Step #1. Understand the issue.
- definitions of abuse
- prevalence of abuse
- how and why abuse happens
Step #2: Recognize the vulnerability and resilience of children and youth.
- Identify vulnerable children and youth
- Risk factors
- Resiliency factors
Step #3: Define protection instruments.
- National and provincial laws
- Duty of care and liabilities
Step #4: Create a local Safe Ministries Team (SMT).
The Local SMT has a dual mandate of assisting the church in its reporting duties and of placing the matter of education before the church as often as it can, including the following topics:
- Child abuse (including physical, sexual, emotional abuse and neglect)
- Elder and parent abuse
- Abused men and women (e.g. domestic violence or violence towards men and towards women)
- Abuse of mentally and physically challenged persons
- Violence towards persons who are gay or lesbian
- Date rape and teen dating violence.
- Bullying and harassment
- Internet risks (cyber bullying, pornography, sexual exploitation, maintaining appropriate cyber boundaries)
Step #5. Complete a risk assessment.
“It is important for all organizations to admit that some degree of risk is inevitable in their programs. It is how they handle the risk that is important. To protect themselves in the event of future litigation, organizations must show they are taking reasonable measures to reduce risks." (Volunteer Canada)
- What are the specific risk factors for vulnerable children/youth/adults?
- Where are children/youth and vulnerable adults at particular risk?
- What are the access points where children/youth can be harmed?
- What protective systems exist?
- What protective systems need to be developed to keep children/youth and vulnerable adults safe?
- What support is required to keep children/youth safe?
Step #6: Develop policies and procedures.
Step #7: Educate adults, youth and children about the policies and procedures.
Step #8: Respond to disclosures of violence, abuse, bullying and harassment.
Step #9: Meet the challenges.
Some typical barriers some churches face include:
- Resistance: “Abuse does not happen in our church”
- Lack of awareness and training
- Fear and shame
- Unsure what to do or where to start
- Issue is not prioritized
- Fear of the issue and disclosures
- Overburdened staff and volunteers
- Lack of experience in developing and implementing policies
Step #10: Maintain safe environments.
Review policies every two years.
- Ensure implementation through training and regular refreshers for all personnel
Develop and implement best practices.
- Involve children and youth
- Use the lens of “best interest of the child"
- Recognize that insurance does not equal risk management
- Evaluate progress through reviews and benchmarking
Be a safe church.
- Develop clear messaging
- Nurture an environment of openness and transparency
- Promote safe environments for children/youth to learn, play and grow
- Make your commitment to safe environments visible through posters, brochures, emails, and web sites
Monitor and support volunteers and programs.
- Ensure all personnel understand and acknowledge their responsibilities and role in creating safe environments
- Monitor risk issues, trends and legislation
Build internal capacity.
- Develop abuse awareness within your church
- Liaise with Safe Church Ministry at the classis and denominational levels
- Make use of denominational resources (e.g. abuse awareness Sunday)
Make safe church a priority.
- Build support for creating and maintaining safe environments into every church program
- Celebrate successes