Beacon Heights Church of the Brethren
Safe Church Policy
Recognizing our responsibilities to ensure that the church will be a safe place, we, the members of the congregation of Beacon Heights Church of the Brethren have adopted the following policies.
There are dangers that persist in our society today. They may manifest themselves in the form of child abuse. Such abuse may be physical, sexual, and/or emotional. This policy will address our responsibility to keep children and youth safe. This policy will discuss the screening process for volunteers, guidelines for those who are actively involved with youth/children’s ministry, guidelines for reporting suspected abuse, and give a response plan for suspected abuse.
SECTION I: Process to become Safe Church Approved
A) Pastoral staff (excluding interim) should come through the district placement process and will be screened by the District Executive Minister or his/her designee.
B) Volunteers (including mentors), church staff, and those who serve in counseling positions who have unsupervised access to children, youth, or individuals with diminished mental or physical capacity will:
1. Be an active participant of the congregation for a minimum of 6 months.
2. Attend Safe Church Training (offered 1-2 times per year)
3. Complete an application, which can be done online through Breeze. It will be stored on Breeze and will be accessible only to church staff and administrators.
4.Submit 2 positive character references (preferably from church members, excluding relatives).
5. Agree to a background check (fee paid by church) and be found to have never been convicted, pled guilty or no contest to any crime involving sexual misconduct or any offenses against children.
6.Possess a valid driver’s license and certification of insurance if driving children or youth for activities.
C) Individuals who complete this process will be approved to work with children, youth, and individuals with diminished mental and physical capacity for 5 years, provided there are no violations of the policy.
D) Individuals who are renewing after 5 years must complete a renewal application, attend Safe Church training, and agree to a background check (fee paid by church).
SECTION II: Safe Church Policy Guidelines
Beacon Heights Church believes that children, youth, or individuals with diminished mental or physical capacity should be safe from all forms of abuse and neglect. Therefore, we ask that all church staff and volunteer personnel follow these policies:
● Church programs have an open door policy. The staff, pastors, and parents or guardians are free to visit and observe the program at any time unannounced.
● The names of approved and trained volunteers will be shared in order to fill positions appropriately.
● Minimum of two persons should be available whenever possible for programs and activities involving children, youth, or individuals with diminished mental or physical capacity. Assistance at programs may be given by people who do not meet these policy guidelines of Section I provided they are supervised and under the authority of persons meeting those guidelines. Activities exempt are those part of Sunday morning programs (Sunday school, children’s chapel, Nursery) when it may be difficult to get enough volunteers to have a minimum of two. The open door policy applies in these cases as well.
● If meetings between individuals are needed, a pastoral staff member must have knowledge and parents of minors must be informed.
● Because gift giving can be a form of buying silence or loyalty, volunteers are NOT to give gifts or money to individuals without the prior knowledge of parents of minors and pastoral staff.
● Permission to sponsor an activity or event must be given by pastoral staff prior to the activity or event.
SECTION III: Ongoing Education
A) Participants in the Inquirers’ Classes (membership) will receive information regarding the church’s policies about creating a safe place.
B) A brief overview of the policy will be added to the visitor handout as well as to the weekly Beacon.
C) More detailed information about red flags to watch for, mandatory reporting, and other pertinent policy information will be shared through the Beacon at least twice per year in order to raise awareness of the entire congregation.
D) The policy will be posted on the bulletin boards.
E) The designated investigators of allegations will receive training about reporting and documenting allegations of abuse or misconduct.
SECTION IV: GUIDELINES FOR REPORTING SUSPECTED ABUSE
In Indiana, every single adult is what we call a mandated reporter. Anyone who has reason to believe a child (anyone under 18 years old) is the victim of child abuse or neglect MUST make a report. No one is exempt from reporting suspected child abuse or neglect directly to DCS or law enforcement immediately.
The Child Abuse Hotline number is 800-800-5556.
You can do that anonymously in Indiana. It is very important that the person who believes maltreatment is going on be the one who reports. It doesn't mean you can't inform your supervisor (Pastor), and in some cases agencies do have a designated reporter, but it does not absolve the person who has reason to believe from making a report. (See back page of policy for more information.)
Besides contacting DCS (Department of Child Services) or law enforcement, the individual should contact a member of the pastoral team, the board chair, the staff relations committee chair, the education commission chair, or the Director of Christian Education to report the concern of suspected child abuse immediately. After having made the report, the person should not discuss it with anyone other than proper authorities. Appropriate investigation and action will be taken according to established guidelines.
SECTION V: RESPONDING TO ALLEGATIONS
A. The church will take seriously all accusations of abuse or sexual misconduct. The investigation of all allegations will begin as soon as possible but no later than within 10 days and will be documented in writing.
B. Those who may receive an allegation are the pastoral team, the church board chair, the staff relations committee chair, the education commission chair, or the Director of Christian Education. The trained designee will then investigate the allegation.
C. The pastoral staff or designee will contact the proper civil authorities concerning cases of (suspected) child abuse. If the alleged perpetrator is subject to the district ethics committee process, the appropriate district person(s) will be notified.
D. When allegations occur, the pastoral staff or church board chair will seek professional assistance from a local attorney, denominational officials, and our insurance agent. Communication of information will be based on the need to know under the restrictions of qualified privilege.
E. The alleged perpetrator’s responsibility and contact with children, youth, or individuals with diminished mental or physical capacity through church programs will be reviewed and appropriate action taken to ensure that the church is a safe environment.
F. The pastoral team will designate a spokesperson for the congregation in dealing with any allegations of abuse or sexual misconduct. If a member of the pastoral team is not available or is the accused, the chair of the church board will be the designated spokesperson.
Who has a duty to report suspected child abuse or neglect?
In Indiana, any person who has reason to believe that a child is a victim of child abuse or neglect has a duty to make a report to Child Protective Services (CPS) or to the police. "Reason to believe" means that the evidence available to that person, if presented to other individuals of similar background and training, would make those individuals think that the child was abused or neglected.
How do I report suspected child abuse?
If you have reason to believe a child is a victim of abuse or neglect, immediately call the Indiana State Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-800-5556. This number is answered 24-hours a day, seven days a week. If you cannot get through to this number for any reason, call your county's Child Protective Services Office (in the Office of Family and Children) or your local police.
What if I don't report suspected child abuse?
You could be charged with a crime. Any person who fails to report suspected child abuse or neglect may be charged with Failure to Report Child Abuse, a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and up to 180 days in jail.
Can I make my report without telling my name?
Yes- state confidentiality laws protect your identity. Even if Child Protective Services (CPS) decides the child was not abused or neglected, the person you report cannot sue you. However, if you make your report in bad faith (that is, you know that the report is false), you may be charged with a Class A misdemeanor and may be held liable to the person you falsely accused. This does not mean that you must know that your report is accurate. You are only reporting suspected abuse or neglect and the law presumes that all such reports are made in good faith. CPS is responsible for determining whether abuse or neglect has actually occurred. However, you cannot make a report that you know is not true.
What happens after I make my report?
Child Protective Services (CPS) will determine whether child abuse or neglect has actually occurred. If you report that the child is in immediate danger of serious bodily harm, CPS will begin an on-site investigation within one hour. If you report abuse, but not that the child is in immediate danger, CPS will start its investigation within 24 hours. If you report neglect, but not that the child is in immediate danger, CPS will start its investigation within five days.