Download a PDF of Circle of Mercy Safe Church Policy Form
Download a letter about the Safe Church Policy Form
 
WHY A SAFE CHURCH POLICY?

In the last 25 years the church has made significant progress in bringing to light the issue of sexual abuse. For too long the church was silent about the abuse of power that was happening within its own communities. Awareness has brought much needed reforms in the way we provide a welcoming and safe environment for everyone. The church seeks to be a place of safety and nurture for all who come our way. The church also seeks to be a place of healing for those who have experienced abuse. Statistically there are 1 out of 4 girls and 1 out of 7 boys who experience sexual abuse. The vast majority of children who are abused know their molester as a trusted adult.

With this knowledge, the call of the Christian community is to create a safe place, safe for those who worship, safe for those who serve, safe for those who are in need, and safe for our children and youth. Since leadership from both pastor and lay leaders creates a power imbalance by virtue of position, practices and policies are important to prevent manipulation or abuse of power. We seek to provide an atmosphere free from discrimination, harassment, exploitation, or intimidation. All adults in leadership are expected to model patterns of behavior that fosters healthy relationships.

A Safe Church Policy provides healthy practices for prevention of abuse. All adults who have on-going contact with children and youth through programmed church activities would be screened and trained.

Every major denominational body in the USA is encouraging the adoption of Safe Church policies and practices for every church. The UCC calls this effort “Making Our Churches Safe for All.”  There is a significant amount of literature available for anyone who would like more information.

 

Circle of Mercy Congregation

SAFE CHURCH POLICY

Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes a child welcomes me.” (Matthew 18:5) As a community of Christian faith, the Circle of Mercy Congregation is committed to welcoming and protecting the children in our midst. To maintain this commitment, we have adopted policies that will ensure safe practices for their care while entrusted to us. These policies demonstrate our unwavering concern for the spiritual life of our children and youth that encompasses their physical and emotional well-being. We seek to avoid any form of abuse in our community. This Safe Church Policy is part of our overall commitment to embrace a wholesome and sacred appreciation of human sexuality.

Oversight Team

The Oversight Team for the Safe Church Policy will consist of the Christian Education Coordinator and two lay members of the congregation. The team will coordinate the training for childcare volunteers and paid staff. They will oversee the implementation of this policy.

Policy Prohibiting Abuse, Exploitation, and Harassment

As a community of Christian faith, Circle of Mercy (COM) is committed to creating and maintaining programs, facilities and a community in which members, friends, staff and volunteers can worship, learn and work together in an atmosphere free from all forms of discrimination, harassment, exploitation or intimidation.

All persons associated with COM should be aware that the church is strongly opposed to:

  Child Emotional Abuse,

  Sexual Abuse,

  Sexual Exploitation,

  Sexual Harassment, and

  Sexual Malfeasance

and that such behavior is prohibited by church policy. It is the intention of the church to take action in an attempt to prevent and correct behavior that is contrary to this policy and, if necessary, to discipline those persons who violate this policy.

Purpose

These procedures are designed to reduce the risk of child sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of anyone in order to:

  Provide a safe and secure environment for children, youth, adults, members, volunteers, visitors, and paid staff.

   Assist COM in evaluating a person's suitability to supervise, oversee, and/or exert control over the activities of children and youth.

   Satisfy the concerns of parents and staff members with a screening process for paid staff and volunteers who work with children.

   Provide a system to respond to alleged victims of sexual abuse and their families, as well as the alleged perpetrator.

   Reduce the possibility of false accusations of sexual abuse made against volunteers and paid staff.

Definitions

The following terms are defined as follows:

   Paid Staff: Any pastor, minister, preacher, or employee who is paid.

   Children/Youth/Minor: Any person who has not reached his/her 18th birthday or the age of majority as defined by state law.

   Volunteer: Means any unpaid person engaged in or involved in activities and who is entrusted with the care and supervision of minors or a person who directly oversees and/or exerts control or oversight over minors.

   Adult: Any person who has reached his/her 18th birthday or as defined by state law.

   Child Emotional Abuse: Verbal or nonverbal conduct including mental exploitation, degrading communication, or humiliating or threatening conduct that may or may not include bullying or as defined by state law.

   Sexual Abuse: The employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of any minor or adult to engage in, or assist any other person to engage in, any sexually explicit conduct or any simulation of such conduct for the purpose of producing any visual depiction of such conduct or rape, and in cases of caretaker or inter-familial relationships, statutory rape, molestation, prostitution, or other form of sexual exploitation of minor or adult, or incest with a minor or adult, or as defined by federal and state law. This includes and is not limited to unwelcome sexual remarks, jokes, advances, leering, whistling, or sexual gestures; sexual touching, fondling, molestation, assault, or other intimate physical contact; compelling another person to engage in a sexual act by threats or fear or undue influence; and providing or displaying pornographic materials to another person.

   Sexual malfeasance: defined as sexual conduct within ministerial (e.g., clergy with a member of the congregation) or professional relationship (e.g., counselor with a client; lay church member; church executive with a committee member who may be a layperson, or a clergyperson). Sexual conduct includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. This definition is not meant to cover relationships between spouses, nor is it meant to restrict church professionals from having normal, mutual, social, intimate, or marital relationships.

   Sexual Exploitation: Sexual activity or contact (not limited to sexual intercourse) in which a Minister engaged in a ministerial relationship with another takes advantage of the vulnerability of the person being served by causing or allowing that person to engage in sexual behavior with the Minister.

Volunteer and Employee Screening Procedures

The following screening procedures are to be used with all paid staff and volunteers. All information collected should be maintained in confidence.

1.  Employment Application and Volunteer Application: Any paid staff and volunteers who will work with a minor must complete the Employment Application and/or the Volunteer Application. The release statement attached to the Application must be signed by the individual completing the Application to apply for and qualify for service.

2.  Review all statements made in the application, paying specific attention to any significant gaps in time and irregular employment patterns or unexplained absence. Pursue these gaps with employers listed and in a subsequent interview.

3.  Conduct interviews with qualified applicants. At least two people need to conduct every interview, one lay member and one pastoral staff member.

4.  If detrimental information is uncovered but the applicant remains desirable, discuss this information with the applicant. In the event the applicant is ultimately hired or accepted as a volunteer, document the reasons for overriding the prior information.

5.  In the event that someone is not hired, it is still important to keep the notes and reasons why someone was denied employment or a volunteer position. 

6.  Contact all listed references for volunteers. Contact each of the volunteer applicant's references and ask for any information that might help determine the applicant's suitability for the position. If a response is not received within a reasonable period of time, follow up and keep notes if possible.

7.  Contact all listed references and employers for paid staff. Inquire as to the reason the applicant left and ask for any information that might help determine the applicant's suitability for the position. If a response is not received within a reasonable period of time, follow up and keep notes if possible.

8.  Criminal Background Check: COM will conduct a criminal background check on all paid staff and volunteers who are entrusted with the care and supervision of minors or a person who directly oversees and/or exerts control or oversight over minors. All criminal background checks will be updated periodically.

9.  Six-Month Rule: All volunteers will be required to have been members of COM for six months or have been associated with the church for a year and have reviewed and signed the Child and Youth Abuse Prevention Program.

10. Five-year rule: All volunteers and paid staff who supervise will be at least five years older than the oldest child/youth they will be supervising.

Confidentiality

Information obtained through the screening, application, reference check, interview, and criminal background check will be kept in confidence, unless otherwise required by law. All information discovered or obtained through the above‑referenced means will be kept in a secure location and access to it will be restricted to the hiring committee, pastors and response team on a need to know basis. These materials will be archived by CareNet, pastoral counseling group of NC, for no cost.

Disqualification

No person may be entrusted with the care and supervision of minors or may directly oversee and/or exert control or oversight over minors who has been convicted of the offenses outlined below, been on a probated sentence or received deferred adjudication for any offense outlined below, or has presently pending any criminal charges for any offense outlined below until a determination of guilt or innocence has been made, including any person who is presently on deferred adjudication.

The following offenses disqualify a person from care, supervision, control, or oversight of minors:

1.  Any offense against minors as defined by state law.

2.  A misdemeanor or felony offense as defined by state law that is classified as sexual assault, indecency with a minor or adult, assault of a minor or adult, injury to a minor or adult, abandoning or endangering a minor, sexual performance with a minor or adult, possession or promoting child pornography, enticing a minor, bigamy, incest, drug‑related offenses, or family violence.

3.  A prior criminal history of an offense against minors.

Exceptions can be made at the discretion of the Safe Church pastor and the response team when an individual has been convicted of an offense as a result of behavior defined by the state as criminal activity but which COM deems as morally appropriate (e.g., “indecency with an adult” in the case of consensual adult same-sex relations). Other offenses (e.g., a history of driving while intoxicated) may be grounds for disqualification, at the discretion of the Safe Church pastor and the response team.

Sexual Offender at COM

COM may allow a person known to be a sexual offender to remain or become a member of the congregation. Such persons may participate in activities involving children and youth only by special permission of the Safe Church pastor and the Response Team. The identity of the sexual offender will be disclosed confidentially only to pastors and response team members, and those they deem necessary.

Volunteer and Employee Training Appropriate training will be required for paid childcare worker (current and future), along with children’s education teachers.

a.  Training to be developed and led by Christian education coordinator and scheduled annually as needed for any future paid childcare worker and for all volunteer teachers.

b.  All volunteers and paid staff must complete this training once.

c.  All members of the congregation are invited to participate in this training.

Photography and Media

Use of children’s photographs in any COM media (e.g. our website) must undergo advance scrutiny.

a.  First, parents must give explicit consent on a case-by-case basis.

b.  Second, children’s names are not to be used to identify their photographs unless access is limited (e.g., a members-only, code-protected section of our church website).

c.  The webmaster will be responsible for consent forms.

Supervision Procedures

Unless an extenuating situation exists, COM:

1.  Will have adequate number of screened and trained paid staff or volunteers present at events involving minors. Supervision will increase in proportion to the risk of the activity. (An adequate adult ratio depends on the ages and needs of the children. This will be determined by the Christian education committee.)

2.   Will monitor facilities during activities involving children.

3.  Will release minors only to a parent or guardian, or adult designated by the parent/guardian.

4Will prohibit staff or volunteers from transporting only one child or youth by themselves, unless approved by a parent/guardian.

5.  Will require that young children be accompanied to the restroom and the paid staff or volunteer wait outside the facility to escort the child back to the activity.

6.  Will encourage minors to use a "buddy system" whenever minors go on trips off of COM property.

7.  To the extent possible, COM events that are co-educational will have both male and female chaperones.

8.  Classrooms will have windows on the doors or have the door remain open if there is less than two adults supervising children.

9.  Any parent or staff has the right to visit and observe the children’s/youth activity, classroom, or COM -sponsored program at any time, unannounced.

Behavioral Guidelines

All volunteers and paid staff will observe the following guidelines:

1.  Do not provide alcoholic beverages, tobacco, drugs, contraband, or anything that is prohibited by law to minors.

2.  Speaking to a minor or minors one-on-one should be done in public settings where paid staff or volunteers are in sight of other people. If one‑on‑one pastoral care is necessary, avoid meeting in isolated environments.

3.  Avoid all inappropriate touching with minors. All touching shall be based on the needs of the individual being touched, not on the needs of the volunteer or paid staff. In the event a minor initiates inappropriate physical contact, it is expected that the adult involved will inform the minor that such touching is inappropriate.

4.  Never engage in physical discipline of a minor. Volunteers and paid staff shall not abuse minors in any way, including but not limited to physical abuse, verbal/mental abuse, emotional abuse, and sexual abuse of any kind.

5.  Employees and adult volunteers may not be romantically involved with program participants who are younger than 18 years of age.

6.  Anyone who observes abuse of a minor will take appropriate steps to immediately intervene and provide assistance. Report any inappropriate conduct to the proper authorities and officials of COM for handling.

Response to Sexual Abuse

COM will respond promptly to investigate any accusation of sexual abuse. All accusations of sexual abuse will be taken seriously. It is important to be appropriately respectful to the needs and feelings of those who allege sexual abuse and those who have been accused of sexual abuse.

A Response Team consisting of one male and one female who are unrelated will be designated each year to address any allegations of sexual abuse or misconduct in the church. One pastor will also be a member of this team. The team will be named by the Church Council.

When an allegation is made involving sexual abuse, the person reporting the complaint is to be told about the guidelines and the procedures to be followed. The Response Team will begin investigating the allegations and may use the assistance of legal counsel or other consultants. If a member of the Response Team is the individual accused of sexual abuse, then (insert title of the next highest‑ranking official) will conduct the investigation.

The investigation will be conducted as follows:

1.  Report the incident to appropriate authorities in accordance with the state mandatory reporting laws. Buncombe County Department of Social Services—phone number.

2.  Report the matter to COM's insurance carrier—Church Mutual Insurance

3.  Cooperate with authorities and the insurance carrier.

4.  COM may suspend (with pay for paid staff) the alleged offender while a confidential investigation is being conducted.

5.  The Response Team (and legal counsel or other consultants) will then meet with the council and present a report on their investigation, which will include findings and recommendations of actions.

6.  The Response Team will meet with the alleged perpetrator and notify him/her of the results of the investigation and recommendations for actions.

7.  The Response Team will meet with the alleged victim, along with his/her parents or guardians, and notify them of the results of the investigation and recommendations for actions.

8.  During the investigation, the Response Team shall maintain contact with the alleged victim and his/her parents or legal guardian, and inform them of the actions taken and assist them in their process of healing.

9.  The Response Team (and legal counsel or other consultants) may meet with the alleged perpetrator, the alleged victim, and any others with knowledge of relevant facts.

10.  Communicate with criminal and civil legal counsel of COM.

11.  Communicate with those affected by the ministry of the alleged perpetrator.

12.  Hire a consultant or assign a spokesperson to respond to media or prepare a statement for the media if the need shall arise, subject to the approval of COM's attorney.

 

 

 

Circle of Mercy

Employment/Authorized Volunteer

Application and Disclosure Form

 

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Name:                     Last                                                   First                                            Middle

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Address:                    Street                                            City                                      State                                Zip Code

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Daytime Phone                                                              Evening Phone                                           Email

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Date of Birth                                                                                                 Driver’s license number

 

 

References

One reference should be related to you and the other references should not be related to you.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

REFERENCE NAME

________________________________________________________________________________________________

Address                                                                        City                              State                            Zip code

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Telephone                                                   Email

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

REFERENCE NAME

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Address                                                                        City                              State                            Zip code

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

Telephone                                                   Email

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

REFERENCE NAME

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

Address                                                                        City                              State                            Zip code

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

Telephone                                                   Email

 

I have been a member of this church since _______________________

 

I have been a friend of this church since _______________________

 

I have never been convicted of, nor pled guilty to, nor pled no contest to a crime. (Exclude convictions that have been sealed, expunged or legally eradicated, misdemeanor convictions for which probation was completed and the case was dismissed, or offenses about which inquiry is not permissible in this state)

o True       o Not True

If not true, please briefly describe the nature of the crime(s), the date and place of conviction and the legal disposition of the case. The church will not deny a position to any applicant solely because the person has been convicted of a crime. The church, however, may consider the nature, date and circumstances of the offense, as well as whether the offense is relevant to the duties of the position applied for.

 

No civil lawsuit alleging actual or attempted sexual discrimination, harassment, exploitation, or misconduct; physical abuse; child abuse; or financial misconduct has ever resulted in a judgment being entered against me, been settled out of court, or been dismissed because the statute of limitations has expired.

o True       o Not True

If not true, give a short explanation of the lawsuit. (Please indicate the date, nature, and place of the incident leading to the lawsuit; where the lawsuit was filed; and the precise disposition of the lawsuit.)

 

I have never terminated my employment, professional credentials, or service in a volunteer position or had my employment, professional credentials, or authorization to hold a volunteer position terminated for reasons relating to allegations of actual or attempted sexual discrimination, harassment, exploitation, or misconduct; physical abuse; child abuse; or financial misconduct.

o True       o Not True

If not true, give a short explanation. (Please indicate the date of termination; name, address, and telephone number of employer or volunteer supervisor; and nature of the incident(s) leading to your termination.)

 

Do you have a valid drivers’ license?

o Yes       o No

 

With respect to my driving record, I have not had my license suspended or revoked within the last five years due to reckless driving or driving while intoxicated and/or under the influence of a controlled substance.

o True       o Not True

 

Is there any fact or circumstance involving you or your background that would call into question your being entrusted with the responsibilities of the position for which you are applying?

o Yes       o No

If yes, please provide a brief explanation.

 

The covenants between persons seeking authorized volunteer positions in the church require honesty, integrity, and truthfulness for the health of the church. To that end, I attest that the information set forth in this application is true and complete. I understand that any misrepresentation or omission may be grounds for rejection of consideration for, or termination of, the position I am seeking to fill. I acknowledge that it is my duty in a timely fashion to amend the responses and information I have provided if I come to know that the response or information was incorrect when given or, though accurate when given, the response or information is no longer accurate. Beginning such relationships with an open exchange of relevant information builds the foundation for a continuing and healthy covenant between volunteers and the church they seek to serve. To that end, I authorize COM and/or its agents to make inquiries regarding my character and qualifications, including all statements I have set forth above. I also authorize all entities, persons, former employers, supervisors, courts, law enforcement, and other public agencies to respond to inquiries concerning me, to supply verification of the statements I have made, and to comment on and state opinions regarding my background, character, and qualifications. To encourage such persons and entities to speak openly and responsibly, I hereby release them from all liability arising from their responses, comments, and statements. COM authorized volunteer and employee recruitment process involves the sharing of information regarding applicants with those persons in a position to recruit, secure, and supervise both the position I am seeking to fill and program I am seeking to participate in. To that end, I authorize COM and its agents to circulate distribute, and otherwise share information gathered in connection with this application to such persons for these purposes. I understand that COM will share with me information it has gathered about me, if I request it to do so. I acknowledge my receipt and understanding of the COM Safe Church Policy.

 

___________________________________________________________________________________

PRINT NAME & SIGN                                                                                                         DATE

 

____________________________________________________________________________________

PRINT NAME & SIGNATURE of PARENT or GUARDIAN (for applicants under age 18)                    DATE

 

o    Sex Offender Registry (www.nsopr.gov) review performed on ____________________

o    Personal interview conducted by staff on ____________________

o    Reference inquiries completed on ____________________

o    Church membership for six months or association for one year confirmed on ____________________

o    Safe church awareness training and policy orientation performed on ____________________

Additionally, if considered for employment:

o    Criminal History Verification (Oxford Document Management) together with Fair Credit Reporting Act notices, completed on  ____________________

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