Safe Sanctuary Policy & Forms
First Mennonite Church of Beatrice Safe Sanctuary Procedures
For Protection of Infants, Children, Youth and Handicapped Individuals
The purpose of these procedures is to make First Mennonite Church of Beatrice a safe place for all children, employees and volunteers. This applies to all Church sponsored activities.
Definitions: What is Abuse and Neglect?
Abuse is defined in three ways:
- Physical Abuse exists when a child has a non-accidental injury.
- Emotional Abuse exists when blame is always put on a child or there is rejection of the child.
- Sexual Abuse exists when an adult uses a child as a part of any type of sexual act.
Neglect is defined two ways:
- Emotional Neglect is when the child suffers from the parents not giving them chances for feeling loved, wanted, secure, and worthy.
- Physical Neglect is when a parent does not provide basic needs or a safe place to live i.e. not enough food or clothing, not following doctor’s orders, not providing the appropriate supervision needed to keep the child safe, no heat in the winter.
(Above definitions from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.)
Infant: 0 through 1 year old.
Children: persons 1 year through 11 years old
Youth: persons 12 years through 18 years old.
Adult: persons 19 and older
Employee: Any adult paid by the church.
Volunteer: Any adult or youth (supervised by an adult) who has attended church regularly for at least six months, who works with children.
Church Sponsored Activity: An activity on the church grounds or off grounds that is conducted under the direction of and/or endorsed by First Mennonite Church where infants, children, and youth are present. These activities include but are not limited to Sunday School, nursery, Wednesday night activities, VBS and activities, church picnic, church camp, National Convention, Shepherd Group activities, Senior Youth Fellowship (SYF) and Junior Youth Fellowship (JYF) activities, mission trips. These activities would be posted in the bulletin, email, website, and in the permission slip.
Child Protection Team (Safe Sanctuary Child Protection Team): A group of at least two individuals appointed by the congregation to implement these procedures with the Education Council Chair. Team shall consist of Education Council Chair (three year term) and two individuals nominated by Church Board for three year terms that may be renewed.
As a church we want to prevent and recognize all types of child abuse and neglect. These procedures apply to all church sponsored activities as defined.
Education Council and Child Protection Team will:
- Offer training annually to all adults and youth in the congregation, including volunteers and employees, involved in infant, child, youth and handicapped individuals care and activities. Training may be regarding child abuse, neglect, development, healthy family relationships, any protective or risk factors for abuse and review of this policy. A “Memo of Understanding for Working with Infants, Children, Youth, and Handicapped individuals for Members” and “Memo of Understanding for Working with Infants, Children, Youth, and Handicapped individuals for Non-Members” or a “Memo of Understanding for Youth working with Infants, Children, and Handicapped individuals” will be filled out and kept on file each year. Employees and volunteers will need to attend the provided training or alternative training before working with infant, children, and youth of the church.
- We will also offer education to the children and youth on child/abuse and/or safety that is age appropriate. Parents will be involved in the selection of materials and invited to participate in the training.
Supervision: Making our church safe for our children and youth, such as:
- Placing windows in doors to rooms where church sponsored activities will be held, i.e. Sunday School, VBS, JYF, SYF, Peace Club.
- First Aid Kit placed on each level marked with a red “+” sign and incident report available to be filled out and turned into Education Council Chair or Child Protection Team and filed.
- Install electrical outlet covers throughout the church.
- Lock cleaning supplies in janitor’s closet and in the kitchen.
- Keep knives in drawers with appropriate child safety locks.
“Two Adult Rule”: At least two adults need to be present at all times supervising children’s programs, events, i.e. VBS, Peace Club, overnight events, activities in homes, or private locations. During these times, preferably two unrelated volunteers will be present, or if only one volunteer is present, then another volunteer i.e. Education Council Chair or assigned volunteer from the Child Protection Team will check rooms randomly.
“Five Year Rule”: Young adults, 19 years and older, who volunteer with youth activities need to be at least five years older than the oldest youth in the group. If this is not the case, then another adult 23 years old or older must be present at all times. Nursery volunteers must be in high school and be directly supervised by an adult at least 23 years old.
“Six month Rule”: Individuals wanting to volunteer must have regular involvement in the church for at least six months before being allowed to be involved in infant, children, and youth church sponsored activities.
Notification of Transportation: Parent/s or guardian/s must be notified ahead of time and give written permission for child to be transported to, from, and during church sponsored activities. If transportation is provided to and from the activity and a change in arrival time is greater than 15-30 minutes prior to or after set times of the activity, parents/guardians must be notified. See Parental Consent Form.
Peace Club Prayer Partner Activity: This mentoring time has been and should continue to be a fun and rewarding friendship. It is highly suggested that the adult and child/youth time together be during Peace Club announced activity times. If the adult and child/youth would like to do an activity outside of planned group activities, it is highly suggested that it should be done with another child/youth and adult and where there are others present (i.e. ball games, art classes, etc.)
- This policy will be in a labeled binder in the church secretary’s office, posted on the web site and on the Bulletin Board in the Narthex.
- Background checks may be performed on an individual basis as felt is needed by the Pastor, or as recommended by individual/s. This will be kept as private information with the Pastor and Deacons.
- A “Memo of Understanding for Working with Infants, Children, Youth and Handicapped Individuals” for members and non-members for all volunteers will be signed yearly after receiving training. For youth volunteers, they will attend training and yearly sign the “Memo of Understanding for Youth Working with Infants, Children and Handicapped Individuals”.
- These procedures will be made available to new members and no-members yearly.
- The Safe Sanctuary Child Protection Team will review and update this policy yearly and make changes public via website and postings in church. All changes must be submitted to the church’s insurance company and attorney.
- Nursery: At least two adults of 23 years of age in attendance.
- Infants: Parents shall have infant changed prior to leaving the infant. In case the infant does need to be changed, it is up to the parent to change the infant or give permission for nursery volunteer to change the infant. The volunteer must be 23 years old. Adult volunteers need to wash hands before and after changing the infant. Gloves will be available. The changing area will be cleaned with appropriate cleanser provided.
- Child: Child should be dressed in appropriate clothing that will make it easy for the volunteer to assist in the restroom if needed. Children need to be taken to the restroom by parent prior to leaving the child. In case the child does need to use the restroom, the door will be left ajar while the child is using the restroom and partially open if the child needs assistance so other volunteers may have visual contact. Adult volunteers need to wash hands before and after changing the infant. Gloves will be available.
- Sunday School:
- Preschool: Children need to be taken to the restroom prior to leaving the children in the classroom. They also need to wear appropriate clothing for ease in assisting if the child needs to use the restroom if not toilet trained. The adult volunteer may escort the child to the restroom and the Sunday School room door left open. The volunteer leaves the bathroom door ajar and stays outside of the bathroom to escort the child back to the classroom. If the child needs assistant, the volunteer must notify another volunteer and doors kept partway open for visual contact.
- School Age: If the child needs to use the restroom during class time, the classroom door will be open and the child checked on if gone for abnormal amount of time.
Special Events: Parents/guardians will be notified and have permission slip and medical information forms filled out prior to the time the child would leave church property. Forms need to be with the leader/volunteer during the trip/event.
Overnight trips: Hotel/Dorms: Youth will be gender specific room/tent. Depending on the circumstances supervising adults may stay in the youth rooms or separate rooms. When staying in the same room, no fewer than two same-gender supervising adults will be assigned to a room with youth. When staying in separate rooms, adult’s rooms will be situated between youth rooms when possible.
Camping: If the camp has large sleeping quarters with a large number of beds, children/youth may share the same rooms with the same gender adults. When this occurs, there must be more than one unrelated adult in each room or cabin. At no time should an adult be left alone with one youth in the lodging facility.
Any overnight event must be supervised by at least two adults and if both genders of youth are present, then both genders of supervising adults, preferably not related, need to attend.
Transportation: All drivers transporting youth during an activity must have current valid driver’s license and current auto insurance coverage. They must be at least 23 years old. One staff may transport multiple youth during an activity. No one adult will transport one youth/child unless arranged with parent/guardian in the Parental Consent Form. Children must be transported in appropriate car seat or booster seat in accordance with current Nebraska Department of Health and Human Service’s “Correct Use of child Safety Seats” guidelines.
Discipline: When a child or youth misbehaves the adult may use redirection and appropriate verbal means to redirect the child’s/youth behavior. Remind the child/youth of the proper behavior, rules, and expectations. Time out may be used, minutes not to exceed the age of the child. If these attempts do not work and/or the child/youth’s behavior becomes so disruptive or threatens the safety of themselves or others the child/youth may be removed from the activity and parent/s or guardian will be contacted and will be asked to go with them. No physical discipline, hitting, or slapping, or verbal abuse may be used.
Physical Contact: Contact should be age and developmentally appropriate.
- Putting an arm around a shoulder, side by side, when comforting, quieting, or greeting is an appropriate greeting or hug/contact.
- Light touch to hand, shoulder, or back when offering encouragement.
- Adults shall not initiate a hug and shall be the one to end it.
- Coaxing child/youth to kiss you.
- Extended hug or tickling or prolonged physical contact of any kind.
- Touching a child in any area that would be covered by a bathing suit.
Safety Precautions: Children/youth should be supervised at all times by volunteers. Volunteers need to be aware of locations of First Aid Kits, and CPR defibrillator. First Aid kits are in the basement kitchen, main floor secretary’s office, upstairs west cabinet. The defibrillator is in the narthex near the mailboxes. No medication/drug may be administered to any infant, child or youth without consent and specific written instructions from parents or guardian. The medication must be in the original container. All infants, children, and youth will only be released to the parents, guardian, or parent/guardian approved adult.
Reporting abuse or allegations of abuse: When a child, youth, parent/s, guardian reports abuse or abuse is suspected as defined, Child Protective Services, 800-652-1999, or 911, will be notified at once by the one who has firsthand knowledge of the information/situation and share with the Child Protection Team and Pastor. The Child Protection Team will also contact the church’s insurance company and the church’s attorney. If you have questions regarding possible abuse you may also contact the Beatrice Juvenile Service Officer at 402-223-4080 or contact the Pastor or deacons, and Child Protection Team. The alleged offender will be removed immediately from all responsibilities involving contact with children until the conclusion of the investigation. All parent/s and guardians whose children may have been in contact with the alleged offender will be notified within 48 hours that the allegations were made and reported to authorities.
If the Pastor is the alleged offender, the person who has firsthand knowledge of the information/situation will contact Child Protective Services or 911 and share with the Deacons and the Child Protection Team. The Child Protection Team will also contact the church’s insurance company, the church’s attorney, and Western District Conference. All parents/guardians whose children may have been in contact with the Pastor will be notified within 48 hours that the allegations were made and reported to authorities. The Pastor will be removed from service until the conclusion of the investigation.
Registered Sex Offenders and Notification of Such:
Any individual, child, youth, or adult, who is known to have been convicted of a sexual offense must not be allowed any unsupervised contact with infants, children, youth, or handicapped individuals and may not be involved in children’s or youth ministry.
All parents of infants, children, and youth in the church must be notified in writing if there is a registered sex offender attending church.
For security and confidentiality purposes, these forms are not available for online submission
Parental Consent Form print and fill
Overnight Permission Letter print and fill
Incident Report Form print and fill
(Adopted in 2016)