their Sunday School classrooms.
  14. On a Work/Mission Trip, if bathrooms are shared, adults will shower at separate times from the youth.
  15. There will be a minimum of two adults in a room where youth are sleeping on youth trips, lock-ins or overnights held in the church building.
  16. When young children are escorted to the restroom by a teacher or volunteer, that person will remain outside the restroom door, unless a child needs/requests personal help.
  17. We recognize the importance and value of social media and expanding technology as a means for communication. When social media or texting are used by staff or volunteers to communicate church business with the youth they should follow the “home phone rule.” The home phone rule states: if it is inappropriate to phone before or after certain hours, then it is also inappropriate to communicate via social media or texting during those same hours. Social Media communication with youth will be limited to those methods which can be recorded, printed or archived.

DEFINITIONS:
Child: A newborn, infant, or young person under 18 years-old.
Youth: An older child, generally between 13 and 18 years-old.
Sexual Abuse: The forcing of unwanted sexual activity by one person on another, as by the use of threats or coercion. Or sexual activity that is deemed improper or harmful, as between an adult and a minor or with a person of diminished mental capacity.
Staff: A person employed for wages or salary by First Presbyterian Church.
Pastors: Ordained and installed Teaching Elders serving First Presbyterian Church.
Volunteer: A person who freely offers time, skills, etc., to First Presbyterian Church.

FORMS:
Background Check Authorization and Consent Form
Safe Church Practices Affirmation Form