Safe Sanctuaries Policy
Emmanuel United Methodist Church
10755 Scaggsville Road
Laurel, MD 20723
Safe Sanctuaries is the name commonly given by local United Methodist Annual Conferences and local churches to their individual efforts to make conference, district, and local church programs welcoming and safe for children. At Emmanuel, we seek to do this by having at least two non-related adults on hand at all of our children’s events or classes. When situations arise where the two adult rule cannot be followed, an adult roamer will be utilized. This person will randomly walk in and out of classrooms to provide any necessary assistance. We also have an open door policy at Emmanuel; our classroom doors are either left open or the room can be viewed from the outside through a glass window located on our doors. We maintain good adult-child ratios and do back-ground checks on all paid staff and Sunday School teachers. We also require that all volunteers who work with children and youth be at least five years older than the children or youth involved in the activity. In addition, we require background verification from all of our leaders by using the Sexual Misconduct Questionnaire.
Because we are a public facility and open to our community, we require that adults accompany children at all times in our building. All organizations using our facilities are expected to adhere to the policy set forth in this document.
The congregation of Emmanuel United Methodist Church is committed to providing a safe and secure environment for all children, youth, and vulnerable adults, as well as the volunteers and staff who participate in ministries and activities sponsored by the church. The following document reflects our congregation’s commitment to preserving this church as a holy place of safety and protection for all who would enter and as a place in which all people can come to know God and experience the love of Jesus Christ.
Much of the information, forms and procedures found in this document are taken directly from the books, Safe Sanctuaries, Reducing the Risk of Child Abuse in the Church, Safe Sanctuaries for Youth, Reducing the Risk of Abuse in Youth Ministry and the most current version Safe Sanctuaries, Reducing the Risk of Abuse in the Church for Children and Youth. All books were written by Joy Thornburg Melton. These books can be borrowed at any time from the church office.
It is recommended by the Safe Sanctuaries committee that this document be reviewed at a minimum of once a year. The reviewing committee should consist of the Building Facilities Manager who handles the space usage form, a representative from the Staff Parish Relations Committee (SPRC), the pastor and the Christian Education leader.
Types of Abuse Against Vulnerable Persons Children, Youth, Older Adults and Vulnerable Adults
Generally, abuse is categorized in five primary forms: physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, and ritual abuse. In general, the abuser is in a position of power.
Abuse in which a person deliberately and intentionally causes bodily harm to a vulnerable person. Examples may include violent battery with a weapon, burning, shaking, kicking, choking, fracturing bones and any of a wide variety of non-accidental injuries to a child’s body.
Abuse in which a person exposes a vulnerable person to spoken and/or unspoken violence or emotional cruelty. Emotional abuse sends a message to the person of worthlessness, badness, and being not only unloved but undeserving of love and care. Vulnerable persons exposed to emotional abuse may have experienced being locked in a closet, being deprived of any sign of parental affections, being constantly told he or she is bad or stupid or being allowed to or forced to abuse alcohol or drugs. Emotional abuse is very difficult to prove and is devastating to the victim.
Abuse in which a person endangers a vulnerable person’s health, safety or welfare through negligence. Neglect may include withholding food, clothing, medical care, education and even affection and affirmation of the child’s self-worth. This is perhaps the most common form of abuse.
Abuse in which sexual contact between a vulnerable person and an adult (or another older and more powerful youth) occurs. The vulnerable person is never truly capable of consenting to or resisting such contact and/or such sexual acts. Often the vulnerable person is physically and psychologically dependent upon the perpetrator of the abuse.
Examples of sexual abuse may include fondling, intercourse, incest and the exploitation of and exposure to child pornography or prostitution.
Abuse in which physical, sexual, or psychological violations of a vulnerable person are inflicted regularly, intentionally and in a stylized way by a person or persons responsible for the child’s welfare. The abuser may appeal to some higher authority or power to justify the abuse. The abuse may include cruel treatment of animals or repeated threats of harm to the vulnerable person, people related to the vulnerable person and animals. Reports of ritual abuse are often extremely horrifying and may seem too grim to be true. A vulnerable person making such reports must not be ignored.
Procedures for Safe Ministries with
Children, Youth, Older Adults and Vulnerable Adults
Definitions for this document:
A child is a person 17 years of age or younger.
A youth is a person between the ages of 13 and 17and/or who is in middle or high school. An adult is defined as a person 18 years through 64 years.
An older adult is a person 65 years of age or older.
A vulnerable adult is a person who, because of physical or mental disability may be vulnerable to abuse.
Vulnerable persons include children, youth, older adults and vulnerable adults.
No adult who has been convicted of child abuse (either sexual abuse, physical abuse, or emotional abuse) should volunteer to work with children, youth or vulnerable adults in any church-sponsored activity.
Volunteers who may have questions or concerns regarding their ability or suitability for a particular area of ministry (including physical limitations, temperament, or a personal history of abuse) are encouraged to discuss these concerns with the pastor or chair of the Staff-Parish Relations Committee.
At least two unrelated adults should be present for each function and in each classroom or other enclosed area during any activity involving vulnerable persons. When two adult workers are not available at all times in a room during church sponsored programs involving vulnerable persons, the interior door shall remain open unless there is an interior window allowing visibility into the room. Every effort should be made to ensure that at no time will a vulnerable person be alone with an unrelated adult.
The volunteers who will be present and assume primary responsibility for a church sponsored program involving vulnerable persons, are required to complete Safe Sanctuaries training and complete a Sexual Misconduct form. For church sponsored programs involving youth, the adult worker who will be present and assume primary responsibility shall be at least 21 years old.
All paid staff and Christian Education volunteers shall complete a Safe Sanctuaries workshop at least once a year. In addition, a background check and the completed Sexual Misconduct forms must be on file in the church office within one month of program involvement.
All leaders of organizations using Emmanuel will receive appropriate annual training on the policies and procedures associated with Safe Sanctuaries as defined by Emmanuel UMC no later than November 1.
Outside groups using the church building must take responsibility for those in their organization who work with vulnerable persons. This requirement applies to both long-term and short-term groups. The leader(s) in charge must complete a Sexual Misconduct Questionnaire once a year and understand the Safe Sanctuaries policy. All volunteers within the group must also complete a Sexual Misconduct Questionnaire. Forms should be completed once a year no later than November 1.
ALL volunteers and paid employees from every organization who use the facilities at EUMC will complete an annual Sexual Misconduct renewal form during each year of active service in ministries involving vulnerable persons no later than November 1.
After the Staff-Parish Relations Committee reviews the Sexual Misconduct Forms, any person who may pose a threat to vulnerable persons, will be prohibited from volunteering. In addition, the Staff-Parish Relations Committee will have authority and final say as to staffing of volunteers, as well as dismissal if necessary.
At least two members from SPRC will be responsible for reviewing the completed Safe Sanctuary forms by December 31. At least one reference should be checked by using the phone interview form or mailed version of the reference check document. All forms are confidential and shall be stored in a locked file cabinet of a staff employees’ locked office.
The parents of children and youth participating in church-sponsored programs will be given advance notice of all expected activities for those programs. Parents will be provided with advance notice of variations in usual schedules and activities.
Youth who participate in certain off-site (more than 50 miles one-way) or overnight activities are required to have a completed Emergency Medical Treatment Authorization on file, plus a parental permission slip specific to the event.
When transporting vulnerable persons, age appropriate passenger restraints, per MD Laws, will be used. Staff members who regularly transport vulnerable persons should have a good driving record and must agree to a DMV check. Every reasonable effort shall be made to avoid having one vulnerable person left alone in a vehicle with an unrelated adult. Adult chaperones who transport vulnerable persons to and from events must have car insurance and a good driving record. A form stating the information will be filled out by the driver.
In regards to discipline, positive reinforcement should be used whenever possible, praising constructive and appropriate behaviors. There will be no use of corporal punishment, or techniques intended to humiliate or frighten any vulnerable person.
To ensure children’s safety, parents are expected to accompany preschool and elementary aged children into the building and to release them into the care of the adult leader of the program or activity. Children up to grade 3 will only be released from the event or classroom to a parent, guardian, or responsible relative with the parent’s expressed permission. Children will not be released from a classroom or event to wait for transportation or to find a parent. Children should be monitored by the adult in charge at all times.
Church staff, volunteers or childcare providers will not change diapers. Most children are left in the childcare room for no more than sixty to seventy-five minutes and the need for diaper changes is a relatively rare occurrence on any Sunday morning. In addition to avoiding the sanitation and health risks, parents can be summoned relieving us completely of the need to carry out this task.
Children should be sent to the bathroom in pairs. Preschoolers and toddlers will likely require some assistance with their clothing and cleanup. Restroom and stall doors should be left open and two adults, if possible, should be involved- one assisting the child as necessary and the other monitoring from outside.
Each year, the congregation will be informed of these Safe Sanctuaries policies and procedures and any changes made to them. Parents in our Preschool will be informed of the document and will receive information relevant to the policies required by the school.
All persons or groups that use church property must commit to uphold these policies and procedures.
Adult volunteers shall immediately report any behavior by another volunteer or paid staff that seems abusive or inappropriate to the pastor or the chair of the Staff-Parish Relations Committee (SPRC). Please refer to Responding to Allegations page for further details.
Reporting Suspected Abuse: Suspected incidents of child abuse must be reported in accordance with Maryland law, which states anyone who suspects or learns of an incident of child abuse or neglect must report such to the Department of Social Services or Law Enforcement immediately. Such reports may be made confidentially. In addition, any suspected incident of child abuse which occurs on-site, during an off-site activity, or involves church personnel or volunteers should also be reported as soon as possible to the Pastor or the chair of the Staff Parish Relations Committee. Please refer to Responding to Allegations page for further details.
Fire evacuation drills shall be conducted each school year during the primary Sunday School hour (twice a year). Fire escape routes shall be posted in each Sunday School and Preschool room.
First aid kits (containing no medicines) shall be in the Fellowship Hall kitchen, the childcare room, the Sunday School cabinet and in the Vernon Brown Ministry Center. Universal precautions shall be taken against blood-borne diseases and procedures should be posted.
CPR training and basic first aid training should be provided to at least two paid staff members and at least two child care providers. The Preschool staff will also provide two staff members who are CPR and first aid trained. For all church activities it is recommended that one CPR trained and First Aid trained person be on site. On Sunday mornings there will be a minimum of one child care worker trained in CPR and first aid in the child care room whenever children are present.
23. In recognition that many regularly stocked chemicals pose a significant risk to young children, all cleaning solutions, paints, lubricants, and other poisonous and hazardous materials are either placed behind a locked door, or where locking is not possible, placed on shelves higher than four feet.
No alcohol, drugs or smoking is permitted on Emmanuel United Methodist Church property.
Youth Aides. Youth between the ages of 10 and 17 may occasionally serve as aides for certain designated activities and in specific circumstances (such as, where an adult will oversee the activity). Youth aides need not comply with the 5-years-older rule, but should not be used to meet the 2-adult goal. Interacting appropriately with children should be part of the training provided.
Responding to Allegations of Abuse
As caring Christians, we are committed to protect and advocate for vulnerable persons participating in the life of the church. The church is entrusted to provide an emotionally safe, spiritually grounded, healthy environment for vulnerable persons in which they are protected from abuse. It is our legal and moral responsibility to report suspected abuse whenever it comes to our attention regardless of where that abuse takes place. We shall report suspected abuse to stop potentially existing abuse and to prevent further abuse. To report abuse is to witness to the world of the love and justice of God.
Reporting abuse is a form of ministering to the needs of those crying out for help. If abuse occurs, it is our intention to act as an advocate for all affected persons, providing support, information, assistance and intervention. We seek to provide a supportive atmosphere, offering both objectivity and empathy as we seek to create a climate in which healing can take place.
If abuse is suspected by, observed by or disclosed to a volunteer and/or paid staff member of the church, that person shall report the incident immediately to the pastor or chairperson of the SPRC. If the accused is the pastor, notify the chair of SPRC and the District Superintendent. Be prepared to do the following:
- Ensure the protection of and tend to the immediate needs of the vulnerable person, as the situation requires
- Provide written documentation concerning the incident on the designated form
- Notify the local department of social services within 48 hours
- The pastor or designee will notify the parents of the victim and take whatever steps are necessary to assure the safety of the child/youth until the parent(s) arrive. It is important to emphasize that the proper authorities must be notified even if the parent(s) does not wish the incident to be reported. (Note: If one or both of the parents is the alleged abuser, contact the proper authorities listed above. Follow their advice about notification of the parents.)
- After having reported the suspected abuse to the proper authorities, the incident is to be reported immediately to the church’s attorney, the church’s insurance company, and the district superintendent.
- If the accused is working in a volunteer or paid position with vulnerable persons in the church, immediately, yet with dignity and respect for the sacred worth of the person, remove the accused from further involvement with vulnerable persons.
- Once the proper authorities have been contacted and the safety of the vulnerable person is secured; the pastor or other designated person may tell the accused that a report has been made. If the accused is a volunteer or paid staff of the church, that person shall be relieved temporarily of his or her duties until the investigation is finished if the accused is a paid staff person of the church, arrangements should be made to either maintain or suspend his or her income until the allegations are cleared or substantiated.
- Any contact with the media should be handled by a pre-determined spokesperson. Care will be taken to safeguard the privacy and confidentiality of all involved. The spokesperson should generally convey that the matter is under investigation and any comments made prior to the conclusion of the investigation would be premature.
- A written report of the basic information shall be kept by the pastor or chairperson of SPRC to ensure on-going ministry to, and advocacy for, victims and others involved. The report shall be brief and contain only factual information relevant to thesituation. It shall be filed in a secure place in order to ensure confidentiality. It shall be written in ink or typed to prevent it from being changed.
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.
Observe confidentiality for both the alleged victim and the accused until advised to the contrary by the pastor or chairperson of the SPRC.
Reporting Suspected Child Abuse or Neglect
CODE OF MARYLAND REGULATIONS, Section 07.02.07 Requires reporting child abuse or neglect in the following manner:
An individual shall immediately report suspected child abuse or neglect to the local department of social services, or report the suspected incident to a local law enforcement agency.
Health practitioners, educators, human service workers, and police officers are required to report, both orally and in writing, any suspected child abuse or neglect, with oral report being made immediately and the written report being made within 48 hours of the contact which disclosed the suspected abuse or neglect.
A report shall include:
The name and home address of the child and the parent or other individual responsible for the care of the child;
The present location of the child;
The age of the child;
The names and ages of other children in the home;
The nature and extent of injuries or sexual abuse or neglect of the child, including any information known to the individual making the report of previous possible physical or sexual abuse or neglect;
The information available to the individual reporting:
Which might aid in establishing the cause of the injury or neglect;
About the identity of the individual or individuals responsible for abuse or neglect; and
If reporting abuse or neglect of a child involving mental injury, a description of the substantial impairment of the child’s mental or psychological ability to function that was observed and identified, and why it is believed to be attributable to an act of maltreatment or omission of proper care and attention.
Reports of abuse shall be made to the local departments of social services or the appropriate law enforcement agency. Reports of neglect shall be made to local departments of social services.
An employee of a local department of social services, who receives a report of suspected child abuse or neglect, shall report the information to the protective services unit within the local department at once so as to initiate prompt handling of the report of suspected child abuse or neglect.
Maryland Law requires every health practitioner, educator, human service worker, or police officer to report suspected child abuse and neglect, it does NOT require PROOF that abuse or neglect has occurred before reporting. Incidents are to be reported as soon as they are suspected. Waiting for proof may involve grave risk to the child and impede services to the family. Proof may be long in coming, witnesses to child abuse and neglect are rare, and the child’s testimony may be disbelieved or inadmissible.
Health practitioners and social workers, among others, who knowingly fail to report suspected abuse of a child, may be subject to professional sanctions by their licensing boards. For those who do report, the law provides protection for persons who make “good faith” reports are immune from civil liability and criminal penalty.
According to Section 5-704 (b), professionals mandated to report, including health practitioners and human service workers are required to make:
An oral and written report to the local department of social services (or in abuse cases to either the local law enforcement department (and, in abuse cases, to the local State’s Attorney) not later than 48 hours after the contact, examination, treatment or other circumstances that caused the individual to believe that the child had been subjected to abuse or neglect. If a copy of the report is placed in the patient’ medical record (a sample Child Abuse Reporting Form (DHR/SSA 180) can be found in Appendix A), information contained in the report shall only be disclosed in accordance with the Confidentiality Law regarding child abuse and neglect (Article 88A§6(b).) See below for further information.
Local Departments of
Social Services Child Protective Services
for the State of Maryland
Telephone (410) 872-8700
After hours: 410-313-2929) Police Dept. FAX (410) 872-4303
7121 Columbia Gateway Drive Columbia, Maryland 21046
Adult Protective Service for Vulnerable Adults
After hours: 410-313-2929) Police Dept. FAX (410) 872-4303