Bethel Baptist Church Children’s/Youth Ministry

Child Protection Policy

Purpose

To help Bethel Baptist Church provide a caring, safe, and secure environment for children in all phases of ministry life.

To help Bethel Baptist Church reduce its legal risk and liability exposure, by having prevention and reporting procedures in place, and by training ministry personnel in those procedures.

Biblical Foundation

Bethel Baptist Church seeks to express God’s love of children and provide for their personal wholeness. This caring ministry seeks to prevent our children and youth from facing child abuse in any form. We also seek to minister to victims of abuse, the accused, and their families. The Bible is foundation to our beliefs and understanding, upon which all policies, procedures and ministries must stand.

“And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.” (Mark 10:13-16)

“And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offences! For it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!” (Matthew 18:5-7)

Our goal in response to these Biblical mandates is to maintain a loving, safe, secure facility where children may grow. We want to maintain an environment in which leaders, teachers, and care-givers (both paid and volunteer) can minister appropriately to the children’s needs.

Child Protection Policy

The incidence of child abuse cuts across all racial, social, economic, and religious classifications. Children are sometimes victimized by individuals they know and trust. Church ministry is not immune to such abuse. Although no organization or individual can guarantee complete protection, Bethel Baptist Church desires to be a safe place for all children and adults who attend any activity. The Child Protection Policy reflects the Church’s commitment to protect children from harm.

These policies apply to all personnel, whether compensated or volunteers. These also apply to all ministries and programs of the Church, whether on premise or off. Bethel Baptist Church will not tolerate child abuse in any form. The cooperation of our staff in this commitment reflects our concern for the safety of children on our premises and in society at large. We want to take every reasonable and possible step toward halting child abuse and its detrimental effects.

For the safety and protection of our children and workers, all staff who participate in ministry-sponsored activities with children are required to read, understand with training, and comply with our Child Protection Policy.

Definitions

  • Adult – any person age 18 or older.
  • Child or Youth – any person under the age of 18.
  • Child Abuse – Any recent act or failure to act by a perpetrator which causes non-accidental, serious physical injury to a child less than 18 years of age. An act or failure to act by a perpetrator which causes non-accidental serious mental injury to or sexual exploitation of a child less than 18 years of age. Any recent act, failure to act, or series of such acts or failures to act by a perpetrator which causes an imminent risk of serious physical injury to or sexual abuse or sexual exploitation of a child less than 18 years of age. Serious physical neglect by a perpetrator constituting prolonged or repeated lack of supervision or the failure to provide essentials of life, including adequate medical care, which endangers the child’s life or development or impairs the child’s functioning. The following definitions and explanations apply in determining whether abuse of a child has occurred:
    • Physical Abuse – A physical injury, threat of injury or creation of a real and significant danger of substantial risk of death, disfigurement or impairment of bodily functions. Such injury or threat of injury, regardless of intent, is inflicted or allowed to be inflicted by non-accidental means. Examples: asphyxiation, bone fracture, brain damage, skull fracture, subdural hematoma, burns, scalding, cuts, bruises, welts, abrasions, internal injuries, poisoning, sprains, dislocations, gunshot, and stabbing wounds.
      • Physical Neglect – The failure to provide food, clothing, shelter, or supervision and thereby endangering a child’s health or safety. Physical neglect may include multiple occurrences or a one-time critical or severe event that results in a threat to health or safety, such as a toddler left alone. Other types of physical neglect include abandonment, inadequate supervision, inadequate clothing, inadequate shelter, inadequate personal hygiene, inadequate food, and malnutrition.
      • Medical Neglect – Refusal or failure by caretaker to obtain and/or follow through with a complete regimen of medical, mental, or dental care for a condition, which if untreated, could result in illness or developmental delays.
      • Failure to Thrive – A syndrome of infancy or early childhood that is characterized by growth failure, signs of severe malnutrition, and variable degrees of developmental retardation. Children are considered to be in this category only when the syndrome is diagnosed by a physician and is caused by non-organic factors.
      • Bizarre Discipline – Any actions in which the caretaker uses eccentric, irrational, illegal, or grossly inappropriate procedures or devices to modify the child’s behavior.
    • Sexual Abuse or Exploitation – The employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of any child to engage in or assist any other person to engage in any sexually explicit conduct, or any simulation of any essentially explicit conduct for the purpose of producing any visual depiction, including photographing, videotaping, computer depicting, or filming of any sexually explicit conduct, or the rape, sexual assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, molestation, incest, indecent exposure, prostitution, statutory sexual assault, or other form of sexual exploitation of children.
    • Mental Abuse/Neglect – A pattern of acts or omissions by the caretaker that result in harm to a child’s psychological or emotional health or development.
    • Educational Neglect – The child’s caretaker is directly responsible for the failure of the child to attend school or an alternative program of study.
  • Compensated Worker – Hourly, salaried, part-time, or full-time employee of Bethel Baptist church, regardless of whether or not they work with children.
  • Regular Volunteer Worker – Any non-compensated individual who works routinely or often with children at any ministry-sponsored activity.
  • Incidental Volunteer Worker – Any non-compensated individual who works occasionally, randomly, or seldom with children at any ministry-sponsored activity.
  • Caregiver – Any compensated or volunteer worker, age 14 or older.
  • Mandated Reporter – Any person with the responsibility for the care of children is a mandated reporter. PA State law requires that if a caregiver has reasonable cause to suspect, (on the basis of their medical, professional, or other training or experience that a child has been or may be subjected to abuse or neglect or observes a child being subjected to conditions or circumstances that would reasonably result in abuse or neglect), that person shall immediately report or cause a report to be made to the immediate departmental supervisor or pastoral staff.
  • Corporal Punishment – Any punishment applied to the body including, but not limited to slapping, spanking, pinching, pulling, shaking, or squeezing (not hugging). Such practices, though not physical abuse if practiced properly, are strictly banned in the ministries of Bethel Baptist Church, and are considered parental prerogatives.
  • New Staff – Any employee or volunteer who has been on the job less than 90 days.

Reducing the Risk of Child Abuse

In an effort to create the safest possible environment within Bethel Baptist Church, the following ministry mandates will be implemented as abuse prevention measures. These reflect Bethel Baptist Church’s commitment to provide protective care for all children and staff who participate in ministry-sponsored activities. These standards apply to all compensated workers and to all regular volunteer workers.

Affected workers must complete the following screening procedures before participating in any ministry-sponsored activity involving children:

  • Employment application
  • Interview by ministry head
  • Complete orientation/training sessions appropriate to their anticipated involvement.
  • After reviewing the Bethel Baptist Church Child Protection Policy, submit the signed Office Copy of the Acknowledgement Form to the ministry head.

Any applicant who has been named a perpetrator in a Founded Report will not be allowed to serve in a capacity involving children. Founded means, based on a judicial adjudication, the court determined that the alleged abuse of a child had occurred, and guilt has been found on the perpetrator. A conviction resulted.

Any applicant who has been named a perpetrator in an Indicated Report will be handled on a case-by-case basis by the pastoral staff, prior to being permitted to serve in a capacity involving children. Indicated means, although no judicial adjudication has determined guilt, a county agency or the Department of Public Welfare has determined that there is substantial evidence that abuse has occurred. No conviction resulted.

As a condition of employment, all employees of Bethel Baptist Church are subject to background checks for the purpose of obtaining information regarding criminal history or child abuse findings. As a condition of service, all regular volunteer workers are subject to these same checks.

Fees for background checks, etc. necessary for employment are paid by the individual applicant. Fees for checks of regular volunteer backgrounds are paid by the employer.

Applications and the results of screening will be kept confidential by authorized ministry staff.

Never Alone Rule

No individual ministry staff member, whether compensated or volunteer, is to be alone with one or more children on-premise frequently or for an extended period. All activity should occur with other adults present or able to observe.

Classroom Discipline

All workers will use the following discipline measures. If a child is behaving inappropriately, the worker will tell the child specifically what he or she is doing that is not acceptable, and state what the expected behavior is. If this measure is not effective, the child will be guided to another activity. If inappropriate behavior continues, the child may be placed at a table to work alone away from other children.

If the child’s disruptive behavior continues, he or she may be taken to the ministry head of the program and left under that supervision with another adult being present or able to observe. Neither corporal discipline nor verbal abuse is to be used at any time. If the situation does not improve, there should be discussion with the child’s parents or guardian as soon as possible. For older children of school age, the tenor of this Bethel Baptist Church Child Protection Policy should be followed, supplemented by particular ministry disciplinary guidelines, which are reasonable and geared to the varying age levels of students.

Classroom Visitation

All classrooms may be visited without notice by ministry heads, other staff, and parents, though parents should first check in at the ministry office. Additionally, ministry heads or their designates should also observe and listen outside classrooms.

Driving Stipulations

The ministry head must know each person who will be providing transportation. Each driver must:

  • Be at least 18 years old.
  • Have a valid state driver’s license, required for the vehicle being driven.
  • Have no record of convictions for the past 5 years, for drunken driving, driving under the influence, driving with a suspended or revoked license or reckless endangerment.
  • Have proof of insurance.
  • Normally never be alone in a vehicle with a child not his or her own without parental permission. In some instances, especially emergencies, parental permission is inferred due to the enrollment of a child in a program. Such instances should be as seldom and brief as possible.

Gifts

Staff members are not to give gifts to individual children or students without the approval of the ministry head. Gift-giving should be done on a group basis, because it can be perceived or understood to be buying loyalty or silence. Gifts should not be elaborate, but modest and appropriate for the occasion.

Overnight Trips

Situations, in which ministry staff members are taking children or students out of the local area for long periods of time, or for overnight outings, are to be carefully planned. Only veteran, proven staff will be permitted to sponsor or chaperone such trips. New staff or incidental volunteers may be used as additional sponsors.

No adult shall be alone with children or students frequently or for an extended period. All activity should take place with other adults present or able to observe. Under no conditions shall one adult be allowed to take one or more children or students on an overnight outing by himself or herself.

Reporting Child Abuse

If a Bethel Baptist Church staff member has reasonable cause to suspect child abuse, a timely response is expected, with the utmost concern for the victim, parent and any other parties involved. The accused will be treated with dignity and support. Without clear and convincing evidence to the contrary, ministry staff will assume such complaints are legitimate. Persons making such complaints can rest assured that Bethel Baptist Church takes them seriously and will take appropriate action. Likewise, a false claim will be taken seriously as well, with the Church making every effort to clear the name and reputation of the falsely accused. Taking into consideration all circumstances, the Church will deal with the perpetrator of false charges in a disciplinary manner up to and including termination of employment.

When it becomes necessary to report actual or suspected child abuse, the protection of children must be the most important concern. It is the legal responsibility of both the compensated worker and the regular volunteer worker charged with the care of children to report all cases of child abuse he or she observes, and to report visible signs of alleged abuse first to local law enforcement and secondly to his or her supervisor. Failure to report could lead to liability on the part of Bethel Baptist Church, the worker, or both. While the confidentiality of the pastor/parishioner relationship is very important, it is superseded by the need to report suspected child abuse.

What is reasonable suspicion? Reasonable suspicion means that there is credible evidence, or a discrepancy or an inconsistency in explaining a child’s suspected abuse. A report based on reasonable suspicion does not require proof that abuse has actually occurred, or that the reporter witnessed the incident in question. Reporting is not a determination that child abuse has actually occurred.

Bethel Baptist Church has adopted the following guidelines to be followed when an employee or volunteer has reasonable suspicion that child abuse has occurred:

  • Assure the safety and protection of children who may have been harmed. Do not confront the accused until the safety of the child or student is secured.
  • Immediately call the non-emergency number of the Pennridge Regional Police, which is 215.257.2444. The police will determine what other numbers should be called, as shown at the end of this section.
  • After notifying local authorities, immediately notify the ministry head, who will notify the Senior Pastor or one of the pastoral staff. If local law enforcement was not first contacted, the Senior Pastor or one of the pastoral staff will immediately do so upon being notified of a report.
  • Immediately begin documenting observations using the Child Protection Observation Form. Copies can be obtained from the ministry head.
  • Pray for the ministry and for all persons affected by the allegation.
  • If the accused has assigned duties within the ministry, that person must be temporarily relieved of his or her duties until all investigations are concluded. The Senior Pastor, one of the pastoral staff, or the ministry head may take this action.
  • It is appropriate to show concern and offer comfort for the alleged victim. This should be the pastoral objective from the moment the allegation is received. The Senior Pastor should extend whatever resources are available to the alleged victim, the accused, and their families.
  • Under no circumstances should the Senior Pastor and all other ministry personnel be drawn into discussion of the truth or falsehood of the allegation, or assign blame, or take any steps to establish or negate the allegation. This could compromise or jeopardize official investigations.
  • The privacy and confidentiality of all involved shall continue to be of primary concern.
  • Only the official spokesman of Bethel Baptist Church should comment about allegations or litigations to the media, and that after consultation with legal counsel. The Senior Pastor or his designate will determine when and what to state publicly.

Important Telephone Numbers

  • Pennridge Regional Police – 257.2444
  • Bucks County Children & Youth Agency – 348.6900
  • PA State Childline & Abuse Registry – 932.0313
  • National Child Abuse Hotline – 4.A.CHILD


 

Bethel Baptist Church

Child Protection Observation Form

 

Date:                                                                                                              

Time:                                                 AM                                                     PM

Name of Observer/Reporter:                                                                                                       

Names of Other Observers:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

 

Description of Observation (Use names and be specific.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

 

 

Notice: Obtain this form from the Ministry Head immediately! Submit the completed form to the Ministry Head. In his or her absence, submit this form to the Senior Pastor or a pastoral staff member.

 

 

 

 

 

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