Protecting Our Children

Policy and Manual for the Protection of Children

Policy and Manual for the Protection of Children

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Introduction

Letter from Bp. Steve

All Saints Day

November 1, 2021

Dear Clergy and Lay Leaders of the Diocese of Christ our Hope, 

Greetings in our Lord Jesus Christ. We are profoundly grateful to be able to forward to you the Diocese of Christ our Hope’s Policy Manual for the Protection of Children. This policy is the result of years of dedicated work by a team of people who have, on behalf of the Diocesan Council and staff, fulfilled a charge to research and develop a strong, workable policy designed to guard the safety of the children entrusted to our care.

This manual prescribes a proactive and preventive approach for the protection of children to be undertaken in every parish in the Diocese. Because it safeguards the most vulnerable people entrusted to our care by Jesus, it is genuinely as important as any ministry of the local church or the Diocese. 

No single resource can comprehensively cover every contingency for the safety of our children; therefore, this policy may be amended from time to time at the discretion of the Diocesan Council and the Committee for Safe Parishes. We will keep you informed of any changes, but until further notice, this policy establishes requirements and standards for every church in our Diocese in its ministry to and with children.

Because this is an official policy of the Diocese, it is not optional: it is mandatory. The deadline for enacting all dimensions of this Child Protection Policy is August 31, 2022.

The Office of Chancellor as well as the Diocesan Council and Staff are committed to assist you in understanding the issues we face in this area. We are also mobilizing teams of people to develop and implement resources, both in the Diocesan Office and Deaneries, to train ministry workers and support the application of this policy. By the time you receive this policy and begin to consider its application in your local church, those teams and resources will be ready to assist. They will be a fixed feature through which our life together will be shaped for the foreseeable future. 

Accompanying this policy, we are developing a clear pathway for properly responding to allegations or responding to any unfortunate instances of misconduct and actual abuse of children and youth. Please be on the alert for that response pathway. In the meantime, we are available to help counsel you through properly responding if a potential crisis should arise.

May God be glorified in all we do, and may he protect and preserve our children in love!

Grace & peace,

The Right Rev’d Dr. Steven A Breedlove

Jessica Patton, Vice-Chair, Diocesan Council 

Canon Megan Greto

Chancellor James Cushing, Esq



Letter from Canon for Ethics and Protection

All Saints Day

November 1, 2021

Dear Clergy and Lay Leaders of the Diocese of Christ Our Hope,

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul provides a beautifully detailed account of the Body, the Church of Christ.  Specifically in verse 26, Paul writes of the Church, “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.”  And this living out of honoring and suffering together is the unity under Christ, the Head of the Church.  When we look at Jesus, the way He gathered the most vulnerable, the weak, the shamed, and the abused, He took them in, cared for them and healed them.  The way the church is uniquely poised to do this for our Gospel witness, is a high and rich calling, one that is needed now more than ever.  

With that in mind, then, how do we as a Diocese create places within our churches and within our leadership structures that promote transparency, power checks and balances, and systems of interactions to prevent not only the physical and/or sexual abuse of children, but also other abuses of power that can be damaging to children and to adults.

Our Diocese has had in place a detailed Child Safety Policy for several years.  In fact, the policy that was laid out in 2019 is very similar to the ACNA Policy for Child Safety because similar teams worked together to create it.  Now, on the heels of the ACNA Policy Approval, we are rolling out another layer of compliance and oversight to assist our churches reach the goal to be a safe space for children and adults.

In the 2019 iteration of this policy, the Diocese mandated background checks every two years, training, and adherence to the Policy.  Now in 2021, as outlined in the attached, revised Policy, we are going to provide training via a Train-the-Trainer model.  We will provide samples and checklists for churches to use, and an accountability structure for reporting from each parish through the Deanery.

To create and manage, as well as develop training and resources, the Diocese has created the Canon for Ethics and Protection. This position is geared towards walking alongside the Deaneries and the parishes to ensure there is clear accountability for this and other related policies.

The Canon for Ethics and Protection will proceed with the given timeline and structure:

  1. Child Safety and Protection Policy submitted in draft to Diocesan Council in September.  Submitted for final approval by October 2021 meeting. 
    • The Policy by section
    • Training materials
    • Sample documents listed in the policy
    • Deanery related local resources such as independent investigators and victim advocates as well as licensed trauma counselors
    • Other resources for families
    • Canon will coordinate with each Dean and their retreat planning to include time for the in person training, which will be approximately 2.5 hrs.
    • Quarter 1 Committee for Ethics and Protection meeting will be held in February.
    • Quarter 2 Committee for Ethics and Protection meeting will be held in May.
    • By July 1, each Deanery Ethics and Protection Coordinator will be notified that their documentation and training tracking is due to the Committee for Ethics and Protection by July 15.  This will be the Quarter 3 meeting.
    • The Committee for Ethics and Protection will meet on or around July 15 and will draft any changes and updates to the Policy.  These changes will be presented to the Diocesan Council no later than September’s Diocesan Council meeting. 
    • Quarter 4 meeting will be held at Synod.
    1. Upon approval, notify each Dean of the new individual needed for their Deanery: The Ethics Coordinator.  This individual should be named by January 15, 2022.  Please contact Canon for Ethics and Protection if help is needed identifying this individual.  The Ethics Coordinator should have a meeting with the Canon prior to the Deanery regional retreats in 2022.
    2. Work with Communications Director to create the ADHOPE web resources for this updated policy.  This site will include:
    3. Train the Trainer Model developed with resources available and templates and slides prepared for the Trainings to begin at each Deanery Retreat in 2022.
    4. Ethics Committee meetings will be held quarterly at the following schedule via ZOOM:
  2. Response Team Infrastructure and Resources: November and December 2021 with build out onto the website in January 2022.
  3. Adult Misconduct Policy draft presented to Diocesan Council in Winter 2022.
    1. Begin conversations with the Chancellor and CFO of the Diocese in September.  Research other ACNA resources on this topic.  
    2. Engage in dialogue with parishes in the ACNA about resources related to Adult misconduct.
  4. Support Response and Reporting Allegations and Situations within the Diocese -- ongoing
    1. Act as point of contact for parishes in the Diocese in need of support due to allegations of abuse.
    2. Model best practices and provide resources to parishes, victims, and the broader ACNA community.

In Christ,

Canon Megan Greto

Definitions

For the purposes of this policy the following uses of these terms are in place.

Bishop, or Bishop Ordinary:  The Bishop with canonical and ecclsiastical authority in the Diocese.

Bullying: Behavior that intimidates, humiliates, offends, degrades or harms another person, whether verbal, psychological, social, physical or otherwise. 

Certified Individual: Clergy, Staff, Volunteer:  A member of the Clergy or of a Parish Staff who has taken a Diocesan-approved training course within the past two years on issues related to child and youth protection, especially as those issues relate to abuse, sexual abuse, sexual misconduct, sexual harrassment, and related issues, and who has a current background check.  

Certified Volunteer:  A Layperson in the Parish who has taken a Diocesan-approved training course on issues related to child and youth protection, especially as those issues relate to abuse, sexual abuse, sexual misconduct, sexual harrassment, and related issues, and who has a current background check. 

Child Abuse:  Any act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.

Child Protective Services (CPS): A social services program provided by state and local governments serving children and their families who are in need of assistance. CPS receives and investigates reports of suspected abuse, neglect and exploitation. The name of this organization may vary by state.  Please see Appendix A.

Clergy:  Ordained ministers that serve a local Parish, including Priests and Deacons.

Complainant: the alleged victim, or person making an accusation.

Confidential or Privileged Information:  Information of a personal nature that has been shared with a member of the Clergy, Ministry Staff or volunteer leaders with the intention that such information not be shared with others, without prior permission.  

Deacon:  A member of the clergy of the diocese, distinct from a Priest or a Bishop.  

Deanery:  For this Diocese, the Deanery is a defined group of regional churches within this Diocese.  Deaneries within the Diocese are lead by Bishop appointed Clergy as Deans.

Diocese:  The Diocese of Christ Our Hope (DCH) of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).

Infant: Typically applied to young children between one month and one year of age; however, definitions may vary and may include children up to two years of age. When a child learns to walk, the term "toddler" may be used instead. 

Lay, Lay member, or Layperson:  An individual who is not a member of the Clergy.

Mandated Reporter: A person who is required by state law to report reasonable suspicions of abuse, neglect and exploitation of vulnerable populations to the appropriate state agency. State laws vary greatly. See Appendix A for your specific state laws. 

Ministry Leader:  Any Clergy-approved Layperson (adult or youth) volunteering with leadership of any ministry within the church. Though this individual is not the person with final authority, he or she must abide by the policies outlined in this document. Examples include: Sunday school teachers, camp counselors and program teams that include children under 18.

Staff:   Any Clergy or Clergy-approved adult Layperson, employed  providing leadership of any ministry within the church. Though this individual may not be the person with final authority, he or she still must abide by this policy. Examples include: Youth Minister, Children’s Pastor, Family Life Director, etc.

Need-to-Know:  The principle that sensitive information needs to be restricted to those persons who are administratively or legally responsible for reporting allegations of abuse, child abuse, sexual abuse, sexual harrassment, sexual exploitation, and related issues.    

Off-site: Any location other than the sponsoring Parish, Parish office, institutional facility, or campus.

Overnight: Any event that starts on one calendar day and ends on a different calendar day.

Parish: A local church congregation.  Equivalent to church,  or church plant or mission.

Priest:  An ordained member of the Clergy in the Diocese that is distinct from both a Deacon and a Bishop.

Programs: Official activities and ministries sponsored by the Diocese and parishes (examples include: Youth Event, provincial youth events, pilgrimages, mission experiences, camp programs, acolyte festivals, etc.).

Rector:  The senior Clergy of a local parish charged with the regular management, oversight, and care of the Parish.  This role may also include the following titles: Priest-in-charge, Vicar, Senior Pastor, Lead Pastor, or similar leadership title/role. 

Sexual Misconduct: Federal Definition inserted here.

Staff:   Look at other Staff. Employed persons who work for the Parish under the leadership of the Rector and Vestry.  

Vestry: The governing and oversight body with fiduciary responsibility for the local Parish.  This body may also be called the Board, Council, Leadership Team, or a similar name. The Vestry cannot be related to a member of Staff or Clergy of the Parish.

Volunteer:  A Layperson who is not a paid member of the Parish Staff.  

Warden: A Lay leader of the Vestry.  In many Anglican parishes there is a Senior Warden and a Junior Warden that assist the Rector in overseeing the parish.  Depending on the local Parish, a Warden may have a different title such as Chairman, Vice Chairman, President, or similar title/role.

Diocesan Committee for Ethics and Protection

The Bishop in consultation with the Canon for Ethics and Protection along with the Deans will create the Ethics and Protection Committee.  This group is responsible for the creation and promulgation of the Diocesan Policy for the Protection of Children, under the authority and oversight of the Diocesan Council and the Bishop in accordance with the canons of the diocese.

From time to time, but not less than annually in August, the committee will review and, if necessary, revise the policy in light of practical experiences, medical and other scholarly research, legal developments, and other relevant considerations.

The Diocese also recommends that each church establish a Risk Management Group (See Caring Section). Deans from across the Diocese identify their Ethics and Protection Trainer and this individual is a resource for the parishes in that Deanery.  This Deanery Ethics Trainer will be trained by the Canon for Ethics and Protection annually at the Deanery Retreat.  The Deanery Ethics Trainer will also be on the Committee for Ethics and Protection.

The Committee for Ethics and Protection will meet quarterly per the schedule and document review outline under "Deanery Compliance" in the Compliance section.

Rector Responsibility for This Policy

The Rector, rather than the Diocese, has overall responsibility for the administration of this policy within the congregation he leads and for providing all compliance and reporting requested by the Diocese. In the absence of a Rector, or in the case of church plants and missions, the Vicar, priest-in-charge, senior warden or other individual appointed by the Bishop will be responsible. Duties may be delegated, except in those areas specifically delineating action by the Rector.

Pastoral Care for Children and Youth

We are committed to providing pastoral care to all affected by and involved with instances of child abuse. Pastoral care grows out of Christ-centered relationships and proceeds with an awareness of the spiritual and emotional needs of both the individual and the community. It may include providing guidance, support, consolation, and even confrontation to minister to each individual as we believe God desires.

Almighty God, heavenly Father, you have blessed us with the joy and care of children: Give us calm strength and patient wisdom as we bring them up, that we may teach them to love whatever is just and true and good, following the example of our Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. (BCP, #66)

Diocesan Policy on Child Abuse

The diocese will not tolerate any form of child abuse involving our clergy, staff, lay leaders, volunteers or other persons. Everyone who serves the church through educational, pastoral, recreational or other activities is expected to maintain the highest biblical standards in relationships with those to whom they minister, avoiding any form of misconduct against children. That commitment extends to sexual behavior.

No one in the employ or volunteer service of the Diocese or its parishes who has a civil or criminal record of child abuse, or who has admitted committing prior sexual abuse of a child, will be permitted to serve with children or youth.

Child Abuse in Each State

The Diocese member churches span across several states.  Appendix A defines the specific definition of Child Abuse for each state and its corresponding laws for reporting. Child Abuse reporting laws that are specific to each state can be found here.

Basics of the Policy

The Diocese of Christ Our Hope (DCH) or The Diocese, requires that, at each congregation, parish, church, mission, and church plant is expected to have in place the following policy procedures. These basic standards apply even if there are no children currently in attendance at church events. The diocese and your congregation are committed to creating a positive and healthy environment for children and youth through the 5-step approach:

  1. Screening is an opportunity to prevent an offender from ever having contact with children and youth in our programs. Each Parish has a responsibility to carefully screen staff, vestry, and volunteers that interact with children and youth.
  2. Training puts the power to protect in everyone’s hands and is an important deterrent to child abuse. All clergy, Vestry, staff and volunteers who work with children and youth must be trained to recognize the warning signs of potential abuse, commit to the safe practices specificified in this policy and learn the procedures for reporting suspected abuse.
  3. Interacting Guidelines help children and adults feel safe in ministry and help detect problems before they turn into an incident of abuse. The modes and forms of how clergy, staff and volunteers interact with children and youth create the foundations for meaningful and significant relationships to form.
  4. Monitoring Guidelines allows us to detect problems before they turn into an incident of abuse and helps adults avoid wrongful allegations of abuse. Clergy, Vestry, staff, and volunteers must be diligent in monitoring and supervising children and youth activities in all settings at all times.  
  5. Responding quickly gives us the power to prevent or stop abuse and gives the child more time to heal. Anyone, who knows of or has reasonable cause to suspect a child has been abused, abandoned, neglected, or exploited in violation of the law should immediately contact the appropriate state abuse hotline. All reports are confidential and access to these reports is limited by specific criteria described in the appropriate state’s statute(s).


Screen

One effective means of reducing the incidence of child abuse is to screen carefully all clergy and lay workers, paid and volunteer, working with minors. The Diocese requires the following screening and background checks for all canonically resident and licensed clergy, vestry, and staff and volunteers who work with children and youth:

Screening Clergy

The screening of clergy is the responsibility of the Diocese. Careful screening of clergy is conducted initially during the ordination and search processes.  In addition, any clergy transferring from another diocese within the ACNA, will provide records of any background check within 2 years and undergo this screening process.  This clergy screening process includes:

    • Conducting National Sexual Offender Registry and Criminal Background checks through Oxford Document Management Company;
    • Managing the record keeping of clergy background checks is the responsibility of the Diocese;
    • Renewing background checks at least every 2 years. It is the responsibility of all clergy to cooperate fully in all aspects of the screening process and to submit in a timely manner all documents needed to complete such checks
    • Conducting personal and professional reference checks (three sources recommended)
    • Interviews related to Ordination and Transfers
    • Requiring the clergy person completion of Screening Questionnaire and regular ministry ethics training certifications.
    • Reviewing this policy with the clergy person and requiring clergy to sign and submit a Policy Acknowledgement Form.

Screening Staff, Interns, and Volunteers

The screening of employees/staff, interns, and volunteers is the responsibility of the individual church. Each state has required age limit laws for paid employment.  Please check these age limits if the Parish is hiring a minor.  The Diocese recommends that youth below 6th grade should not be hired or volunteer. Youth at least 6th Grade may volunteer with two certified adults. They may be utilized for ratio purposes if they are 4 years older than the oldest child present.

Careful screening of adult staff, interns and volunteers to become certified includes:

  • Reviewing each signed Volunteer or Employment Application for staff, interns, and volunteers that may interact with a minor in their role;    
  • Conducting National Sexual Offender Registry and state criminal background checks (checks should be renewed at least every two years);
  • Conducting personal and professional reference checks as provided on the application;
  • Conducting a thorough social media search;
  • Holding face-to-face interviews;
  • For Volunteers, a minimum of six months regular attendance or the written recommendation from another Diocesan parish;
  • Requiring each applicant to sign the screening statement (found below).

Screening Resources

Sample Volunteer Application

Sample volunteer screening questions

Social Media Screening Checklist


Train

Training is also an important deterrent to child abuse. Training our parish members also creates communities that become more aware of behaviors that can lead to abuse.  Grooming is the process during which a child sexual offender draws a child in by gaining his or her trust in order to sexually abuse the child and maintain secrecy. The offender may also groom the parents by persuading them of his or her trustworthiness with children. The abuser can also groom the organization, such as a parish, in similar ways. Providing training and creating spaces to openly dialogue with clergy, vestry, staff and volunteers about these threats can prevent abuse.

Those who work with children or youth must be trained to recognize the warning signs of potential abuse, as well as learn the procedures for reporting suspected abuse. They also must become familiar with safe practices specific to their church designed to reduce the potential for abuse occurring.

Reading Requirements

The diocese requires the following training: all members of the clergy, the vestry, and staff must certify that they have read, understood and accepted the DCOH Policies on the Protection of Children and sign an acknowledgement form.

Training Requirements

Every two years, all clergy, vestry, staff and any volunteers who have contact with youth and children must:

  • Complete In-Person Policy Training: Policy training will cover the guidelines set forth in this Diocesan document as well as any additional policies specific to state and local government. This training will include signing a certificate of attendance;
  • Complete Digital Awareness Training: Awareness training can be completed in person as part of the policy training, or it can be completed online through a diocesan approved curriculum (provided by programs such as Ministry Safe, Protect My Ministry, Creating a Safe Environment, etc.

Deans are responsible to submit to the Canon for Ethics and Protection evidence of completed training annually. Each church Rector or Priest in Charge is responsible to track and document the training/retraining of its vestry, staff and volunteers. The Rector or Priest in Charge may delegate a staff or ministry lead to administer this for their parish.  This name shall be provided to the Canon for Ethics and Protection.  All clergy, staff, vestry, and volunteers that work with children and youth must complete the in-person and digital training to interact with minors.  Clergy, staff, vestry and volunteers working with minors will be trained every 2-years on Policy and Awareness.

Training Resources

Sample Training Attendance Certificate

Sample acknowledgement form


Interact

These procedures are intended to help children and adults feel safe in ministry and help detect problems before they turn into an incident of abuse.

Addictive Behaviors

Clergy, staff members, volunteers and participants interacting with minors, while traveling with or in the presence of children or their parent(s), during church-sponsored activities, or while working with or supervising children at any venue should not: use tobacco products, possess or use any illegal drugs, be under the influence of alcohol, or share / view pornographic materials.

Communication

All interactions, verbal and non-verbal, between clergy, staff members, or volunteers and children should be positive and uplifting. Staff members and volunteers should strive to keep verbal interactions encouraging, constructive, and mindful of their mission of aiding parent/guardian(s) in the spiritual growth and development of children. 

To this end, clergy, staff members, and volunteers should avoid talking to children or parent(s) in a way that is, or could be construed by any reasonable observer as, harsh, threatening, intimidating, shaming, derogatory, demeaning, or humiliating. In addition, clergy, staff members, and volunteers are expected to refrain from swearing in the presence of children. Concerns about children should be directed to parent(s), legal guardian(s), the appropriate ministry leader(s), or clergy. 

Clergy, staff members, and volunteers should avoid engaging in any sexually-oriented communications with children, (except as noted in abuse reporting contexts), and should refrain from discussing any inappropriate or explicit information about their own personal relationships, dating, or sexual activities with any child or youth. 

Clergy, staff members, and volunteers may employ (subject to limitations imposed by the rector or rector’s designee) age-appropriate materials when leading discussions dealing with human sexuality/sexual abuse prevention/sexual purity. Any prospective material should normally be made available for review for the parent/guardian(s) of participants. Prior to introducing these materials, notice should be provided to parent/guardian(s) in order to allow an opt-out if there are concerns or objections.

First Aid and Medication

If possible, medication should be administered by the child’s parent(s). Medication may be given to a child by a staff member or volunteer as authorized by the parent/guardian. The medication must be in the original packaging, including over-­the-­counter medication. First Aid kits will be available onsite where activities take place. When medically necessary, medication or first aid may be given to a child by a staff member or volunteer consistent with the Supervisory Plan. Parent(s) should be notified whenever medication or first aid has been administered.

Small Group/Home Group Procedures

Home group is defined for purposes of this policy as a small group meeting in a home for Bible study, worship, fellowship, etc. A church which holds its primary worship service in a home is, for purposes of this policy, considered to be a church and not a home group.  The Diocese and its churches do not have, and therefore do not exercise, control over home groups. The care and protection of children in such settings is always the responsibility of the parent(s)/guardian(s) of each child. The Diocese provides resources that may help empower and equip parent/guardian(s) and the home groups of its churches as they exercise their care and responsibility. 

In home groups where children are present, even on an occasional basis, leaders are encouraged to read this policy, take the dual diocesan-approved policy and awareness training, and follow as closely as possible the provisions outlined in this policy, including the development of a Supervisory Plan (see Section E), and the following:

  • Supervision by two certified individuals (2 unrelated adults is a minimum standard);
  • Inspection and preparation of the physical environment– the location should be inspected and prepared for child safety for the developmental age of those being served, keeping in mind outlet coverings, sharp corners, sharp objects, unsecured furniture, access to outdoors, toxic materials, etc.
  • Creation of restroom procedure– for any child who requires assistance, parent(s) should be responsible for diapering and meeting other restroom needs.

Overnight Events

Certain youth ministry activities may require that overnight sleeping arrangements be made for youth, staff and volunteers. As part of the Supervisory Plan established and communicated to parent/guardian(s)/guardian for all youth and children’s ministry (including lock-ins, mission trips, retreats and other ministry that involves overnight stays), the following procedures must be considered and monitored.

    • Supervisory Plan in place with proper Parent/Guardian permission forms signed in advance;
    • As always, the two-certified adult rule should be adhered to; a single student should not be alone with a staff member or volunteer. If a situation arises where only one adult is present, a minimum of two students must also be present;
    • Overnight sleeping arrangements must be detailed in the Supervisory Plan and shared with those responsible for providing the supervision. An individual student should not be housed alone with another student or adult (in overnight cases, minimum of three is required); 
    • As long as any students are actively awake, two trip leaders must be awake and monitoring students to ensure safe behavior;
    • Appropriately modest sleeping attire must be worn by all;
    • Staff members and volunteers will monitor sleeping students by periodically conducting visual bed checks to ensure that sleeping students remain in designated sleeping places. During bed checks, staff members and volunteers should never physically touch a student;
    • In the event that overnight arrangements do not include standard beds, each staff member, volunteer, and student will use single sleeping bags or blankets. In these instances, a “one-person-to-one bag or blanket” rule will be observed;
    • In the event of a sleepover on campus that involves both boys and girls, boys and girls must sleep in separate rooms, properly supervised by student leaders of the same biological sex;
    • Staff and volunteers in youth ministry should never be nude in the presence of students in their care. Showering considerations and private areas for changing clothes must be thought through with rotation schedules;
  • Leaders should check with parent/guardian(s) and use good judgment regarding PG or PG-13 movies. R-rated movies require rector and parental approval.

Photography

Photos of children will not be used contrary to the wishes of the parent(s). Churches should refrain from posting any personally identifying information about children pictured online or in print publications without prior permission from the parent(s). This is easily handled by including a consent statement on programming registrations that are signed by the parent(s)/guardian(s).

Physical Interactions

Those who serve, whether as clergy or lay workers, paid or volunteer, maintain a powerful relationship of authority and trust with the people to whom they minister. Betrayal of that trust through violation of physical and/or sexual boundaries causes great emotional and spiritual harm. Such misconduct is a denial of our calling as Christians and may be a violation of the law. We must take every step to prevent it, and to respond with swift justice should misconduct occur. 

Physical contact should be for the benefit of the child, and never be based upon the emotional needs of clergy, staff or volunteers. It is the diocesan policy that staff members and volunteers are prohibited from using physical discipline in any manner for behavioral management of children. No form of physical discipline is acceptable.

Children are to be disciplined using time-outs and other non-physical methods of behavior management. In some circumstances physical restraint may be used to prevent self-injury by the child and/or harm to others or to property. Uncontrollable or unusual behavior should be reported immediately to parent/guardian(s), Children’s Ministry Director, Youth Pastor, and/or clergy.

Appropriate physical interaction between staff members or volunteers and children is important for children’s development and is generally suitable in the church setting. The following standards of interaction with children shall be carefully followed at all times.  

Appropriate interactions may include:

  • Smiles
  • Encouragement
  • Handshakes and high fives
  • Fist bumps
  • Thumbs up
  • Side to side hugs
  • Pats on the shoulder or back
  • Arm around the shoulder
  • Holding hands while walking with small children
  • Holding or picking up children who are 4 years old and younger

Inappropriate physical interactions are those behaviors that present an imbalance in the power dynamic for a child with an adult or older child.  Grooming is a technique used to break down those barriers. Abusers will use grooming techniques to gain trust. Recognizing the pattern of continual testing of boundaries in such a way that inappropriate behavior seeps into the relationship without consent or even acknowledgement. Grooming usually includes gaining access through trust, targeting a particular type of person as a victim, slowing eroding boundaries, and methods to keep the victim quiet.  The following are potential ways of interacting inappropriately.

Inappropriate interactions may include:

  • Any form of physical discipline
  • Shaming or belittling
  • Meeting alone in non-public or isolated places
  • Engaging in sexually oriented communications with or in proximity to children
  • Using, possessing, or being under the influence of tobacco products, alcohol, or any illegal drugs when in the presence of children
  • Wrestling
  • Tickling
  • Sitting in laps (except for nursery-aged children)
  • Kissing on the lips
  • Full frontal hugs or “bear hugs”
  • Commenting on children’s bodies
  • Being nude in front of children (such as on overnight trips, changing at pool parties, etc.)
  • Contacting or “friending” a child or youth on social networking sites without permission
  • Showing favoritism or possessiveness
  • Singling a child out with attention or affection
  • Giving gifts to children without the parent’s permission
  • Ridiculing the beliefs of a child or youth or those of their parent/guardian(s)
  • Allowing a child or youth to do things against the wishes of the parent/guardian(s)
  • Offering children or youth cigarettes, alcohol, or drugs
  • Allowing children or youth to view pornography or to visit inappropriate internet sites 
  • Asking a child or youth to keep “secrets” from his or her parent/guardian(s)

Inappropriate touching and inappropriate displays of affection are forbidden. Any seemingly inappropriate behavior or suspected misconduct by clergy, staff or volunteers must be reported immediately to 1) Ministry Leader and 2) Rector.  If the concern involves the Rector, the Senior Warden should be notified. They will follow up with the individual per the Response and Reporting steps.

  • Physical contact and affection should be given only in observable places. It is much less likely that touch will be inappropriate or misinterpreted when physical contact is open to observation.
  • Physical contact in any form should not give even the appearance of wrongdoing. The personal behavior of staff members or volunteers in youth and children’s ministries must foster trust at all times. Personal conduct must be above reproach.
  • Do not force physical contact, touch, or affection on a reluctant child. A child’s preference not to be touched must be respected at all times.

Children’s staff members and volunteers are responsible for protecting children under their supervision from inappropriate or unwanted touch by others (this includes unwanted touch from other children/youth).

Release of Children

Staff members and/or volunteers in the Children's Ministry are responsible for releasing children in their care at the close of services or activities only to parent/guardian(s), legal guardians, or other persons designated by parent/guardian(s) or legal guardians. It is presumed that a person who drops off a child or student has authority to pick up the child.

In the event that staff members or volunteers are uncertain of the propriety of releasing a child, they should immediately contact their immediate supervisor before releasing the child.

Restroom Use

Nursery Aged and Special Needs Children                                                              

Parent/guardian(s) should take their child to the restroom or change any diapers immediately before a child is checked into a classroom. Because preschool, nursery, and special needs children may require complete assistance with their bathroom activities, all staff members and volunteers will observe the following policies:

Diapering                                                                                                     

  • Only certified nursery workers or the child’s parent or legal guardian will undertake the diapering of children of either sex. 
  • Changing of diapers should be done in plain sight of other nursery workers; children should not be left unattended while being changed.
  • Children should be re-­‐diapered and re-­‐clothed immediately upon the completion of changing their soiled diaper.

Toilet Training

  • Parent/guardian(s) should take the Toilet Training child to the restroom before checking them into the classroom.
  • No child will be forced to toilet train.
  • Only certified nursery workers or the child’s parent or legal guardian will participate in toilet training efforts with children.
  • When children are assisted in bathrooms the stall door will be left partially open.
  • Preschool-­aged children will never be left unattended in bathrooms.
  • Children should be assisted in straightening their clothing before returning to the room with other children.
  • Accidents should be handled by reassuring the child and completing the changing of diapers or underwear and clothing.

Elementary Aged Children

  • Elementary­‐age children may be accompanied to the restroom for supervision and assistance when needed. (However, children should receive the minimum amount of assistance needed based upon their individual capabilities.) A same‐aged/biological sex­‐peer buddy system may also be used.
  • Staff members and volunteers should take steps to avoid being alone with one child in the restroom. If a staff member or volunteer must go into the restroom to check on an individual child, he or she should seek out another worker to accompany him/her. If another worker is not available to accompany, he/she should go to the exterior bathroom door, knock, and ask if the child needs assistance. If the child requires assistance, the worker should leave the exterior bathroom door open when entering the bathroom area and try to verbally assist the child in completing his/her activities, while the child remains behind the door of the bathroom stall.

Sexual Ethics in the Context of  Youth Ministry

We recognize that contemporary cultural trends and attitudes about gender and sexual ethics are complex and rapidly changing. You may find students wrestling with issues around gender fluidity, gender dysphoria, same-sex attraction or other situations which may challenge the existing policies. These situations may require specific knowledge or understanding so the church can care for individual students, in a loving and caring community setting. In consultation with the Bishop, the rector is responsible for local adaptation around specific ministry situations and with regards to suitable protection practices that embody the Diocese's guiding values.

Digital Communication

Digital communications and Social Media shapes the lives of many. This tool has the potential to empower ministry. These powerfully connective tools are subject to the same dynamic of unequal power and potential for abuse that present a risk in all ministry relationships. Behavior in the digital sphere is never private and posted content may be used out of context putting individuals and churches at risk. Churches face the challenge of identifying and proactively addressing areas of potential risk in social media in the midst of rapidly evolving technology. The following recommended practices and guidelines are designed to be a flexible template for developing policies and covenants governing the safe use of social media and digital communication in ministry settings.

  1. General Information
    1. All communications sent digitally (email, social media, notes, texts, posts, etc.) are NOT CONFIDENTIAL and can be shared or reposted to others. 
    2. In the virtual world, healthy boundaries and safe practices must be adhered to as they are in the physical world. This includes the need for transparency. 
    3. Laws regarding mandated reporting of suspected abuse, neglect or exploitation of children, youth or vulnerable adults apply in the virtual world as they do in the physical world. 
    4. Virtual spaces are to be treated the same as in-person spaces. This means two trained and certified adults must be online. The parent/guardian(s) should be aware that the child/youth is in conversation with leaders.                                                   
  2. Recommended Practices and Guidelines
    1. Establish a policy of transparency. Best practice is to have the church or organization create and own the social media accounts and have multiple administrators or supervisors with access. Regular review of the privacy settings and participants in these groups should be completed. 
    2. When using photos and videos for ministry purposes, obtain a media release for each person. “Tagging” of youth or children in online photos or videos would create a hyperlink to that person’s personal page and should therefore be prohibited.
    3. Prudent judgement should be used in the time of day a child or youth is contacted through digital media. Under normal circumstances, they should be restricted from exchanging texts, chats, emails, or photos in the church’s social media before 8:00am or after 8:00pm. 
    4. An Agreement to Govern Digital Groups should be created and shared with all adults, youth, and parent/guardian(s). This should include: 
      • Appropriate and inappropriate behaviors and the consequences for inappropriate behaviors. 
      • Who may join or view the group. When participants should leave the group.
      • Description of content that can be posted or published on the site or page.
      • Notification that mandatory reporting laws will be followed. 
      • Consequences for breaking the agreement.
    5. Privacy settings and personal boundaries should be implemented: 
      • Create and use profiles online that meet professional and institutional standards. 
      • Connections between personal Social Media pages with a clergy, staff or volunteer and a youth or child should not happen. The use of a church’s page such as “Church’s Youth Group” should be the medium of connection. 
      • Use of closed groups but not private or hidden groups for youth/children. 
      • At least two certified adults should have full access to any church or organizations page or groups that involve youth or children. 
      • Inform parent/guardian(s) of children and youth of social networking sites and platforms used within the ministry. 
      • Private messaging inside social media should not be used. All communication should happen on the group page where others can see. If a private conversation needs to happen, it should happen in person. 
      • When sending emails to a child or youth that contains personal or private information of that child or youth, their parent/guardian(s) or guardians should be copied in. Examples of these types of emails include payment-due information, specific medical questions, etc. 
      • Mass emails sent to an entire group of youth are not required to be copied to parent/guardian(s) or guardians. 
    6. For virtual meetings, such as Zoom, similar policies as meeting in person are recommended:
      • Two certified adults should be present and at least three youth or children. 
      • Participants should not be on their beds, or have a bed in the background of their camera. 
      • Participants should be fully clothed, including portions of the body that may be “off camera”. 
      • Restrictions based on the platform to prevent hackers or strangers from joining the virtual space is recommended. Links should never be included on social media, church websites or in broad email lists. 
      • If something inappropriate takes place the parent/guardian(s) will be contacted. 
      • Participants should not have suggestive, political, racist, or similar materials or images on their screens or in their backgrounds
    7. Photography and Videos
      • Do not use photos of children and youth without written parental permission.
      • Request permission to use photos of their children and have parent/guardian(s) to fill out a written consent form and keep it on file at the church. It is recommended that churches obtain signed parental consent release forms annually, respecting the parent/guardian(s) who are non-consenting.

Discipleship and Mentoring

As Christians, we are encouraged to seek discipleship opportunities across a generational spectrum. This frequently manifests in long term 1:1, 1:2, or 1:3 relationships where participants meet regularly. Long-term discipleship/mentoring is defined as more than 5 meetings. The purpose of this relationship is mentoring, discipleship, and is often connected to a ministry program or curriculum (including but not limited to Pray for Me Campaign, Confirmation Preparation, Catechesis, Holy Baptism and Holy Communion preparation).   

If mentoring and discipleship with child(ren) or youth is agreed upon with the parent/guardian(s)/guardians, adhere to the following safeguards:

  • Ensure this mentoring relationship is known to the Staff;
  • Parental written approval for the mentoring relationship is defined;
  • Meet in public places or at agreed upon locations with other adults present;
  • Define the parameters of the relationship before the first meeting, articulating how one might discontinue the relationship at any time, and communicate said parameters to the Staff and parent/guardian(s)/guardians;
  • Mentor will meet regularly with Staff for accountability and oversight; 
  • Mentoring relationships should be paired with same biological sex groupings; 
  • Follow guidelines regarding interaction, physical contact, and digital communication; 
  • Communicate to whom the participant should report if they have any concerns (including the names and numbers of senior leadership, the Bishop, and a reporting hotline);
  • Make it clear to the participants that confidentiality cannot be guaranteed if a child, youth or adult discloses a situation pertaining to abuse, neglect, self-harm or exploitation because of mandatory reporting laws; 
  • Prohibit secluded or secretive meetings.

Transportation

Staff members and volunteers may from time to time be in a position to provide transportation for children and youth. The following guidelines should be observed when workers are involved in the transportation of children or youth whenever possible:

  • Adult volunteer drivers must provide to the church copies of valid driver’s licenses, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance.
  • Adult volunteer drivers must undergo an insurance approved background check including a DMV record check. Use of child safety seats that meet federal standards is required. Drivers and passengers must also follow airbag age/weight regulations per specific vehicle guidelines. Churches are advised to consult with their insurance provider regarding the minimum age for adult drivers. Under no circumstances should anyone under the age of 18 be allowed to drive children/youth as part of an event.
  • An unrelated adult and one child traveling alone in a vehicle should not happen. Automobiles will contain either one driver and two or more participants or two adults and any number of children (within the seat belt limitations of the vehicle; seatbelts are required).
    • If there is an extenuating circumstance causing only one adult and one child to travel together in an automobile, permission must be obtained by a parent or legal guardian of the child. This permission should be written or documented by the volunteer if only verbal consent is obtainable. Text messages from parent/guardian will suffice. The child or youth should be transported in the back seat of the vehicle in such circumstances.
  • No cell phones, including hands­‐free devices, may be utilized by the driver while driving church‐owned vehicles, unless in an emergency, with the exception of GPS navigation.
  • Transport children directly to their destination. Unauthorized stops to a non-­‐ public place should be avoided. Stops for meals, refueling, and restroom breaks should be planned in advance and communicated in the Safety Plan for the event. Staff members and volunteers should avoid transportation circumstances that leave only one child in transport.
  • Staff members and volunteers should avoid physical contact with children while in vehicles.
  • No one under age 25 may drive vehicles rented by a church unless explicitly allowed by the rental agreement; no drivers under age 25 may drive church-­owned vehicles unless explicitly covered by the church’s auto insurance policy.
  • In special circumstances these may be altered for emergencies. In these cases, the children/youth director (or supervisor) should be notified immediately.
  • If a family situation necessitates a special circumstance, the family may sign a waiver stating the deviance from the diocesan or church policy; this policy should note the family’s acceptance of responsibility.

Interacting Resources

Sample Photography and Digital Media Release Form

Sample Waiver for Driving a Minor

Sample supervisory plan


Monitor

Monitoring helps detect problems before they turn into an incident of abuse and helps adults avoid wrongful allegations of abuse where none has occurred. Off-­‐site activities increase the risk of abuse due to changes in venue and familiarity with the space/environment. Vestry, clergy, staff, and volunteers must be diligent in monitoring and supervising children’s and youth activities in all settings at all times.

Monitoring Procedures Overview

Monitoring procedures should include, but are not limited to:

  • Two Certified Unrelated Adult Rule: All child and youth activities shall be supervised by two or more certified individuals, not related to each other;
  • No child will be left unattended in the building or on the property during or following a church activity;
  • Clergy, staff members, and/or volunteers should not conduct unobserved meetings or interactions with children or youth;
  • In a discipleship or mentoring relationship, the interactions should take place in a public place or where other persons are present;
  • All leaders are expected to watch for policy violations and report them;
  • An open invitation should be extended to parent/guardian(s) to visit at any time unannounced;
  • Keeping interaction with children in full view of others at all times;
  • Keeping unused rooms locked whenever possible; if keys are unavailable then doors should remain open and lights remain on;
  • Keeping children and youth in supervised areas within the church building;
  • Supervisory Plans: An onsite or offsite written Supervisory Plan (see below) shall be in place for all educational, pastoral, recreational, or other programming that involves youth or children. 

The purpose of the Supervisory Plan for any given activity, space, or ministry is to give direction to staff and volunteers to ensure appropriate measures are in place to meet the diocesan standard for supervision. It is recommended that a copy of the Supervisory Plan be provided to and signed by those responsible for supervision and that the plan be posted in a visible location.

Sponsored On-Site Supervisory Plans

Sponsored On-Site Supervisory Plans should include:

    • Description of the nature of the activity;
    • Details of the registration process and a sample registration form;
    • Personnel responsible for running the activity;
    • Recommended ratio of adults to children, [insert your guidelines based on your state(s) requirements, such as]:
    • Infants: 2 adults for up to 8
    • Young toddlers: 2 adults for up to 12
    • 2 and 3 years: 2 adults for up to 16
    • 4 years: 2 adults for up to 20
    • School age (5-18): 2 adults for up to 40
    • Mixed age group: [ratio for the youngest child in the group]
      • Standards for interacting with children or youth;
      • Description of the physical environment;
      • Bathroom procedures, including showering procedures, if applicable; 
      • First aid and medication procedures; 
      • Procedures for reporting discipline concerns; and
      • Release of children.

      Note: Emergency plans and procedures, including schematics with fire escape routes, shelter-in-place designations and plans for reuniting children with parent/guardian(s) would also be helpful.

      Sponsored Off-Site Supervisory Plans

      Sponsored Off-site Supervisory Plans should include the following:

      • Description of the nature of the activity;
      • Details of the registration process and a sample registration form;
      • Personnel responsible for running the activity;
      • Recommended ratio of adults to children, [insert your guidelines based on your state(s) requirements, such as]:
      • Infants: 2 adults for up to 8
      • Young toddlers: 2 adults for up to 12
      • 2 and 3 years: 2 adults for up to 16
      • 4 years: 2 adults for up to 20
      • School age: 2 adults for up to 40
      • Mixed age group: [ratio for the youngest child in the group]
      • Standards for interacting with and disciplining children or youth;
      • Description of the physical environment;
      • Bathroom procedures;
      • First aid and medication procedures; 
      • Procedures for reporting discipline concerns; 
      • Dining arrangements;
      • Sleeping arrangements: see Overnight Events;
      • Showering procedures: see Overnight Events
      • Offsite transportation plan(s)
      • Release of youth.

      Non-Sponsored On-Site Events

      Due to the nature of the facilities and shared ministry, the situation might arise where the church facilities are used by non-sponsored groups for activities and events (such as Young Life, or the Boy Scouts, or parties, etc.). These events may choose to offer childcare on their own, utilizing the facilities available. All churches should consult their insurance policy regarding these types of activities and to be compliant with the restrictions and recommendations in that insurance policy. It is also recommended that all churches use a Facilities Agreement that clearly articulates the outside organization’s responsibility and liability for their program and volunteers/employees for every instance of an outside group using the church’s facilities.

      Monitoring Resources

      Sample Ministry Registration Form

      SAMPLE Discipleship/mentorship/pastoral care catalog

      Grooming Awareness

      Reporting a Complaint

       

      Report a Complaint


      Compliance

      Admittedly, no matter how detailed the Diocese provides policies and procedures are written, no matter how compliant the parishes and diocesan organizations are, no matter how outstanding the screening, training, interactions, monitoring, reporting and responses are, it is not uncommon for completely unintended things to happen to parishes intentionally following protocols. It is, therefore, important to select the right insurance policy including the correct limits, terms, conditions, and deductibles that are customized to your specific needs. 

      Parishes in the Diocese need to purchase insurance that covers their specific needs. It is recommended that each church have an Ethics and Protection Committee or similar Risk Management team to oversee insurance selection and the adherence to this policy and other child safety best practices for their parish.  It is recommended that each Parish should have sexual misconduct coverage in their insurance policy as well.

      A comprehensive user-friendly Risk Management Guide is available on the ACNA website at anglicanchurch.net/risk management.

      Deanery Compliance Tracking

      To better hold accountability for the training and implementation of this Child Safety Policy, each Dean in the Diocese will name an Ethics and Protection Coordinator or Trainer.  This person will be on the Ethics and Protection Committee for the Diocese under the Canon for Ethics and Protection.  This individual will also be the trainer to follow up with training and background requirements for volunteers and staff, as well as, training churches and leaders on safeguarding children and youth.

      The Ethics and Protection Coordinator from the Deaneries will:

      • Meet on a quarterly basis with the Canon for Ethics and Protection
      • Be a representative on the Committee of Ethics and Protection
      • Review suggestions and updates to this and related Ethics and Protection policies
      • Stay abreast of training updates and touch base with the parishes in their Deanery twice a year.
      • Train their member parish trainers using the Train-the-Trainer model as led by the Canon for Ethics and Protection.

      This Policy and other Ethics and Protection Policies, updates and changes will be presented at Synod each year. The process to update this and other Ethics and Protection policies will follow this expected timeline:

      • First quarter of each year, the Canon for Ethics and Protection will attend each Deanery Retreat where the Policy is presented and if training has not occurred yet, it will occur at that Retreat.
      • Quarter 1 Committee for Ethics and Protection meeting will be held in February.
      • Quarter 2 Committee for Ethics and Protection meeting will be held in May.
      • By July 1, each Deanery Ethics and Protection Coordinator will be notified that their documentation and training tracking is due to the Committee for Ethics and Protection by July 15.  This will be the Quarter 3 meeting.
      • The Committee for Ethics and Protection will meet on or around July 15 and will draft any changes and updates to the Policy.  These changes will be presented to the Diocesan Council no later than September’s Diocesan Council meeting. 
      • Quarter 4 meeting will be held at Synod.
      • All changes will be finalized and presented at Synod in November.

      Non-Compliance Response

      Each Rector (or Priest-in-Charge) is responsible for the administration, tracking, and training on this and other related Ethics and Protection guidelines and policies.  To that end, there are several steps laid out in this document that provide touch points for the Parish to seek assistance from their Deanery Ethics Coordinator and the Canon for Ethics and Protection.

      Churches will be notified by their Deanery Ethics Coordinator on June 15th each year that the comments, documentation, and forms are due by July 15th.  The Deanery Ethics Coordinator will collect these materials and follow up accordingly.  Churches that have not turned in their documentation will receive a warning by July 30. The Rector will have two weeks to comply with the reporting documents. Then, if the Canon for Ethics and Protection does not hear from the Rector, a formal request will be sent to the Bishop and that Parish will not be eligible for Diocesan funding until they become compliant with the policy. The Rector will receive Godly Admonition from the Bishop to comply within 2 weeks.


      Caring for the Community

      Caring for the Congregation

      Incidents of child abuse, and the secrecy that often surrounds them, can cause devastating harm to the church as well as to the victims. Therefore, where current or past child abuse has been perpetrated by clergy, staff, or volunteers of the church, the church shall provide consultation to encourage the discussion of such incidents and to provide a means to facilitate healing within the church. Section I.3 includes one suggested model of how this may be done: a congregational trauma debriefing model.

      It is essential that each church responds to a report or instance of abuse or misconduct in a manner that promotes healing for the victim, the offender and the loved ones of both parties, as well as healing within the congregation generally.

      Traumatic events have well-documented effects, both immediate and delayed. When a congregation experiences a trauma, the impact is likely to be expressed through symptoms such as:

      • Loss of energy or feeling of paralysis;
      • Distrust of leadership (often projected onto future leadership);
      • Divisions within the congregation;
      • Some group members feeling isolated and withdrawing from the group;
      • Anger being displaced onto unrelated issues, or blown out of proportion;
      • A conspiracy of silence about the traumatic event;
      • Despair about the congregation’s future;
      • Distorting responsibility for the event;
      • Seeking a "quick fix" without thoughtful reflection;
      • Difficulty making normal and necessary decisions.

      All of these symptoms could be carried into subsequent years unless the trauma is processed, integrated into the life of the congregation and healed. A useful model for addressing and integrating a trauma is the "debriefing" model drawn from disciplines that do crisis counseling, such as emergency medicine, law enforcement, military science, crisis chaplaincy, and disaster agencies.

      A trauma debriefing allows participants to integrate the reality of the event with their own responses to that event. The Church Information, Trauma, and Healing Debriefing Model set forth in the Trauma and Debriefing section is an effective means to communicate, process, and accept facts, allow feelings to surface, and then, through God’s healing grace, head into the future unhindered by the past.

      Guiding Principles for the Healing of the Church

      The following guidelines outline steps that can be taken to promote healing in the congregation:

      1. Pastoral Contact with the Family. Before the process for healing begins, the rector, Bishop or other representative should maintain regular contact with the complainant(s) / injured child and family and describe to the complainant(s) the procedures to be used for promoting congregational healing.
      2. Victim Advocacy.  Consider the engagement of Victim Advocates for the families involved.  These are trained professionals to work directly with victims in an abuse situation.  Their expertise and experience can provide a specialized level of attention.
      3. Privacy Concerns. The privacy of the complainant(s) must be balanced against the need for openness with the local church. Insofar as possible, the identity of the complainant(s) and any details which may identify him/her should be kept confidential.
      4. Providing Facts. The procedures shall consider that church members usually know when "something is going on,” and, in the absence of facts, rumor and speculation will grow.
      5. Notifying Lay Leadership. The lay leadership should be advised promptly of the issues, since that group’s participation is vital in planning and implementing the processes for church healing.
      6. Trauma Debriefing. The healing and unity of a congregation are fostered when there is an open meeting, called a “Church Information, Trauma, and Healing Debriefing,” at which the Bishop or his representative presents as much factual information as possible. 

      Since the local church will likely include people who have experienced abuse or misconduct themselves, appropriate personnel trained in crisis ministry should be present and available on a small group or one-to-one basis immediately after the formal presentation. Also, local mental health resources (including sliding scale fee agencies) should be publicized so that members of the congregation know how to find these services. (Note that many communities have publicly-funded survivor services.)

      The debriefing should follow this process set forth in the Trauma and Debriefing section. The message should be “The Church is a place for truth. We follow Jesus, who described himself as the Way, the Truth and the Life.”

      1. Church Spokesperson. The vestry, in consultation with the clergy, is encouraged to appoint a church spokesperson. The congregation, including church members and staff members, is urged to refer all media inquiries to the church spokesperson.
      2. Interim Priest. If the circumstances require that an interim priest be engaged, that priest should have special training in trauma debriefing. The Interim will be appointed by the Bishop in consultation with the Vestry. The interim priest should have regular opportunities to report and consult with the Bishop, his or her designated staff person, and counselors.
      3. Consulting Legal Authorities. Neither the clergy nor any other church worker should attempt to impede persons who wish to consult with legal authorities.
      4. Continuing Pastoral Care. The clergy and/or vestry should consult with the Bishop about additional resources for the healing and care of the congregation.

      A Model for Information and Trauma Debriefing Meetings

      The following procedures are recommended for the information and trauma debriefing meeting, but the church and the Bishop should consult in advance with their respective legal counsel (and, if counsel recommends, insurance provider(s)) before conducting such a meeting or undertaking any such actions.  

      Steps Prior to Meeting

      1. Select Leaders. Carefully choose a Congregational Trauma Debriefing team and a leader or co-leaders who have had experience with a debriefing or trauma-related process. It is important that the rector or the rector’s representative be a visible participant in the debriefing, but not in the role of leadership.
      2. Schedule and Notify. Schedule the debriefing as soon as possible after the complaint becomes public knowledge. Ensure that all members of the congregation and church staff are notified of the debriefing by telephone, email, overnight mail, or other fast and reliable method of notification. It is important to get a wide participation, so that all who experience the trauma also share the debriefing experience.
      3. Choose a Meeting Place. Hold the debriefing in an appropriate place, preferably on the church’s property. Although an opening prayer is appropriate, this should not be a liturgical event.
      4. Address the News Media. While the debriefing should not be confidential, it is important that no one be placed in jeopardy because of any disclosures made during that meeting. Therefore, it is preferable that the news media not be present for the debriefing, but meet after the debriefing with the church spokesperson and Bishop.

      Agenda for the Meeting

      1. Open the Meeting. The Bishop or his representative should welcome the attendees, as should one of the lay leaders. The lay leader then should introduce himself/herself, explain the debriefing process, and outline the guidelines for the debriefing. It is important to keep the debriefing to the specified procedures. Leaders should be prepared for a lengthy meeting.

      2. Present the Facts. Subject to the advice of counsel, the general facts and approximate chronology of the trauma should be presented verbally, supplemented by written notations such as a summary handout, or by writing notes on newsprint during the factual presentation. The goal is to ensure that all those present have a common record of the traumatic event. Note that this is not a time for feelings to be expressed, and the group may need some direction to withhold those feelings until the next phase of the debriefing. 

      3. Solicit Reactions. Once an appropriate record has been presented, the lay leader should invite church members to express their reactions to the facts. (Some church members may need to be directed to express their own feelings and not those of others.) No feelings, however trivial, intense, or unusual, should be discounted, and no effort should be made to fix, soothe, or smooth them over. The responses simply are to be collected and heard.

      4. Examine Repercussions. Once reactions have been expressed fully, the leader should ask those present to turn their attention to the repercussions of the event, and consider the congregation's future. This step bridges the trauma with the ongoing life of those involved in the trauma. It may be a time to explore some of the issues the congregation will face in the near future. As with the presentation of facts, the issues raised may be noted both verbally and in writing.

      5. Seek Context and Perspective. Members of the congregation also should be invited to place the event within a context or perspective. There may be expressions of confusion, helplessness, or curiosity about how other groups have resolved an issue of this type. In this phase, people may have an awareness of paradox and pose some hard questions such as the following:

      • Why do bad things happen?
      • How can it be that such a talented priest/leader could be involved in misconduct?
      • Why do things like this happen in a church?
      • Where does the responsibility lie?
      • What about the resources of our faith?

      Leaders have discretion whether to respond, or to simply allow others to speak.

      Actions After the Meeting

      1. Plan for the Future. The final step is planning. This could include

      • Scheduling a follow-up session one or two months into the future; 
      • Discussing the ways in which the pastoral and sacramental needs of the congregation will be met; or 
      • Describing the resources available to people who may need counseling or other specialized attention.

      2. Provide Trained Counselors. For the immediate needs of those present, it is important that trained crisis professionals be available in the church building so that individuals or groups may process their feelings further. These professionals are present simply to listen and support people in integrating the trauma.

      3. Debrief the Debriefing. After the debriefing, members of the Congregational Trauma Debriefing Team should meet to discuss their own experiences with the debriefing meeting, in order to do the following:

      • Plan the follow-up monitoring of the congregation in the future;
      • Determine whether there are issues that will need further clarification;
      • Determine whether there are complicating factors, or factors that require special continuing attention;
      • Decide what the lay leadership of the congregation requires to address the issue further; and evaluate the debriefing meeting itself (or agree to do so at a later date).

      Additional Responses & Follow-Up

      If new information comes to light after the first debriefing, further meetings may be held. Additionally, regular follow-up sessions with the congregation should be held during the first year after disclosure of the incident(s).

      Additional appropriate church responses may include:

      • Regular prayer for the complainant(s), the respondent(s), and the congregation should continue;
      • Preaching on the subject of violation of trust and liturgical acts of corporate penance;
      • Securing a safe place for the complainant(s) and the complainant's family in community life;
      • In the event that incarceration or other punitive action follows legal proceedings, developing a means for the congregation to deal appropriately with the person who may be imprisoned.

      Congregational Follow-up: The First Year

      Even with the best of care, a congregation that has experienced sexual misconduct will likely need an ongoing program of support and assistance, especially in the first year. This year will be devoted to a healing process, in which the congregation slowly will integrate the reality of its experience into its future. If such integration does not take place, the congregation may suffer from prolonged loss of energy, despair about the future, loss and/or isolation of some members, distrust of lay and/or ordained leadership or of the Bishop, and difficulty making decisions or taking risks. 

      Suggested congregational follow-up activities may include:

      • Meeting with the Bishop. A meeting with the Bishop or the Bishop's representative and the vestry in order to assess the healing process of the congregation.
      • Staff Input. Obtaining input from church staff (including an interim priest where present) about their observations regarding the incident and the debriefing process.
      • Study Groups. Establishing study groups to consider the issue of healing from sexual abuse, perhaps by reading a selected book for discussion.
      • Self-evaluation. Conducting a congregational self-evaluation, through the use of a questionnaire or survey instrument.
      • Focus Groups. Creating congregational focus groups to address the issue of where the congregation stands in its process of moving ahead.
      • Committee on Congregational Life. Forming a Committee on Congregational Life charged with assessing the needs and planning programs for continued healing.
      • Professional Consultant. Appointing a professional consultant experienced with issues of child abuse to work with the vestry and affected congregation on the components of the healing process.

      Using the Trauma to Help Others

      Some churches, having worked through a history of child abuse, take up a special vocation in a related area. Such steps signify that the congregation has moved into the redemptive activity of letting its own pain be a gift for others. Among possible actions:

      • Helping Other Churches. Offering help to other churches confronted with the same issues.
      • Sponsoring Programs. Sponsoring seminars or programs on ethics and sexuality.
      • Church Building Use. Offering the church building for use by community groups to address issues of child abuse.
      • Developing programs for young people about protecting themselves from abuse.

      Pastoral Response to Known Sexual Offenders

      The church must make every reasonable effort to protect children. Special care must be taken when a church interacts with a person who is registered as a sexual offender, or self-discloses a history of sexual misconduct towards children, or self-discloses a struggle with sexual attraction toward children.

      When such a person is known to be a participant in the church or its activities, the clergy shall inhibit that person from any contact with children and shall require (except as otherwise directed by the church’s legal counsel) the offender to sign a contract/covenant that details expectations, defines boundaries and off-limits locations (e.g. children’s areas, acolyte vesting areas), and establishes appropriate supervision (such as, for example, a bathroom escort) for the offender while on church premises and/or at church activities. The church shall have in place a plan to deal with any violation of the contract/covenant.

      If the perpetrator is observed acting in an inappropriate manner with children or their families, the rector or wardens shall inform the family/families of a potential danger to their child/children (unless otherwise directed by the church’s legal counsel). Where appropriate, the rector or senior warden shall consult the offender’s probation or parole officer to assure that supervision and reporting requirements have been met.


      O merciful Creator, your loving hand is open wide to satisfy the needs of every living creature: Make us always thankful for your loving providence, and give us grace to honor you with all that you have entrusted to us; that we, remembering the account we must one day give, may be faithful stewards of your good gifts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

      ©Book of Common Prayer, 2019, Prayer 22