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We adopted this policy, based on recommendations from NW Yearly Meeting and our own deliberations. If you would like to read the yearly meeting document, please visit the NWYM website.

Abuse Prevention


I. BACKGROUND PRINCIPLES

West Hills Friends Church has developed this abuse prevention policy, because we want everyone to be safe, our teachers to be well-informed and our entire community to be mindful of the responsibility we share. Examples of abuse that this policy is designed to prevent include: (1) physical injury to a child or vulnerable adult which has been caused by other than accidental means; (2) cruelty to a child resulting and vulnerable adult in observable and substantial impairment of the child's or vulnerable adult’s mental or psychological ability to function; and (3) sexual conduct.

This policy applies to everyone with any official responsibility for children (e.g. nursery workers, Sunday school teachers, chaperones on youth retreat), regardless of whether they are paid or volunteer. All those who work with children (age 0-18) and youth (grades 6-12) will receive a copy of this policy.

This policy also applies to everyone with any official responsibility for caring for vulnerable adults, regardless of whether they are paid or volunteer. Vulnerable adults are individuals over 18 years of age who, because of a mental or developmental disability, are substantially impaired in the ability to provide adequately for their own care and custody. Because such conditions are not always apparent, people will only be considered vulnerable adults if they, their parent or guardian informs a WHF pastor or elder of their condition.

The Children's Program Coordinator, working with the senior pastor and Elders, will review this policy and supporting procedures every June to make sure it still meets the needs of our community and that we are living up to the commitments outlined here.

II. SPECIFIC POLICIES

(A) Screening Requirements for Those Working with Children or Vulnerable Adults:

  • (1) Before anyone can volunteer to work with our children, he or she must have attended West Hills Friends Church for a minimum of 6 months. Exceptions might be made for people who are well-known, for people with special expertise, or on a case-by-case basis as approved by the West Hills Friends elders. Those hired specifically to work with children (e.g. a nursery worker or youth pastor) must provide appropriate references.
  • (2) Before anyone can work with children, he or she must complete a "Screening Form for Ministry Workers." These forms are confidential and will be kept in a locked area.
  • (3) Before anyone can work with children or vulnerable adults, he or she must be interviewed by an appropriate authority. The results of the interview will be kept in a locked file with the person's completed Screening Form.
  • (4) Before anyone can work with children or vulnerable adults, he or she must agree in writing that he or she has read and agrees to follow the abuse prevention policies of West Hills Friends Church.
  • (5) All workers will undergo a criminal background check every two years.
  • (B) Restrictions:

  • (1) Anyone who is known to have criminally abused another person is ineligible to work with children or vulnerable adults at West Hills Friends Church.
  • (2) Anyone convicted of a violent crime, or currently under investigation for a violent crime, is ineligible to work with children or vulnerable adults.
  • (3) If there is a previous conviction of another crime which did not include abuse against another person or crime of violence, there must be a lapse of at least one year from the time of conviction before serving with children or vulnerable adults. Exceptions might be made on a case-by-case basis as approved by the West Hills Friends Elders.
  • (C) Observation of Care Providers:

  • (1) With the exception of the youth pastor meeting one-on-one with youth (see 4 below), those who work with children or vulnerable adults must have a third person present at every event. The third person may be another minor.
  • (a) A Sunday school teacher with only one student must return the child to his or her parents.
  • (b) A parent who brings his or her child to a midweek event is asked to remain onsite until a second child arrives.
  • (2) If only one adult worker is present at an activity for children, a second adult will be asked to visit the site at a random time.
  • (a) On Sunday morning, this random visit will be performed by the person taking attendance.
  • (b) For midweek activities, the organizer must arrange for the random visit.
  • (3) If children will be spending the night away from home, at least two adults must be present. Our preference is for at least one adult of each gender. Boys and girls will sleep in separate areas.
  • (4) For the purpose of spiritual development, the youth pastor may meet one-on-one with youth (grades 6-12). When possible, one-on-one meetings should happen in public places (cafes, restaurants, public parks), and should last no more than one hour. Before meeting one-on-one with any youth, the youth pastor must acquire written approval from the minor's parent or guardian. These permission slips will clarify:
  • (a) Whether or not the the youth pastor has permission to meet one-on-one with the youth;
  • (b) Whether or not the youth pastor can meet with the youth more than once;
  • (c) Whether or not the youth pastor needs to inform the parent of each meeting;
  • (d) Whether or not the youth pastor is authorized to provide transportation.
  • (D) Physical and Verbal Violence:

  • (1) Physical Contact: Adults working with children or vulnerable adults should always practice consent when using physical touch, and uphold the child or vulnerable adult’s right to autonomy over their body. Workers will limit touch to appropriate areas of the body (e.g. hands, shoulders). Inappropriate physical contact includes obvious violations of personal boundaries, such as touching of private body areas, and also includes but is not limited to, tickling, prolonged hugs, kissing, etc. Workers are never to spank, hit, shake, physically force a certain action or otherwise physically discipline anyone. For children of nursery age, parents will state in a nursery agreement form their preferences for diaper changes. Should a parent state that they do not wish for diaper changes to be handled by the nursery care worker, the parent will be alerted when a diaper change is needed.
  • (2) Physical Restraint: Restraint should only be used in situations where it is necessary to prevent harm. All other methods of prevention (talking, giving space, asking for help from another worker, etc.) should be used first. Physical restraint should be limited to appropriate parts of the body and limited to only the amount of restraint necessary to achieve the prevention of harm to self and others. For example, a child attempting to harm a peer who would not respond to verbal requests to stop could be removed from the room using the least amount of physical touch possible, and immediately released into a safe space at which time the worker would continue trying to verbally calm the child while a parent was called.
  • (3) Verbal Violence: No worker shall yell, demean, shame, coerce, intimidate, use inappropriate language or otherwise behave in a threatening manner toward a child or vulnerable adult in their care.
  • (E) Using the Restroom: If a child or vulnerable adult needs assistance in the restroom, an adult worker will prop the door open while he or she is inside helping the child or vulnerable adult.

    (F) Transportation: In addition to being screened as childcare workers, each driver will be responsible to have a current driver's license and proof of insurance.

    (G) Reporting Abuse

  • (1) If a worker witnesses child abuse or abuse to a vulnerable adult, or is told of abuse by a party involved, that person must immediately contact the senior pastor or Clerk of Elders. Together, they will make a report to the appropriate child protection services and local police agency. It is important to limit the amount of follow-up questions asked of the child or vulnerable adult in this situation, so that further investigation may be performed by trained interviewers. Those suspected of abuse should not be contacted at this time.
  • (2) If a worker has cause to believe that abuse has occurred, but has not observed the abusive conduct directly, that person must report the information to the senior pastor or Clerk of Elders. After consultation, if they decide the situation warrants it, they will make a report to the appropriate child protection services and local police agency. Discussion with the child or vulnerable adult should be kept to a minimum, and then only to confirm suspicions. Those suspected of abuse should not be contacted at this time.
  • (3) Using the form NWYM F4, the senior pastor must report all relevant information concerning suspected or observed abuse to the Northwest Yearly Meeting Superintendent.
  • (4) If a worker serving in the ministry of the church is alleged to have abused a child or vulnerable adult, the following steps shall be taken subsequent to immediately reporting the incident to the appropriate authorities:
  • (a) The person(s) in charge of the program or activity shall keep a written record of everything done in response to the allegation.
  • (b) The allegation will be reported as soon as possible to the proper church authority and to the Northwest Yearly Meeting Superintendent.
  • (c) The incident shall be reported as soon as possible to the applicable insurance company and/or attorney.
  • (d) The accused shall be relieved of duties until the prompt investigation of said accusation occurs.
  • (e) The church will follow the counsel of an attorney and/or insurance company representative when reporting to Services for Children and Families.
  • (f) Parents of the alleged victim shall be notified as soon as possible, unless the parent/guardian is the alleged perpetrator.
  • (g) If the accused is under the age of 18, his/her parents shall be notified as soon as possible.
  • (h) The alleged victim will be supported by all the love and care that is reasonably possible.
  • (i) The accused must be treated with dignity, support and Christian love.
  • (j) All means must be taken to ensure confidentiality at all levels of this process. Disclosure of information regarding the abuse or suspected abuse is prohibited, except as required for reporting purposes.
  • (H) Sexual Offender Chaperone Policy: In the event that a registered or known sex offender is attending a local ministry, program, or event, the established sexual offender chaperone policy must be followed.

    In the event that a registered or known sex offender is attending West Hills Friends Church, the following steps must be taken to manage risk.

  • (1) Obtain a record of the sex offender's prior criminal convictions.
  • (2) If the sex offender is on probation, identify his/her probation officer and assess the conditions that have been imposed. In some cases, sex offenders are not allowed to attend church. If the probation officer says the offender is free to attend church, ask the officer if he/she recommends the offender attend church, and if so, under what conditions. Obtain this information in writing, or create a detailed written account of the officer's response. This information should be kept in a locked file.
  • (3) Condition the sex offender's right to attend church services and activities by having him/her sign a "conditional attendance agreement" that imposes the following conditions:
  • (a) The sex offender will always be in the presence of a designated chaperone while on church property.
  • (b) The sex offender will not attend any youth or children's functions while on the church property, except for those involving his or her own child/children,and only in the presence of a chaperone.
  • (b) A single violation of these conditions will result in an immediate termination of the sex offender's privilege to attend the church.