Child & Youth Protection Policy

Somerset Church of Christ

2019 Child & Youth Protection Team: __________________________

Theological Foundations:

We believe that each person is created in the image of God and so deserves care, respect, and honor. God calls us to share our lives together in the Church, which is also described as a body in Scripture.[1] In this body, each person is valuable and indispensable.

We recognize that our sinfulness and denial can blind us to the importance of others, particularly vulnerable people such as children. Their voices are often silenced, distorted, or not heard at all. Yet Jesus’ words ring in our ears, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”[2] Since we desire to follow Jesus, we also seek to welcome and care for children and other vulnerable people God has created.

We want Somerset Church of Christ’s building to serve as a sanctuary, a refuge for all people, where grace is extended and received. Jesus invites all people to come and follow, so we long for all people to find a home among God’s people.  At the same time, we will take drastic measures to protect the flock against ravenous wolves who masquerade in sheep’s clothing. Since the Church serves as a representation of God’s Kingdom, we are called as Christ’s ambassadors to make this building a place of shalom, a place where God’s peace reigns.

Yet the Church is not a building. We, God’s people, are the Church. So, wherever we go, we want to bring the good news that all people are valuable.

We believe that God’s healing and hope happens best in safe spaces. We want the Somerset church to serve as a sanctuary where God’s grace can flow into people’s lives, where God transforms people into more of whom God created them to be, so that God is glorified.

This policy outlines the church’s expectations for appropriate behavior regarding the care and supervision of children and youth. We desire the Somerset Church of Christ to be a safe place where abusive words and actions are not tolerated and where staff and volunteers who work with children and youth are protected from false or wrongful allegations.  We hold zero tolerance for any form of abuse.

Definitions:

To view your state’s current definitions of abuse, statutes, and reporting procedures go to[3]:

https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/systemwide/laws-policies/state/?hasBeenRedirected=1 

Any recent act or failure to act is defined as occurring within the last two years.

Sexual Harassment is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It consists of inappropriate verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s sense of well-being by creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment from the viewpoint of the affected individual. The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act defines it as follows:

Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, constitute sexual harassment when (1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment, (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual or (3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment.

Although in a legal sense, the term “sexual harassment” deals with the workplace, the sexual harassment of anyone – including all adults and children – is prohibited in this church.

Sexual Misconduct includes: child sexual abuse (defined above); sexual harassment (defined above); rape and sexual contact by force, threat or intimidation; sexual behavior, which includes but is not limited to offensive, obscene, or suggestive language or conduct; unacceptable visual contact; and touching or fondling which is injurious to the physical or emotional health of another. Sexual misconduct directed toward a person of any age is prohibited in this church.

An Approved Adult is anyone at least 18 years of age who has satisfied the requirements of this Child Protection Policy. An Approved Adult can be an employee or non-employee of the congregation. Approved Adults include, but are not limited to all staff, elders and deacons, Sunday school teachers, Children’s Church leaders, youth group leaders, hall and foyer monitors, and nursery volunteers. For VBS, each station will have at least one Approved Adult and each group of rotating crews will have at least one Approved Adult.

A Hall Monitor is an Approved Adult who has all of his/her up-to-date clearances.  There must be a trained Hall Monitor on duty at every regular church gathering at the building.  His/her responsibilities are outlined on pages 6 & 7 of this policy under #6, “Empty Room Policy/Random Building Sweeps.”

Child & Youth Protection Team (CYPT) -- Implements and enforces the Child & Youth Protection Policy at Somerset Church of Christ.

The CYPT shall consist of a deacon and any other church member who has experience working in any professional field with victims of abuse.   At least one team member should be a parent of a minor who attends the Somerset Church of Christ. All members of the committee will be approved by the Elders or church board.

This team of committed people will:

  1. Implement and enforce this Child & Youth Protection Policy.
  2. Review and make recommendations to the elders and deacons for revising congregation policy regarding the safety of our children/youth.
  3. Provide up-to-date training for all staff and Approved Adults working with the children/youth regarding child abuse and the Child & Youth Protection Policy.
  4. Maintain a list of Approved Adults and disseminate within the church community.
  5. Monitor Approved Adults to ensure that policies are being followed.
  6. Keep elders informed of all activities of the committee.
  7. Keep elders/board members informed of investigations.

The CYPT Chair at the Somerset Church of Christ, will:

  1. Review all applications, making sure they are completed for the elders to approve.
  2. Collect and forward requests for clearances, with cover letters, to State Police and Department of Public Welfare; as well as FBI Fingerprint clearances for staff.

A CYPT at Somerset Church will:

  1. Maintain all clearances.
  2. Receive and process reports of suspected abuse.
  3. Make available, upon request of an individual, his/her clearance reports.

The CYPT Chair will be selected by the CYPT and will:

  1. Ensure that required forms are received for all applicants and proper records are maintained.
  2. Call meetings as often as needed, but no less than once each year

Policies and Procedures:

Selection of Approved Adults

To protect the children/youth in our care, the following guidelines are established for those who desire to work with children/youth less than 18 years of age.

Approved Adults must:

  1. Be at least 18 years old.
  2. Attend Somerset Church of Christ for a minimum of 6 months or be a staff member. Volunteers who have attended for fewer than six months may work with children if an Approved Adult is also present, and they submit a recommendation from their previous minister or elders.
  3. Complete an Approved Adult application form (see appendix).
  4. Sign and comply with the Child Protection Covenant (see appendix).
  5. Complete the required clearance forms: 1) PA State Police Request for Criminal Record Check, and 2) PA Child Abuse History Clearance Form (https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/systemwide/laws-policies/state/?hasBeenRedirected=1).

Clearances are required for all applicants and must be renewed every 5 years.

  1. Attend a standard initial training session which will cover the:

 https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/systemwide/laws-policies/state/?hasBeenRedirected=1)

Required Clearances

Church volunteers may or may not be required by the Child Protective Services Law (CPSL) to obtain background checks. However, most churches have, and it is a wise practice to have, policies requiring volunteers to obtain the following clearances:

Child Abuse History Clearance Form

 State Police Request for Criminal Record Check Form  

These background checks will be repeated every 5 years (check your state’s requirements) or after a break in attendance of more than 18 months.

Prospective employees applying to engage in occupations with a significant likelihood of regular contact with children, in the form of care, guidance, supervision or training must obtain background checks as a condition of employment. This would include (for example) a Minister, Youth Minister, and other church staff expected to have regular contact with children.

In addition, paid church staff hired July 1, 2008 and after with a significant likelihood of contact with children must also obtain FBI clearance (fingerprinting) in addition to the above background checks. The congregation will pay for these clearances and for the clearances required for Approved Adults.

Records

Applications and related forms for staff and volunteers will be locked in a confidential file under the jurisdiction of the elders of the Somerset Church of Christ. Clearances are confidential and will only be made available to current minister, elders, and CYPT of the congregation.

The designated Chair on the CYPT will follow these recordkeeping steps:

  1. Create and maintain a master list of all staff and volunteers who have regular contact with children in the course of their work.
  2. Determine which reports the congregation possesses, and note the dates of the reports on the list;
  1. Note on the list when the reports need to be renewed, and note on the list the date 60 days before to initiate the process of obtaining renewed reports
  1. Retain copies of all reports, even ones that are superseded by renewed reports, in confidential locked files.

General Guidelines for Protection of Children and Youth

To ensure that a nurturing Christian environment for children/youth is maintained within the congregation, to protect children/youth who participate in activities sponsored by the church from sexual, mental, and/or physical abuse, and to protect the congregation’s members from false allegations of abuse, the congregation has adopted the following policy:

  1. Child Abuse Prohibited: Those who accept the special responsibility of working with the congregation’s children/youth shall not violate that responsibility by causing physical injury, which is non-accidental; mental injury, which is non-accidental; sexual abuse or serious physical neglect of children/youth.
  2. Sexual Abuse Prohibited: Those who accept the special responsibility of working with the congregation’s children/youth shall not violate that responsibility by having any interaction with a child/youth where the child/youth is being used for sexual stimulation of the adult or a third person regardless of whether or not the behavior involves touching.
  3. Two Approved Adults Rule: Two Approved Adults should be present during any church sponsored children/youth activity.  In a co-ed group of minors, whenever possible, a male and a female Approved Adult should be present. If two Approved Adults are not available during Sunday school, in the nursery, or during Children’s Church, the door to the room must be left open at all times. A designated Approved Adult will circulate outside the classroom or nursery area and be within easy reach to provide assistance if needed.
  4. Visibility: All activities/meetings with children/youth must be conducted in a way that allows visibility, e.g., glass areas of doors should not be obstructed, curtains/blinds should be open, when possible, door should be open or a window should allow easy observation of the room. Where possible, conduct activities in a public place, with another person within sight and sound of the activities.

Because abuse is sometimes perpetrated by an older, stronger child/youth, do not send two children/youth with a four or more year age difference to an isolated setting, e.g., bathroom, tent, empty classroom. 

  1. Bathroom and Diapering

In general, children should be encouraged to use the bathroom before and after classes or other activities. In this way parents can assist their own child as needed

If you need to take a child to the toilet, be aware of your visibility and the child’s privacy.  A teacher or helper must call the designated hall monitor(s) on a walkie-talkie and request assistance in taking a child(ren) to the restroom.  There are no exceptions to this rule.  Because bathrooms are a very high risk area for sexual abuse, there must always be two adults nearby when a child under the age of 13 is using the bathroom.  The adults should allow younger children to use the bathroom in private and should only assist the child if the child asks and needs assistance.  Both adults must be present at all times when a child is being assisted with wiping or pulling pants up/down, and bathroom stalls should be left partially open.  This protects the child from being abused, but it also protects adults from false allegations of abuse. If the approved adults assist a child with wiping, they must document it, both sign a form, and submit the form to the CYPT to be filed.

Diapering: Two Approved Adults or one Approved Adult with a youth nursery worker must be present when clothes or diapers are being changed. A parent can also be recruited to change clothes or a diaper for their own child.

  1. Empty Room Policy/Random Building Sweeps

After an activity, check rooms to ensure that all participants have vacated the room.  Empty rooms will be kept locked at all times.  There are no exceptions.  At least one approved hall monitor should be trained and used each time people assemble at the building for church worship/functions.  They must be equipped with a walkie-talkie and will conduct at least two random sweeps through the building during class/worship time.  Their role is to ensure that lone children/adults are not roaming the building.  They also should check all doors to ensure that unused rooms are indeed empty and locked.  They should be aware of isolated corridors throughout the building and ensure that no child is ever being isolated in these high risk areas.  The hall monitor(s) are also on call throughout the entire class/worship times via walkie-talkie to assist teachers and/or helpers in taking children to bathrooms or assisting in escorting sick/unruly children back to the parents.  

  1. Expressions of Affection

True expressions of affection toward children/youth can be a manifestation of Christ’s love for all of us. A kind word of encouragement to a child/youth or a pat on the back can be a small but significant act for both the adult and the child/youth. That being said, adults must use caution and common sense when physically expressing affection toward children/youth.

a. Respect a child's/youth's refusal of affection.

b. Adults will not initiate intimate physical contact with minors under any circumstance.  If a child initiates a hug with an adult, the adult must keep hands within proper physical boundaries, but an adult cannot be the initiator of the physical contact.  The reason is three-fold: (1)It is our experience that children often are molested both over and under their clothing in churches.  Others miss it because they are not looking for it.  (2)Children who may have been abused are often triggered by physical contact of an adult.  It’s best for adults to not initiate physical contact for this reason.  (3)Other adults could easily interpret physical contact with a minor as inappropriate and secretly launch an investigation on the adult.  

c. Discipline of any type involving physical contact is never permitted.  Anyone who uses physical force on a child should immediately be reported to proper authorities.

  1. Permission Slips:

General-Children/youth must have permission to participate in activities. Parents/guardians need to fill out and sign a general consent form and a Medical Release Form, which includes pertinent medical information and emergency phone numbers (see appendix). These forms will be updated every year and filed in the church office.

Specific-Children/youth not accompanied by a parent must have permission to participate in any overnight activity or any activity that takes place away from church grounds. The permission must be written, signed by a parent or guardian, and must identify the activity in which the child/youth will be participating. The Chair on the CYPT may waive the requirement for permission slips where a permission slip serves no useful purpose (for example when a child/youth is accompanied by his or her parent or guardian to the activity).

  1. Medical Release Forms for field trips: All youth participating in a youth group or going on a field trip with either a youth group or the Sunday school, must have a Medical Release Form on file before they will be allowed to participate.

  1. Overnight Activities: Overnight activities involving children/youth shall be chaperoned by at least two Approved Adults. Boys and girls will sleep in separate areas with at least two Approved Adults of the same gender directly supervising each group.  If the minimum level of supervision cannot be achieved, the activity must be cancelled.

  1. Transportation of Children/Youth: When children/youth are transported for church activities, they must be transported in groups with at least one Approved Adult in each vehicle.   An Approved Adult cannot transport any less than two children in his or her vehicle unless accompanied by another adult (the 2nd adult does not have to be an Approved Adult).  This does not include transportation to and from the Somerset Church of Christ, or another designated meeting point, which is the responsibility of the parent/guardian. If necessary, a student may drive himself or herself and take student passengers to youth activities if a written request from all parents involved is granted by the CYPT.

 

  1. Personal Vehicle Transportation. To transport children/youth in a personal vehicle, the driver must be 19 years of age or older.  Drivers must have a minimum of one year driving experience after receiving his/her license.   Drivers must have a copy of their driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance on file in the church office. This will be updated on a yearly basis. Anyone who has had their license revoked or suspended within the past five years will be ineligible to drive for youth activities.

Appropriate Supervision Ratios

Overnight activities on or off church property:

Ratios of adults to children/ youth

Grade

Maximum number of Youth

Number of Approved Adults required

Plus one additional adult for each additional number of youth

Pre-school - 3

4

2

4

4 – 5 grade

6

2

4

6 - 12 grade

6

2

6

Key Policy

Any person who seeks possession of a key to the church will have a clearly stated reason for needing a key and must be approved by the Elders.

1. Records of key holder will be maintained by the CYPT Chair and kept on file in the church office. Keys shall be returned when they are no longer needed by the holder, and the return will be documented.

2. It is the responsibility of the CYPT Chair to monitor who is in possession of keys and to request the return of keys from persons no longer authorized to hold them. Keys are not to be loaned to unauthorized persons or kept beyond the time that they are needed. Authorized key holders may loan their key to a spouse if the spouse has signed the Key Receipt Form (see appendix).

3. Key holders are required to submit a Key Receipt Form, which includes a signed Statement of Compliance.

4. No key holder will use his or her key to access the church with a child or children not his or her own (or of whom the key holder is not a legal guardian or foster parent) at a time when there is no church related activity being held in which the child and key holder are involved. This is intended to prevent a situation where an adult key holder is alone with a child in the facility. In the rare case an exception is to be made to this provision, a written note from the child’s parent or legal guardian must be submitted to the church office and approved by the elders.

Informing the church of registered and known sexual offenders

In August 2018, the Office of Attorney General Commonwealth of Pennsylvania released a nearly 1,000 page investigation into the Catholic church called Report I of the Fortieth Statewide Investigating Grand Jury. It revealed that every diocese in the Commonwealth of PA covered up abuse by not informing congregants of known sexual predators who had credible allegations against them. Not only did they fail to report in most cases, but they also shuffled priests from parish to parish without ever informing church members of the allegations. The result of Catholic leaders failing to inform congregants is that over 1,000 victims find themselves in the report. Most of those victims would not be victims, had the church taken appropriate action to report the allegations and inform church members. Some of those 1,000 victims committed suicide. Others died from drug overdoses. Over 1,000 additional Catholic victims came forward to name their abusers since the release of the Grand Jury Report. The Grand Jury had this to say in the introduction to the 2018 report:

We are sick over all the crimes that will go unpunished and uncompensated. This report is our only recourse. We are going to name their names, and describe what they did – both the sex offenders and those who concealed them. We are going to shine a light on their conduct, because that is what the victims deserve.[4]

Because of the seriousness of these felony crimes against children, and because nearly all child sexual predators are serial offenders, the policy for the Somerset Church of Christ is to name all known child sexual predators by name to the congregation. Even though we do not permit known sexual offenders to be near children (see section below), it is important that all congregants be informed if a child sexual offender has any relationship to the church whatsoever. It is important for all families to be informed because it is impossible to monitor relationships outside of worship times. Many child predators befriend church members, spend time in their homes, and conceal their past crimes. When parents are uninformed, the perfect storm is created for more children to be harmed.

Should a registered sex offender or a person with a credible allegation or confession have any relationship to the Somerset Church of Christ, the elders and/or the CYPC Chair will provide both verbal and written communication to the entire church regarding the allegations, confession, or past conviction. This information will be communicated to the entire congregation every six months, as long as the individual is connected to the congregation in any way. If the individual is on PA Megan’s Law registry, a link will be provided to the public records in the communication with the congregation.

Providing community for known sexual offenders

Individuals who have been adjudicated by a court or Child Protective Services findings as sexual offenders with minors and/or have admitted to past sexual abuse of children, and who “perform deeds in keeping with their repentance” (Acts 26:20), are welcome to attend alternative worship services with adults only, and attend adult educational activities. Such individuals are hereafter referred to as “known sexual offenders,” have admitted to or have been convicted of being sexually attracted to and victimizing minors, and thereby acknowledge they should not be in the presence of minors.  This is to protect minor children from possible victimization, to keep both child and adult survivors of child sex abuse from being re-victimized through being forced to worship with known sex offenders, and it is to protect the repentant sex offender by placing “no obstacle in anyone’s way” (2 Cor. 6:3).

The famed Dr. Gene Abel says, “The first condition of treatment: the patient must keep a distance between himself (or herself) and children.  This is by far the most important treatment condition. . . These rules have a single aim: to separate the molester patient from children and to separate him from any pictures of children that might help him maintain his sex drive toward children. . . To separate himself from children also means he must avoid places where children congregate[5]

The minimum guidelines by which any known offender may participate in adult-only settings are described below, and shall be incorporated into a covenant specific for the individual offender, which is to be signed by the offender prior to participation.

Minimum guidelines under which a known sexual offender may participate:

1. Offenders are expected to comply fully with all restrictions and requirements placed upon them as a result of any legal actions, and provide the CYPT Chair and elders with copies of any judgments, conditions of parole, or other documents in which restrictions or requirements are stated as a result of convictions or judgments.

2. Offenders are expected to participate in a professional counseling program, specifically addressing their abusive behaviors. Offenders will provide the name of the agency and mental health professional to the CYPT Chair and elders at the time of request for participation. The offender may be asked to periodically sign a limited disclosure authorization for the therapist to verify to the CYPT Chair and elders that the individual is in treatment.

3. The CYPT will assign supervisors to any offender participating in the life of the congregation (small groups, alternative worship, etc.). They will be adults who are not related to the offender. They will receive training by a professional agency that will include information on sexual offender dynamics, the long-term impact of sexual abuse on victims, and any specific conditions related to participation under the specific covenant established. If the offender is on probation or parole, the training may need to be approved by the officer of the court handling the case.

4. The CYPT will identify a small group of “covenant partners” for offenders. This small group will provide spiritual, emotional and practical support and will meet with the offender on a regular basis. The supervisors and “covenant partners” will not be the same individuals.

5. A supervisor must accompany the offender at all times when on church property to ensure that, in fact, no minors are on the property.

6. At no time should the offender deliberately place him or herself in or remain in any location in or around the church facilities which would cause undue distress to others.

8. At least twice each calendar year and as otherwise requested, the offender shall meet with and report to the CYPT Chair and elders regarding status of adherence to these guidelines.  

9. If the offender should decide to relocate membership (or substantially attend) another congregation, the elders will inform the leadership of that congregation of the conditions of these guidelines.  Failure to notify other congregations of a known sex offender’s history is an ethical and moral failure of the worst kind.  Perpetrators often rely on the ignorance of church leaders to prey on new unsuspecting victims.  It is good, for liability purposes, to have this correspondence in writing and kept on record.  

10. The offender will have no physical contact with any minors or be allowed to contact minors via any form of electronic communication, whether children belong to this church or not.  Any violation of this rule will mean immediate and permanent removal from the church.

Reporting Suspected Child Abuse

Anyone may report suspected child abuse. However, all states impose a reporting mandate, or requirement, on any individual who comes into contact with children in the course of his or her work or professional practice and has “reasonable cause to suspect” that the minor has been abused. These individuals are known as mandated reporters.

Church staff that should be considered mandated reporters are those who routinely come into contact with children, including ministers, youth directors and any other paid staff expected to come into contact with children on a regular basis.

Volunteers who are Approved Adults are not considered mandated reporters under some state guidelines; however, best practices in church settings require all such persons to immediately report any suspected abuse to a salaried minister at the Somerset Church of Christ, who in turn will make the required report. Our church follows this practice.

The mandate (requirement) to report applies only to those children with whom the mandated reporter comes into contact through church related activities/work. Some states stipulate that the abused child must actually be “under the care, supervision, guidance or training of [the mandated reporter] or of an agency, institution, organization or other entity with which that person is affiliated.”

Examples of children considered by some state laws to be under the care or supervision of a church would include pre-school or other students, children enrolled in child-care programs, children being “babysat” during worship services or gatherings, children participating in educational, sports, music, recreational or other church ministries such as Vacation Bible School, and youth group.

The mandate to report applies to all suspected child abuse, not just abuse that has been perpetrated by someone within the church. Possible abusers could include, for example, parents, relatives, older siblings, neighbors, coaches, school teachers, family friends and other children who may or may not attend the congregation.

A mandated reporter need not make a first-hand observation of the suspected child abuse victim. Second-hand reports of abuse must be reported to the proper authorities if the mandated reporter has “reasonable cause to suspect” that child abuse has occurred.

For practical purposes, this means if a staff member or volunteer is informed by a church member that a child who lives next door to her is being abused by her older brother – and the child is NOT a participant in church related activities – the legal “requirement” to report is not there in many states.

Most states specifically grant legal immunity, however, to any individual who, in good faith, makes a report of suspected child abuse.  Therefore, it is our practice to report any suspected crimes of abuse, whether the child is under our care or not.  If a child not under our care is suspected of being abused, we will not ignore those claims simply because we do not fall under the legal obligation to report.  We will report all suspected instances of child abuse!

Internal guidelines for reporting suspected abuse

Anyone who is not a mandated reporter who has reasonable cause to suspect that a child/youth under their care, guidance or supervision, or a child/youth not directly under their care, guidance or supervision but involved in any church program or activity, has been abused by anyone (including but not limited to the child/youth’s family, guardians, an Approved Adult or volunteer) shall immediately inform any mandated reporter from the congregation and he/she will document the suspected abuse by following the state’s specific reporting procedures.

The church is not responsible for investigating or determining whether or not abuse has occurred. The standard under the law for reporting is that “a reasonable person has cause to believe the child has been abused.” It may be necessary to ask the child or person alleging the abuse has occurred for some clarification in order to determine if there is cause to believe abuse may have occurred.

Detailed interviews and extensive questioning with the child and/or the alleged abuser, however, should be conducted by legal authorities, not the church.

If a child is injured or in pain, call 911 for an ambulance.

If abuse within the church is founded, the church should check with local detectives and ask that they conduct an investigation upon the church.  This serves two very important purposes.  (1)If church did not know that a child/children were being abused by someone in the church, a thorough investigation clears all church staff of covering up abuse.  This is on record and protects the church from a civil suit. It also clears the church’s reputation with the public and demonstrates that the leadership is cooperative and trustworthy.  (2)If persons within the church did know that a child/children were being abused but remained silent, an investigation would reveal the guilty persons and criminal charges could be sought.  There is never a good excuse for remaining silent when it is known that a child is being abused.

The mandated reporter will immediately make an oral report by checking with Child Welfare Information Gateway and calling his/her state’s hotline: https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/responding/reporting/ 

They may also call their county’s Children and Youth office and follow up after a report has been made.

Somerset County Children and Youth

This is a legally required report.

The volunteer or staff person who reported suspected abuse must notify the CYPT Chair of the date the report was made. Anyone who is not a mandated reporter may also report reasonable suspicions directly to their state’s hotline (found at https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/responding/reporting/ ); however, such a report does not relieve the obligation to inform the CYPT Chair and complete an Incident Report.

The congregation will cooperate fully with government authorities investigating allegations of abuse. The initiative for investigating alleged abuse resides with the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) and shall not be carried out by the congregation.

As a required reporter, the minister can request certain information about a child who was the subject of a report of suspected child abuse that was made.

Information can be requested verbally or in writing from the county agency. The information that can be released to the mandated reporter is limited to:

All allegations of child/youth abuse or serious physical neglect will be taken seriously by the minister(s), elders, and the CYPT. These allegations will be treated in strict confidence. All reporting steps taken will be documented, including a log of phone calls, personal visits, and written reports. Documentation should be kept in a secure file in the Church office and freely shared with investigators. At no point is any member of the Somerset Church of Christ permitted to hinder an investigation by withholding information or refusing to speak with investigating detectives.

All communications regarding the report of suspected child abuse shall attempt to protect the dignity and privacy of those persons affected by the report including the alleged child/youth victim and the person suspected of child abuse, while at the same time ensuring that persons in responsibility and law enforcement authorities remain fully informed.

Follow-up, investigation, documentation

1. Following placement of the call to report suspected abuse to the abuse hotline, the CYPT Chair will inform the parent (provided that neither of the custodial parents is suspected of abuse). If a custodial parent is the alleged abuser, his or her first contact about the allegation should come from either Child & Youth Services or the police, not the church.

2. The church should not enter into discussion with the alleged abuser after a report has been filed and during the course of the legal investigation about the details of the complaint. The alleged abuser will be removed from any position at the Somerset Church of Christ in which he or she has supervisory authority over children pending the completion of the investigation.

3. The insurance company should be contacted after the report is filed as a matter of routine practice if the alleged abuse involves a staff person. The alleged abuser will have his or her ministry restricted to exclude contact with children immediately; and may be placed on paid leave for a designated period of time during the investigation.

4. If an incident is reported that does not rise to the level of making a mandated report but still causes concern, the CYPT Chair will inform the child’s parent(s) or guardian(s) of the concern and document the meeting.

Information

1. The extent to which information will be shared with the congregation will be determined by the minister and elders. All necessary parties will cooperate with the investigations made by the police.

2. The CYPT Chair is to act as the official spokesperson for the congregation. The Chair may select another person from the leadership (minister, elder, deacon) to assist him or her in making a statement to the media. Only the authorized person or persons may speak on behalf of the congregation to the news media, government agencies, attorneys, or others.

Continuing the Ministry of the Church

1. Pastoral support will be offered to all parties involved, including those who have made the complaint, the alleged abuser, the families of both, and the congregation. Decisions about how this support will be given should be made by pastoral staff and the CYPT.

2. If the allegations involve pastoral staff, the ministry of the church will need to be maintained while the issue is being investigated. Decisions regarding how this will be accomplished will be made by the elders.

Violations of Child & Youth Protection Policy

Persons who admit to, plead guilty to, or are convicted in a court of law of any form of physical or sexual abuse of a child/youth will be immediately, permanently, and completely disqualified by the CYPT from working with children/youth in the congregation. Persons who admit to a minister, elder, deacon or any member of the church of any type of physical or sexual abuse of a child/youth but who have not appeared in a court of law will also be disqualified from working with children/youth in the congregation. Any such person who may have child abuse and state police clearances on record with the Somerset Church of Christ will automatically have those records revoked. Allegations of sexual or physical abuse shall disqualify any person from working with children/youth until the investigation is completed. The CYPT may temporarily or permanently disqualify any person(s) from working with children/youth, as the committee deems appropriate.

Alleged violations of the policy, other than abuse (anything that makes you feel uncomfortable), shall be immediately reported to the CYPT who will immediately report it to the elders. The CYPT will investigate the alleged violations of this policy. If a person(s) is found to be in violation of the policy, the elders and CYPT will determine what disqualification or disciplinary action, if any, is necessary.

Training and Education

Policy on Education and Training

This policy will be available to the entire congregation. Copies will be kept in each nursery, any main bulletin board, and in the office and available upon request.

In order to be an Approved Adult, a volunteer or staff member must participate in an initial training that covers recognizing and responding to child abuse, mandated reporting requirements, and church guidelines and practices.  PA Act 126 training meets all requirements of mandated reporting training. Training that is provided by the Somerset Church of Christ, however, exceeds the PA Act 126 training as it pertains to prevention and it is required that all staff and volunteers go through training provided by the Somerset Church of Christ.

All Approved Adults and staff will receive a full copy of the Child & Youth Protection Policy, sign a Statement of Compliance and sign a Child Protection Covenant.

Procedures for Education and Training

Staff and Volunteers

1. Training should be offered at least once a year. It will be considered a mandatory part of volunteer training and employee orientation. The initial training for each new staff person and volunteer will be at least 2.5 hours.

2. Once an individual has participated in the initial training, a refresher training of at least one hour will be required every year to ensure that the individual's knowledge is current and accurate.

3. The CYPT Chair will maintain a record of who has received training and the dates.

4. Training will include the use of professional training materials on child abuse, including specific information about:

Parents and other Members

They are encouraged to attend all trainings provided by or recommended by the Somerset Church of Christ.

Children

In the words of an imprisoned pedophile, “A child who says, ‘No!’ is a child we won’t mess with.”  In order for a holistic approach to work, children must also be trained so that they know what constitutes abuse and how to counter an abuser and disclose.  They must be adequately trained that their bodies are their own, and that nobody has the right to harm them in any way.  They must be trained to say no to someone who attempts to abuse them and know how to report any violation that takes place.  Each class will receive training once a year using Safer, Smarter Kids curriculum.  Teacher kits can be ordered here: http://safersmarterkids.org/ 

APPENDIX

APPLICATION TO BECOME AN APPROVED ADULT

This application is a mandatory part of a process to assist the congregation in providing a safe, nurturing Christian environment for our children/youth.  Persons responsible for the supervision and care of our children/youth are in a special position of trust and confidence.  Therefore, all adults (18 years of age or older) seeking to work with the children/youth of the _____________ Church must complete this application.

PERSONAL INFORMATION

Please attach photographic identification, e.g., copy of driver’s license.

(1) Name _________________________________  (2) Date of Application ________________

(3) SSN ______________________   (4) Driver’s License (State)    _______________________

(5) Address and Mailing Address_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

(6) Telephone (Home) ____________(7) (Work) ______________(8) (Cell) _____________                          

(9) E-mail Address _________________________________________________________

(10) Are you 18 years of age or older?        Yes       No

CHURCH OR CHILD-RELATED WORK

(11) List your talents, training, education, etc., that might help enrich the lives of our children/youth. Describe the type of work you prefer.

______________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

(12) Name and cities of all churches you have attended on a regular basis at any time during the last five years.  For each church, indicate with (*) whether you were a member.

______________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

(13) Describe any church work you have done with children/youth during the last five years.  Include the church’s name, city, and year(s) of participation.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

(14) Describe any non-church related work you have done with children/youth during the last five years.  Include the organization’s name, city, and year(s) of participation. _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

(15) Have you ever abused, been accused of abusing, or been investigated for abusing a child/youth (a person less than 18 years of age)?        Yes      No

If yes, please explain.  ______________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

(16) Have you ever been arrested for, convicted of, or plead guilty to a criminal offense against a person?            Yes     No

If yes, please explain

______________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

(17) Have you ever been involved in a child abuse investigation as a witness or as an alleged victim?       Yes       No

If yes, please explain.

______________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________


PERSONAL REFERENCES  

Give the name, address, and phone number of two persons, not relatives, who have known you for at least five years.

(1) ____________________________________________________________________________

     

(2) ___________________________________________________________________________________

I agree that the information contained in this application is correct to the best of my knowledge.  

Applicant’s Signature _____________________________________ Date _________________

APPLICANT’S PERMISSION FOR THE DISCLOSURE OF INFORMATION ABOUT THE APPLICANT AND APPLICANT’S RELEASE OF ALL CLAIMS AGAINST PERSONS OR ENTITIES THAT DISCLOSE INFORMATION OR GIVE OPINIONS ABOUT THE APPLICANT

I understand and agree that the congregation may contact the churches and references identified above and others who may be identified by those listed above.  I authorize these references or churches or others to give you any information (including opinions) that they may have regarding my character and fitness for work with children/youth.  I also understand and agree that law enforcement authorities or any other person or entity with access to records of criminal arrests or convictions may be contacted during the consideration of this application.  I authorize these law enforcement authorities or any other person or entity to provide information regarding criminal arrests or convictions.  In consideration of the receipt and evaluation of this application by the congregation, I hereby release the congregation and any individual, church, youth organization, employer, reference, or any other person or entity, including record custodians, both collectively and individually, from any and all liability for damages of whatever kind or nature which may at any time result to me, my heirs, or family, on account of any person’s or entity’s disclosure of information about me or the expression of an opinion about me.  I further state that I have carefully read the foregoing release and understand its content.  I am signing this release freely and voluntarily.

Applicant’s Signature _______________________________________ Date _______________

I acknowledge that the above named applicant has appeared before me and produced an original Social Security card.

Reviewer: _______________________________   Date: _________________

CHILD PROTECTION COVENANT

I accept the responsibility to nurture the Christian faith and well-being of the children and youth of the Somerset Church of Christ and to care for them as Christ cares for me.

“I …will tend the flock of God that is in my charge… willingly, as God would have me do it…” --I Peter 5:2

I have read, understand, and agree to abide by the Child & Youth Protection Policy of the Somerset Church of Christ as summarized.

_______________________________________  _____________

Signature                                                                     Date

_______________________________________  ______________

Signature of Witness                                                   Date

                                                                                        

                                                                                        

Address:

Phone:

e-mail:

Child Protection

Subject: Medical Release Form                                        

Date implemented:                                          Approved by:

Student’s Name:_____________________________Gender___________Age/D.O.B._________________

 

Address:___________________________________Phone:______________________________

        _____________________________________

        _____________________________________

Parents’/Guardians’ Names:___________________________________________________________________

Address (if different from child’s):        ____________________________________________________________

                                        ____________________________________________________________

                                        ____________________________________________________________

Insurance Company__________________________Policy #: __________________________

1.        Is your child allergic to:

        _____bee sting                _____pollens                _____other drugs:______________

_____hay, straw                _____penicillin        _____food: _________________

        _____other______________________________________________________________

2.        Does your child have any life-threatening allergies?                 _____Yes _____No

If yes to what?  _________________________________

3.        Is your child bringing any medication with him/her?                _____Yes _____No

        If yes, please list and state dosage:

        ________________________________________________________________________

        _______________________________________________________________________

Please Note: Medication should be in its original prescription bottle/package, which should have administration instructions and the child’s name clearly indicated.

4.        Does your child have any physical, emotional, mental or behavioral concerns or limitations that our staff should be aware of? _____Yes _____No        If yes, please explain:  

        _______________________________________________________________________

        _______________________________________________________________________

5.        Has your child ever had:

        _____seizures                        _____asthma                _____diabetes

        _____homesickness                _____heart disease           _____other______________________________

6.        Date of last tetanus shot:_____________________________________

Parents will be notified immediately of any medical emergency.

In the case of a medical emergency, in which parent/guardian is not immediately available, the medical personnel require a signed parental release before treatment. I hereby give my permission to a representative of Mountville Mennonite Church to secure proper medical treatment and/or to administer medication as identified above as needed (see # 3). I verify that the above information is correct to the best of my knowledge.

Signature of Parent/Guardian:______________________________Date:__________________

Emergency Phone:

        Home:_________________________________________________________________

        Work:__________________________________________________________________

        Cell: ___________________________________________________________________

Person to contact if parent/guardian cannot be reached:

        Name: _______________________________________________________________

        Relationship: __________________________________________________________

        Phone: _______________________________________________________________

Key Receipt Form

I understand that, as a person with a key(s) to Somerset Church of Christ,  I am responsible for maintaining the safety of the Church environment while any property and/or facility of Somerset Church of Christ is unlocked by the key(s) I hold.

I agree to be entirely responsible for the security of the key(s) and to:

▪        Not lend the key(s) to anyone, unless authorized by the elders and the elder(s) signs this form;

▪        Not tag or otherwise identify the key(s) as providing access to any property and/or facility of

        Somerset Church of Christ.

▪        Return the key(s) when I no longer have the responsibility that created a need to have the key(s) or when an authorized representative of Somerset Church of Christ requests such return.

  1. If any property and/or facility of Somerset Church of Christ is unlocked by the key that I hold,    

I will be the last one out of the building and will check that ALL doors are locked, OR 

I will notify other church representatives who are still in the building that I am leaving.

I understand that failure to comply with any of the provisions set forth in the Child & Youth Protection Policy for Somerset Church of Christ or this Key Receipt Form may result in the loss of my privilege to be a key holder.

Name (please print): ________________________________________________________________    

Home Phone: (       ) _______________    Daytime Phone, if different: (       ) ___________________

Signature: ____________________________________________     Date:  ____________________

An additional holder (i.e., a spouse) of a single key assigned, which might be shared for reasons only after approval by the elders, must sign below and adhere to the same direction as outlined above. It is understood that failure to comply with any of the provisions set forth in the Child & Youth Protection Policy for Somerset Church of Christ or this Key Receipt Form may result in the loss of my privilege to be a key holder.

Name (please print): _______________________________________________________________    

Home Phone: (       ) _______________    Daytime Phone, if different: (       ) __________________

Signature: ____________________________________________     Date:  ___________________

*********************************************************************************

Date Key Returned: ________________________________________________________________

Signature of Key holder: ___________________________________                                                Signature of Authorized Representative of Somerset Church of Christ:__________________________

***The following is a report required by mandated reporters in Pennsylvania to fill out.  Each local congregation is responsible to find out what their state’s reporting procedures are and attach the appropriate paperwork to this policy.  The following report is only to be used as a sample and should not be used except for in the state of Pennsylvania***

Incident Report

Name and role of person completing report:________________________________________

Signature of person completing report:_____________________________________________

Date:___________________________

Incident

Date and time of incident:_______________________________________________

Name of person(s) involved in incident:_____________________________________________

Description of incident:_____________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________

Witnesses:_________________________________________________________________________

Description of actions to be taken:_______________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________________

Indemnification of Trustees and Officers

Section 1: Indemnification for Successful Defense Proceedings.

The Corporation shall indemnify any representative of the Corporation who was wholly successful, on the merits or otherwise, in the defense of any proceeding to which they were a party by reason of the fact that they were a representative of the Corporation or is/was serving at the request of the Corporation as a representative of another domestic or foreign corporation for profit or not for profit, partnership, joint venture, trust, or other enterprise, against reasonable expenses incurred in connection with the proceeding.

Section 2: Indemnification for Other Proceedings.

For purposes of this Section, a Trustee or Officer shall be defined as a person who may serve or who has served at any time as a Trustee or Officer of the Corporation of any of its subsidiaries or in a similar capacity with any employee benefit plan for the employees of the corporation and its subsidiaries.

The Corporation may, to the fullest extent permitted by law, indemnify each Trustee and Officer against all expenses and liabilities, including counsel fees, reasonably incurred by or imposed in connection with any proceeding in which they may become involved by reason of having served in such a capacity. The indemnification provided hereunder shall inure to the benefit of the heirs, executors and administrators of a Trustee, Officer, or other person entitled to indemnification hereunder.

In addition to any right to indemnification this Section, a Trustee or Officer shall have a right to have expenses incurred in advance of final disposition of any proceeding, in which they may become involved by reason of having served in such capacity, paid in advance by the Corporation, without any action or approval required by the Board of Trustees, upon delivery of an undertaking, by or on behalf of the Trustee or Officer, to repay all amounts advanced without interest if it is ultimately determined that indemnification is not entitled under this Article.

Section 3: Non-exclusivity of Indemnification Rights.

The foregoing rights of indemnification and advancement of expenses shall be in addition to and not exclusive of any other rights to which any person may be entitled pursuant to any agreement with the Corporation or any action taken by the Trustees of the Corporation.

The Corporation may create a fund of any nature, which may be, but need not be, under the control of a Trustee, or otherwise secure or insure in any manner the Corporation’s indemnification obligations, whether arising under this Article or otherwise.

Dissolution

If this Corporation shall at any time cease to exist and dissolution of the corporation occurs, all of the property of the Corporation shall be distributed for one or more exempt purposes within the meaning of Section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code, or corresponding section of any future federal tax code. Any assets not disposed of shall be disposed of by the Court of Common Pleas of Somerset County, Pennsylvania, exclusively for such purposes or to such organization(s) as the Court shall determine which are organized and operated exclusively for such purposes. It shall be the duty of the Board and/or Officers of the Corporation to take all necessary action to carry out the purposes of the Article and comply with all the applicable laws and statutes.


[1] 1 Corinthians 12:12-31. All Scripture references are from Today’s New International Version (TNIV).

[2] Luke 18:16.

[3] It is the responsibility of each local congregation to seek legal counsel and make sure that your church is in compliance with all current state laws governing the protection of children.  Definitions of abuse, who constitutes mandated reporters, age of consent, and requirements for background checks vary from state to state and these laws and definition change frequently.

[4] Office of Attorney General Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Report I of the Fortieth Statewide Investigating Grand Jury (Redacted), July 27, 2018, 5.

[5] Abel, Gene & Nora Harlow, The Stop Child Molestation Book: What Ordinary People Can Do In Their Everyday Lives to Save Three Million Children (Xlibris Corporation, 2001), 254-55, emphasis added by Somerset Church of Christ.