Abuse Prevention and Safety Guidelines 2017-2018
Philosophy: In order to protect children, youth and adults and to provide a safe community
in which to worship and minister, the following policies and procedures are established.
General Policies and Procedures
- Screening – All staff and volunteers, high school age and older, will be screened using the following procedures.
- All persons wishing to serve in a paid ministry position (staff) or volunteer service position must fill out a Staff/Volunteer Promise form.
- A Staff/Volunteer Promise form must be on file for all people in service positions.
- Staff/Volunteer Promises will be requested by the director of the program in which the applicant wishes to serve and once completed, will be forwarded to the Director of Children’s Ministries and Pastor of Youth Ministries, who will process the applicant’s form. Processing may include staff consultations, ICHAT investigations, or police checks. In the event the staff/volunteer does not meet criteria for service, an appointed staff member will meet with the applicant and discuss alternative service opportunities, if appropriate.
- Training and Compliance – All staff and volunteers will be given information on procedures and policies used in ministry programs, as well as procedures for reporting suspected abuse (or policy violation). The Director of Children’s Ministries and Pastor of Youth Ministries will have copies of abuse definitions on file.
- Reporting Suspected Child Abuse/Neglect or Misconduct – Any reporting should follow the approved procedures of Seymour Christian Reformed Church (see following pages).
- Internet/Communication/Social Media Policy (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, email, texting, etc.)
All staff and volunteers are expected to use common sense when interacting online, not just with children and
youth but with all ministry participants. While it is acceptable to “friend” chat online, it must be limited to an
appropriate amount of time. Remember that everything posted online is public material and should be above
reproach. Inappropriate use of internet tools may be grounds for disciplinary action and should be brought
to the attention of the ministry leader who will in turn report to any staff member.
- Transportation – When using personal vehicles to transport minors, staff and volunteers are encouraged to use utmost care and caution. Transportation should occur in safe, insured vehicles driven by licensed, responsible drivers. Permission to transport children/youth should be obtained from parent(s) or guardian, either written (preferable) or verbal, using the Off-Site Permission Forms.
- Off-ground Activities – Plans for off-grounds actives involving minors should be reviewed with the appropriate program director and appropriate forms should be completed and submitted to that staff person. For day outings, parents will receive prior communication and participants must have written permission and medical release forms turned in to the appropriate adult. Overnight activities will be limited to children of at least 3rd grade, unless they are accompanied by parent or guardian. An adult/child ratio of 1:5 will be maintained for 2nd grade and lower, 1:6 for older children and youth.
- Discipline Policy – Persons working with minors will agree to abide by the Behavior Management Guidelines adopted by Seymour Christian Reformed Church (see following pages).
- Two-Person Standard – During any youth/children’s program activity, at least two adults should be present. If not possible, the activity should take place in a room or area with a windowed door or the door left open at all times, or the activity should take place in a public place. For overnight activities, two unrelated adults MUST be present.
- One-to-One Contacts – Considerable caution should be used in one-to-one contacts between staff/volunteers and minors. If adults talk to minors alone, this contact should occur within sight and/or sound of other people.
- Restroom Use – For young children (nursery through grade 1) needing to use the restroom and who do not require assistance, the adult attendant must remain outside the bathroom. For young children who do require assistance, the adult attendant must assist the child with the bathroom door ajar. When older children (2nd grade and above) use the restroom facilities, their departure time should be observed to ensure safe and timely return to the program/care area from which they came.
- Monitoring Children’s Activity – For the safety of children/youth, halls, bathrooms, and other common areas should be regularly checked by ministry leaders when children’s/youth’s activities are occurring.
- Emergency and First Aid Procedures – Emergency evacuation guidelines will be posted in each room, explained to all volunteers and staff, and reviewed at the beginning of each service period, typically September. First aid guidelines (see following pages) and accident reports will be available in each ministry room, either in notebooks or in top drawers.
- Visitation – Parents are encouraged and welcomed to observe programming and care provided to their children in all activities, classrooms, and nursery areas.
- Encouragement and Display of Affection – Physical contact and the display of affection are part of conveying support and encouragement in the interaction between adults and between adults and youth/children. At the same time, such displays can be misunderstood and misinterpreted. For some physical contact such as a hug or touch may be comforting, while for others it may be an unwelcome invasion of personal space. Restricting such displays of affection to public areas is encouraged. Respect for the right of a care giver or recipient to refuse such contact is essential.
Policies for Specific Programs
Baby and Toddler Nurseries
- Please refer to the General Policies and Procedures for Seymour Church.
- At least two adult attendants (16 years and older) must serve in the nursery during each service, even if only one child is present. Married couples are allowed to serve together as long as there are unrelated attendants for the other nursery.
- An adult who is scheduled for nursery duty must have another adult to replace them should they be unable to serve.
- Youth from grade 5 on up, who are not currently volunteering in other ministries during the service, are encouraged to volunteer in either baby or toddler nursery, provided two adults are already present.
- Scheduled youth may not bring their friends to the nurseries.
- Changing areas for infants/toddlers must be in full view of nursery workers. All diaper changing must be done in changing areas.
- Only adults are allowed to assist with toilet needs (See #10, General Policies and Procedures).
- No nursery attendant will be allowed to take a child out of the nursery to any other part of the church for any reason.
- Children will not be removed from the nursery by anyone other than the child’s parent or primary caregiver, unless it is an emergency evacuation assisted by the deacons.
- Volunteers must remain in the nursery until all children have been picked up by parents/caregivers.
Children and Youth Programs
(including Little Lambs, Children’s Worship, G.R.A.C.E.,
Rainbow Kids, Kingdom Kids, Cadets, GEMS, B.L.A.S.T., and Youth Group)
- Please read and be familiar with the General Policies and Procedures.
- New volunteer leaders/helpers should have attended Seymour CRC for a minimum of six months (unless other arrangements have been approved by the Admin Board), must have filled out a Staff/Volunteer/Council Promise form, and must be educated about the Abuse Prevention and Safety Guidelines.
- During all children and youth programs, leaders must know where students are at all times or inform the ministry leader if students have left the room without permission.
- If a child repeatedly disrupts a class, the Director of Children’s Ministries (DCM) or the Pastor of Youth Ministries (PYM) will be informed, who will in turn notify the parents.
- If any ministry leader has questions about the safety, health or welfare of a student, they should contact the DCM or PYM who will confer with a member or members of the Abuse Prevention Committee.
- The Director of Children’s Ministries will ordinarily be available during the church school hour and on WAS nights. The Pastor of Youth Ministries will also ordinarily be available during the church school hour and on WAS nights, if and when applicable.
- Whenever possible, more than one volunteer will be present at group activities and in vehicles.
- At least two ministry leaders should normally remain at/after an activity until the last person has been
- All volunteer contact (lunches, coffee, breakfast, or off-site ministry activity) should normally be done in a public location. Parents or primary caretakers should normally be informed prior to the contact.
- Especially in regards to youth leaders, records must be kept of any personal visits and this record must
be submitted to the PYM.
- For group overnight or off-site events, written/signed parental permission must be obtained for each child. A current copy of the “Registration Form/Medical Release Form” must be on file as well. Two or more adults must be present for overnight events. For off-site events, two adults are recommended.
- Dating by volunteer leaders of youth group members is prohibited. When this occurs, it will be grounds
- Whenever possible, youth group members will ride with adult drivers. Members needing to drive themselves to an event or wishing to ride with another licensed youth must inform the PYM but do NOT need to sign a waiver of responsibility for the Church.
- Possession of alcohol, drugs or weapons by any person attending/participating in a Youth Group event is prohibited and will result in immediate notification of parent/guardian and termination of their involvement in the activity until further review by the DCM/PYM and a member of the Abuse Prevention Committee.
Behavior Management Guidelines for Children/Youth
Respect, gentleness, and compassion are essential in dealing with children and youth. We intend to keep all children/youth involved in programs whenever possible. In the event that children/youth cause too much disruption to reasonably allow for their continued participation and/or for others to continue to learn, individuals may be removed from the group. Active attempts will be made to communicate with parents to enlist their support in addressing the behavior as we believe that the responsibility for discipline belongs with the parents.
Guidelines to be followed in working with Seymour youth/children.
- Corporal punishment (hitting, slapping, etc.) and abusive verbal discipline (insults, threats, etc.) are prohibited and will not be tolerated.
- Age appropriate behavioral expectations for the particular setting in which children/youth are involved are to be stated clearly. It may be beneficial to have these expectations written out and available to both children and their parents.
- Promoting positive behavior is encouraged. Use of appropriate incentives and affirmation of appropriate behavior can be very effective. Sometimes children can be distracted or redirected when they are misbehaving. Time outs, preferably for a time not longer than the child’s age in minutes, can be used. The child should be told that parents will be informed and then follow through on this contact.
- If rules/expectations are not followed by a child during program activity, the child may be asked to sit apart from the group (but within the adult’s visual range) until the leader believes the student is ready to return to the activity.
- If a leader has concerns about the behavior of a child/youth, this should be discussed with the Director of Children’s Ministries or the Pastor of Youth Ministries.
- Parents should be informed about any of their child’s behavior that is disruptive and/or requires removal of the child from programming. If parents have concerns about the handling of their child’s behavior, the parents are encouraged to contact program staff.
Adult Pastoral Care Programs
- See General Policies and Procedures.
- Office-bearers and other pastoral care-givers, who are charged with the care of any and all church members, will exercise good judgment when visiting alone with persons of the opposite sex.
- Ordinarily, all care-givers shall visit with anyone under the age of 18 years only after notifying a parent or guardian. An exception to this notification may occur when a minor feels the need to report alleged abuse perpetrated by a parent or guardian. Care-givers are required to report any such visits to a member of the SCRC Staff directly, privately, and immediately.
- It is wise to use public places such as restaurants for meetings between two people, especially when they are of opposite genders and/or one is younger than 18 years of age.
- Care givers are not discouraged from appropriate touching and displays of affection. They are cautioned, however, to give careful thought and exercise good judgment in their use of touch. For some, physical contact can be misconstrued as meaning or indicating something more or different than the care-giver intended to convey. Respect for the right of a care-giver or recipient to refuse such contact is essential.
- Care-givers ordinarily will report all pastoral visits to the appropriate person(s) to whom the care-givers are accountable: Shepherding Assistants to Shepherding Elders or Senior Pastor
Shepherding Elders to other Shepherding Elders or Senior Pastor
Service Deacons to other Service Deacons or Senior Pastor
Pastors to Pastors or Chairman of Shepherding Elders
- All transactions, observations and/or records of contact between a care-giver and care-receiver must remain private. Exceptions may include information that is obviously public, information that the care-giver has obtained permission to share with specific individuals, and information that indicates the possibility or potential for abuse, in which case the care-giver should follow the guidelines for reporting suspected abuse.
Procedures for Reporting Suspected Abuse/Neglect
- All suspicion of child abuse or neglect must be taken seriously and handled confidentially.
- A teacher, helper or volunteer must not conduct or attempt to conduct an investigation themselves. As soon as possible, the suspected abuse must be reported to the Director of Children’s Ministries, The Pastor of Youth Ministries, or another ministry staff member, who will meet with the person who suspects the abuse and assist with filling out a Report of Suspected Abuse/Neglect or Misconduct form.
- The Abuse Prevention committee will meet as soon as possible to determine which steps should be taken. The Committee may contact the Children’s Assessment Center (774-6400) for guidance.
- If abuse of a child by a parent is suspected, the committee may contact the child’s parents and/or Child Protective Services (616-247-6300) within 24 hours.
- If the suspected perpetrator is not a parent or family member, the police should be contacted within 24 hours. The child’s parents will be informed by a staff or committee member.
- Within 72 hours of making an oral report to the appropriate agency, a member of the Committee will complete a “Report of Actual or Suspected Abuse or Neglect” form and mail to the Kent County Family Independence Agency as instructed on the form.
Responding to the Child
- If a child wishes to confide in a ministry leader, staff member or adult volunteer regarding some abuse/neglect, a private time and place to talk will be provided.
- Do not ask any leading questions. Listen carefully to what the child tells you. Respond in a supportive, non-judgmental manner. Disclosing abuse is a frightening and anxiety-provoking step for a child, and he or she needs to know they are supported. Do not express shock or criticize the child’s family. Refrain from using the word “abuse” to the child.
- Do not attempt to assess the truthfulness of the child’s disclosure. That will be for trained professionals to decide. Assure the child that you understand and accept his/her report and that you regret that the incident(s) occurred.
- Tell the child that the incident was not his or her fault, that they are not bad not are they to blame.
- Reassure the child that he/she did the right thing by telling you. Tell the child that you will support them as much as possible.
- Do not promise to keep the information secret. Tell the child that you will do what you can to help correct the situation.
- Do not give the child too much information as it may unnecessarily upset the child. If the child inquires, let him/her know what will likely happen when you report the incident. You might say something like “Someone else will need to hear from you exactly what happened.”
Important First Aid Guidelines
- First aid kids are located in the following areas: Nursery, Little Lambs room, all Children’s Worship rooms, upstairs Cadet hallway, Cadet garage, downstairs kitchen, and the main floor hallway by the mailboxes.
- Downstairs phones are located in the Children’s Ministry office and kitchen, and the main floor phones are located in the main office and lobby.
- All staff and volunteers are required to exercise caution at all times. Evaluate your classrooms and be alert for potential hazards and remove them. Make sure the property and any equipment is being used properly.
- Children must be supervised at all times.
- In the case of an injury:
- Quickly assess person’s health and stay calm.
- In the event of serious injury or medical emergency, use a land line to call 911 for emergency help, using any available line. Our address is: 840 Alger SE. Ask the medical personnel to arrive at the south entrance door, and send another adult to meet them there and bring them to your room.
- Do not move a seriously injured person or child.
- Consult any available medical personnel present at Seymour.
- If injury is minor, use available first aid kits.
- If injured party is a minor, inform the Director of Children’s Ministry or Pastor of Youth Ministry, who will then contact the parent/guardian who is listed on their Registration Form. In the event the DCM or PYM are not available, labeled registration form notebooks are located in these respective offices.
- Fill out an Accident Report (located in each ministry room) after the matter is resolved and submit copies to the DCM or PYM.