Abuse Prevention: Policies Are Just the First Step

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In their Abuse Prevention Newsletter for Churches and Christian Organizations, Robertson Hall Insurance Inc. notes that "churches and Christian charities have come a long way in implementing effective abuse prevention plans to protect the children, youth and vulnerable adults in their care and protecting their workers from false allegations."The insurer notes that, among their clients, the number of churches with formal written prevention plans has increased from less than 10% in 1996, to over 75% in 2011.

That's good news, but the same newsletter highlights a disturbing trend: churches that have implemented policies but then have become careless in maintaining them. Robertson Hall emphasizes the importance of churches staying vigilant about abuse prevention. This calls for policies that are kept up-to-date and maintained faithfully. 

Abuse can and does happen in churches. "The fact that we as insurance providers are now aware of over 50 cases of individual or multiple abuse within evangelical Christian circles in Canada is a sad reminder of this reality," the insurer states. The newsletter quotes Bob Harvey, from Faith Today, who writes, "Churches are natural targets for sexual predators. Th have large numbers of children, a shortage of willing workers, and a culture of trust ... What is really needed is a healthy suspicion of human frailty, our own as well as others."

The focus of the newsletter is to help churches not only write their initial policy but maintain active abuse prevention programs, programs that ensure regular screening, education, training and ongoing support for leaders takes place.

The newsletter features case studies that reveal important tenets of a good abuse prevention program, including:

  • The importance of screening ALL volunteers and staff.
  • The importance of sufficient and mature supervision.
  • The role of leader guidelines for appropriate and inappropriate physical interactions with minors.
  • The importance of keeping screening and other documentation on file indefinitely for children's and youth programs and ministries.
  • The need for caution by church and charity leaders in sponsoring or co-sponsoring programs and ministries over which they have no real authority or control.

Finally, the newsletter provides a list of excellent resources to support churches in developing policies and maintaining safe churches. Check out this valuable online resource. It is definitely worth a read.

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