for Safe Ministry Practices
for Church Members
Original policy approved by Congregation Council on November 23, 2010
Definition of “minor” and “adult” modified, approved by Congregation Council, April 23, 2013.
Policy reviewed and updated by committee, approved by Congregation Council, April 26, 2021.
Child and Youth Protection Policy
- Points to Consider: The following list has been used to guide our policy needs for the protection of minors in all programming at Grace Lutheran Church (GLC).
- We check references for all paid staff, including clergy, who have contact with minors.
- We check references of designated volunteers who will work with minors.
- We conduct criminal background checks of paid staff and designated volunteers who work with minors.
- We train designated volunteers and paid staff members who work with minors to understand the nature of child abuse and methods of abuse prevention.
- We train designated volunteers and paid staff members who work with minors in how to carry out our policies to prevent abuse.
- Our paid staff and volunteers are informed of state law requirements regarding child abuse and our responsibility for reporting incidents.
- We have a reporting procedure for a suspected incident of child abuse that follows the requirements of our state law.
- We have insurance coverage available in case a child abuse complaint occurs.
- We have a defined response plan to be implemented in case an allegation of child abuse is made against someone in our organization.
- We take our policies to prevent child abuse seriously, and we are committed to their enforcement for the safety and security of all of our children.
To help protect children, GLC has adopted the following Child and Youth Abuse Prevention Policy. It is important that all GLC paid staff and volunteers understand and implement these Policies to help prevent abuse against children. The following includes the Purpose and Definitions for these Policies, the outlines of Protection and Prevention, and an Acknowledgement to be signed by those people working with children.
- These procedures are designed to reduce the risk of child abuse in order to:
- Provide a safe and secure environment for children, youth, adults, members, volunteers, visitors, and paid staff.
- Assist GLC in evaluating a person’s suitability to supervise, oversee, and/or exert control over the activities of children and youth.
- Satisfy the concerns of parents and staff members with a screening process for paid staff and volunteers.
- Provide a system to respond to alleged victims of sexual abuse and their families, as well as the alleged perpetrator.
- Reduce the possibility of false accusations of abuse made against volunteers and paid staff.
The following terms used herein and are defined as follows:
- Paid Staff: Any pastor, minister, youth director, or employee who is paid.
- Children/Youth/Minor: Children are minors who are fifth graders or younger. Youth are minors who have completed the fifth grade. Minors are any person who has not reached his/her 21st birthday.
- Adult: Any person who has reached his/her 21st birthday.
- Volunteer: Any unpaid person engaged in or involved in activities with minors.
- Designated Volunteer: Any unpaid adult who directly oversees and/or exerts control or oversight over minors. (Examples: Sunday School Teachers, Nursery Volunteers, Chaperones for trips, Confirmation Mentors and Group Guides)
- Sexual Abuse: The employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of any minor or adult to engage in, or assist any other person to engage in, any sexually explicit conduct or any simulation of such conduct for the purpose of producing any visual depiction of such conduct or rape, and in cases of caretaker or inter-familial relationships, statutory rape, molestation, prostitution, or other form of sexual exploitation of minor or adult, or incest with a minor or adult, or as defined by federal and state law. This includes and is not limited to unwelcome sexual remarks, jokes, advances, leering, whistling, or sexual gestures; sexual touching, fondling, molestation, assault, or other intimate physical contact; compelling another person to engage in a sexual act by threats or fear or undue influence; and providing or displaying pornographic materials to another person.
- Emotional Abuse of Minors: Verbal or nonverbal conduct including mental exploitation, degrading communication, or humiliating or threatening conduct that may or may not include bullying or as defined by state law.
- Physical abuse: Is inflicted by other than accidental means and may include cuts, bruises, broken bones, burns, or internal injuries.
- Sexual Offender: A person whose crime is considered a sexual offense as defined by state law.
Staff Screening Procedures
Covered under the Personnel Policy of GLC.
Designated Volunteer Screening Procedures:
The following screening procedures are to be used with Designated Volunteers. All information collected should be maintained in confidence.
First-Time Designated Volunteer Application and Screening: Members of GLC wishing to serve as Designated Volunteers for the first time must complete and sign the First-Time Designated Volunteer Application. Our First-Time Designated Volunteer Application includes questions regarding:
- Current address.
- Volunteer experience
- Criminal history information.
- Personal references.
- Other personal information
- Applications include a statement, which the applicant should acknowledge in writing, certifying that statements provided in the application are true and complete, and any misrepresentation or omission may be grounds for rejection of the applicant. This statement authorizes GLC to contact any individual or organization listed in the application.
- Application should also require that applicants notify GLC of any changes to the information they provide.
- The Senior Pastor will review all statements made in the application.
- The Senior Pastor will conduct interviews with qualified applicants as appropriate. Whenever possible, another adult member of GLC participate in the interview.
- If detrimental information is uncovered but the applicant remains desirable, discuss this information with the applicant. In the event the applicant is ultimately hired or accepted as a volunteer, document the reasons for overriding the prior information.
- The Senior Pastor or designee will contact all listed references and ask for any information that might help determine the applicant’s suitability for the position. If a response is not received within a reasonable period of time, follow up and keep notes if possible.
Our Designated Volunteer Update Procedure:
- Training: At the direction of the Boards of Youth and Family Ministry and Education, every 3 – 5 years, all Designated Volunteers will be required to review and sign the Child and Youth Abuse Prevention Policy Acknowledgement (see Appendix I) and have a new criminal background check done.
- Criminal Background Checks: GLC will conduct a criminal background check on all Designated Volunteers using the Designated Volunteer Update Application. At minimum, the background check will include a multi-state criminal background check, a national sex offender registry check, an alias search, and a social security number trace.
- Confidentiality: Information obtained through the screening, application, reference check, interview, and criminal background check will be kept in confidence, unless otherwise required by law. All information discovered or obtained through the above referenced means will be kept in a secure location and access to it will be restricted. These materials will be archived.
- Supervision: Unless an extenuating situation exists, GLC will have adequate number of screened and trained paid staff and/or designated volunteers present at events involving minors. Supervision will increase in proportion to the risk of the activity and age of the participants.
- To the extent possible, GLC events that are co-educational will have both male and female chaperones.
- The goal for supervision is that no one adult should ever be alone with one child or youth.
- GLC will use the Two Adult Rule that requires two Designated Volunteers to be present at every function and in each classroom, vehicle, or other enclosed area during all activities involving children, youth or vulnerable adults.
- When the Two Adult Rule cannot be supported and the children are younger than five years old, supervision policies and procedures should require at least two volunteers with one being a Designated Volunteer or an employee.
- When the Two Adult Rule cannot be supported and the children are five years old and older, then at least three individuals (at least one being an employee or Designated Volunteer) must be present. This is commonly referred to as the “Rule of Three.”
In the following situations, it may be acceptable for one Designated Volunteer to supervise:
- Confirmation mentoring or other one-on-one conversations, but only in an area visible to other people.
- Bathroom Use: Children age 3 and older may be go to the bathroom by themselves if a GLC staff member or a Designated Volunteer is monitoring the hallway where the bathroom is located to ensure
- that the hallway is safe,
- that only one child at a time from a classroom may be allowed to go to the bathroom,
- that another child cannot be allowed to leave a classroom to use the bathroom until the previous child has returned,
- and that building exits are effectively monitored so children sent to the bathroom return to their classrooms and do not leave the building.
3. If this plan is not acceptable to parents, they will be contacted to accompany their children to the bathroom as needed.
Supervision ratio recommendations:
Ages 0 – 4:
- 2 adults for 1 – 6 children; 1 additional adult to 1 – 6 additional children.
Kindergarten – 6th Grade:
- 1 adult to 2 – 6 children; 1 adult to 1 – 6 additional children.
- Activities in unconfined areas: 2 adults to 6 youth; 1 additional adult to 1 – 6 additional children.
Grades 7 – 10:
- Activities in confined and unconfined areas: 1 adult to 2 – 6 youth; 1 additional adult to 1 – 6 additional children.
- Total group still needs 2 adults for 6 youth. 1 additional adult to 1 – 6 additional children.
- Overnights: 1 adult to 6 youth. Genders must sleep in separate areas. Youth will be supervised in sleeping areas. One adult and one youth should not share sleeping accommodations (room, bed, tent) unless they are immediate family.
There should be no one on one correspondence (social media, phone calls) between GLC Staff or any volunteers and minors unless every contact includes a prior notification or a CC to the minor’s parents and/or another member of GLC staff.
Deviations from these guidelines must be noted on permission slips.
Release from classes/activities:
- Pre-School Students – 3rd Grade Students: Designated Volunteers must release pre-school students from classes/activities to previously approved family members/guardians from a pre-determined area.
- Grades 4 – 6: Designated Volunteers must release children in this age group to previously approved family members/guardians to a pre-determined area.
- Grades 7 – 12: release from classes/activities must be supervised by one Designated Volunteer or GLC staff person.
GLC requires Permission Forms and Consent to Treat Forms for every activity and outing.
- Drivers for youth activities must be at least 21 years of age.
- One adult and one unrelated minor must never be alone in a vehicle unless a permission slip has been signed by a parent or guardian allowing the minor to travel alone with the adult.
- GLC must verify that drivers have a valid driver’s license.
- If drivers are using their own vehicle, they must present evidence of current automobile liability insurance equal to or above the minimum level for the state of Wisconsin.
- When seat belts are available, their use on GLC trips is mandatory.
All volunteers and GLC staff will observe the following guidelines:
- Do not provide alcoholic beverages, tobacco, drugs, contraband, or anything that is prohibited by law to minors.
- Inappropriate touching is never acceptable.
- Never engage in physical discipline, physical abuse, verbal/mental abuse, emotional abuse, and/or sexual abuse of any kind.
- Inappropriate relationships developing between minors and adults will be referred to the Designated Volunteer and to the GLC staff member supervising the activity.
- Observation of abuse of a minor will be reported immediately to the proper authorities and to the Senior Pastor.
- No person shall be a volunteer or Designated Volunteer for programming for minors at GLC who is known to have been convicted of the offenses outlined below, been on a probated sentence or received deferred adjudication for any offense outlined below, or is known to have any pending criminal charges for any offense outlined below until a determination of guilt or innocence has been made. The following are the disqualifying offenses:
- Any offense against minors as defined by state law.
- A misdemeanor or felony offense as defined by state law that is classified as sexual assault, indecency with a minor or adult, assault of a minor or adult, injury to a minor or adult, abandoning or endangering a minor, sexual assault of a minor or adult, possession or promoting child pornography, enticing a minor, bigamy, incest, drug related offenses, or family violence.
- A prior criminal history of an offense against minors.
Sexual Offenders at GLC:
GLC may allow a person known to be a sexual offender as defined by WI Statue 301.45 (see Appendix II) to remain or become a member of the congregation, but they must adhere to specific guidelines.
- A known sexual offender cannot participate in any of the child or youth programs in any way.
- A known sexual offender can only attend predetermined worship services each week as established by the Senior Pastor.
Response to Sexual Abuse
GLC will respond promptly to investigate any accusation of sexual abuse. All accusations will be taken seriously.
- When an allegation is made involving sexual abuse, the person reporting the complaint is to be told about the guidelines and the procedures to be followed. Then the Senior Pastor will:
- Report the incident to appropriate authorities in accordance with the state mandatory reporting laws.
- Report the matter to the Congregation President and Council.
- Report the matter to GLC’s insurance carrier.
- Communicate with criminal and civil legal counsel of GLC especially for advice about reporting to the congregation or responding to the media.
- During the investigation, a pastor or interim pastor of GLC shall maintain contact with the alleged victim(s) and alleged perpetrator and/or their parents or legal guardian.
- If a rostered employee is the individual accused of sexual abuse, then the Bishop of the Synod shall be notified by the Council President, and the Bishop will conduct the investigation.