Floris United Methodist Church seeks to establish reasonable procedures to reduce the risk of physical, emotional and sexual abuse of children/students as they participate in church ministries, and to protect staff and volunteers from false allegations of misconduct.
II. Biblical Foundation
Floris United Methodist Church seeks to express God’s love of young persons and to provide for their personal wholeness. This faith community seeks to provide an environment that is caring and secure for all persons. The Bible is foundational to our understanding upon which all policies, procedures and ministries must stand.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14 (NIV)
Jesus teaches us explicitly that young persons have the right and the keys to the Kingdom of God. He demonstrated this through blessing and touch. Our goal in response to this Biblical mandate is to maintain a safe, secure and loving place where children may grow.
“Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled.” Luke 14:21 (NRSV)
In the Parable of the Great Banquet, Jesus reminds us that God is in the business of inviting all people to the table, where they can be nurtured and transformed to be Christ to others. Today, we continue to recognize that each individual is a child of God and must be allowed to live free of fear, surrounded by love. As Christian adults, we must establish and maintain a nurturing, loving, safe and secure Christian environment, providing support and assistance to our children and students, remembering that our mandate is not only a responsibility, but an opportunity to protect the gift that God has bestowed upon us.
“A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34 (NIV)
“Blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear.” Matthew 13:16
III. Commonwealth of Virginia Statutes
Under Section 63.2-100 of the Code of Virginia, an abused child is defined as one who is less than eighteen years of age,
1. Whose parents or other person responsible for his care creates or inflicts, threatens to create or inflict, or allows to be created or inflicted upon such child a physical or mental injury by other than accidental means, or creates a substantial risk of death, disfigurement, or impairment of bodily or mental functions, including but not limited to, a child who is with his parent or other person responsible for his care either (i) during the manufacture or attempted manufacture of a Schedule I or II controlled substance, or (ii) during the unlawful sale of such substance by that child’s parents or other person responsible for his care, where such manufacture, or attempted manufacture or unlawful sale would constitute a felony violation of § 18.2-248;
2. Whose parents or other person responsible for his care neglects or refuses to provide care necessary for his health. However, no child who in good faith is under treatment solely by spiritual means through prayer in accordance with the tenets and practices of a recognized church or religious denomination shall for that reason alone be considered to be an abused or neglected child;
3. Whose parents or other person responsible for his care abandons such child;
4. Whose parents or other person responsible for his care commits or allows to be committed any act of sexual exploitation or any sexual act upon a child in violation of the law;
5. Who is without parental care or guardianship caused by the unreasonable absence or the mental or physical incapacity of the child’s parent, guardian, legal custodian or other person standing in loco parentis; or
6. Whose parents or other person responsible for his care creates a substantial risk of physical or mental injury by knowingly leaving the child alone in the same dwelling, including an apartment as defined in § 55-79.2, with a person to whom the child is not related by blood or marriage and who the parent or other person responsible for his care knows has been convicted of an offense against a minor for which registration is required as a violent sexual offender pursuant to § 9.1-902.
An act of child abuse may be committed by any person responsible for the care of another individual who is less than eighteen years of age. It does not matter whether the person caring for the child under the age of 18 (hereinafter referred to as a “Child” or “Children”, which term as used in this Policy also includes student ages 12-18) is a compensated or a volunteer worker. It does not matter whether the person routinely is entrusted with the care of children or whether such individual only occasionally comes in contact with children. It does not matter whether the person was entrusted with the care of a child for an hour or only a moment. It only matters that a child was abused or neglected by the person who, on the occasion in question, was responsible for the child’s care.
IV. Types of Child Abuse
Child abuse refers to an act committed by a parent, care giver or person in a position of trust (even though he/she may not care for the child on a daily basis), which is not accidental and which harms or threatens to harm a child’s physical or mental health or welfare. The following definitions and explanations in this section are from the Virginia Department of Social Services.
B. Types of Abuse
1. Physical Abuse
Physical abuse is a physical injury, threat of injury, or creation of a real and significant danger of substantial risk of death, disfigurement or impairment of bodily functions. Such injury or threat of injury, regardless of intent, is inflicted or allowed to be inflicted by non-accidental means. Examples: asphyxiation; bone fracture; brain damage, skull fracture, subdural hematoma; burns, scalding; cuts, bruises, welts, abrasions; internal injuries, poisoning; sprains; dislocations; gunshot, stabbing wounds.
2. Physical Neglect
Physical neglect is the failure to provide food, clothing, shelter, or supervision for a child if the child’s health or safety is endangered. Physical neglect may include multiple occurrences or a one-time critical or severe event that results in a threat to health or safety, such as a toddler left alone. Other types of neglect include abandonment, inadequate supervision, inadequate clothing, inadequate shelter, inadequate personal hygiene, inadequate food and malnutrition.
3. Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse includes any act defined in the code of Virginia that is committed, or allowed to be committed, upon a child by his/her parent or other persons responsible for the child’s care.
Examples of such abuse are: sexual exploitation, sexual molestation, intercourse/sodomy and other sexual abuse.
4. Medical Neglect
Medical neglect is the refusal or failure by caretaker to obtain and/or follow through with a complete regimen of medical, mental or dental care for a condition, which if untreated, could result in illness or developmental delays.
5. Failure to Thrive
Failure to thrive syndrome of infancy or early childhood is characterized by growth failure, signs of severe malnutrition, and variable degrees of developmental retardation. Children are considered to be in this category only when the syndrome is diagnosed by a physician and is caused by non-organic factors.
6. Mental Abuse/Neglect
Mental abuse and/or neglect is a pattern of acts or omissions by the caretaker that result in harm to a child’s psychological or emotional health or development.
7. Educational Neglect
The child’s caretaker is directly responsible for the failure of the child to attend school or an approved alternative program of study.
8. Bizarre Discipline
Bizarre discipline includes any actions in which the caretaker uses eccentric, irrational or grossly inappropriate procedures or devices to modify the child’s behavior.
V. Reducing the Risk of Child Abuse
In an effort to create the safest possible environment within Floris United Methodist Church, several abuse prevention measures will be utilized. These measures include biennial background checks of paid staff and adult volunteers for past child abuse convictions, biennial online child safety training, use of the two-adult rule, standards of appropriate classroom discipline and open classrooms.
1. Six-Month Rule
Floris United Methodist Church will not allow anyone to serve as a volunteer for church ministries with children under 18 unless such person has been strongly connected in the church in some aspect (worship, small group, service, etc.) for at least six (6) months. The only exception to this is for those who have recently relocated and a reference check to their previous church can be verified by a pastor/leader.
For church wide family events, it is expected that parents will accompany all children under the age of 12 throughout the event; therefore the six-month rule does not apply to volunteers for church wide events. These church wide events will have children’s activities that are designed to be in large rooms with multiple adults present.
For volunteers and members interested in serving children and students through our partner organizations, the six-month rule for Christian education opportunities does not apply. Floris volunteers and members serving in Floris managed programs and ministries that serve children and students in the community will complete a background check, safety training, and will review this policy prior to volunteering. Volunteers and members will also complete any safety requirements requested by the partner organization to be in full compliance with their rules and regulations.
2. Staff Screening
Every employee and all adult volunteers who work with children or students will be required to complete the following steps prior to serving:
1. Undergo a national criminal record check
2. Read the Safety Policy and sign the statement indicating that he/she has never been convicted of child abuse. Anyone who has had a child abuse conviction, as well as anyone refusing to sign the statement, will not be permitted to work with children or students
3. Complete the online safety training
3. Safety Training
Every other year, prior to serving, all paid staff, adult volunteers and student volunteers (age 13 and older), who work with children and students will be required to read the church’s child protection policy and sign a form indicating that they have read the policy, understand the policy and agree to abide by the policy. Anyone failing to do so will not be permitted to serve in this capacity until the policy has been read and the form signed. Staff members and volunteers will be required to do the online safety training.
Leaders of community groups of children under 18, who use the church facility, (including its outdoor facilities), will be required to read the Safety Policies and sign the online acknowledgment form. Church facilities, including outdoor facilities, will not be available to groups whose leaders refuse to read and sign the policy.
4. Two-Adult Rule
Leaders will be assigned in teams of two unrelated adults or more for all children/student activities. Any leader under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a leader who is 18 years of age or older. If the group is divided, each subgroup will have two adults, with at least one being a screened leader. If there are not two such adults available for each group, then either the group will be combined with another group to make possible the presence of two adults with one being a screened leader, or the activity may be canceled on that occasion. Community groups of children/students who meet at the church must have two or more leaders present who have signed this form. If any group stays overnight at the church, or if a church sponsored group leaves the premises, two or more leaders must be present and if the group is mixed gender, there must be at least one male and one female, not related.
For transportation for church related activities, there may be one screened adult with multiple children/students in the vehicle.
5. One-on-One Mentoring or Consultation
Any one-on-one mentoring or consultation between an adult and a child will be conducted in a room or area that is in plain view of others.
6. Classroom Discipline
All leaders and workers with children and student will use the following discipline measures. If a child is behaving inappropriately, the leader or worker will tell the child specifically what he/she is doing that is not acceptable and state what the expected behavior is, e.g., “We do not throw blocks. We use blocks for building.” If this measure is not effective, the child will be guided to another activity. If inappropriate behavior continues, the child may be placed at a table to work alone away from the other students. No physical punishment or verbal abuse, e.g., ridicule, are to be used at any time. If isolating the child within the classroom or removal of the child from the room becomes necessary, the situation will be discussed with the child’s parents or guardian as soon as possible.
7. Open Classrooms
Classrooms or child care rooms may be visited without prior notice by church staff, parents, or other designated volunteer church workers, at any time. Brief observations of child care rooms and classrooms of children under 18, are conducted by the staff or the primary leader during all activities.
8. Students on Adult Mission Trips
Students under the age of 18 years must be accompanied by a parent or guardian on all international and national adult mission trips.
VI. Reporting Child Abuse
Should there be an allegation of a child abuse occurrence at Floris United Methodist Church, the following procedures shall be followed:
1. Any allegation of child abuse shall be treated seriously.
2. Pray for the church and all persons affected by the allegation.
3. Immediately begin documenting all procedures that occur in handling the allegation.
4. Immediately notify a pastor, the Executive Director and the Children’s Ministry Director of the substance of the allegations. As many members of the Church Council as are immediately accessible shall be convened either in person or by telephone and the allegations shall be evaluated initially to determine whether there is a reason to suspect that child abuse may have occurred. The function of the Church Council at this stage is not to conduct an investigation, but to determine, based upon the allegations and the information then in the possession of the Church Council, whether a reason to suspect exists. In making such a determination, the Church Council shall avail itself of such counsel as it deems necessary and as is immediately available, including, but not limited to, consultation with an attorney, with a representative of the church’s insurance company, with the district superintendent, and anonymously with the Virginia Department of Social Services.
If the allegations involve a pastor, the Chairperson of the Staff-Parish Committee and the Executive Director shall be notified immediately and another pastor will be notified, and he or she shall immediately notify the District Superintendent who shall direct the next steps taken by the church in responding to the allegations. The provisions of this Policy shall continue to apply except as the District Superintendent directs that other steps be taken.
5. If it is determined that there is a reason to suspect that child abuse may have occurred, then the following steps shall be taken:
a. Immediately notify the Virginia Department of Social Services of the allegation. (1-800-552-7096).
b. Immediately notify the parents if it is not known that they have previous knowledge.
c. Immediately notify the church’s insurance company. (Joseph White Insurance Agency, Tom White, Agent, 703 968-0800).
d. Immediately notify the District Superintendent.
6. Do not confront the accused with the allegation. If the accused has assigned duties within the life of the church and the ministry director determines that the steps outlined in paragraph V (5) above are appropriate, that person must be temporarily relieved of their duties until the investigation is concluded.
7. The pastor should extend whatever care and resources are necessary to those impacted by the allegation, but under no circumstances should the pastor or any church leader or member investigate the allegation. In providing care to the principals (alleged victim and the accused) and their families, the pastor or church leader, should under no circumstances be drawn into a discussion of the truth or falsity of the allegation which could contaminate the investigation. Do not assign blame or take any steps that involve establishing or refuting the allegation.
8. It is appropriate to show care and comfort for the alleged victim. This should be the pastoral objective from the moment the allegation is received or otherwise made known.
9. Observe confidentiality for both the alleged victim and the accused until advised to the contrary by the ministry director.
10. There shall be a single spokesperson designated for the Church. The single spokesperson shall be the senior pastor or his/her designee.
VII. Policy Review
The Child Protection Policy and Procedures of Floris United Methodist Church shall be reviewed as determined by the Executive Director.
I have read and understand the Child Protection Policy and Procedures of Floris United Methodist Church. I agree to abide by those policies and procedures. I have no convictions for child abuse nor have I been expunged of such convictions. I authorize and release any references or churches that I might provide to Floris United Methodist Church to provide the Church any information (including opinions) that they may have regarding my work with children and/or students.