Purpose of the Policy: The members and staff of Faith Presbyterian Church of Torrance [FPCT] intend to provide a safe and secure environment for all. A safe and secure environment includes formal, written policy and procedures to help prevent the occurrence of abuse of harassment of any person. While it is unlikely that we can completely prevent every possibility of abuse, we can greatly reduce the risk by following this policy to provide a safe and supportive environment for all.

Introduction 

  • FPCT seeks to create a safe and healthy environment in which children and youth can learn about and experience the love of God and neighbor. Our commitments are to:
  • Treat all children and youth with respect and consideration.
  • Treat all children and youth equally regardless of sex, race, religion or culture.
  • Use positive techniques of guidance such as redirection, positive reinforcement and encouragement rather than competition, comparision and criticism.
  • Have age appropriate expectations and establish guidelines and environments that minimize the need for discipline.
  • Discourage, refrain from and address any behavior that could be considered abusive to children or youth.

FPCT is strongly opposed to any form of abuse, exploitation and/or harassment of any kind and that such behavior is prohibited by church policy. It is the intention of FPCT, through its Safe Church Policy, to take action to prevent and correct behavior that is contrary to this policy.

This policy establishes guidelines and procedures for the screening, selection, training, supervision, and conduct of all persons who work with children and youth at our church. Adequate screening of employees and volunteers who work with our children and youth is intended to address the concerns of parents and the general public regarding the safety of children at FPCT and to discourage and deter individuals with histories of inappropriate conduct with children. Adequate training and supervision of employees and volunteers who work with our children and youth are intended to alert volunteers and employees to the fact that FPCT is mindful of potential for abuse and will respond promptly and clearly to allegations of abuse and care for all involved. Training of volunteers and employees will also educate them about what constitutes abuse so that they can more adequately supervise the program activities, fulfill the requirements of the Safe Church Policy and help promote and enforce it.

It is the intention of FPCT to prevent and correct behavior which is contrary to this policy and, if necessary, to discipline those persons who violate this policy, in accordance with both this policy and applicable laws.

This policy also establishes reporting requirements and a response plan for emergencies and disaster planning.

 

DEFINITIONS

Adult: a person 18 years old or older.

Vulnerable Adult: any person over 18 years of age with diminished physical, mental, or emotional capacities. This includes anyone who by California law is deemed vulnerable to elder or dependent adult abuse, as well as anyone who is under extreme stress and less able to advocate for themselves.

Minor: any child from infancy to eleven (11) years old and any youth twelve (12) through seventeen (17) years old.

Staff: any person employed by the church.

Clergy: any called pastor of the church.

Volunteer: unpaid people involved in a ministry, activity or service at FPCT on the church’s behalf.

  • Primary volunteers: adult volunteers who, in the normal course of their duties, are expected to be in a regular supervisory capacity, including anyone who participates In overnight activities with minors present more than twice a year and/or who provide transportation to minors or vulnerable adults without other adults in the vehicle more often than three times a year – including but not limited to teachers, substitute teachers, pastor, director, elder of children’s ministry.
  • Secondary volunteers: volunteers who assist with supervising children or youth in ministries, programs or activities. Secondary volunteers always work with a primary volunteer or staff person present. Secondary volunteers include but are not limited to persons who
    • provide transportation to children or youth without other adults in the vehicle infrequently, generally not more than four times a year
    • work or assist in the toddler room as a parent volunteer, when signed up or on an emergency basis
    • participate in overnight activities with children or youth once or twice a year.

Secondary volunteers also include teenagers 12 – 17 enlisted to assist with the care of children. They are not expected to be alone with youth in their care.

 

TYPES OF ABUSE

Physical abuse is the deliberate, non-accidental physical injury to a minor or adult. This also includes, but is not limited to, cruelty or unjustifiable punishment.

Emotional abuse: maltreatment of a minor or vulnerable adult which elicits low self-esteem, undue fear, anxiety, or shame, or other damage to a person’s well-being caused by such acts as angry fault finding, humiliating and/or belittling a person for mistakes or failures, and deliberate inattention to someone’s emotional needs.

Emotional abuse causes mental or emotional injury that results in an observable and material impairment in a person’s growth, development or psychological functioning.

Neglect: failure to provide food, clothing, shelter, health care, psychological nurturing, education, supervision, or other basic necessities. This includes failure to protect a minor or vulnerable adult from harm.

Sexual abuse: any sexual activity, violent or non-violent, consensual or non-consensual with a minor or vulnerable adult, which is meant to arouse or gratify the sexual desires of the adult, child or youth. The abuser may be an adult, an adolescent, or another child. Sexual abuse may be violent or non-violent. All sexual abuse is an exploitation of a person’s vulnerability and powerlessness in which the abuser is fully responsible for the action.

Financial abuse: taking advantage of the vulnerability of an adult by deliberate misplacement, defrauding, exploitation, or wrongful temporary or permanent use of the person’s belongings or funds.

Sexual Harassment: use of one’s authority, position or power, either explicitly or implicitly, to coerce another into unwanted sexual relations or to punish another for his or her refusal; or the creation of an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment through verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment includes repeated or coercive sexual advances toward another person contrary to her or his wishes. It includes behavior directed at another person’s sexuality or sexual orientation with the intimidation, humiliation, or embarrassment of the other person, or subjecting the person to public discrimination.  Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when:

  • Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition for instruction, employment, or participation in any church activity;
  • Submission to, or rejection of, such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for making personnel or church-related decisions affecting an individual: or
  • Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s performance or participation in church activities or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work or church environment.

California law also protects staff from harassment related to race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age, disability, or sexual orientation.

 

SAFE PRACTICES FOR MINISTRY

Because we believe that people under the age of 18 cannot be expected to have developed the maturity and judgment needed to be fully responsible for peers or persons younger than they, Faith Presbyterian Church of Torrance will not permit individuals or groups of persons under age 18 to be solely responsible for younger youth or children, including infants. A primary volunteer or Youth Director must be present for all activities with children and youth.

[CHART HERE]

Parents of toddlers are encouraged to sign up for Kakao talk, and required to leave their cell phone information with the child care staff. This is a way to communicate with you during service, if needed. If your child is having a difficult time without you (max. 5 mins), you will be contacted.

Please sign your child in and out. The child will only be released to the parents, unless otherwise stated in written form.

Two Parent Volunteers will be needed for each Sunday, with an alternate signed up just in case of an unforeseen absence. Only those 2 parents will be allowed to stay in the Toddler Room with the paid staff.

a. The purpose of the Toddler Room and the hiring of 2 teachers is for parents to be able to worship in the sanctuary.

d. BATHROOM POLICY For the protection of all, it is ideal for 2 people (1 teacher and 1 parent) will need to go to the restroom to assist children. 1 teacher and 1 parent will stay in the Toddler Room for supervision. Appropriate accommodations will be made in the event of minimal staff/volunteer ratio.

Minimum Age Requirements 

Whenever feasible a minor will not be in the primary care of only one adult. Teams of adults (preferable male and female) will supervise activities. This policy has four purposes: It provides for more than one adult to help ensure the appropriate levels of supervision, it protects adults from unfounded allegations, and it lessens the possibility of an adult becoming a “guru” who thrives on the dependency of minors as well as an adult having undue influence over an individual. It also provides coverage for the group when there is an emergency situation or need to work with a minor separately from the group.

The Two-Adult Rule 

At least one approved primary volunteer and a secondary helper (not in the same family) must be present at all times during a church-sponsored class, meeting, event or ministry when children or youth are involved. If no second adult can help or be in the immediate vicinity, the activity/class will be cancelled or a roving supervisor will repeatedly, randomly monitor the room. Two adults must be present with children younger than four years old.

Youth over the age of 12 may assist an adult in supervising children’s activities; however, such assistance does not alter the recommendation that at least two adults be present.

The two-adult rule is our goal when working with youth. Situations in which an adult is completely alone with one or more youth are to be avoided.

Visibility 

All staff members, volunteers, and the youth and children themselves should not be afraid to be seen modeling nurturing and respectful behavior. All rooms used as gathering places for children and youth will be centrally located and visually accessible so that volunteers and staff are easily observable by other adults and there is no isolation or secrecy. Visibility is especially important when supervising or assisting private activities such as dressing, showering or diapering infants or children. When children or youth are present, windows may not be covered and doors may not be blocked. If there is no window in the meeting room’s door, the door must remain open whenever children are present. All unnecessary adjacent rooms and closets should be locked. Activities should never take place in private rooms, offices or isolated parts of a building.

Open Door Policy 

All events involving children, youth and vulnerable adults should be open such that parents, care givers, and others can observe the activity.

Pastoral Care and Counseling 

The pastoral staff encourages anyone in the congregation to ask for spiritual guidance and emotional support whenever the need arises. The pastors offer pastoral care whenever there are life crises such as death, illness, divorce, loss of job, or any other transition or circumstance that is causing distress. This pastoral care includes prayer, direction, and encouragement offered to individuals or families in our congregation who are struggling spiritually, physically, or emotionally for any reason. A program staff person or lay volunteer may also provide pastoral care, but should do so under the supervision of an ordained pastor.

However, the pastors on our staff do not offer ongoing, comprehensive counseling, regardless of their training. Pastors may meet with individuals/families up to three times in the same year for the same life issue, but shall then refer the individual/family to a professional therapist, spiritual director, or other specialist outside the church for more ongoing counseling or support. (If the pastor refers the individual/family to a counselor and that counseling relationship does not work out, the pastor may meet with the family once more to seek to refer to another appropriate person.)

Pastors will maintain confidentiality about their pastoral care sessions unless someone is as risk of harming him/herself or someone else; then in compliance with denominational standards and state law, community intervention specialists and/or protective services will be contacted.

Pastors and other staff will never receive compensation for pastoral care or counseling extended to congregants.

For pastoral care of minors, team counseling is preferable whenever possible. A male/female team is generally appropriate for counseling either gender. If team counseling is not feasible, parental permission shall be obtained before a pastor, director or volunteer can meet privately with a child or youth. Prior permission may be granted by parents to cover a particular time period (i.e., a school year) for their child to receive pastoral care from a particular pastor. another adult must be notified of the location of the meeting and persons involved. If possible, female adults will counsel female youths and males counsel males.

Pastoral care of minors should be done in a public place where private conversations are possible but occur in full view of others, thereby guarding carefully to avoid seclusion. At any session, the door of the room used should remain open for the entire session—or the pastor, director, and responsible adult should be easily visible through the door’s window. If necessary, one-on-one meetings may also be in an openly visible, public area, such as the courtyard or a coffee shop. One-on-one pastoral care sessions shall not be conducted in a private residence without an adult family member present.

Volunteers should not meet with youth more than three times to discuss the same issue, because they are not prepared or supported for long-term counseling or formal therapy. Adult leaders are encouraged to refer youth or vulnerable adults who they suspect have a serious need for counseling to professionals in the community. Questions about appropriate referrals should be discussed promptly with the youth program leader, Christian Education Director, or the pastor.

Getting Help 

Protecting an individual’s privacy has limits. Volunteers must tell a clergy person if a minor discusses harming himself/herself or another, committing a crime, or being abused. Questions about such cases or other issues of confidentiality must be discussed promptly with the youth pastor (if ordained) or the pastor. Conferring with a pastor on sensitive issues is not considered breaking a confidence; the pastor will protect the confidential nature of the discussion, as will civil authorities if the pastor is mandated by law to report the situation to them.

Boundary Issues 

It is important for the adult workers to be clear about appropriate behaviors. Adult workers must be attentive to appropriate dress codes, appropriate use of language, and appropriate demonstration of affection and encouragement. There must be no use, sale or distribution of alcohol or illegal drugs at activities involving children or youth. These boundary issues will be included in the annual training for youth and children workers and volunteers.

Informal Contact (Independent of Church Activities) 

Informal contact refers to phone calls, text messaging, letters, or face-to-face contact between an adult volunteer and a minor that is not connected to official church activities. The church recognizes that informal contact between volunteers and youth frequently occurs. The volunteer must receive from the parent written permission to send text messages to the youth. Parents are responsible for monitoring this informal contact.

Gifts 

Those working with youth are generally discouraged from giving personal gifts to youth. When the giving of personal gifts is desired, the volunteer must first notify the minor’s parents and youth pastor. Gifts can easily be misinterpreted. Gifts given to groups of young people are appropriate, such as graduation presents or awards of participation.

Romantic Involvement 

No volunteer or staff working with youth or vulnerable adults is allowed to date or become romantically involved with any recipient of his or her ministry. Any volunteer or staff with prior incidents of sexual misconduct may not volunteer with children, youth or vulnerable adults or minister to them in any way. There are no exceptions to this guideline.

“Check-in/Check-out” Procedure for Young Children 

Parents/guardians will sign in their children when leaving them in the Toddler Room and sign them out when picking them up. A child will be released only to the person who dropped him/her off, unless otherwise instructed by the person who leaves the child. Under no circumstances will a child be released from the Toddler Room to a person under the age of 18. Permission slips will be available for parents or guardians to sign, authorizing alternate options for the release of the child(ren).

Involvement of Parents and Guardians 

Parental permission shall be obtained in advance for involvement in church sponsored overnights, off-site or special events or whenever an adult might be spending time alone with a child in an unsupervised, one-adult situation.

When planning an event for youth and children that will require adult drivers and/or adult chaperones, it is necessary to provide at least two weeks advanced notice to the potential adult volunteers. Such notice is important to give the adults enough planning time and for the organizers to ensure the roster of volunteers is completely filled. The event will not be able to proceed without sufficient adult driver and/or chaperone duties confirmed.

Only assigned volunteers may be in the Toddler or preschool classroom, with the exception of nursing mothers and parents called to the room to calm an upset child.

The Director of Children’s Ministry the Elder to Children’s ministry and other church leaders may make random visits to classrooms and bathroom in use by children and youth.

 

APPROPRIATE AFFECTION

Guidelines for Appropriate Affection 

Faith Presbyterian Church of Torrance is committed to creating and promoting a positive nurturing environment for our children’s and youth ministries that protect our children and youth from abuse and our staff and volunteers from misunderstandings. Positive affection for those we serve is powerful in ministry, but what is actually positive and wanted affection is sometimes difficult to discern. The behaviors suggested below are helpful when determining appropriate boundaries as well as identifying individuals who are not maintaining safe boundaries with children or youth. These guidelines are based, in large part, on avoiding behaviors often used by child molesters to groom children or youth and their parents for future abuse. The following guidelines are to be carefully followed by all staff and volunteers working around or with children or youth.

Some positive and appropriate forms of affection might be: 

  • Brief hugs
  • Pats on the shoulders or upper back
  • Handshakes
  • “High-fives” and hand slapping
  • Verbal praise
  • Touching hands, shoulders and arms of children or youth
  • Arms around shoulders
  • Holding hands while walking with small children
  • Sitting beside small children
  • Kneeling or bending down for hugs with small children
  • Holding hands during prayer

 

Inappropriate behaviors with children and youth in ministry settings 

  • Pats on the head
  • Inappropriate or lengthy embraces
  • Kisses on the mouth
  • Holding children over 3 years old on lap
  • Touching bottoms, chests or genital areas other than for appropriate diapering or toileting of infants and toddlers
  • Showing affection in isolated areas such as bedrooms, closets, staff only areas or other private rooms
  • Occupying a bed with a child or youth
  • Touching face, knees or legs of children or youth
  • Wrestling with children or youth
  • Tickling children or youth
  • Piggyback rides
  • Any type of massage given by a child or youth to an adult
  • Any type of massage given by an adult to a child or youth
  • Any form of unwanted affection
  • Comments or compliments (spoken, written or electronic) that relate to physique or body development. Examples: “you really are developing” or “you look really hot in those jeans.”
  • Snapping bras or giving wedgies or similar touch of underwear whether or not it is covered by clothing
  • Giving gifts or money to individual children or youth
  • Private meals with individual children or youth

Faith Presbyterian Church is a family church, with many close inter-family ties, and parents often show affection to children other than their own. These guidelines are to be followed by staff and any parent volunteers in the course of conducting ministry activities. Although these may seem strict in a family setting such as Faith, note the following hypothetical example:

Greta grew up in a small, family church, where everyone was quite close and affectionate. As a young girl, Greta though nothing of sitting in her pastor’s lap during the children’s sermon. Her pastor was generous with hugs and displays of affection to all the children and youth, and although his affections came close to some of the inappropriate ones above, he never crossed the line into abuse. 

Greta attended a Jr High church camp and the Youth Pastor, whom she didn’t know, demonstrated the same level of affection as her church pastor. He pastor was “safe”, after all, aren’t all pastors safe? Unfortunately this Youth Pastor had other ideas. 

When the pastor, staff and ministry volunteers demonstrate appropriate affections, they will intrinsically teach children and youth appropriate affection.

 

VOLUNTEER SELECTION AND SCREENING

These volunteer and screening processes are for persons who work with children and youth at Faith Presbyterian Church of Torrance. 

Each person desiring to volunteer shall fill out the Volunteer Information Form indicating whether you will be a primary or secondary Volunteer, complete the information on the form, and be interviewed by two of these three persons: Pastor, Director of Children’s Ministry, Elder to Children’s Ministry. 

A person will automatically be disqualified from volunteering with children and youth if:

He or she has been convicted of a felony, a sex crime, domestic violence or abuse of a child/youth or vulnerable adult.

A person must disclose if he or she has been accused of any of the above, which may result in disqualification for volunteering with children and youth.

If there is criminal record of any of the above infractions, the church shall ask the volunteer to take assignments other than those involving children, regardless of rehabilitation efforts.

The Director of Children’s Ministry will gather volunteer information including background checks, fingerprint results, and reference checks and consult with the pastor and elder of children’s ministry regarding the suitability of each volunteer.

All background checks from the Department of Justice shall be kept strictly confidential and be accessed only by the pastor, if in an emergency, by the elder to children’s ministry.

ALL paid staff who work with children shall be fingerprinted and a background check from the Department of Justice with the cost incurred by the church.

Screening Procedures 

To protect our children, youth from potential victimization, all church members and visitors will be checked using the National Sexual Offender Public Registry (www.nsopr.gov). Staff and applicants for primary volunteer positions with children and youth will also be fingerprinted or screened through another reputable criminal background check company.

All adults who have regular contact with children, youth, and vulnerable adults must have been associated with the church for one (1) year. Potential volunteers shall fill out a Volunteer Information Form and give it to the Director of Children’s Ministry. All information obtained from the Dept of Justice will be kept in a locked file accessed only by the pastor, or if necessary, the Elder to Children’s Ministry.

Before beginning his or her work with children or youth, the potential volunteer must indicate understanding and compliance with this policy and sign the Personal Safety Covenant and the Driver Authorization Form, if appropriate. Also, to help ensure the safety of youth while participating in mission and service projects, fellowship retreats and camps, and other youth activities, supervising adults are encouraged to maintain current certification in basic first aid and CPR certification. It is also recommended that other clergy also be trained in first aid/CPR.

Toddler Room workers and others serving young children may also want training in infant and toddler CPR.

While the church is waiting for background information and references, applicants may begin working with minors or vulnerable adults, but only in closely supervised settings.

Screening Committee 

Shall consist of the pastor, Director of Children’s Ministry and the Elder to Children’s Ministry, with one other person selected from the session or congregation at large.

At least three of the above 4 positions will conduct screening, interviewing and evaluation of paid staff or volunteers.

 

RECORD KEEPING

Working with the screening committee, the designated Keeper of Records will be responsible for assuring that the information form, interviews, driver clearances, reference checks and background checks are done, but will not know the details of any discussions or results of reference or background checks related to the potential volunteer. Based on the decisions of the screening committee the Keeper of Records will maintain an updated list of:

(1) approved primary volunteers, along with record of their compliance with the requirements for training, their Volunteer Information Forms, and copies of their Personal Safety Covenants

(2) eligible drivers who can transport others on behalf of the church and their annual Driver Authorization Forms, insurance documentation and copy of drivers’ licenses.

(3) those parents allowing photographs of their children to be used in church publications, as well as the signed Publicity Release and Consent portion of the Medical and Emergency Contact Information and Release

These lists will be accessible to anyone who asks.

In secure confidential files, the pastor will maintain the confidential section of the Volunteer Information Form, the fingerprint results from CA Department of Justice, and comments from the reference checks and interviews. The pastor will protect any information about why a person is ineligible to serve.

Directors and volunteers who are the primary person responsible for an overnight or off-site trip must collect signed (1) Activity Permission and (2) a copy of Medical Release and Emergency Contact forms for each child and youth participating, and carry those two documents with them of the activity. The original Medical Release and Emergency Contact forms should be kept with the appropriate Director or Pastor who is most responsible for that child or youth.

 

VOLUNTEER TRAINING

While we at Faith do everything possible to prevent abuse, if and when it occurs we need to be equipped to recognize it and respond appropriately. Persons who work with children and youth are asked to voluntarily take one these on line training sessions. Each session lasts 4 hours, and will provide you with a certificate of completion.

  • Specifically for Clergy: http://www.mandatedreporterca.com/training/clergy.htm
  • Specifically for Child Care Workers: http://www.mandatedreporterca.com/training/childcare.htm
  • General training for Primary Volunteers: http://www.mandatedreporterca.com/training/generaltraining.htm

Upon completion of the above training, please inform the Director of Children’s Ministry.  An additional orientation will be required to explain the policies in the Safe Church Policy.  CPR and basic first aid training are strongly recommended.

 

SUPERVISORS OF VOLUNTEERS

Communication

Volunteers must meet regularly with program leaders, who in turn must meet periodically with the pastor to discuss any issues regarding these guidelines Appropriate topics that must be discussed include problems, accountability, policy clarification, personal feelings or other issues that may interfere with safety at Faith Presbyterian Church. That open communication also includes a periodic review with each volunteer regarding satisfaction and success in his or her volunteer assignment.

Policy Compliance 

Church staff will supervise church activities on an ongoing basis and may make unannounced visits into classes or other program sites from time to time, to assure policy compliance.

Primary volunteers will carefully supervise the secondary volunteers, minors and any other adults involved with the activities for which that primary volunteer is responsible.

All church participants should be aware of unsupervised children, risky situations, and other issues that might prevent Faith Presbyterian from being a safe place to worship and thrive.

The Elder to Children’s Ministries is responsible for having an audit performed annually to ensure that all staff/volunteers who work with children are compliant with this policy and that the polity itself is working effectively.

Specific Acts and Omissions in Violation of the Policy

The following acts or omissions are violations of this Policy will not be tolerated or accepted during any activity or program, and are to be immediately reported to the designated program staff after the safety of any person involved has been assured. The staff will determine appropriate response to any policy violations by volunteers. Response may include training, temporary leave from the position, reassignment or suspension.

  1. Verbally abusive language such as belittling, derogatory name-calling, bullying or harassment.
  2. Any direct observations or evidence of sexual activity in the presence of or in association with a minor. Any display or demonstration of sexual activity, abuse, insinuation of abuse, or evidence of abusive conduct towards a minor.
  3. Sexual advances or sexual activity of any kind between any person and a minor, or any person and a vulnerable adult.
  4. Physically abusive behavior or infliction of bodily injury to a minor or vulnerable adult.
  5. Mental or emotional injury to a minor or vulnerable adult caused or exacerbated by the volunteer.
  6. Physical neglect of a minor, including failure to provide adequate supervision in relation to the activities of Faith Presbyterian Church
  7. The presence or possession of obscene or pornographic materials at any function of Faith Presbyterian Church.
  8. The presence, possession, or being under the influence of any illegal or illicit drugs.
  9. Consumption of or being under the influence of alcohol while leading or participating in a Faith Presbyterian Church activity in which minors are present.

 

RESPONSE PROCEDURE FOR CONCERNS, ALLEGATIONS AND SUSPICIONS OF ABUSE

Who should report? 

All participants in Faith Presbyterian Church’s ministries are encouraged to contact church leaders if they are ever concerned about a safety issue, whether it’s a hazardous sidewalk or they witness or hear about risk of harm to a child or youth in the church. Any member or guest of Faith Presbyterian is encouraged to act without hesitation or fear of reprisal if he or she witnesses, experiences or hears about situations involving abuse, harassment or exploitation.

All concerns and allegations shall be taken seriously and receive some type of action or response. 

To whom should a person report? 

Information about the concern, observation or allegation can be given to:

  • The Pastor
  • The Director of Children’s Ministries
  • The Elder to Children’s Ministries
  • Any elder on the Session
  • These persons will request that the Response Team convene to deal with the matter

The complainant[s] may be asked to complete a written report describing the basis for his or her concern.

The complainant[s] need not be the victim of the inappropriate behavior, but instead be an observer or someone who has been told information by the victim.

Any person bringing a harassment or abuse complaint or assisting in an investigation of a complaint will not be adversely affected in terms and conditions of employment, church membership, affiliation, or otherwise discriminated against or discharged.

What to do? 

Whoever is first told must NOT ask investigative questions or investigate the complaint or concern, but should make notes on what is said with as much detail as is communicated and report the information to the appropriate leader—–UNLESS the concern involves suspicions of abuse of a minor or vulnerable adult, in which law enforcement or child protective services may be contacted directly.

No church staff or volunteer should confront a parent or parents or suggest any suspicion of child abuse to the child or youth in question. Communicate confidentially to one of the above named leaders, who will report to the pastor.

No other third party will be told any details of any reported matter, unless that person has a legal, business or pastoral reason to be informed of the results of any investigation, or any actions taken in response to such investigation.

Clergy as Mandated Reporters 

In 1997, the law AB3354 was amended to include clergy as mandated reporters of child and elder abuse. Clergy shall now be able to find out the “results of the (child abuse) investigation and of any action the (child protective of law enforcement) agency is taking with regard to the child or family.” Clergy shall be protected from “civil or criminal liability” for reporting child abuse. Congregations or supervisors shall not be allowed to sanction clergy for making a report.

Reporting Sequence 

  1. Teachers, therapists, clergy are mandated, yet anyone may report suspected abuse to protect a child.1
  2. Report to Child Protective Services or the police department.
  3. The reporter’s name is held confidential.
  4. Reporters are provided immunity from civil or criminal liability (unless the report was made maliciously).
  5. Failure for a mandated reporter to report = misdemeanor + possible civil liability.
  6. Report goes to District Attorney and Dept of Justice
    • Child is contacted (family may be)
    • Report is determined to be “unfounded,” “inconclusive,” or “substantiated.”
    • Criminal investigation may begin.
    • Licensing Agency may begin an investigation.
    • Dependency action may begin.

The reporting duties of a mandated reporter are individual and cannot be delegated to another individual. It is permissible to establish internal procedures to facilitate reporting and apprise supervisors, Session, the Presbytery, so long as:

  • These procedures are consistent with the reporting act
  • Supervisors or administrators cannot impede or inhibit reporting
  • Supervisors or administrators may not take any actions against the reporter for making a report
  • Procedures not require any employee making a report to disclose his or her identity to the employer

If a volunteer or staff person is accused of inappropriate behavior, he or she may be suspended until an investigation is complete.

 

Response Team (RT) 

Faith Presbyterian Church of Torrance shall organize a “Response Team” to address concerns, allegations or suspicions of abuse.

The Response Team shall:

  • Have no fewer than three members, one male and one female, one of whom will be a ruling elder on Session and include the Pastor.
  • The Team will familiarize itself with the terms of this policy and will follow alleged sexual exploitation, sexual harassment, or other forms of harassment. Other forms of harassment include but are not limited to discrimination, exploitation or intimidation based on race, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status or physical ability.
  • The Ruling Elder or Pastor will be the convener and moderator of the RT.

Response Team Responds 

The RT will assure that one of several approaches is taken to address the complaint or concern: Child abuse shall be reported to Child Protective Services and/or local police. 

When the accusation does not involve child abuse, the following may be followed by the RT.

  1. The complainant can attempt to resolve the matter directly with the respondent (the individual accused of the infraction).
  2. The complainant can report the incident to a pastor, in an effort to resolve the matter informally.
  3. If an informal resolution of the complaint does not seem wise, appropriate, and possible or does not succeed, the complainant may request that the RT institute formal proceedings which may call on the intervention of the Presbytery of the Pacific, by contacting the General Presbyter.
  4. If the complaint is about the Pastor, the RT will bring the complaint to the session, who will abide by civil law if it is child abuse, or refer to Church Discipline found in the Book of Order of the PCUSA Constitution.

 

In determining whether alleged conduct constitutes harassment or exploitation, consideration shall be given to the record of the alleged incident(s) as a whole and to the totality of the circumstances, including the context in which the alleged incident(s) occurred.

If the complainant or respondent is not satisfied with the disposition of the matter by the RT, the supervisory board, he or she has the right to appeal to the Presbytery of the Pacific through the General Presbyter, Stated Clerk or Moderator of the Committee on Ministry.

A written summary of the Response Team’s proceedings will be maintained and protected form anyone without a legitimate right or need to know.

Adequate care must be shown for the well-being of victims, the accused and families involved. Situations must be handled forthrightly with due respect for the individual’s privacy and confidentiality. Accusatory attitudes and statements should be avoided. No victims should be blamed in any way, nor should their stories be minimized.

Once approved by the Session, this Safe Church Policy SHALL be made available to the congregation for their perusal.

 

REPORTING ABUSE

Please complete the training to be aware of what constitutes abuse and how to report it. 

Clergy and Professional Child Care Workers are mandated by California Law to report child abuse and neglect.

The Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act (CANRA) was passed in 1974. Over the years, numerous amendments have expanded the definition of child abuse and the persons required to report. Procedures for reporting have also been clarified. In California, certain professionals are required to report known or suspected child abuse. Other citizens, though not required by law to report, may also do so. It is important for mandated reporters to stay abreast of periodic amendments in the law. Your local Child Abuse Prevention Council or Child Protective Agency has current reporting law information.

If abuse is suspected, and you are a mandated reporter, you may contact law enforcement and fill out form 8572 “Suspected Child Abuse Form”.

If you suspect abuse and you are not a mandated reporter, you may contact the pastor or Director of Children’s Ministry at Faith, or you may directly file the report.

  • Los Angeles County: LA County Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-540-4000 (In an immediate emergency dial 911.)
  • Nationwide:
    • The National Directory of Children, Youth and Family Services 1-800-343-6681
    • Child Help USA 1-800-422-4453
    • National Directory of Hotlines and Crisis Intervention Centers 1-800-999-9999
    • National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233
  • Internationally: International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect 1-630-221-1311 (This agency based in Illinois is not a reporting agency, but may be helpful in reporting abuse outside the USA.)

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