Parma Evangelical Lutheran Church in Parma, Ohio, has a policy for the protection of children that other congregations may want to adopt.
Because of their commitment to providing a safe and secure environment for all children, youth, volunteers and staff, they adopted the following policy, which reflects the congregation’s commitment to “preserving this church as a holy place of safety and protection for all who would enter.”
• No adult who has been convicted of child abuse (either sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect, emotional abuse or ritual abuse) will be allowed to work with children or youth in any church-sponsored activity.
• All adult volunteers serving with children or youth must have been active members involved in the life of our congregation for at least six months before beginning a volunteer assignment.
• Adult volunteers with children shall observe the “Two Adult Rule” at all times so that no adult is left alone with children or youth on a routine basis. Adult is defined as a person who is at least 21 years of age and at least five years older than the oldest child under their supervision.
• Adult volunteers with children and youth shall attend regular training and educational events provided by the church to keep informed of church policies, state laws regarding child abuse and to develop their skills for the ministry in which they serve.
• Adult volunteers shall immediately report to their supervisor any behavior that seems abusive or inappropriate. The supervisors are as follows: the pastor, the director of education and family ministries, and the director of youth and young adult ministries.
Screening and recruiting
• All workers with children and youth will have completed an application listing standard contact information, their gifts for that ministry and three unrelated references.
• All workers will be interviewed by the pastor, the director of education and family ministries, or the director of youth and young adult ministries before they begin program delivery. References will be contacted before they begin program delivery.
• All workers will be asked to sign a form consenting to a criminal background check, sign a statement of non-conviction and sign a behavior standards covenant.
• All forms and reference reports shall be kept as a part of an applicant’s confidential personnel file. All forms shall be kept in a locked file on the church premises. Access will be limited to the applicant, the pastor, the director of education and family ministries, and the director of youth and young adult ministries.
• Upon receiving information of abuse or suspected abuse, the adult will report immediately to one of the following people: the pastor, the director of education and family ministries or the director of youth and young adult ministries. They in turn will notify the appropriate civil authorities.
• If the abuse allegedly happened on the congregation’s property by church volunteers or staff, they shall immediately be removed from contact with children until the incident reported has been resolved. This should be handled in a discreet manner and they shall not be banned from other church ministries.
• A quick, compassionate and unified response to an alleged incident of child abuse will be initiated. All allegations will be taken seriously; nothing will be covered up.
• The pastor, or designee, is the only person authorized to make statements to representatives of the media. All requests for statements should be directed to the pastor.
• If the allegation is against a staff person or pastor, the synod will be contacted immediately by the president of the congregation.
• Pastoral support will be available to all people involved in the incident as indicated.