According to Robertson Hall Insurance Inc., the following seven items are generally acknowledged by experts as essential elements in establishing an effective formal abuse prevention plan.
1. STATEMENT OF POLICY
Insurance companies generally require formally approved, implemented and periodically reviewed policy under the direction of your board members. “It should confirm your organization’s commitment to providing a safe environment for children and declare zero tolerance for abuse, harassment or neglect committed by any children’s or youth ministry worker, including employees, members and volunteers,” explains the Robertson Hall Abuse Prevention Newsletter.
Your church requires a definition of abuse and related issues so that all of your workers will clearly understand and be able to identify unacceptable behavior, including:
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Child neglect
- Improper touching or discipline
Robertson Hall advises screening all children’s and youth workers to a degree that is appropriate with their interaction with minors in your organization’s care. Robertson Hall notes: “Screening should also apply to personnel who have management authority and power over other staff with respect to career advancement and performance review in order to discourage harassment.”
4. OPERATIONAL PROCEDURES
Each church should have operational procedures clearly outlined in a written manual, which summarizes guidelines for preventing abuse and harassment.
Churches should make modifications or alterations to facilities which can assist in preventing and discouraging abuse incidents, including:
- Windows in classroom doors and/or open door policy for Sunday School and boys’ and girls’ clubs
- Designated monitors circulating periodically from room to room for surveillance and to protect against false allegations
- Controlled access/entry and signing infants and pre-Grade 1 age children in and out of sponsored activities
- Adequate lighting inside and outside of building where children’s activities take place
- Appropriate design of washroom and shower facilities and/or appropriate supervision of washroom breaks
- Locking rooms and closets when not in use during children’s programs
Training in abuse prevention should be provided to all staff members and volunteers who regularly work with children and youth.
Churches need to respond to all allegations or complaints of abuse in an appropriate manner, including the appointment of individual(s) designated to respond to allegations.