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Safe Church Policy

UCC of Missoula

Abuse and Harassment: Policies and Procedures

Adopted July  2017

As a community of faith, UCC of Missoula is committed to creating and maintaining programs, facilities, and a community in which members, friends, staff, and volunteers can worship, learn, and work together in an atmosphere free from all forms of abuse and harassment.

 

Policies

  1. Persons covered by these policies and procedures

(a)       These policies and procedures apply to all allegations of abuse or harassment arising in or from church-related activities.

  1. Employee background checks

(a)       Before beginning their employment, all prospective employees over the age of 18 (including ministers) will undergo a background check.  The background check shall include, but is not limited to, reference inquiries and a criminal history verification by a third-party vendor.  The church shall pay the cost associated with any third-party vendor services.

(b)       No one with a criminal history of abuse or harassment shall be permitted to work in a custodial or supervisory role where youth are entrusted to the church.

  1. Supervision of youth

(a)       One on one contact between church workers/volunteers and youth (i.e., those under the age of 18) should be conducted with the knowledge and in view of another adult and/or youth.

(b)       There is no limit to the number of youth over which a team of adults may assume custody and supervision because there is no set limit to the number of adult helpers who may assist for any given activity.  Moreover, the number of adults needed for custodial and supervisory responsibilities may vary by the age of the youth and the activity at issue.

(c)       The parent or legal guardian of a child relinquishes custody and supervision of a child through written authorization by signing that child in on a written sign-in sheet.  The parent or guardian reassumes custody and supervision by signing the child out on a written sign-in sheet.   The sign-in sheet shall indicate the date and time the parent or guardian relinquished and reassumed custody and supervision.  Parents or guardians shall otherwise maintain custody and supervision of their children when on church premises.

  1. Trips and overnight events

(a)       The parent or legal guardian of a child shall provide written consent before any child is allowed to attend a church-sponsored trip.  Written consent may be made by the parent or guardian signing a standard UCC of Missoula Trip Authorization and Waiver Form, an example of which is attached as Attachment A.

(b)       For out-of-town trips, all chaperons shall provide UCC of Missoula a copy of a valid driver’s license.  Those who are driving their vehicles must also show proof of insurance.  Vehicles must be driven by a person 21 years or older and fill out a Volunteer Driver Vehicle Form.  See Attachment B

(c)       Every trip or overnight event must have a UCC of Missoula staff person as a coordinator.  All chaperons for trips must be interviewed by the staff person of UCC of Missoula coordinating the trip.

  1. General policies governing youth interactions

(a)       A properly trained employee or volunteer may spend time with a youth if necessary to achieve appropriate and specific ministry goals provided the meeting location, time spent, and the goals are monitored by other responsible persons on the teaching or ministry team and the meeting is in the presence of at least one other adult, such as in a public venue.  Written consent of the youth’s parent or legal guardian must be obtained before spending time with a youth. Workers must also notify an appropriate church leader of such meetings in advance.  (This is important for the Confirmation student and Mentor relationship.)

(b)       Accompanying a youth to the restroom is permissible.  However, the accompanying person must wait outside the restroom unless the youth requires assistance, in which case the person assisting should assure that the restroom door remains open while that person is in the restroom with the youth.

(c)       Church employees and volunteers should take care to avoid physical behavior that might be construed as inappropriate.  Use extreme caution and good judgment when considering such activities as wrestling or “rough play.”

(d)      Youth may be disciplined using “hands-off” methods such as loss of privileges and/or time-out, removal from the group.  There is to be no physical punishment whatsoever including hitting, slapping, painful grabbing, shaking, etc.

(e)       Youth should be spoken to in a calm soft voice at all times.  Firmness and seriousness of voice are required at times, but yelling is inappropriate as are excessively angry and/or hurtful verbalization.

Procedures

  1. Allegations of abuse or harassment involving youth

(a)       When abuse or harassment of a child is alleged, the allegations must be reported to the proper authorities, who will fully assume responsibility for investigating the allegations.  The person who learns of the allegations shall contact the authorities by either contacting law enforcement or utilizing the Montana Child Abuse Hotline.  The Hotline number currently is: (866) 820-5437.  The person learning of the allegations should consider contacting the UCC of Missoula minister for support and assistance.

(b)       The following church members/staff are mandatory reporters of child abuse or harassment: minister, pre-school teachers, pre-school administrator, youth minister, and any staff member who works with children and youth.

(c)       Mandatory reporter training will be required of the above mentioned personnel on an annual basis. Records pertaining to annual training will be maintained by the church administrator.

  1. Allegations of abuse or harassment involving ministers

(a)       When an allegation of abuse or harassment is made against a minister, the person learning of the abuse or harassment shall notify a member of the UCC of Missoula Cabinet or staff who may then forward the allegations to the Church & Ministry Commission of Montana Northern Wyoming Conference of the United Church of Christ.  If, however, the allegations of abuse or harassment involve a youth, the procedures outlined in Section 6(a) shall be followed.

  1. Procedures applicable to all allegations of abuse or harassment

(a)       The procedures in this subsection apply in addition to those provided in subsections (a) and (b).

(b)       UCC of Missoula recognizes that a person who has allegedly been subjected to abuse or harassment may seek recourse either internally, through the procedures described below, or through other criminal or civil avenues, depending on the facts and circumstances.  Regardless of the remedy sought by the person alleging abuse or harassment, UCC of Missoula may follow the procedures below to protect the safety of its staff, members, and friends.

(c)       The Cabinet shall appoint a subcommittee of the Cabinet called “The Response Team.”  The Response Team shall consist of no less than two members, one male and one female.  The Response Team shall be appointed annually.  The purpose of the response team is to resolve complaints of abuse or harassment, subject to the limitations of subsections (a) and (b).

(d)      The Response Team shall be familiar with the terms of this document—Abuse and Harassment: Policies and Procedures.

(e)       UCC of Missoula recognizes that, depending on the facts and circumstances, allegations of abuse or harassment may be resolved in a variety of ways including.  Attempts at resolution may include informal means where the person alleging abuse attempts resolve the allegations (a) directly with the alleged abuser or harasser or (b) by reporting the allegations to a minister or Cabinet.  If informal attempts at resolution are unsuccessful or futile, the person alleging abuse or harassment may request that The Response Team institute formal proceedings which shall include the following steps:

  1. The Response Team shall notify the minister and Cabinet Moderator of the allegations of abuse or harassment and shall keep them apprised of ongoing steps and actions taken.  If either the minister or Moderator is the subject of the complaint, this notice requirement shall not apply as to that person.
  2. The Response Team shall investigate the allegations of abuse or harassment. Investigation may include gathering statements or other information from the individuals involved in the alleged abuse or harassment and from others who may have pertinent information, such as qualified professional consultants.
  3. The Response Team shall make findings after its investigation with a recommendation to the UCC of Missoula Executive Committee, who shall then choose to either take action based on that recommendation or seek broader input or approval from the Cabinet with the Cabinet taking action.
  4. By becoming a member of The Response Team, a cabinet member accepts the responsibility to recuse himself or herself from the resolution process if he or she is involved in an allegation of abuse or harassment or otherwise experiences a conflict of interest regarding the allegations. If any member of The Response Team recuses himself or herself from a resolution process or is otherwise ineligible to serve as a result of a conflict of interest, the Cabinet shall select an a Cabinet member to replace that individual on The Response Team for that specific resolution process.
  5. Any person with a conflict of interest for a specific allegation may be prohibited from accessing information in regards to the allegation in order to protect the safety or interests of those involved in the allegations. However, those against whom allegations are made shall be reasonably apprised of the nature of those allegations.  And those who have alleged allegations shall be reasonably apprised of any defenses to those allegations.

 

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