A child and youth protection policy in a faith community helps to ensure safety for children and youth. A written policy needs to be adopted as well as implemented and made accessible. Having a clearly defined plan for responding to any concern that arises enables people to act responsibly and appropriately during confusing and emotional situations. Dove's Nest recommends that every faith community develop and implement a policy suited to its context.
A child protection policy should address the following questions:
- What is child abuse and neglect?
- How can we make our facilities safer?
- What personnel practices will reduce risks?
- What are best practices for programs involving children and youth?
- What training will be offered to those working with children?
- How will we respond to allegations of abuse?
- What if we have concerns about an individual's behavior or if a known offender is attending our church?
- How can we promote the safety of children and youth in the wider community?
Answering these questions in times of crisis is very difficult, so it is best to be proactive and develop a robust policy before it is needed. Provided below are checklists on what to include in a policy and some sample policies. Other resources are also available for writing a child and protection policy.
CHILD AND YOUTH PROTECTION POLICY CHECKLISTS
MODEL POLICY #1: Long Version
This child protection policy, entitled “Franconia Mennonite Conference Child Protection Plan,” is outstanding and thorough. (Franconia Mennonite Conference is a member of Mennonite Church USA.) The plan was originally approved in 2007, but it was updated and approved by conference leadership in 2015. According to the introduction, “Franconia Mennonite Conference commits to a collaborative, strategic approach to child protection, which includes identifying and addressing the threats and opportunities the Conference faces. This collaborative effort culminated in the creation of the following Child Protection Plan.”
The plan is seventy-four pages long and includes many helpful forms, as well as materials on understanding physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. Also, as an area conference with most of its churches in Pennsylvania, this plan includes the latest requirements for background screenings based on Pennsylvania law (see page 10–11).
It is important to note that not all church’s need to implement a policy as comprehensive as this one. Dove’s Nest recommends that a church or conference carefully adapt this policy to their unique context and make it their own.
MODEL POLICY #2: Short Version
For smaller churches, or churches just beginning their journeys into child abuse prevention work, this is our favorite shorter sample child protection and abuse response policy. This sample policy comes from appendix 4 (page 181–185) of Let the Children Come: Preparing Faith Communities to End Child Abuse and Neglect by Jeanette Harder (2010).
It includes these important components, which are also outlined in this checklist:
- An introduction
- Abuse definitions
- Prevention within church: trainings, facility safety, supervision of children, personnel issues
- How to deal with offenders and allegations of abuse
- Abuse prevention within other communities
We highly recommend using the rest of Let the Children Come as a resource for the committee working with abuse prevention and the protection policy.
Listed below are examples from some Mennonite Church USA congregations (separated by conference) and other denominations that have child protection policies along with links to those policy. If you wish to borrow substantial portions of a church's policy, please request an electronic file directly from that congregation. Contact information is available from the directory on the Mennonite Church USA website. If you wish to add your church's child protection policy to this list, please e-mail it to Info [at] DovesNest.net. Dove's Nest offers these policies as examples only and does not necessarily endorse them.
MENNONITE CHURCH USA
Atlantic Coast Conference
First Mennonite Church, Urbana-Champaign, IL (Illinois Mennonite conference as well)
Central Plains Mennonite Conference
Franconia Mennonite Conference
Gulf States Mennonite Conference
Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference
Mountain States Mennonite Conference
Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conference
Western District Conference
BRETHREN IN CHRIST CHURCH
Car Seats and Prevention Policies [pdf] by Marlene Bogard
Young Children and Bathroom Use [pdf] by Marlene Bogard
Parks and Playground Safety [pdf] from St. Andrew's Parks and Playground, South Carolina
Responding to Disruptions During Worship [pdf] from Faith Mennonite Church, Minneapolis
Protection and Inclusion: Guide for Faith Communities on Safely Including Person Who Have Committed Sexual Offenses [pdf] Dove's Nest, 2016.