Safe Sanctuaries Policy
- PURPOSE - To ensure the physical and emotional safety and spiritual growth of all or our children, youth, and vulnerable adults as well as all of our workers with children, youth, and vulnerable adults. We will follow reasonable safety measures when selecting and recruiting workers; we will train our workers on our procedures and policies annually; we will have a clearly defined procedure for reporting suspected incidences of abuse that conforms to the requirements of North Carolina law.
- This policy applies to the people who work with children and youth (age 18 or younger) and/or vulnerable adults in ministries in and beyond the local church.
- Under this policy all workers should have received Safe Sanctuaries training, completed the application paperwork and be at least 5 years older than the youth with whom they work.
This policy shall be reviewed for updates and/or changes every four years and approved by the church’s Safe Sanctuaries Team.
- TYPES OF ABUSE – Child abuses refers to an act committed by a parent, caregiver, or person in a position of trust (even though he/she may not care for the child on a daily basis), which is not accidental and which harms or threatens to harm a child’s physical or mental health or welfare.
- Verbal Abuse- Any verbal act that humiliates, degrades or threatens any child or youth.
- Physical Abuse – Any act of omission or an act that endangers a person’s physical or mental health. In the case of child or youth physical abuse, this definition includes any intentional physical injury caused by the individual’s caretaker. Physical abuse may result from punishment that is overly punitive or inappropriate to the individual’s age or condition. In addition, physical abuse may result from purposeful acts that pose serious danger to physical health of a child or youth.
C. Sexual Abuse – Child or youth sexual abuse is the sexual exploitation or use of same for satisfaction of sexual drives. This includes, but is not limited to: 1) incest, 2) rape, 3) prostitution, 4) romantic involvement with any participant, 5) any sexual intercourse, or sexual conduct with, or fondling of an individual enrolled as a child or youth in Conference or District sponsored activities, 6) sexualized behavior that communicates sexual interest and/or content. Examples are not limited to: displaying sexually suggestive visual materials, making sexual comments or innuendo about one’s own or another person’s body, touching another person’s body, hair or clothing, touching or rubbing oneself in the presence of another person, kissing, and sexual intercourse
D. Emotional Abuse – in which a person exposes a child or youth to spoken and/or unspoken violence or emotional cruelty.
E. Neglect – in which a person endangers a child’s or youth’s health, safety, or welfare through negligence.
- NORTH CAROLINA STATUES - Because of our commitment to care for all God’s children and protect the vulnerable, Colington United Methodist Church sponsored activities fully comply with the definitions offered by the North Carolina Department of Social Services governing children, youth, and vulnerable adults, Section 7B-301. The law applies to any child under 18 years of age when a parent or any person responsible for the child’s care:
- Causes or threatens to cause non-accidental physical or mental injury;
- Has a child present during the manufacture or attempted manufacture of a controlled substance or during the sale of such substance where such activity would constitute a felony violation;
- Neglects or refuses to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, emotional nurturing, or health care;
- Abandons the child;
- Neglects or refuses to provide adequate supervision in relation to the child’s age and level of development;
- Knowingly leaves a child alone in the same dwelling with a person, not related by blood or marriage, who has been convicted of an offense against a minor for which registration is required as a violent sexual offender; or
- Commits or allows to be committed any illegal sexual act upon a child, including incest, rape, indecent exposure, prostitution, or allows a child to be used in any sexually explicit visual material.
- OLDER VULNERABLE ADULTS of any age are protected in North Carolina under State law (N. C.
General Statute 108A-102), which mandates that “any person having reasonable cause to believe that a disabled adult is in need shall report such information.” Disabled/vulnerable adults are defined as people over the age of 18 who are mentally or physically challenged, either temporarily or long-term who are unable to fully care for themselves.
- The following definitions were taken from North Carolina General Statute, Chapter 108A, Article 6, the NC Adult Protective Services Statute:
- Abuse: means the willful infliction of physical pain, injury or mental anguish, unreasonable confinement, or the willful deprivation by a caretaker of services, which are necessary to maintain mental and physical health.
- Exploitation: means the illegal or improper use of a disable adult or his resources for another’s profit or advantage.
- Neglect: refers to a disabled adult who is either living alone and not able to provide for himself the services which are necessary to maintain his mental or physical health or is not receiving services from his caretaker.
- Within these three areas fall categories of abuse such as:
- Abandonment—the desertion of an older adult by an individual who has assumed responsibility for providing care or by a person with physical custody of the older adult.
- Emotional of psychological abuse—the infliction of anguish, pain, or distress through verbal or nonverbal acts.
- Financial or material exploitation—the illegal or improper use of an older adult’s funds, property, or assets.
- Misuse of restraints—chemical or physical control of an older adult long-term care facility resident beyond what their physician has ordered.
- Neglect—the refusal or failure to fulfill any part of a person’s obligations or duties to an older adult.
- Physical abuse—the use of physical force that may result in bodily injury, physical pain, or impairment.
- Self-neglect—characterized as the behavior of an older adult that threatens his/her own health or safety without the understanding of the consequences of his/her decisions.
- Sexual abuse—non-consensual sexual contact of any kind with an older adult and/or sexual contact with any person incapable of giving consent.
- Volunteer/Employee Requirements
All volunteer and paid staff who work with children and youth at Colington UMC will:
- Be at least 5 years older than the oldest child/youth they will be supervising.
- Complete and sign an application and the related waivers giving permission to check references and background information.
- Provide the names and contact information of 3 personal references.
- Undergo a criminal background check at no expense if they will have supervisory program responsibility for children/youth. Individuals who have been convicted of physical or sexual abuse or neglect may not work in any church-sponsored activity or program for preschoolers, children, youth or vulnerable adults.
- STAFF SUPERVISION GUIDELINES
- Whenever supervising activities involving children and youth at Colington UMC,
- Two non-related adults will be present at all times.
- Children and youth will be checked in to and out of a church sponsored activity by their parent or legal guardian or people authorized by parent/legal guardian.
- They will have access to a telephone, cell phone or pager when groups are at or away from the church facility
- One-on-one interactions with children and youth will be with an open door and visibility to all.
B. Whenever Colington UMC sponsors an activity involving children or youth:
- Anyone has the right to visit and observe the children’s/youth activity, classroom, or church-sponsored program at any time, unannounced.
- All classroom and office doors will have a window or visibility from hallway or remain open while occupied.
- Windows will be kept free from adornment
C. Whenever Colington UMC transports children or youth away from the church campus,
- No youth should drive to/from events:
- Adults should never transport child/youth by self
- Approved and covered by church’s insurance company
- Drivers should go through same screening process as all other paid/volunteer staff
D. Overnight Accommodations
At events that require overnight accommodations:
- We strongly recommend that at least (2) leaders be present in every room.
- When staying in a hotel, leaders shall sleep in separate rooms from children/youth; or if necessary for children/youth to share a room
with a leader, leaders shall sleep in separate beds from children/youth so long as any one leader shall not be alone with any one child/youth.
- Recognizing accommodations may be restrictive in some cases, one leader is adequate, so long as any one leader shall NOT be alone with any one child/youth. Colington UMC volunteer and paid staff will be given the opportunity to attend training about Safe Sanctuary policies, procedures and child abuse issues on a regular basis.
E. Whenever Colington UMC hosts an activity involving children or youth from another church or
community organization, the groups using the church facility will follow Colington UMC’s Safe Sanctuaries policies and procedures.
F. If a suspected incident of child abuse or neglect occurs at or is revealed to a volunteer/paid staff person at
a Colington UMC sponsored activity, the adult in charge of the activity will:
- Insure the safety of the child or youth
- Call the church pastor or designee
- Call the County Office of Department of Social Services (DSS)
NOTE: To achieve compliance with the Safe Sanctuary policy it may be necessary to combine groups;
recruit, train, and reference additional volunteers; or cancel an event. Recognizing that there is safety in numbers, children and youth will be instructed to use the “buddy system.” It is also strongly encouraged that there be present at least one leader who is trained and certified in First Aid and CPR at functions. And that no photographs be taken without written consent.
VIII. Reporting of Incidents
A. Reporting Requirements
In North Carolina, everyone is required to report incidents of abuse. Local church safe sanctuaries procedures and practices should go by North Carolina law and beyond because of who we are as a church. Resources to understand NC law and resources for understanding how to report abuse are available from Prevent Child Abuse of NC at www.preventchildabusenc.org and 1-800-CHIDREN.
- immediately report and document;
- keep report strictly confidential
- Reporting Procedure
Have a “confidante” identified and named as someone anyone can go to with concerns.
Within the local church identify at least two persons to whom reports of incidents may be made. Have a confidential incident report form to document all relevant facts.
The reporter may contact local law enforcement/Dept. of Social Services directly and the report may be given anonymously.
C. Responding to a Report
1) Take steps to ensure the safety of the alleged victim.
2) Documentation – confidential incident report form (For a complete list of what full
documentation should include see below).
3) Notification of the parent(s)/guardian(s) of the alleged victim.
4) Take steps to ensure the alleged victim has no contact with the alleged wrongdoer
during the investigation.
5) Remove the alleged wrongdoer from the leadership position pending investigation.
6) Notify the church’s attorney, insurance carrier and the District Superintendent.
IX. After Abuse
- Truth-telling and honest communication is key.
1) Send a letter to members of the congregation explaining the incident and
initial action taken (without identification of the victim or accused). Restate
the safe sanctuaries procedures and practices employed by the church to
ensure safe continuation of the church’s ministry.
2) Hold a congregational meeting – only after careful and intentional planning – see Safe Sanctuaries for Youth by Joy Melton, pg 70-72.
B. Plan for continuing ministry:
What education programs need to be offered?
What support opportunities are needed?
What pastoral care is called for?
Additional resource to North Carolina Conference United Methodist Churches:
Sexual Ethics Concerns Toll-free Phone Number: 1-877-603-8816