Child/Youth Protection Policy at Dumbarton United Methodist Church

Baltimore Washington Conference – Washington D.C.


Dumbarton United Methodist Church
Baltimore Washington Conference – Washington D.C.

“Then he [Jesus] put a little child among them.
Taking the child in his arms, he said to them,
‘Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me,
and anyone who welcomes me welcomes my Father who sent me.’”
Mark 9:3637

I. Purpose: Our congregation’s purpose for establishing this Child Abuse Prevention Policy and accompanying procedures is to demonstrate our absolute and unwavering commitment to the physical safety and spiritual growth of all of our children and youth.

Statement of Covenant: As a Christian community of faith and a United Methodist congregation, we pledge to conduct the ministry of the gospel in ways that assure the safety and spiritual growth of all our children and youth, as well as that of the workers with children and youth. We will follow reasonable safety measures in the selection and recruitment of workers; we will implement prudent operational procedures in all programs and events; we will educate our workers with children and youth regarding the use of all appropriate policies and methods, we will have a clearly‐defined procedure for reporting a suspected incident of abuse that conforms to the requirements of District of Columbia law.

II. Definitions

Adult Volunteer: a person 18 years old or older working with children or youth who may or may not be an official member of Dumbarton United Methodist Church, but must have been a regular attendee for at least six months.  Must sign a participation covenant statement and a yearly child abuse prevention questionnaire, and must work with a Paid Staff Person or another Adult Volunteer.

Emotional Abuse: Mental anguish caused by attacking or otherwise disparaging a child’s or youth’s self‐worth through rejection, threats,  intimidation, isolation, or humiliation.

Neglect: the failure to provide care, services and supervision necessary to avoid physical harm or mental anguish..

Paid Staff Person: someone paid by the church, overseen by Staff‐Parish Committee, and screened before employment as required by sections III.1. through III.4. below.

Physical Abuse: a non‐accidental contact which may or does result in injury; includes but is not limited to: striking, biting, shaking, kicking, pinching.

Sexual Abuse – Child or youth sexual abuse is the sexual exploitation or seduction of a participant in church-sanctioned activities who is under the age of 18 by a paid staff person or adult volunteer for the satisfaction of sexual drives. This includes, but is not limited to:

  1. incest
  2. rape,
  3. prostitution,
  4. romantic involvement
  5. any sexual intercourse, or sexual conduct with, or fondling of an individual enrolled as a child or youth in church sponsored activities,
  6. sexualized behavior that communicates sexual interest and/or content. Examples include but are not limited to: displaying sexually suggestive visual materials, making sexual comments or innuendo about one’s own or another person’s body, touching another person’s body, hair or clothing, touching or rubbing one’s genital area in the presence of another person, kissing, or sexual intercourse.  (#6 taken from Resolution #30 Book of Resolutions 2000). Sexual abuse may be physical or psychological.

This definition of sexual abuse can also apply to sexual exploitation or seduction (as described above) of a child by a youth volunteer.

Youth Volunteer: a person under the age of 18; must sign a participation covenant statement and a yearly child abuse prevention questionnaire, and must work with an Adult Volunteer or a Paid Staff Person.

III. Recruiting, Screening, Hiring of Child/Youth Workers and Volunteers

  1. Except for part-time nursery workers, who may submit resumes, all paid staff persons must be screened before hiring under the requirements of paragraphs III.1. through III.4. below. Applicants for full-time paid staff positions must submit a written application form and applicants for all positions must undergo an interview by a paid staff member or other designated person, a reference check, a previous employment check, and a criminal background check. The criminal background check must be repeated every four years.  All screening of a paid staff person must be completed before he or she may be given any unsupervised responsibility for children/youth.
  1. Prior to supervising or caring for children/youth, each paid staff person or adult volunteer must sign a “Participation Covenant Statement” verifying that he/she has read, understands, and agrees to abide by this “Safe Sanctuaries Child/Youth Protection Policy.”
  1. Prior to supervising children/youth, each paid staff person or adult volunteer must undergo an initial orientation session that includes child abuse information, his/her responsibility for reporting questionable behavior, and explanations of this policy. Attendance at annual “refresher” training sessions will be required of all Paid Staff Persons and Adult Volunteers who work or have offered to work with children/youth during the upcoming year.
  1. Any person convicted of child sexual or physical abuse, any crime against a child, or domestic violence will be rejected as a worker with children and youth. In this event, or in the event a person is rejected for any other known or suspected abuse or neglect, the persons responsible for making the decision should inform the applicant privately, in person if practicable.
  1. All records, including criminal background checks and application forms, must be kept in a locked cabinet with access only to the clergy and to persons designated by the Response Team.
  1. Applicants may not be discriminated against on the basis of race, color, sex, age, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

IV. Basic Operating Procedures

  1. Implementation of policy for recruiting, screening, hiring, and training children/youth Paid Staff Persons and Adult Volunteers: Criminal background checks, as well as previous employment history and all references, must be checked for those in supervisory capacities. There must be a written record of all checks done by phone.

  2. Twoadult rule: On church property and church-sanctioned activities offsite, two unrelated adults must be in the room or vehicle with participating children or youth at all times except for emergencies or other circumstances beyond the control of the affected paid staff person or adult volunteer . Exception: a responsible youth at least 18 years of age may take the place of one of the adults, as long as the adult present is an Adult Volunteer who has signed the Participant Covenant Statement required by this Policy. This rule applies until all children/youth have left the premises/event. In a true emergency in which an adult must be left alone with a child, the door to the room must be left open or there must be clear visibility through a window in the door.
  3. Age limits: No one under the age of 18 may be given supervisory responsibility for church-sanctioned child or youth activities. In addition, Paid Staff Persons and Volunteers must be at least 18.
  4. Visibility in rooms: Every room that is used for activities and teaching of children/youth should have a window in the door, or have an open half‐door, that gives visibility to all areas of that room. The window must be left uncovered.  If there is no window, the door must be left open at all times.  Classroom doors must remain unlocked during all times when classrooms are in use for child or youth education or other church-sanctioned activities.
  5. Disciplinary methods: Corporal punishment is not to be used at any time. If a child/youth is in need of correction during an event, the following methods may be used, attempting to match severity of consequence to severity of infraction: 1) verbal correction which addresses the specific issue, while not berating the child/youth; 2) brief time‐out:  if child/youth must be removed from the room, he or she must be within sight of the adults; 3) calling the parent(s) to come get the child/youth. This should be used only in extreme circumstances.
  6. Open door counseling: (a) Counseling, including pastoral counseling, is expected to be made available as needed to meet the child/youth’s needs.
  7. Roving monitors: The adult volunteer(s) or paid staff responsible for child care or youth education must make reasonable efforts, including arrangements for backup assistance, to ensure that at least two adults will routinely be available in the nursery or classroom. In the event two adults are not available to be in a classroom, a roving monitor must be available during the meeting time, and the door must be left open.  Exceptions to this two-adult requirement may be made for severe weather conditions or other unforeseen circumstances beyond the control of the responsible adult volunteer or paid staff person.
  8. Restroom policy: Except when adult assistance is required for children in diapers or toilet training, or when a child enters a restroom with an adult already using it, no child/youth may be left alone with an adult in a restroom. If one adult must leave the classroom/activity to take a child to the restroom, the adult must wait outside the restroom door. In the case of young children who need assistance, the restroom door, or toilet stall door if there is no restroom door, must be left open.
  9. First Aid and CPR: To the maximum extent possible, at least one adult present at every church activity involving children/youth should be certified in basic first aid and CPR. The church should offer training annually.
  10. Communication/Advance Notice to Parents/Guardians: Parents/guardians should be kept informed about programs their children/youth are involved in and must be given advance notice and information about any activity which deviates from the regular programs the church offers. Photocopies of permission forms with medical information/treatment release and with behavior standards should accompany children/youth on any activity involving travel or extreme sports activity (skiing, amusement parks, etc.). Copies of “Safe Sanctuary” Child/Youth Protection Policy” must be made available to parents/guardians.
  11. Age and activityappropriate equipment: The safety and appropriateness of the equipment used in nursery, classrooms, youth room, and playground should be examined annually, with the date and the findings of inspection noted in writing.
  12. Signin and signout for children: Adults supervising children through Grade 5 may not release children to anyone except the parent/guardian following an activity, unless written permission is given by the parent/guardian. If someone brings to church activities a child or youth who is unknown to the leaders, identifying information (address, phone, parents’ names, where parents can be reached, etc.) must be gathered before the child or youth may be allowed to participate in a planned activity. Verbal approval by the child’s parent or guardian may be accepted for circumstances unforeseen by the parent or guardian such as an unexpected change in the availability of transportation or the driver of the vehicle providing transportation.
  13. Demonstration of affection: Appropriate demonstrations of affection or physical contact: keep hugs brief; hug from the side; never impose touch on a child/youth who has indicated that such touching would be unwelcome.
  14. Dress code for child/youth workers: Clothing is expected to be modest and appropriate for a Christian event. This standard applies to paid staff and adult volunteers as well as children and youth.  If practicable, a paid staff member or adult volunteer may require a child or youth to change to more appropriate clothing before participating in a church-sanctioned activity.
  15. Overnight trips:
    1. (a) Housing arrangements: Whenever possible, youth (ages 11‐17) should be housed separately from adults, with adults preferably in an adjoining room.  When a separate room is unavailable, a minimum of two youth and one adult, or two unrelated adults with one youth (all of the same sex) must be housed in the same room.  No youth and adult may share a bed.  In cases where beds must be shared, the youth will share a bed and the adults will share a bed (exception: mother/daughter or father/son may share a bed).  Co‐ed rooming is not permitted.  Middle school youth should be housed separately from high school youth whenever possible.  Children should not be assigned beds in the same room with youth unless both are sleeping in a common area or bunkroom with a larger group of children/youth and adults.  Visitation between males and females in hotel rooms or residence halls is prohibited unless directly supervised in a group setting by the group’s responsible adults for devotional or group discussion time, or to watch a TV or video program.

    2. (b) Male/Female supervision:  At least one male Adult must accompany male children/youth and at least one female Adult must accompany female children/youth. (The Two‐Adult Rule still applies if the activity is for males or females only).
    3. (c) Leaving the event: Neither children/youth nor supervising adults may leave the event without explicit permission from the church group leader.
    4. (d) Permission to participate:  Permission to Participate (Form SS5) must be used for overnight trips.
  16. Liability insurance coverage: Maintain liability insurance coverage of at least $1,000,000 per event/$3,000,000 aggregate for activities both on and off church property. Liability insurance should include at least $300,000 coverage for sexual misconduct claims.
  17. Transportation:
    1. (a)  When the church is providing or has arranged to provide transportation to or from a church-sanctioned offsite activity, any vehicle transporting children/youth  must have two adults, one of whom is a paid staff person or an Adult Volunteer, unless one of the conditions for an exception under paragraph 17.(c) below is met.  The two adults should not be related unless the vehicle is traveling with two or more vehicles, preferably within sight of each other (even for short trips).   The requirements of this section do not apply to personal arrangements between or among parents other than paid staff or adult volunteers for transporting their own respective children/youth and/or their non-DUMC contemporaries, but parents providing transportation under such separate personal arrangements are encouraged to observe these requirements when transporting children or youth to or from church-sanctioned activities, including spring retreats and winter ski weekends.

    2. (b) No one under the age of 18 may be a driver.
    3. (c) Drivers must carry personal liability insurance of at least $50,000 bodily injury and $100,000 per accident. Drivers must sign an affidavit indicating that they are so insured and licensed to drive.
    4. (d) Seat belts must be used for every passenger.  The number of passengers cannot exceed the number of seat belts.  Car seats for infants and children must comply with applicable State or District of Columbia requirements for age and weight, and with minimum age requirements for riding in the front seat.
    5. (e) When traveling in cars, the driver may be the only adult present as long as two or more vehicles transporting youth or children are traveling together, preferably within sight of each other (even for short trips).  However, no child/youth may travel alone with an adult unless that adult is his/her parent, or has the written consent of the parent, or oral parental consent if witnessed by another adult.
    6. (f) On out‐of-town trips, at least one vehicle must have first aid supplies and a cell phone available.
  18. Reporting of accidents/medical emergencies: Any accident resulting in injury must be reported on the “Accident/Medical Emergency Report Form” and given to a Paid Staff Person. If that person is not the Pastor, the Paid Staff Person must give a report to the Pastor within 24 hours.
  19. Incident reporting and response procedure in case of allegation of abuse: Reports of any type abuse or inappropriate behavior should never be taken lightly or disregarded. Such reports should be treated as confidential.
    1. (a) The first person to observe an abuse or learn of an incident from the alleging victim should not undertake an inquiry alone and should not question the accused or the accuser. The person should ensure the immediate safety of the child/youth and promptly report the incident to the Staff‐Parish Relations Committee if the accused is a Paid Staff Person, or to a Paid Staff Person if the accused is a volunteer. If the incident is reported to a Paid Staff Person who is not the Pastor, the Paid Staff Person must report it to the Pastor within 24 hours.  If the accuser is hesitant to talk to higher church, law enforcement, or child protection authorities,” the person first receiving the accusation has a special responsibility to encourage the accuser to speak to a Paid Staff Person or the Pastor, lest the church be unable to respond due to lack of firsthand information.

    2. (b) The Response Team will consist of the Pastor, the Youth Minister, Chair of Staff‐Parish Relations Committee, and a member at large (preferably from the field of law, education, or medicine). A Coordinator of the Response Team will be elected by that group from the members of the Team.
    3. (c) The official receiving the initial incident report will promptly forward written copies of “Report of Suspected Incident of Child/Youth Abuse” (filled out with relevant information) to the Coordinator of the Response Team and the Pastor. The Coordinator is responsible to complete and keep current (in ink, handwritten or typed) the remainder of the form, as well as a record of each step taken throughout to resolve the incident.
    4. (d) The records must be kept in a secure place: a doubly‐locked place accessible to only the Chair of the Response Team and the Pastor if the accused is a volunteer; additionally to the Chair of Staff‐Parish Relations Committee if the accused is a Paid Staff Person. If any of the above is the accused, the records will be accessible to the other two of the three people listed above.
    5. (e) The Pastor or designated spokesperson will respond to any media inquiries. It is important that this person be the only person who speaks with the media about an incident.
    6. (f) The Response Team Coordinator and the Pastor must notify the parents/guardians of the alleged victim and law enforcement or child protective services. If one or both parents/guardians are the accused, the advice of the authorities will be followed.
    7. (g) The accused will be treated with dignity, but will be immediately removed from further involvement with children/youth until completely cleared by the responsible law enforcement or child protective services authority.
    8. (h) If deemed appropriate by the Response Team, a brief statement may be made to the congregation without giving unnecessary details, placing blame, interfering with the victim’s privacy or violating confidentiality.
    9. (i) The Response Team is NOT authorized to: advocate for any party; conduct a formal investigation; act as legal counsel, determine guilt or innocence; or replace the functions of the Staff‐Parish Relations Committee or Book of Discipline (if the accused is a Paid Staff Person).
  20. Former abusers; former victims: No adult who has been convicted of child abuse in any form may be allowed to work with children or youth in any church‐sponsored activity. Adult survivors of child abuse need the love and support of our congregation. Any adult survivor who volunteers to work with children/youth is encouraged to discuss his/her willingness with the Pastor or a Paid Staff Member responsible for children or youth before accepting an assignment.
  21. Non‐church‐sponsored events involving children/youth: Organizations using Dumbarton United Methodist Church facilities who are not subject to District of Columbia child protection regulations must sign a statement agreeing to adhere to Safe Sanctuaries Child/Youth Protection Policy. Such organizations must document that they have completed background checks on all individuals who supervise children or youth on church property under the organization’s auspices.  Other non‐organization groups (such as family reunions) must be made aware of the Safe Sanctuary Child/Youth Protection Policy and must sign a statement agreeing to use the facilities at their own risk.