As individuals called to convey God’s love to children and youth (defined as minors under the age of 18) and develop trusting, nurturing relationships with them, we recognize the great responsibility we as members of Forest Hill Presbyterian Church (hereafter referred to FHPC) have to be accountable before God, our church, and our community for the safety and wellbeing of the children and youth we serve. We recognize that specific guidelines will help us in this ministry, and we agree to maintain the following standards for interaction with children and youth. Thus, failure to adhere to these guidelines and standards by any employee or volunteer working with children and youth at FHPC, including the children at FHPC Child Care Center (hereafter referred to as the “CCC”), may result in disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal from their position of employment or volunteer service. However, nothing in this Child Protection Policy and Procedures (hereafter referred to as the “Policy”) or in any other document or statement shall limit the CCC’s right to terminate any employee or volunteer.
The focus of this Policy is:
- To provide safe and secure environments for children and youth in our care.
- To protect children and youth from any incident or conduct that might cause physical, emotional, spiritual or sexual harm while participating in activities at FHPC.
- To provide parameters in the required conduct of FHPC employees and volunteers with the goal of preventing incidents of abuse or which might lead to allegations of abuse.
- To provide procedures to address reported concerns and to take appropriate subsequent actions
Components of this Policy
This Policy addresses five components of child and youth protection:
- Screening and selection of applicants for employment and volunteer service to rule out any record of prior abusive behavior.
- Training and supervising of employees and volunteers.
- Reporting allegations and concerns regarding child protection issues.
- Responding to allegations and concerns that have been reported.
- Code of Conduct for all individuals, both employees and volunteers.
A. Screening and Selection of Workers
All prospective employees and volunteers shall complete the “Screening of Employees and Volunteers to Work with Children and Youth Acknowledgement and Authorization Form.” All employees and volunteers shall be screened before working with children and youth at FHPC per licensing requirements. Each employee has a job description that clearly defines the qualifications and responsibilities of the position and provides a basis for recruitment, screening, training, supervision, and evaluation.
- Employees: Before hiring any paid worker for a position FHPC shall:
- Ensure the applicant is at least 18 years of age;
- Obtain a completed employment application;
- Consent to a criminal records check, to be renewed every year
- Ensure that they have completed required child sexual abuse training and file certificate of completion with FHPC;
- Arrange for a committee interview of the applicant;
- Explain this policy in a scheduled training session and have the applicant complete and sign the Acknowledgement and Authorization Form confirming their understanding and receipt of this Policy;
- Contact the applicant’s three character references and document responses.
- Volunteers: Before assigning a volunteer as a teacher, leader, or caretaker of children and youth FHPC shall:
- Interview the volunteer;
- Explain this policy in a scheduled training session or individually, and obtain a completed/signed Acknowledgement and Authorization Form confirming their understanding and receipt of this Policy;
- Ensure that they have completed mandatory child sexual abuse training and file certificate of completion with FHPC;
- Confirm membership or active participation in FHPC for at least six months or secure a reference from a supervisor at the volunteer’s most recent church for programs other than the CCC.
- Attain Session approval for any urgent volunteer need.
It is the responsibility of each employee and volunteer covered by this Policy to report immediately any subsequent arrest, conviction, treatment or proceeding that would have been required to be disclosed on the Acknowledgement and Authorization Form. Failure to report shall be considered a violation of this Policy.
B. Training and Supervising Workers for the CCC
(*see pages 7-8 for Training and Supervising Workers for additional children and youth programs at FHPC)
These practices shall be followed in an effort to prevent any child abuse from occurring:
- Conduct Child Protection Policy and Procedures training annually.
- Adult supervision: A two-adult policy is required. Staffing schedules will be made so that there is never only one adult supervising only one child. Adults must remain in sight of one another at all times except in emergency situations. When one adult is left alone in the classroom with a student, the director or other staff member will be made aware, the door will remain open and the teacher will be in plain view of the door.
- Adults are to avoid being in a one-child, one-adult situation.
- Toileting children: bathroom stall doors are to remain open when the teacher is assisting a student. Doors to the children’s bathroom are to remain open at all times. Changing tables will be located in the classrooms.
- Report Suspicious Behavior: Any inappropriate conduct or relationships between adult workers and children must be reported immediately to the Director. If the behavior involves the Director, then the report should be made to the FHPC CCC Committee.
- Adhere to FHPC Media and Publication Policies – In order to guarantee privacy, no minor will have their name, picture, art, written work, voice, verbal statements, or portraits (video or still) appear in FHPC publications, videos, or on FHPC websites without an FHPC Publication Release Form signed by the minor’s parent or legal guardian. No staff members, volunteers, or church workers are to store photos or videos of minors on their personal devices.
C. Reporting Obligations
All employees and volunteers working with children at FHPC are considered to be Mandated Reporters and are trained in this area. Mandated reporters are certain persons who are identified in the Code of Virginia as having a legal responsibility to report suspected abuse, neglect and exploitation. The purpose of mandated reporting is to identify suspected abused and neglected children or vulnerable adults as soon as possible so that they can be protected from further harm.
- An effective reporting system is essential to prevent child abuse. Those likely to harm children are less likely to remain in a church where workers are trained to spot symptoms of child abuse and report suspicious activities to church authorities. Similarly, church staff should take all reports seriously and treat each with care and discretion.
- Pursuant to this Policy, any staff member, worker (paid or volunteer), teacher, aid, or other adult participant in any Forest Hill Presbyterian sponsored program involving children or youth must report any incident, activity, behavior or evidence noticed that reasonably appears to indicate that child abuse has occurred or may occur in any program associated with Forest Hill Presbyterian Church. Persons making reports will not be identified, without their permission, except as necessary in connection with any potential or pending legal action or criminal investigation.
- Any person (employee or volunteer) who has reasonable cause to suspect that abuse has occurred is required by Virginia law to immediately report the incident to one of the following positions:
- CCC Director
- CCC Committee Chairperson
- Stewardship Committee Chairperson
- Worship Committee Chairperson
- The Pastor will be notified and will convene a Response Team consisting of:
- The Pastor (Head of Staff);
- Two members of Session;
- The CCC Director (if the report is about the CCC).
D. Response to Allegations
Those making a report of incident should adhere to the following:
- Secure the safety of the child, children, or youth involved, if possible
- Do not confront the accused abuser
- Be prepared to cooperate fully with the investigation conducted
Once a report has been received, the Pastor and or CCC Director shall:
- Notify the parents/legal guardians of the child, children, or youth, and take any necessary steps to assure the safety of the child, children, or youth until the parent or family member arrives. The safety of the suspected victim must be the church’s primary concern.
- Immediately remove the accused abuser from further involvement with children
- Contact the appropriate civil authorities, and if indicated abide by the guidance of the Book of Order of the Presbyterian Church, USA;
- Document all matters related to the reported incident
- Care for the victim and not hold them responsible in any way;
- Select a spokesperson to handle inquiries in a discrete, informed and diplomatic way;
- Report the incident to our insurance carrier, if indicated;
- Handle the matter as promptly, thoroughly and discreetly as possible with due respect for privacy and confidentiality;
- Take all allegations seriously;
- Grant full cooperation to church and civil authorities.
Once a report has been received, the Response Team shall make a confidential report of the incident to the entire session, and continue confidential reports to session following each meeting of the Response Team.
Both the victim and the accused shall be treated fairly and with dignity. The care and safety of the children and youth is the highest priority. The accused shall not be confronted until the victim’s safety has been ensured. As soon as a report is made, the accused shall be temporarily removed from their duties pending resolution of the matter. Paid workers may be suspended with or without pay.
E. Code of Conduct for CCC employees and volunteers
(*see pages 8-9 for Code of Conduct for workers with additional children and youth programs at FHPC)
- CCC employees and volunteers will not verbally, emotionally, physically or sexually abuse children.
- CCC employees and volunteers will respect the rights of children and youth not to be touched in ways that make them feel uncomfortable, and respect their right to say “no.”
- Adults will discourage children from touching others in an inappropriate manner. 4. CCC employees and volunteers should be alert to the physical and emotional state of children. Any signs of injury or possible child abuse must be reported to the Director who will report it to CPS.
- CCC employees and volunteers should release children only to the authorized parent, guardian, or other individual authorized in writing by the parent or guardian.
- Using, possessing, or being under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs, or being impaired by legally prescribed drugs during working hours is prohibited.
- Smoking is not allowed on the church premises. Smoking or use of tobacco during working hours is prohibited.
- Profanity, inappropriate language or jokes, and any kind of harassment in the presence of children or parents are prohibited.
- CCC employees and volunteers will not share inappropriate details of their personal life or ask children to share inappropriate details through any form of communication–written, verbal or electronic.
- Because gift-giving can be a form of “buying” silence or loyalty, gift-giving must be done on a group basis and for specific occasions only (e.g. birthdays, holidays, behavior rewards, 4 year old graduation). CCC employees and volunteers are not allowed to give gifts to individual children.
- CCC employees and volunteers will be required to read, sign, and adhere to the FHPC Photo & Media Policy.
Members with Criminal Convictions
We believe in God’s grace and second chances, along with accountability and healthy boundaries. In the event that someone who’s previously committed a violent crime or a crime against a child or youth becomes a member of the congregation, they shall disclose their status and terms of probation to the Pastor or Head of Staff, and the Session shall establish appropriate boundaries, in writing, governing the life of the individual within the congregation. In no instance, however, shall a person who has been convicted of child abuse be permitted to work or volunteer with children or youth at FHPC.
This policy is intended to assure families and those working with children and youth at FHPC that we will not tolerate child abuse in any form–physical, emotional, spiritual, or sexual. We hope that this Policy will assure a safe, loving, and welcoming experience for all children and youth attending FHPC and will reflect the spirit of the ministry of Jesus Christ.
*B. Training and Supervising Workers for children and youth programs at FHPC other than the CCC
These practices will be followed in an effort to prevent any child abuse from occurring:
- Conduct Child Protection Policy and Procedures training annually: At least once a year workers with children and youth shall be required to review this Policy and attend a training session.
- Adult supervision: Only adults will supervise all church-sponsored programs and activities involving children and youth whether on or off campus. A two-adult policy is required for all overnight and off-campus events. If a two-adult policy is required, adults must remain in sight of one another at all times except in emergency situations. Under no circumstances can one adult alone take or accompany children or youth on an overnight outing.
- Adults are to avoid being in a one-child, one-adult situation. This rule can be eased if other adults are close by and can monitor activities at all times. For example, it is permissible for one adult driver to transport several children and youth in a single vehicle in a convoy of vehicles traveling to or from an event. If it is necessary to take a child home after an event, an effort should be made to contact the family and inform them of the situation before transporting the child.
- While recognizing that some meetings, such as those between prospective confirmands and their mentors, may be enhanced by private conversation, it is recommended that these conversations take place within sight of others (pairs of people scattered in a room, or in a public place). Pastoral counseling sessions with a minor should be held in a place where they are in view of others (open door or door with a glass window). Parental consent and notification of the program supervisor is advised in any situation where an adult worker will be alone with a minor, except in Pastoral counseling sessions where privacy is requested by the minor.
- Schedule adequate supervision: Adult supervision should be maintained before and after events until all children are in the custody of their parents or another responsible adult with the parent’s permission. In the case of Youth Group activities, when students may drive or carpool to the activity, adult leaders will remain at the site of the church sponsored event until the last youth leaves.
- Approve overnight chaperones: All chaperones for overnight activities must be approved in advance by the responsible staff person and be in compliance with this policy.
- Return children to parents: A system will be engaged to assure that only the parents or their assigns are able to claim young children from the nursery or church school classes for children under the third grade.
- Report suspicious behavior: Any inappropriate conduct or relationships between adult workers and children or members of youth groups must be reported immediately in accordance with the reporting procedures outlined below.
- Adhere to FHPC Media and Publication Policies – In order to guarantee privacy, no minor will have their name, picture, art, written work, voice, verbal statements, or portraits (video or still) appear in FHPC publications, videos, or on FHPC websites without an FHPC Publication Release Form signed by the minor’s parent or legal guardian. No staff members are to store photos or videos on their personal devices.
*E. Code of Conduct for workers with children and youth programs at FHPC other than the CCC
- Forest Hill Presbyterian Church (FHPC) employees and volunteers will not verbally, emotionally, physically or sexually abuse children.
- FHPC employees and volunteers will not discipline children by use of physical punishment or by failing to provide the necessities of care.
- FHPC employees and volunteers may use physical restraint only in situations necessary to protect the child or others from harm.
- FHPC employees and volunteers will provide proper supervision and exercise sound judgment in providing a safe environment at all times.
- FHPC employees and volunteers will avoid situations during FHPC programs where they would be alone with a single child and cannot be observed or monitored by others. FHPC employees and volunteers are expected to uphold visibility, keeping in view of others (open door or door with a glass window), in their interaction with children and youth at all times except in emergency situations.
- If FHPC employees and volunteers are assisting younger children, doors to the facility must remain open.
- FHPC employees and volunteers will respect the rights of children and youth not to be touched in ways that make them feel uncomfortable, and their right to say “no.” Adults will discourage children from touching others in an inappropriate manner.
- FHPC employees and volunteers should be alert to the physical and emotional state of children. Any signs of injury or possible child abuse must be reported to the appropriate program director who will report to the Head of Staff or the Director of Church Administration.
- FHPC employees and volunteers should release children only to the authorized parent, guardian, or other individual authorized in writing by the parent or guardian.
- Using, possessing, or being under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs, or being impaired by legally prescribed drugs during church working hours or church-sponsored programs, is prohibited.
- Smoking and vaping are not allowed on the church premises and are prohibited during church programs.
- Profanity, inappropriate language or jokes, and any kind of harassment in the presence of children or parents are prohibited.
- FHPC employees and volunteers will not share inappropriate details of their personal life or ask children to share inappropriate details through any form of communication–written, verbal or electronic.
- FHPC employees and adult volunteers may not date program participants under 18 years of age.
- Because gift-giving can be a form of “buying” silence or loyalty, gift-giving must be done on a group basis and for specific occasions only (e.g. baptism, 3rd grade Bibles, confirmation, graduation). FHPC employees and volunteers are not allowed to give gifts to individual children or youth without the prior knowledge and permission of the child or youth’s parents(s) and the appropriate program director.
- FHPC employees and volunteers are required to read, sign, and adhere to the Policy and Procedures related to identifying, documenting, and reporting child abuse, and attend training sessions on the subject as instructed by a supervisor.
- FHPC employees and volunteers will be required to read, sign, and adhere to the FHPC Photo & Media Policy.