Suggestions For Developing Written Safeguards And Procedures For Your Ministry Employees And Volunteers
Assisting ministries with developing, perserving and restoring trust, with excellence.
Effective considerations for sexual misconduct, child abuse, sexual harassment embezzelment issues that can reduce issues of neglect and offer prudent protection from litigation and accusations.* A "bomb" aspect in your ministry must have its fuse "lit" for an "explosion" to happen, thus it takes the bomb and someone to light it for the explosion. Working to keep these aspects apart or having effective risk management may save your ministry the resulting harm that could result from missing or ineffective risk management.
As a person boards an airplane today, they may find the screening and checking which is required bothersome, but most would not think of boarding without it being done, because of their perceived view of the risk involved today. In like manor people are likely to avoid attending or working with your ministry when these are missing for the same reasons. We believe effective risk management is necessary for a ministry to be dynamic and growing today. We offer to assist your ministry with time saving up to date information, suggested safeguards and other written procedures, workshops at your ministry location, that are effective in bringing your risks into a more manageable position.
The need for risk management has always been present for ministries, but today it is even more critical. Without the completion of quality risk management studies and written safeguards which you develop and apply for the realized risks of your ministry, there is little left to protect your ministry leaders or those that you minister too. Early in my career and until the latter seventies litigation for ministries did not present itself as a significant risk. Today our post-modern culture which was ministry friendly, has not only become intolerant but usually very hostile toward ministries. Apart from the church our culture does not desire to offer the concept of forgiveness or restoration, but has a goal of prosecution and restitution for all issues of felt injustice, violations of rights, or trust. Litigation has become the American way of life for most presented issues as the first choice for satisfaction. The understanding of today's cultural process of operation is critical as you review risks and develop effective "safeguard", procedures to wisely navigate the minefields of today's cultural litigation.
Your ministry written safeguards and procedures are the critical secuirty of relolve as per the courts that stands between the possible destructive accusations and actions against the ministry and its staff, as well as the loss of trust important for the ministry and those within it both attendee and staff.
There is a critical need for checks and balances to be included elements for effective risk management to protect your staff as well as those who attend. This can provide an effective environment for developing, preserving, and restoring trust, without ministry compromise. Dynamic and growing ministries today must have as one of their core values of excellence, unwavering trust. This enviroment must offer a balanced set of standards, safeguards and procedures for both ministry leaders and those who attend. We believe a little higher expectation should be in place with accountability for leaders but parents and children who attend should also be accountable for their deeds as well, agreeing to support the safeguards and procedures by their actions and expectations so as not to place an undue burden on ministry leaders. This balance can provide an enviroment in which all involved persons can feel the security that is necessary for a dynamic and growing ministry today.
- Most religious organizations are just beginning to realize that our culture has changed, and is continuing to change very rapidly. We have been told by several sources recently that the American Bar Association now regularly sponsors workshop and seminars on how to effectively sue religious organizations, and other nonprofit organizations. Far too many church leaders continue to function today, as if they feel they are immune from legal liability, as they were before the seventies. Many times ministry leaders that are perpetrators feel they are above the law with special rights and can do as they please as they violate the trust their ministry has given them. Ministry leaders often are finding themselves reacting rather then being proactive in protecting the ministry, therefore, exposing themselves, their ministries, employees and volunteers to unprecedented, unnecessary, and at times unthinkable risks, litigation, and accusations that can last a life time ending their life of ministry because they were at the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong person, doing the wrong thing. Nothing really has to have happened except being in the wrong place, with the wrong person, at the wrong time.
- Today children in schools are taught to be aggressive with these issues and be on the lookout for any possible sexual misconduct or abuse to report it promptly using the correct terms. Unfortunately sometimes they use this as a weapon to get "even" against those they feel have wronged them. Added to this the court's perception is that children do not lie about such things and they may often reinforce this by noting the child's knowledge of proper terms used when describing the issue.
- The courts also believe children under the age of 18 should not be held accountable for their actions as they pertain to any sexual misconduct matters by them. This is really a no win situation for an adult if you do not have another adult that is over the age of 18 that you trust present with you as you do ministry. It only takes usually one poor choice to end your ministry or damage a ministry.
- This information is being provided to you as suggestions to assist you with the risk management process; it is not intended to be exhaustive on the subject. This material can only be used with the understanding that we are not engaged in rendering legal services. If legal advice or assistance is needed, the services of a competent professional legal person should be sought for consulting and/or review.
- Please note that most of the given info here pertains to ministry with children, but most applications could also be used for issues with adults to adults or child to child, since most presented issues and situations are of a similar pattern as that of child issues in principle.
Here are some important elements that should be dealt with effectively to properly protect your staff. These risk areas encompass the top four litigation issues facing ministries today and which the ministry choosing to do effective risk management should provide for their reduction or elimination.
- Element deals with the possible litigation presented for the neglect of background screening checks, hiring procedures and other prudent aspects to protect against perpetrators.
- The treatment of the accused and the possible violated or victimized persons.
- Data privacy and safety which should be kept indefinately, including proper data backups that meet privacy requirements. Only those that need to know should know details.
- Quality and accuriate attendance records kept indefinately for all events formal or infromal (even those such as a Christmas practices or other). For children events the adult to child ratio is critical with one of the adults doing the attendance and others also signing it.
- Remove an accused person from their position until the issue has been cleared or resolved.
- The prudent adult to child ratios to cover lack of proper adult supervision litigation issues.
- It is critical to have proper written procedures in place which all employees and volunteers have read, signed, and dated as read and understood annually. The signed and dated form should be kept indefinitely.
- It is important written procedures are explicitly practiced and followed to prevent and reduce possible risk factors as presented in your ministry for both the accused and possible victims.
- Proper timely reporting of required events by required persons to legally required enitities.
- It is prudent that known, accused, or convicted persons are not allow to be returned to the same position to reduce a possible repeating issue. Forgiveness and restoration is one thing within the ministry but not the culture or legal system. The hostility of the culture and legal system is very unforgiving should a repeating issue for the same person present itself. This could result in punitivge litigation and criminal charges agaist leaders and mounds of growing distruction.
- A knowledgeable watchful eye for persons of high accusation potential and its enviromental causes with possible effective diffusing plans.
- Effective embezzlement checks and balances require different unrelated persons for doing the differing easpects of handling funds with more then one counting offerings. Audits are a necessary check and balance factor. Outside audits should be done every several years.
- Appoint persons and establish procedures for inspecting walkways, handrails, parking lots for cracks and holes, and all flooring for slip and fall issues.
- Our suggested general guidelines for background checks, encourages background and criminal checks nationally for all paid staff, including clergy. For volunteers, those that should be screened are those who in the course of their volunteering are inclined to deal with persons one on one; other volunteers are at the ministry's discretion.
- Effective privacy statements should specifically state how you deal with people's personal data and your ministry procedures to keep that data secure. Effective privacy statements and their procedures are an often overlooked very critical element of ministries today. Data should be kept indefinitely for only those that need to know and be protected for its integrity and security. The violations of people's data could develop into a real disaster.
We believe you should also have a signed release form before checking employee and volunteer backgrounds and criminal records, suggested elements that you should consider including are below;
Ideally this release should be included with your staff employment application and or volunteer application.
Employee & Volunteer Information To Include In Your Background and Criminal Records Release Form
I hereby give my permission and release from any and all for such to ____________________ for the purpose of obtaining a background and criminal records check as part of my engagement with ____________________________
I hereby give my permission and release from and all for such to ______________________ to ask for a character reference and job performance requested from a former employer and/or church that I was employed with or volunteer with before today.
When sexual misconduct, child abuse, sexual harassment, and embezzlement is not officially charged or accused it will not show in background or criminal record checks. Thus the questions below are suggested to show that the ministry is doing their best to avoid the neglect of prudent procedures and safeguards which can be the cause of unexpected litigation today. We believe the below questions and definitions should be included in your annual review form, employment, and volunteer applications with your other data requested for each employee and regular volunteer. The verbage used and how these are asked is critical. Our suggests are below:
Have you done sexual misconduct? Yes___ No ___
Have you been accused of sexual misconduct? Yes___ No___
Have you been convicted of sexual misconduct? Yes___ No___
Have you done sexual harassment? Yes___No___
Have you been accused of sexual harassment? Yes___No___
Have you been convicted of sexual harassment? Yes___No___
Have you done child abuse? Yes___No___
Have you been accused of child abuse? Yes___No___
Have you been convicted of child abuse? Yes___No___
Have you done any embezzlement? Yes___No___
Have you ever been accused or convicted of any embezzlement? Yes___No___
Have you ever had child abuse done to you? Y ___ N____
Have you ever had sexual misconduct done to you? Y____N____
Today it is critical that you define sexual misconduct, child abuse, sexual harassment and embezzlement specifically, and other terms used according to your church theology with quoted scriptural references supporting such in your printed material. If you neglect this, you will leave the definitions to the court, which may not be to your liking.
Since the courts today place volunteers in the same class as employees it is critical that your ministry defines what you believe to be a volunteer so that you do not leave that for the court to define. Your procedures for employees should be the same for regular volunteers.
* Your procedures for dealing with the persented issues that may present themselves should be reviewed by our office to be sure they meet your risk factors and proper possible premium discounts are applied. Please submit a copy of your "safeguards" for review when they are completed. If you need assistance with this, please feel free to contact us. Here are some items that should be included:
- Timely reporting any issues that present themselves to your risk manager who should discuss them with your agent as soon as possible. Any delay as perceived by the accuser can develop at times explosive growth and do much additional harm usually because they feel they are not believed or cared about.
- Then a review of your state reporting requirements should be reviewed. State specific reporting requirements can be reviewed at this location click here to link. The national gov't official site for this information updated regularly.
- Collect the name, address and best contact phone of the accused.
- Collect the name, address and best contact phone of the victim.
- Keep all info confidential except for those with a legal need to know.
- Follow instructions given by company claims department explicitly.
- The accused must be immediately told that they are to be excused from ministry until further notice to keep them from contact with the victim. Sometimes further action is necessary to protect the victim.
- If our claims department should be involved please follow their requests to assist the matter explicitly.
Below are other elements that should find a place in your strategies.
- Today it is critical that your ministry considers using a formal employee and volunteer application for all positions both paid and volunteer staff, both fulltime and part-time. On both applications there should be a statement of release for the ministry which allows them to legally reply to character reference inquires for either an employee or volunteer when requested at some indefinite future time with no time limit listed. Call us if you have a question with this.
- Applications should also have a sign off for all employment or volunteer handbooks, forms and other paperwork including ministry statements of faith, have been read and understood as to procedures and expectations, including sexual misconduct, child abuse, sexual harassment, and embezzlement issues annually. It should also state that they agree to abide by them and follow them.
- Applications for both employees and volunteers should include that all parties agree to work though arbitration for the settlement of employment and volunteer issues between them.
- Application should have a statement above the provided signature that the person signing the form is of sound mind, and that all statements and given data above are true and complete to the best of their knowledge and belief. It should further state that the above is material to the ministry in determining eligibility and consideration for an employment or volunteer position. Furthur it should state that any misrepsentations, faults deceptive statements or data given above could result in immediately dismissel from the ministry position and may also subjegate them to fraud charges, which is a crime with possible criminal and civil litigation.
- It is important that your procedures include a six months rule where by all prospective volunteers for church leadership positions have attended your church with a good report for at least six months, in order for them to prove themselves, and learn your ministry ways and procedures.
- Please be reminded concerning a recent Supreme Court ruling (2004) that failure to report a sexual misconduct issue properly and timely, could cause persons of your ministry possible prison terms, fines, suits, and other. It could also result in painful litigation against your ministry without mercy.
- A repeating offender of sexual misconduct can yield very painful litigation for neglect issues that could even include punitive litigation against a ministry for neglecting to report the previous issues of the offender that were known but not reported, thus allowing the offender to repeat the issues. This is often looked at by the court as gross neglect by the ministry because it is a known and purposeful neglect in their view.
- It is prudent that a known confessed, formally accused, or convicted person of sexual misconduct, child abuse, sexual harassment, or embezzlement is not returned to the same or similar position to allow for a repeat offence. A second offense could result in possible punitive litigation by the courts today against any and all persons in a leadership position within the organization.
- A violation or perceived violation of trust could cause possible disaster with growing cartinage to deal with in your organization. Each issue should be dealt with promptly and effectively by removal of the person in question from their position with your written procedures followed as well as those required by legal statut.
- It is critical that properly trained and effective persons are chosen to provide commination as is necessary for requesting news medias, the community, and those within the organization. The communication during and the 90 days following an issues of trust violation for sexual misconduct, child abuse, sexual harassment, or embezzlement will lay the foundation for the days and events that will follow. Think prudently wighting possible results before you speak or act.
- Please be sure you have a proper understanding concerning the two adult rule safeguard, and that a child is considered to be anyone under the age of (18) which should be defined in your paperwork. With this rule is the added understanding, that a portion of twenty or twenty children there should be at least two adults and then over the first twenty, there must be an additional adult present for every added 10 children or portion thereof. For children under the age of 3 there should be an adult/ratio of at least 1 to 2 these.
- We feel it is very prudent to indefinately keep attendance records for all formal and informal organizational activities and well as those in leadership of the event and a listing all present adults. This will care for those cases were leaders are accused of issues when a person may not have even been present.
- We believe it is prudent also to review and get to know those that attend your programs to discern those that may present possible issues of accusation. It should also be noted to be aware of those that may feel wronged that may seek the ultimate revenge. Anger persons can cause explosive issues if not carefully dealt with today. A person with good listening and communicating skills may be a great assist to difuse such persons and their issues.
- It is highly recommended that you review your building to be sure safeguards are in place, so that you are not putting any employees or volunteers in a compromising position as they attempt to do their work. Open doors and doors with windows, and other people present is the best safeguard for today.
- During ministry sponsored informal and formal events it is best to have some adults that monitor, the halls, restrooms, and other rooms, playgrounds, and parking lots of the ministry to be sure there are no situations that are increasing the ministry's, employees' or volunteers' risks. Some ministries have chosen to install electric monitors to reduce risk factors which we stongly suggest as well. If this is your choice let us know, we offer a value added service under the value added services page on our site that offers this at a discount for our clients along with other items that may assist your ministry for this.
- Your transportation procedures today should make note that it is unwise to send a child home alone with an individual adult. The best safeguard would be to have two adults or at least a child of the adult. When using a van or bus for transportation, it is best to have at least one adult driving and one in the rear. The best safeguard for transporting children is to have girls should sit with girls, and boys with boys to reduce the risk for the adults which could be accused of neglect of sponsorship if an issue presents itself.
Known sexual predicator facts to review as you consider your ministry sexual misconduct safeguards and the possible risks factors of your ministry.
- It can include persons of any age, sex, faith, occupation, economical level, or educational level.
- It almost always involves a built relationship that has its foundation, the trust violated.
- A very high percentage of perpetrators been abused themselves.
- Perpetrators are usually loners needing a friend or have insecurities about themselves and look for victims dealing with the same.
- Because perpetrators take the time to build relationships for those in need, to often they are given a free pass with no accountability or supervision, usually they also have to much unaccounted for free time.
- Perpetrators can be any age, which is often overlooked or proper safeguards prepared for.
- Under age 18 prey on each other
- Adults prey on children
- Adults prey on each other
- Children prey on adults
Known sexual accuser facts to review as you consider your ministry sexual misconduct safeguards and the possible risks factors of your ministry. There are two main ministry accusers.
- Those you may have offended may look for the ultimate revenge. A time when they perceive your safeguards are missing so they can use accusations to get "even".
- There are some who feel insecurities within themselves and or feel they are missing a perceived special value they feel they need to cope with life, may use an accusation to fill this need.
- Under age 18 prey on each other
- Adults prey on children
- Adults prey on each other
- Children prey on adults
ØThe counselor: Special care should be given as mentioned above to those that counsel since they meet with individuals which are usually in great need and often in a venerable stage of life so that they are able to reduce their risk regardless of the age or sex of those being counseled.
Being in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong person, doing the wrong thing can yield a painful result and last a life time. It is critical to understand that safeguards are written today as noted. I Thess. 5:22: Abstain from all appearance of evil. (KJV) This is the very best risk management advice for the above issues.
All employees and volunteers should continually ask themselves the following three questions:
- Is there anything that I am doing, or the way I am doing it, that is increasing my personal risk or that of the ministry?
- Are there changes that should be made to reduce the possible risk to myself, or that of the ministry?
- Are there some things that we should not do because they are potentially causing myself or the organization more risk than is necessary or wise, for litigation or safety of all persons and property of the ministry?
Today it is critical that the ministry's risk factor probability and consequences for their possible frequency and severity is balanced with possible financial and procedural prevention resources which fit the resources of the ministry.
Your ministry can bring effective control over the issues of neglect by being proactive and working with developing, preserving, and restoring trust, without ministry compromise and done with excellence.
* Please be reminded that we are not in the business of rendering legal advice, or safety advice, as such, all materials and suggestions should be reviewed with your legal adviser before use.