Reducing the Risk of Child Abuse at LIFEHOUSE Church
One of the greatest privileges we have, as a church, is to minister to children. Sharing our wonderful Savior with them and teaching them about God and the Bible are essential parts of our overall ministry. With this privilege comes responsibility. We have a legal and moral obligation to provide a safe environment for the children in our church.
General Purpose Statement
LIFEHOUSE Church seeks to provide a safe and secure environment for the children who participate in our programs and activities. By implementing the below practices, our goal is to protect the children of LIFEHOUSE Church from incidents of misconduct or inappropriate behavior while also protecting our staff and volunteers (workers) from false accusations.
For purposes of this policy, the terms “child” or “children” include all persons under the age of eighteen (18) years. The term “worker” includes both paid and unpaid persons who work with children. The term “volunteer” means anyone involved in a daycare or school, in overnight activities involving minors, in counseling of minors, or in one-on-one mentoring of minors.
Selection of Workers
All persons who desire to work with the children participating in our programs and activities will be screened. This screening includes the following:
a) Three Month Rule
No person will be considered for any volunteer position involving contact with minors until she/he has been involved with LIFEHOUSE Church for a minimum of three (3) months. This time of interaction between our leadership and the applicant allows for better evaluation and suitability of the applicant for working with children.
b) Written Application
All persons seeking to work with children must complete and sign a written application in a form to be supplied by us. The application will request basic information from the applicant and will inquire into previous experience with children, previous church affiliation, reference and employment information, as well as disclosure of any previous criminal convictions. The application form will be maintained in confidence on file at LIFEHOUSE church.
c) Personal Interview
Upon completion of the application, a face-to-face interview may be scheduled with the applicant to discuss his/her suitability for the position.
d) Reference Checks
Before an applicant is permitted to work with children, at least two of the applicants’ references will be checked. These references if applicable should be of an employment nature as opposed to personal or family references, preferably from organizations where the applicant has worked with children in the past. Documentation of the reference checks will be maintained in confidence on file at LIFEHOUSE church.
e) Criminal Background Check
A national criminal background check is required for all employees (regardless of position) and “volunteers” as defined above.
Before a background check is run, prospective workers will be asked to sign an authorization form allowing the church to run the check. If an individual declines to sign the authorization form, s/he will be unable to work with children.
A disqualifying offense that will keep an individual from working with children will be determined by the leadership of LIFEHOUSE Church on a case-by-case basis in light of all the surrounding circumstances. Generally, convictions for an offense involving children and/or for offenses involving violence, dishonesty, illegal substances, indecency and any conduct contrary to our mission will preclude someone from being permitted to work with children. Failure to disclose a criminal conviction on the application form will also be a disqualifying event.
The background check authorization form and results will be maintained in confidence on file at LIFEHOUSE church.
Two Adult Rule
A minimum of two adult workers will be in attendance at all times when children are being supervised during our programs and activities. You can utilize LIFEHOUSE security to help with bathroom breaks and any unusual circumstances. You MAY NOT allow your teenage/younger helper to watch the children while you leave the room for any reason. They do NOT count as a second adult. See Restroom Guidelines.
Responding to Allegations of Child Abuse
For purposes of this policy, “child abuse” is any action (or lack of action) that endangers or harms a child’s physical, psychological or emotional health and development. Child abuse occurs in different ways and includes the following:
- Physical abuse – any physical injury to a child that is not accidental, such as beating, shaking, burns, and biting.
- Emotional abuse – emotional injury when the child is not nurtured or provided with love and security, such as an environment of constant criticism, belittling and persistent teasing.
- Sexual abuse – any sexual activity between a child and an adult or between a child and another child at least four years older than the victim, including activities such as fondling, exhibitionism, intercourse, incest, and pornography.
- Neglect – depriving a child of his or her essential needs, such as adequate food, water, shelter, and medical care.
Childcare workers may have the opportunity to become aware of abuse or neglect of the children under our care. In the event that an individual involved in the care of children at LIFEHOUSE becomes aware of suspected abuse or neglect of a child under his/her care, this should be reported immediately to the security team for further action, including reporting to authorities as may be mandated by state law.
In the event that an incident of abuse or neglect is alleged to have occurred at LIFEHOUSE or during our sponsored programs or activities, the following procedure shall be followed:
- The parent or guardian of the child will be notified.
- The worker or church member alleged to be the perpetrator of the abuse or misconduct will immediately be placed on leave pending an investigation and instructed to remain away from the premises during the investigation. He or she should be instructed to have no contact with the victim or with witnesses.
- All allegations of abuse should be reported to the civil authorities, and the organization will comply with the state’s requirements regarding mandatory reporting of abuse as the law then exists. The organization will fully cooperate with the investigation of the incident by civil authorities.
- The insurance company will be notified, and the organization will complete an incident report. Any documents received relating to the incident and/or allegations will immediately be forwarded to the insurance company.
- The organization will designate a spokesperson to the media concerning incidents of abuse or neglect. The advice of legal counsel will be sought before responding to media inquiries or releasing information about the situation to the congregation. All other representatives of the organization should refrain from speaking to the media.
- A pastoral visit will be arranged for those who desire it. This should be for the purpose of providing pastoral support during the time of crisis and not for the purpose of investigating the incident or influencing the investigation.
- Any person who is not found innocent of the alleged abuse or misconduct will be removed from their position working with children or youth.
Open Door Policy
Classroom doors should never be locked while persons are inside the room.
We recognize that there may be times when it is necessary or desirable for babysitters (paid or volunteer) who are themselves under age 18 to assist in caring for children during programs or activities. The following guidelines apply to teenage workers:
- Must be at least age 12.
- Must be screened as specified above.
- Must be under the supervision of an adult and must never be left alone with children.
All children will be checked in using our Kidz Check-In system. Kiosks are available in the lobby for guests and also next to the 2’s and 3’s room for regular attenders and owners. The child will be signed in by a parent or guardian, who will then receive a Kidz check sticker for the child and one for themselves similar to a claim check. The parent or guardian must present the Kidz check sticker in order to sign out the child from our care. In the event that a parent or guardian is unable to present the Kidz check sticker, our Security Team will be contacted. The Security Team will then kindly escort the parent to the Kidz Check-In kiosks to pull up their information to verify they did indeed check that child in. With so many new faces it is so important for the safety of the child that we are verifying children (by matching the Kidz check sticker) before we release them to their parent or guardian.
Sick Child Policy
It is our desire to provide a healthy and safe environment for all of the children at LIFEHOUSE. Parents are encouraged to be considerate of other children when deciding whether to place a child under our care. In general, children with the following symptoms should NOT be dropped off:
- Fever, diarrhea, or vomiting within the last 48 hours;
- Green or yellow runny nose;
- Eye or skin infections; and/or
- Other symptoms of communicable or infectious disease.
Children who are observed by our workers to be ill will be separated from other children and the parent or guardian will be contacted to request that the child be picked up for the day.
It is the policy of LIFEHOUSE church not to administer either prescription or non-prescription medications to the children under our care. Medications should be administered by a parent at home. Parents are reminded of our sick child policy.
Exceptions to the medications policy may be granted to parents of children with potentially life-threatening conditions (such as asthma or severe allergic reactions). Parents of such children should address their situation with their child’s teacher to develop a plan of action.
It is the policy of LIFEHOUSE church not to administer corporal punishment, even if parents have suggested or given permission for it. There should be no spanking, grabbing, hitting, or other physical discipline of children. Workers should consult with our security team if assistance is needed with disciplinary issues.
Children two and three years of age should use the classroom bathroom. One adult is to stand in the classroom bathroom door in case the child is in need of assistance while yet still being able to watch over the children who remain in the room with the other adult. If a classroom bathroom is not available, workers should escort all children to the hallway bathroom. They should always go in a group, never taking a child to the bathroom alone. The workers should check the bathroom first to make sure that it is empty, and then allow the children inside. The workers should then remain outside the bathroom door and escort the children back to the classroom. If a child is taking longer than seems necessary, the worker should open the bathroom door and call the child's name. If a child requires assistance, the workers should prop open the bathroom door, and leave the stall door open as they assist the child.
For children over the age of three, a minimum of two adults should take the children to the restrooms. At least one adult male should take boys to the restroom and at least one adult female should take girls. The worker should check the bathroom first to make sure that the bathroom is empty, and then allow the children inside. The worker should then remain outside the bathroom door and escort the children back to the classroom.
For the protection of all, workers should never be alone with a child in a bathroom with the door closed and never be in a closed bathroom stall with a child. Parents are strongly encouraged to have their children visit the bathroom prior to each class.
Accidental Injuries to Children
In the event that a child or youth is injured while under our care, the following steps should be followed:
1. For minor injuries, scrapes, and bruises, workers will provide First Aid (Band-Aids, etc.) as appropriate and will notify the child’s parent or guardian of the injury at the time the child is picked up from our care.
2. For injuries requiring medical treatment beyond simple First Aid, the parent and/or guardian will immediately be summoned in addition to the worker’s supervisor. If warranted by circumstances, an ambulance will be called.
3. Once the child has received appropriate medical attention, an incident report will be completed in the case of injuries requiring treatment by a medical professional.
LIFEHOUSE Church will provide training on this child protection policy to all new childcare workers and will strive to provide opportunities for additional training classes or events on an annual basis. All workers are strongly encouraged to attend these training events.