Child Protection Policy

CHILD PROTECTION POLICY

INTRODUCTION

The Presbyterian Church of Traverse City (hereinafter “TPCTC” or “Church”) cares deeply about the safety and well-being of all children associated with the Church, and is committed to doing everything possible to provide a safe place for all members including taking special care of God’s children. To accomplish this purpose, TPCTC has adopted the following Child Protection Policy. It is important that all staff and volunteers understand and implement these guidelines to help prevent any type of abuse.

PURPOSE
This Policy, and the procedures it outlines, are designed to reduce the risk of child sexual abuse and other abuse and to implement policies if such abuse is present or alleged, in order to:

1. Provide a safe and secure environment for all children, youth, adults, members, volunteers, visitors, and staff, associated with the Church.

2. Assist TPCTC in evaluation of a person’s suitability to supervise, oversee, and/or exert control over the activities of youth and children.

3. Satisfy the concerns of parents and staff members with a screening process for staff and volunteers.

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

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

ARTICLE I
DEFINITIONS

The following terms are used herein and defined as follows:

1. Staff: Any ordained or non-ordained person employed by the Church, whether paid hourly, by salary or under the terms of an independent contract.

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

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

4. Volunteer: Any unpaid person involved in activities and who is entrusted with the care and supervision or minors, or a person who directly oversees and/or exerts control or oversight over minor and adults.

5. Child Sexual Abuse: Any sexual act between an adult and a minor, or between two minors when one exerts power over the other; forcing, coercing or persuading a child to engage in any type of sexual act. Common expression of affection (hugs), affirmation (pats on the back), support (prayer), or physical care-taking (changing diapers, etc.), are appropriate in this community of caring Christians. Care must be taken that physical expressions of affection are not excessive or imposed upon another individual.

6. 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.

ARTICLE II
VOLUNTEER AND STAFF SCREENING PROCEDURES

The following screening procedures are to be used with 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 information collected will be maintained in confidence, available only to ordained staff and the Church’s primary administrative officer.

1. Any staff or volunteer who will work with a child must complete an Employment Application and/or Volunteer Application. A release statement authorizing TPCTC to contact any individual or organization list in the application must be signed by the applicant in order to be considered for employment or volunteer positions.

2. All applications will initially be screened by the Children’s Ministry Committee for volunteers or the Personnel Committee for staff to determine eligibility, and eliminate unqualified candidates.

3. Interviews will be conducted by Personnel Committee with qualified applicants for all paid positions. When feasible, at least two persons will be present.

4. Reference checks, both professional and personal, will be completed for staff as well as volunteer positions. For employed positions, the reference verification will include inquiring as to the reason the applicant left any prior employment and request for any information that might help determine the applicant’s suitability for the position. Written documentation of attempted checks as well as completed verifications will be maintained in the employee’s personnel file.

5. A conditional offer of employment may be made by TPCTC in compliance with TPCTC hiring policies. Volunteers will be notified of their approval, contingent upon the completion of a criminal background check.

6. TPCTC will conduct a criminal background check on all staff and all new volunteers who are entrusted with the care and supervision of children and/or minors or a person who directly oversees and/or exerts control or oversight over children and/or minors.

7. Along with the application and background checks, all staff and volunteers will be required to complete training including review of the Child Protection Policy. A signed receipt of the policy and training will be retained by TPCTC.

8. All volunteers will further be required to have been attending TPCTC for at least six months prior to being permitted to engage with children and/or minors unsupervised.

9. The Child Protection Policy will be reviewed annually by all staff and volunteers, and will be reviewed for any needed updates at least biannually.

ARTICLE III
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.

ARTICLE IV
PROCEDURES FOR SUPERVISION OF CHILDREN

Unless an extenuating situation exists, TPCTC will:

1. Have adequate number of screened and trained staff and/or volunteers present at all church events involving children and/or minors in accordance with state child care licensing guidelines. Supervision will increase in proportion to the risk of the activity.

2. Monitor facilities during activities involving children.

3. Release minors only to a parent or legal guardian and utilize sign-in and sign-out sheets, when possible.

4. Obtain written parental permission, including a signed medical treatment form and emergency contact, before taking minors on trips and will provide information regarding the trip to parents or guardians.

5. Use two paid staff or volunteers when transporting minors in vehicles.

6. 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. Whenever possible, the escort will be the same sex as the minor.

7. Encourage minors to use a “buddy system” whenever minors go on trips off-site.

8. Screen all paid staff and volunteers and approve those individuals in advance of overnight activities.

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

10. At least two staff or volunteers will be in the room when minors are present. We will strive to have unrelated adults whenever possible. Doors will be left fully open if one adult needs to leave the room temporarily, and during the arrival to the class or event before both adults are present. Speaking to a minor or minors one-on-one should be done in public setting where paid staff or volunteers are in sight of other people.

11. Avoid all inappropriate touching with children and/or minors. In the event a minor initiates physical contact and/or inappropriate touching, it is appropriate to inform the minor that such touching is inappropriate.

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

13. If one-on-one pastoral care of a child and/or minor is necessary, avoid meeting in isolated environments.

14. Anyone who observes abuse of a child and/or minor will take appropriate steps to immediately intervene and provide assistance. Report any inappropriate conduct to the Head of Staff, or his appointee, as outlined by this policy.

ARTICLE V
DISQUALIFICATION

No person may be entrusted with the care and supervision of children and/or 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 changes 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 follow offenses disqualify a person from care, supervision, control or oversight of children and/or minors:

1. Any offense against children and/or 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, or any similar offenses.

3. A prior criminal history of an offense against children and/or minors.

ARTICLE VI
RESPONSE TO ALLEGATIONS OF SEXUAL ABUSE

TPCTC 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.

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 where possible. The Head of Staff (or other appointed person) will begin investigating the allegations and may use the assistance of legal counsel or other consultants. If the Head of Staff is the individual accused of sexual abuse, the Clerk of Session (or other person appointed by the Session) will conduct the investigation. The investigation will be conducted as follows:

1. The child’s parent(s) and/or legal guardian will be notified as soon as possible and the child will be immediately removed from the situation. The safety of the child is our paramount concern.

2. The incident will be reported immediately to the Head of Staff, who will contact the state authorities as mandated by Michigan State Law (including the police and the Grand Traverse County Department of Human Services), and the church Session.

3. When the child is safe, the staff/volunteer alleged to be the perpetrator of the child abuse will be removed from working with children pending an investigation. This individual will be handled with dignity and respect. If the accused is an employee of the Church, s/he may be suspended with pay until the Session is satisfied that the allegations are cleared or substantiated.

4. An incident report will be filled out.

5. We will cooperate with any investigation by the state or local authorities. In the event there is no investigation of the incident by state or local authorities, the Session will form a team to investigate the circumstances of the incident and to make recommendations, if any, to the Session.

6. The role of the Church is to provide spiritual care, comfort, and pastoral care for all parties, including the victim, the alleged perpetrator and their families. The Church staff will not act as a detective or investigator.

7. If criminal charges are brought against the accused, an attorney appointed by our insurance company to represent the Church will be engaged. The denominational offices will also be informed of these charges.

8. Public statements and media interviews will be handled under the guidance of the TPCTC attorney and through a Session-designated spokesperson. All others should refrain from speaking to the media.

9. If the investigation determines that abuse occurred, the accused, if staff, will be terminated, and if a volunteer, asked to leave the Church. In such cases, legal advice will be sought. If the investigation determines abuse did not occur, the staff or volunteer will be permitted to resume all duties.

10. Whether or not the abuse occurred, resources for healing, such as counseling, will be made available to both parties. The Personnel Committee and Session, in consultation with the Head of Staff, will determine what communication, if any, will be made to the congregation at large.

ADOPTED: _October 14, 2014_