Making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Safe Sanctuaries

 

Abuse Prevention Policy
First United Methodist Church
57 W. 10th St.
Holland MI  49423
616-396-5205

First United Methodist Church of Holland chooses to establish a Safe Sanctuaries (abuse prevention) policy because we want children, youth and adults with special needs to experience the love and joy of Christ in a safe environment.  We believe as stated in Psalm 127:3 the “children are a gift from the Lord” and wish to be welcoming to children, youth and their families by providing as safe an environment as we can, for both the persons in our care and those doing the caring.  We encourage all of our workers to be aware of the children, youth and adults with special needs under their care-their condition when they come for care and their condition when they leave.

The Two Person Rule:
Two people should be with all gathered groups of children, youth and adults with special needs.  This means that two people are actually in the room or a floater is being used to wander around while one adult is actually in the room with the children, youth or adults with special needs.  This protects the children, youth and adults with special needs from possible abuse but also protects the supervising adult from false allegations.

First Aid/CPR Training:
The Nursery Supervisor should have this training.  When children or youth are away from our building, such as on a youth mission trip or retreat, it is recommended that at least one person chaperoning has had first aid and CPR training.  It is our hope that all adults working with children, youth and adults with special needs will have some basic knowledge of first aid and CPR but at this time we are not in the position to require it.

The “Five Years Older” Rule:
Adults who are working with children and youth should be at least five years older than the youth they are working with.  This is especially important with the youth groups; college students should not be working alone with high school students but are welcomed to be working with middle school youth as well as with other older adults in the high school setting.  This is for the protection of the worker as well as the youths.

No Workers Under the age of 18:
We will not allow a youth under the age of 18 to be solely responsible for the care of children.  We encourage youths to be actively involved with volunteering in all areas of the church and will allow them to be helpers in classrooms and in the nursery where adults are in charge.

Windows in Classroom Doors:
We have windows in our classroom and office doors and also encourage all teachers and leaders to leave doors open when teaching.  Abuse thrives on secrecy and this eliminates this opportunity.  People walking by in the hallway can readily see what is going on inside.

Open Door Counseling:
Even though windows are installed in most offices, an open door policy is encouraged when meeting with children, youth or adults with special needs in an office.  Also, it is suggested that these session happen when others are close by.  Again, this policy protects the child, youth or adult with special needs as well as the worker from allegations.

Limiting Access:
Although we enjoy having children and youth in the building all the time, there are times when they cannot be supervised and therefore will be prevented from using certain rooms, especially the Eclipse.  On Sunday morning, the two top floors will be locked following the Sunday school hour and will remain locked throughout the 10:15 worship hour.
In addition, during weekdays when FUN School is in session, the doors to the education wing will be locked as well as the doors to the second floor hallway after the children have arrived.

The Nursery:
The Nursery Supervisor is a paid staff member.  College students or adults over the age of 18 who work in our nursery are also paid.  Only paid staff members are allowed to diaper change and do bathroom visits with the children.  The diaper changing area is in an open area of the nursery and the bathroom doors are divided.  Parents who volunteer in the nursery are not required at this time to have background checks done on them because they are also being supervised by paid staff.  If a parent volunteer is to be the sole caretaker in the nursery, due to illness or vacation, that parent will have a background check run on them prior to that date.

Background Checks:
A background check will be run through the Michigan State Police website (ICHAT) for all persons 18 years and older who will be directly working with children, youth or adults with special needs whether they are paid or volunteer.  A consent form is filled out by each prospective worker and the background check is run from the information gathered there.  If a person applying has been in Michigan for less than 5 years since they turned 18, a background check will be run in that person’s home state as well.  This will either be done through that particular state’s website or through Church Mutual, our insurer.  Background checks will be updated every 3 years.
Any finding of felony offenses will not in themselves be cause for not working with children, youth or adults with special needs.  If the crime was specifically committed toward children, youth or adults with special needs, their volunteer request will be denied.
Paid church staff will be background checked through Church Mutual or other service at the discretion of the Staff Parish Committee.

FUN School employees and volunteers have their own method of background checks.

 The One Year Relationship Rule:
We prefer that people who are new to the congregation be attending the church for one year before they work with children and youth.  This will prevent people coming here with the sole purpose of doing harm.  This rule will be waived for Hope College students who have significant experience in their home churches and could be waived for others on a case by case basis.  For example, someone who has moved to Holland to be near active church family members or someone who used to be a member of the congregation and has returned from living away from the area.

Transportation Concerns:
Except in emergency situations, youths will not be used to transport other youths to offsite events.   If this should ever need to be the case, parents of all the youths involved will be notified and be asked for permission.  This should only occur as a last resort and all driving to and from offsite events should be done by adults.  This does not include traveling to youth group or other events at the church.  We assume that if youths are driving other youths to church, all parents involved have agreed to it and have taken into consideration the implied risks.
An information card with insurance and contact information for each youth shall be carried with the group whenever they are being transported by van or bus, especially on mission trips and weekend retreats.
When transporting adults by van or bus, all those participating should be encouraged to carry their own identification and insurance information on their person.  A card system may be established at some point in the future.

Reporting Abuse:
At this time, Michigan only mandates that members of the clergy report abuse.  Others who work in the church are not required to report, although they are encouraged to.  If a worker suspects abuse, either abuse that has occurred while here at church or abuse that may have occurred elsewhere; or if a child, youth or adult with special needs tells a worker of abuse, that worker is encouraged to speak to their supervisor about their concerns.  This can be done confidentially.  The supervisor will then speak to the pastor about the incident and a report to the Department of Human Services, Child/Adult Abuse (24 hour hotline 394-7220) will be made at that time if all are in agreement. It is up to them to prosecute.
FUMC adopts a zero tolerance policy for those convicted of abuse.  The convicted person will no longer be able to volunteer with children, youth or adults with special needs and paid staff will be terminated.

Training:
All workers, volunteer and paid, will be given training upon adoption of this policy and every calendar year following.  The training will include, but not be limited to, clarification of the policy, updated information regarding the policy and general information about abuse and its detection.  Videos are available from both our church insurer and the Conference to facilitate this training.  The Director of Nurturing Ministries will be responsible for securing these videos, planning the training and facilitating the training itself, or designating someone else to facilitate.

More about Michigan laws governing abuse can be found at this website:

http://www.michigan.gov/documents/DHS-PUB-0003_167609_7.pdf

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