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Safe Church Policy Concerning Abuse Prevention

  • Adopted by the Church Council – October 18, 2008
  • Amended by the Church Council – April 28, 2015

Policy Prohibiting Abuse, Exploitation and Harassment

As a community of Christian faith, Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ 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. **(See Appendix A – Definitions). All persons associated with Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ should be aware that the church is strongly opposed to Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Harassment and that such behavior is prohibited by church policy. It is the intention of the church to take action in an attempt to prevent, document, and/or correct behavior that is contrary to this policy and, if necessary, to report or otherwise discipline those persons who violate this policy.

Ministerial Conduct

Consistent with our understanding of the priesthood of all believers, all Authorized Ministers, employees, elected and appointed lay leaders, and authorized volunteers are Ministers to the congregation.
It is important that every Minister to the church be adequately prepared and educated for the ministry in which they serve others, and to understand the ways in which their use or misuse of authority may impact others.

It is the policy of Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ to encourage its Ministers to nurture safety within Ministerial Relationships by being attentive to self-care, education, maintaining appropriate boundaries, and the importance of referring those in need to supportive and helpful resources.
Additionally, all ordained and non-ordained clergy on staff should attend the boundary training session offered by the Western Reserve Association.

Sexual Exploitation or Sexual Harassment of parishioners or others by anyone engaged in ministry on behalf of Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ is unethical behavior and will not be tolerated within this congregation.

Requirements for Commencing and Continuing Ministry

  • Before beginning their duties, all Ministers will submit a disclosure form similar to the sample attached hereto as Exhibit A.
  • Before beginning their duties, all Ministers will be personally interviewed to assess the suitability of their character and qualifications for the position they seek. The Board of Trustees shall be responsible for coordinating and conducting interviews and training regarding the Safe Church Policy.
  • The church will conduct a registered sex offender review for each Minister by conducting a name search on the Department of Justice website at www.nsopr.gov. This registered sex offender review will be repeated on an annual basis for all Ministers.

Additional Requirements for Child and Youth Ministry

Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ is committed to providing a safe and healthy environment in which young people can learn about and experience God’s love.

In order to promote this, we have established the following guidelines in addition to the general requirements for ministry to the church.

  • We expect that those who volunteer to work with minors will have been members of Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ for at least six months or, if not members, regularly and frequently associated with Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ for at least a year.
  • It is the policy of this church to provide adequate supervision and safeguards for youth activities. In situations where participants are not readily visible to each other, there will be no fewer than two unrelated adults present with children. Youth over the age of 12 may assist an unrelated adult in supervising children and youth activities. For the purposed of this Policy, an “unrelated adult” shall be someone who is not related by blood, marriage, adoption, and who is not in a committed relationship with the other adult.
  • Written consent of one parent or guardian of a minor will be required for all activities off the church property, and any overnight activities.

The Two Person Rule

The children and youth of our congregation, including, but not limited to music, education, fellowship and outreach, shall be under the care and supervision of at least two people, one of whom must be an adult and one who may be a high school aide, as long as there is a five year age separation between the individual and those they supervise. No teacher, advisor, aide or anyone else working with our children or youth should place themselves in a compromising situation by being alone with a child or with children out-of-sight of other teachers, advisors, aides, or parents.

Specific Guidelines for Adult Supervision

Adult leaders of our children and youth function as representatives of the church, and as such will be held to the standards set forth herein. The rules and guidelines of the church must be followed by all leaders at all events, thereby providing appropriate supervision for our children and youth.

Adults are encouraged to remember that they will be providing both supervision and modeling adult Christian behavior for the youth in their care, and should endeavor to see that the example they set is consistent with the value and expectations of our church community.

  • Bathroom Supervision: Anyone who accompanies a child to the bathroom should remain in the hallway outside the bathroom while the child is inside. If a child needs assistance using the restroom, another adult needs to be present in the hallway, with the door ajar. If, for any reason, a teacher or aide is left alone in a classroom, the teacher in the nearest or neighboring classroom should be so informed.
  • Discipline: No child shall be disciplined by the use of spanking, hitting, slapping, or any form of physical punishment. Verbal reprimands shall not include destructive criticism, insult or shouting. Teachers and helpers in the classroom are encouraged to listen to the child and communicate expectations of appropriate behavior. If a child is continually disruptive, a teacher or helper from the class or a neighboring class, the dedicated hall monitor, or church school superintendent may be sent to locate a member of the pastoral staff, who, if necessary, will contact a parent or guardian.
  • Child and Youth Group Activities: No adult leader, staff or volunteer, should initiate or encourage inappropriate contact with children or youth. Setting boundaries is the responsibility of the adults. The Youth Groups are a group ministry, therefore, all participants are expected to sign in with a group leader and remain with the group throughout the activity. No unauthorized pairing, or otherwise separating off from the group to other parts of the building or grounds is permitted. Parents, or their designated representative, must pick up youth promptly at the end of any event. Avoid situations where one adult and one child or youth are left at the facility waiting to be picked up. Adults in charge must stay until all children and youth have been picked up.
  • Overnight Rule: All adult chaperones supervising overnight stays at our facilities or on congregational sponsored trips shall have gone through background check. Following the adult/youth ratio, at least two adult males will dorm with boys and at least two adult females with girls. Should these adults be spouses/partners, a third adult advisor is to be present. A signed permission slip is required, which lists the names of the advisors to be present. Parents/guardians should be notified of any last minute substitutes or additional advisors.
  • Youth Members of Boards and Committees: No youth member of a Board, Committee, Subcommittee, or Task Force, shall be in attendance at a meeting with less than two adult members present, or the youth’s parent/guardian.
  • Drugs, Tobacco, Alcohol, Weapons: The use of any drugs, tobacco, alcohol, or weapons on or in congregation facilities or at congregation-sponsored events is strictly prohibited, except beer and wine served according to the Church Beer and Wine Policy.
  • Transportation: Transportation for off-site activities must be provided by staff and adult leaders with a minimum age of 21. Drivers must provide a copy of driver’s license and proof of insurance. Each driver must have the consent forms of those under their supervision with them. Each vehicle should have some form of communication (cell phone, two-way radio, etc.) in order to stay in contact with other adults on the trip. Two unrelated adults should be present in each vehicle at all times when minors are being transported.
  • Visitor Awareness: All youth volunteers shall be aware of who is in and around their activities, and shall bring any concerns to the attention of the program leader, dedicated hall monitor, or member of the pastoral staff.
  • Reporting Responsibilities: Any known or suspected inappropriate conduct or relationship between an adult worker and a child or youth shall be immediately reported to the Senior Minister. If the alleged abuser is the Senior Minister, report the allegation to the chairperson of the Response Team.

Procedures for Handling Complaints of Sexual Exploitation or Harassment

I. For incidents occurring within the church:

A. Steps for First Respondent:

  1. Immediately document all activity involved in handling the incident on an Incident Report Form: note date, time, persons involved as well as the content of what was done. All documentation will be held confidential.
  2. Immediately notify the Senior Minister or the chair of the Response Team (see below), who will then notify the Response Team of any suspected misconduct or allegations of misconduct.

B. Response Team:

The Board of Trustees shall be responsible for creating a Response Team which shall be a standing committee under the Board of Trustees and shall be comprised of two members of the Board of Trustees (one of whom shall be the chair of Trustees), with gender parity, and includes a member of the Board of Christian Education, a member of the Pastoral Relations Committee, and the Senior Pastor, will be established each year in preparation for the possibility of hearing complaints under this policy. The Response Team will be familiar with the terms of this policy, as well as the established procedures of the church for dealing with a complaint.

The following steps will be taken in addressing incidents of alleged sexual exploitation or harassment:

  1. Once an incident report form has been completed the Response Team will initiate formal proceedings which shall include the following steps:
  2. Contact the parents/guardians of the alleged complainant.
  3. Notify proper authorities as necessary. Contact Cuyahoga County Children and Family Services: (216) 696-KIDS (216-696-5437).
  4. Inform the accused of the accusation and provide an escort off of church property. Ensure that no potential incriminating evidence is removed from the property or taken by the accused.

In addition to the above the Response Team should:

  1. Document all actions, follow-up, correspondence, and interviews.
  2. Take steps to immediately comply with all state laws.
  3. Obtain legal counsel.
  4. Give full cooperation to authorities with the guidance of legal counsel. It is suggested an attorney be present while any investigative questions from the police or applicable agencies are being answered by anyone.
  5. Meet as soon as possible to determine a short-term course of action regarding either administrative leave, temporary suspension of duties, and/or temporary relief from volunteer responsibilities until the allegations are dismissed or substantiated. In the event this cannot take place in a timely fashion, the Senior Minister (or in his or her absence an Associate Minister or Church Council Moderator) may act immediately.
  6. Consider the need to inform other parents/guardians of children with whom the accused may have had contact after authorities have been notified and after obtaining the advice of legal counsel.
  7. No interview or statements should be made to any media outlets or representatives without the guidance and direction of legal counsel.
  8. Consult with legal counsel and the Church Moderator as to possible disclosure of events and persons to the congregation. Until such time as legal counsel and the Church Moderator authorize disclosure, no discussion should occur outside Church Council or the Response Team. The Moderator shall address this issue with Church Council in executive session only. Any individuals or family members involved in the accusation should recuse himself/herself from these executive sessions.
  9. If the accused employee or volunteer is an authorized minister (i.e., holds ordained ministerial standing or has been commissioned or licensed by an association of the United Church of Christ) the Risk Management Committee shall inform the appropriate body of the wider United Church of Christ (i.e., conference minister, association committee on the ministry) of the allegation. Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ will cooperate fully in any procedures of the United Church of Christ related to the person’s ministerial authorization while retaining the right and responsibility to employ or designate leadership within Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ as it determines best.

II. For child abuse/neglect concerns not having to do with the church:

A. Apart from any legal requirements, the Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ will make a report to appropriate authorities, including but not limited to the Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services), if at any time the church has reasonable cause to believe that a minor may be an abused or neglected child. Any Minister of the church who becomes aware of facts or circumstances that child abuse or neglect has occurred or that there exists a substantial risk that child abuse or neglect may occur in the reasonably foreseeable future shall immediately report the matter to the Senior Minister and Moderator so that the church may take appropriate action in a timely manner. The Ohio Child Abuse Hotline currently is: 1-800-244-5373 and 216-696-KIDS (5437).

Appendix A:

Definitions

Sexual Exploitation: Sexual activity or contact (not limited to sexual intercourse) in which an employee/volunteer 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 employee/volunteer.

Sexual Harassment: Repeated or coercive sexual advances toward another person contrary to his or her wishes. It includes behavior directed at another person with the intent of intimidating, humiliating, or embarrassing the other person, or subjecting the person to public discrimination. Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when:

  • Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition or circumstance of instruction, employment, or participation in any church activity.
  • Submission to, or rejection of, such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for evaluation in making personnel or church-related decisions affecting an individual; or
  • Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s performance or participation in church activities or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work or church environment.
  • Prohibited sexual harassment includes unsolicited and unwelcome contact that has sexual overtones, particularly:
  • Written contact, such as sexually suggestive or obscene letters, notes, e-mails, or invitations
  • Verbal contact, such as sexually suggestive or obscene comments, threats, slurs, epithets, jokes about gender-specific traits, sexual propositions
  • Physical contact, such as intentional touching, pinching, brushing against another’s body, impeding or blocking movement, assault, coercing sexual intercourse
  • Visual contact, such as leering or staring at another’s body, gesturing, displaying sexually suggestive objects or pictures, cartoons, posters, or magazines.

Exhibit A:

Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ Authorized Volunteer Application and Disclosure Form can be accessed at the church office.

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