Safe Sanctuary Form

“Safe Sanctuary” For Philadelphia Baptist Church
Safe Sanctuaries is a nationally recognized program wherein congregations maximize the safety of children to protect them from any who would abuse them while they are on church property or involved in church-related activities away from the church. Philadelphia Baptist Church will soon vote on adopting a Safe Sanctuaries policy.
Why have a Safe Sanctuaries policy? We all know that we love children at Philadelphia, and that none of us would ever want to see them harmed in any way. However, the sad truth is that many children too often are preyed upon in our culture, some even while attending church activities.
Many of us grew up in communities that were safe, simply because “everybody knew everybody” and because potential predators were usually known to the community. The whole community “kept its eyes on” the potential predators, and the children were quietly warned “not to have anything to do with” him or her. Sadly, the anonymity of our current culture has erased that community knowledge, and predators have an easier time of it, if there are not proper safeguards in place.
Here are some reasons why we need this policy.
1. The primary reason we need a Safe Sanctuary policy is that we must do our best to protect the children entrusted to our care. We cannot invite “the little children to come” in Jesus name, and do any less.
2. A second reason we need a Safe Sanctuary policy is to send a clear message to the community that we are a safe place for children. In our culture, parents of children are quite aware of the reports that children are being abused in church settings. Having a Safe Sanctuary policy in place may make the difference in whether families are willing to visit us or join our fellowship. This policy will also send a clear message to potential predators that we are vigilant about protecting the children in our care.
3. Another reason we need a Safe Sanctuary policy is to protect our staff, teachers, leaders, chaperones, and other volunteers, as well as the church itself from false accusations, which do occasionally happen, and can turn into a nightmare for all involved.
4. A fourth reason for this policy is that it will likely help us with insurance costs in the future. Abuse allegations have become a major concern among church insurers. It is likely that, in the near future, those insurers will develop financial incentives for congregations to have Safe Sanctuary policies in place and in practice.
Proposed Safe Sanctuary Policies:
* Minimum Age: Volunteers and staff must be at least 16 years old, and must be at least 4 years older than the age of the persons that they are overseeing. Persons not meeting this requirement may not be left alone with children.
* Six Month Rule: All volunteers must have been an active participant at Philadelphia for six months prior to being eligible to serve in our children and youth ministries. Persons not meeting this minimum requirement may serve only as assistants, and there must be another adult present at all times.
* Two Adult Rule: A minimum of two adults must be present at all times during any church sponsored program for children or youth. For the purpose of this rule, married couples working with the same group are considered one adult. If a second adult is not available during times of youth or children’s ministry at the church, the classroom door should remain open and another adult may supervise the groups by “floating” in the area. Youth groups meeting at the church should have at least two adults present. Two adults, one of who must be 21 years old or older are required on all trips and outings.
* Clear Sight Lines: There should be unobstructed visibility to all activities where children and youth are present. Classrooms where children are meeting must have an unobstructed outside window (blinds opened), and/or an uncovered interior hall window. In room where this is not possible, the door must remain open while children are present.
* Open Door Counseling: During any counseling session with children or youth, the door of the room being used, should remain open for the entire session, if there is no unobstructed window.
* Transportation For Church-Organized Events: There must always be more than one child and one adult in a vehicle. Exceptions to this rule are allowed only in emergency situations, and must be approved by the pastor, church staff, or a deacon.
* Child/Adult Ratio: The child ratio for children’s activities is at least one adult for every 10 children in the classroom, and one adult for every 6 children on day or overnight trips. For youth activities, the ratio shall be at least one adult for every 20 in the classroom, and one adult for every 8 youth on day or overnight trips.
* Lodging: On overnight trips, all adult chaperones must be over the age of 21. No youth shall be housed alone with an adult. Neither shall a youth travel alone in a vehicle with only one adult unless it is their parent. Adults shall not sleep in the same bed with any youth.
* Reporting Abuse: The law requires anyone who works with children or youth to report any type of suspected child abuse to the proper authorities. Contact the local Child Protective Services offices to report the suspected abuse. If immediate danger exists to a child, contact the Sheriff’s Department immediately and await their arrival and/or follow their instructions.
* Background Checks: All persons functioning as supervising adults with children or youth must be willing to undergo a background check as a condition of approval for these responsibilities. All paid staff, Sunday School teachers, youth leaders, activity coordinators, and other volunteers with children, including persons driving groups to events, must have a “clean” background check in order to function as supervising adults. Note 1: Although this rule may seem extreme, it is already the “norm” in public schools, and the parents of “school age” children have come to accept and expect it. Note 2: This rule sends a clear message to potential predators that we are intent on protecting our children.
* No Expectation of Privacy: No person preparing for, participating in, serving in or using the programs or assets of Philadelphia Baptist Church shall have any expectation of privacy while doing so. All activities and communications of any and all forms shall be fully open for review by the leadership of Philadelphia Baptist Church, and by legal authorities.
* Oversight of this policy: The oversight of this policy will be by a committee appointed by the deacons. The initial committee will be composed of: Bruce Aldridge, Nicole Blevins, Deneice Hendrick, Shirleen Tucker, and Randal Wilson.
* Our Response To Allegations of Abuse Of A Child Or Youth:
1. All allegations will be taken seriously. Adequate care and respect must be offered to the alleged victims and alleged perpetrators until the allegation can be substantiated or cleared.
2. All records relating to the matter will be maintained in confidential files in the church office, unless they are needed by authorities.
3. All efforts in handling the situation will be carefully documented.
4. The parents/guardians of the suspected victim will be notified immediately.
5. The liability insurer for the church will be notified about the incident by the Senior Pastor or his designee.
6. The safety and security of the child must be safeguarded before the person accused of abuse is confronted.
7. And in-depth investigation will be carried out by church leadership, under the supervision of the Senior Pastor, as well as by the civil authorities if appropriate.
8. The Senior Pastor or his designee will be the sole spokesperson for the church insofar as media inquiries are concerned.
9. Every effort must be made to protect the dignity and privacy of the alleged victim.
10. Any person accused of abuse must be treated with dignity and support. That person will be immediately relieved of further responsibilities, as circumstances dictate, until the allegations are cleared or substantiated.
[contact-form-7 id=”3508″ title=”Safe Sanctuary Form”]