Purpose of the Policy
The Unitarian Universalist Society of Mill Creek (UUSMC) is a community committed to protecting the inherent worth and dignity of every person. The Board of Trustees covenant to affirm ways to help prevent physical, sexual and emotional abuse to children and young people. We will rapidly and carefully respond to allegations of abuse with professional integrity with the intent to affirm justice, equity and compassion in all our relations. We know that religious communities are not immune to the dangers of sexual abuse. If abuse occurred, it would be a tragedy, not only for the abused, but also for their families, our congregation and our wider community as well. This policy is adopted with our sincere desire to provide an open and transparent dialogue within our congregation concerning issues of abuse; to develop appropriate screening mechanisms that are consistent with best practices; and to develop policies for the guidance of those who interact with children on a regular basis.
While openness to a wide variety of individuals is one of the prime values held by our congregation and expressed in our denomination’s purposes and principles, we affirm the belief that our congregation must maintain a secure atmosphere where such openness can exist. When any person’s physical and/or emotional well-being or freedom to safely express his or her beliefs or opinions is threatened, the source of this threat must be addressed firmly and promptly, even if this ultimately requires the expulsion of the offending person or persons.
This policy applies to all UUSMC programs, events or activities, whether at the church or off-site, where adults and children are present together. All members of the congregation share in the responsibility to understand and comply with the Safe Congregation Policy.
“Abuse” is an act committed by a parent, caregiver, or person in a position of trust that harms or threatens to harm a child or youth. There are four categories of abuse: physical, sexual, emotional or mental, and neglect. Harm caused by withholding life’s necessities – food, clothing, shelter, medical care, education – is called “neglect”.
“Mandatory Reporters” are persons who are under a legal duty to report abuse to designated civil authorities. Delaware law makes no distinction between paid staff and non-paid volunteers. Accordingly, volunteers who come into contact with children in the course of their church duties are mandatory reporters. Mandatory reporters must report reasonably suspected cases of child abuse to the Report Line whenever there is “reasonable cause” to believe that a child may have been abused. Any person who has reasonable cause to suspect child abuse is permitted by law to make a report.
More information is available from State of Delaware, Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families: http://kids.delaware.gov/fs/fs_iseethesigns.shtml
“Report Line” refers to the hotline 1-800-292-9582.
“Sexual Misconduct” is unlawful actions motivated by premeditated or intentional purposes or by obstinate indifference to the consequences of one’s sexual acts.
A “Group” is defined as those children or youth under the age of 18 who have been assigned to a nursery, preschool, Religious Education (RE) class or are participating in any planned, organized program or activity.
“Staff” are persons employed by UUSMC to provide support services for the congregation such as the Administrator, Sexton, paid soloists and others who regularly provide similar services. It does not include independent contractors such as those providing lawn care services, snow removal services and the like.
“Workers” are persons, including teens who are engaged with a group of children or youth at UUSMC, whether they are paid or unpaid, permanently assigned or occasional.
The “DRE” refers to the Director of Religious Education.
A “Religious Professional” is a trained staff member hired to perform religious functions, such as the Minister, Director of Religious Education or the Music Director.
The Safe Congregation Committee
The Safe Congregation Committee (“Committee”) is a standing committee that consists of the Minister, the Director of Religious Education, one person selected by the Board and one person selected by the RE committee.
The Committee will meet at least once per year to check that the policy is being followed and provide a report to the Board. It can meet more frequently if needed.
Screening and Selection of Workers, both Volunteers and Staff) with Children and Youth
Workers and Staff Members who provide direct care or supervision for children or youth at UUSMC must meet the following criteria:
Each Worker/Staff Member must:
- At least 18 years of age, unless approved by the DRE after consultation with the parent(s) or guardian.
- Complete the application forms included in this policy and must consent to have background screens.
- Read and agree in writing to the terms set forth in this Policy prior to beginning their duties with any group or program involving direct care or supervision of children or youth at UUSMC.
- All Workers are subject to the supervision of and evaluation by the DRE. All Workers are required to comply with the policies ensure a safe and secure environment for our children and youth.
- At least once each year, the DRE or a designee will compare a current list of approved workers with sexual abuse registry lists generated by the State of Delaware.
- Each group will have at least two assigned workers.
- Parents are permitted and encouraged to visit their child’s class at any time.
- Corporal punishment or abusive language may not be used under any circumstances. This includes behavior that constitutes verbal, emotional, or physical abuse and behavior or language that is threatening or demeaning.
Training and Implementation
- This policy is to be posted on the UUSMC website.
- Training will be conducted annually for Workers and Staff. Training may be conducted more frequently to ensure that new workers are trained prior to beginning their duties.
- Training on this policy will be part of the annual RE parent orientation.
If anyone in the congregation becomes aware of a member who may be a risk to the congregation, they must report it to the Minister, the DRE or the Board President. The Minister and/or designee will meet with the person of concern to further assess the situation and recommend appropriate actions, if any, to the members of the Safe Congregation Committee.
If anyone in the congregation becomes aware of an incident, they must report it to the Minister, the DRE or the Board President as well as follow Delaware mandatory reporting requirements.
In the event of an incident, the Safe Congregation Committee will create an ad hoc Incident Response Team. The Incident Response Team may be comprised of some, none or all of the members of the Safe Congregation Committee.
The Incident Response Team will:
- Document the incident and the response and report it to the Safe Congregation Committee.
- Investigate incidents of alleged abuse involving church members and attendees at all church sponsored functions that occur on or offsite.
- Recommend to the Board appropriate actions to take, if any.
- Recommend and document to what extent, if any, access to the church is permitted by an alleged, admitted or convicted abuser.
- Be responsible to follow the Reporting Procedures contained in this Policy and those required by Delaware law.