Edwina Cowgill, business administrator at the Redemption Fellowship explains that child abuse is never an easy topic and everyone expects the church to be a safe place for kids.
How does the church establish processes and procedures to ensure that it is safe?
We revisted a former WFX Conference session where participants gained valuable resources about churches and the risk of possible abuse situations, hiring and screen requirements, symptom recognition, facility aspects and written policies.
Why Do Churches Need A Child Safety Policy?
Churches usually need to implicate a child safety policy due to the following reasons:
- God has given churches the responsibility to protect children and youth from the chances of getting abused by providing a safe and secure learning environment.
- Almost 33.6% churches ended up in court due to cases related to sexual molestation in the last six years.
- Most churches face the Head Buried in Sand' syndrome, which means, they don't use child safety policies just because they think nothing of that sort would happen in their church.
The Churches Number One Defense- A Good Offense
The speaker explained how churches neglect certain aspects when it comes to monitoring child abuse matters and how implying such policies would help them.
How Can A Screening Process Help?
In case a church ends up in court, it can present its screening procedures in court and let them know that the individual was completely looked upon before hiring.
In many child abuse cases, people face false allegations and this can be prevented using a screening process.
Background checks and screening processes also reduce the risk of hiring anyone who has past criminal records with child abuse.
- Churches should develop a firsthand impression of the applicant
- The applicant should be interviewed by the respective authority of the department they wish to work in
- Clergies, pastors and other leaders can participate in the interview
- Obtain business not personal references
- Contact each reference personally
- Give a questionnaire to the references to see what they have to say
- Perform nationwide background checks, preferably 10 years back
- Look if the applicant was involved in any sort of misdemeanors, felonies and sexual abuse crimes
Child Safety Policy
An ideal child safety policy should include the following;
- Purpose of the policy
- Recruiting, screening and hiring workers for child schools and departments
- Accidents and emergencies handling procedures
- An open door policy
- Discipline policies for children
- Two adult rule
- Nursery and toddler check in and checkout rules
- Open door counseling
- Advance notice to parents for any change in timings or location for child classes
- Playground equipment and supervision rules
- Parents and family education rules
- Worker and volunteer code of ethics
Types Of Child Abuse
It can be defined as abuse in which a person does intentional bodily harm to a child. Physical signs that a child might be facing abuse are:
- Unexplained bruises
- Unexplained bite marks
- Unexplained fractures
- Frequently wets the bed
This is defined as abuse in which a person exposes a child to spoken or unspoken emotional cruelty. Physical signs include:
- Has a sleeping disorder
- Frequently wets the bed
- Shows developmental lagging
- Has eating disorders
This is defined as abuse in which a person endangers a child health, safety or welfare through negligence. Signs of negligence include:
- The child is frequently dirty or unwashed
- Engages in dangerous activities due to lack of supervision
- Is frequently tired
- Has unattended physical problems
It is defined as abuse in which sexual contact occurs between a child and an older person. Physical symptoms include:
- Has pain/and or itching in the genital area
- Has bruises or bleeding in the genital area
- Has venereal disease
- Has swollen private parts
- Has difficulty walking or sitting
- Has torn, bloody and/or stained underclothing
- Experiences pain when urinating
- Is pregnant
- Has vaginal or penile discharge
- Wets the bed
It is defined as abuse in which physical, sexual or psychological violations of a child are inflicted regularly by a person responsible for the child's welfare. Physical signs include:
- Disruptions of memory or consciousness
- Unexplained mistrust and mood swings
- Eating disorders
- Agitation or despair that seems to occur in cycles
- Fear of the dark, especially at sundown or a full moon
- Nightmares or sleep disorders
When an allegation is made on a church's staff member regarding abuse, the church officials must be prepared for the following:
- The safety of the victim should be the church's primary concern and the parent should be notified as soon as possible.
- The accused child abuser should be immediately removed from activities which involve interaction with children.
Who To Tell?
You should notify and let the following people know what happened:
- Senior pastor
- Elders or deacons
- Law enforcement
- A qualified individual from the Child Protection Agency should be allowed to interview the abuser
- A written should be maintained of all the steps taken in response to the allegation and after the incident.
Time Of Healing
Within 24-48 hours of the discovery and reporting of the abuse, a letter to the congregation that briefly explains the situation and the initial action taken by the church should be mailed.
Tell the truth and engage in open, honest communication about what has happened.
The letter will include a statement of the actions taken to assure the safety of all the children and to assure the congregation of the church's continuing ability to provide ministry to the children and youth.
It is highly probable that a congregational meeting will need to be called to further address the situation. This will be at the discretion of the Senior Pastor and Elders/Deacons.
After the small group time has ended, the congregation will reassemble for a time of prayer and intercession for each other and for the leaders of the church as they seek justice for all involved and healing for all who are suffering.
Additional times of open and honest communication, ministry and healing will be convened according to the needs of the congregation.
Edwina Cowgill, can be reached at :
Geoff Oldmixon is an awards winning blogger, editor, writer and contributor to Worship Facilities.