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NEYM Youth Ministries and Child Safety
Youth workers with New England Yearly Meeting, Friends Camp and the affiliated Monthly Meetings have been given a sacred trust: to help the youth and children of NEYM grow in the Spirit, and to grow safely. While we often focus on the content of our programs, we are also conscious that our way of being with youth is as important as the content the program provides—children and youth follow our lead, and we teach mostly by example. For our programs to be successful and safe, youth workers, youth, and parents need a common language and understanding of what makes for a safe and trusting environment. In order to ensure the physical, emotional and spiritual safety of participating children and youth workers, we should agree on some guidelines in our work with children and youth. This general understanding also requires us to be specific and clear in our language and expectations.
An important part of this work is raising awareness about the potential for sexual abuse. There are many definitions of sexual abuse—for the purposes of this document, we will define sexual abuse as any sexual activity with a child by an adult or another child who is older or more powerful. (For further information about the definition and dynamics of sexual abuse, see "Sexual Abuse, Additional Information" in the appendix.) It is much easier to create conditions that prevent the occurrence of abuse than to detect its occurrence or the presence of potential perpetrators. Our efforts here focus primarily on prevention.
In recent years, we have learned of the potential for hurt and abuse of children and youth in different faith communities. The effects of the sexual abuse of a child in a faith community are catastrophic and far reaching. Everyone is hurt – the abused person may carry scars and memories for their entire life; the victim’s family and friends can be traumatized; the community in which the abuse occurs may be deeply wounded and divided, and the perpetrator often lives in a world of isolation, and secrecy. There is also the risk that they may continue the abusivebehavior. In instances where allegations prove false, there is still damage done to all involved. Reputations may be unjustly destroyed beyond repair, and the seeds of distrust can live on in the community for years afterwards. No segment of society, including the Religious Society of Friends, is immune to the dangers of sexual abuse. In fact, parts of our own community have been damaged by incidents and accusations of abuse. If we are honest with ourselves as Friends, we acknowledge that the same potential for hurt exists in our community as in others, and that mindfully attending to issues of safety is the best way to protect individuals and the community. Denial of the possibility of hurt does not prevent hurt—if anything, it heightens its likelihood. We acknowledge that we can never fully prevent all harm, and we wish to recognize the important role of everyone involved in a faith community for healing should abuse occur.
In this document there is a distinction between “policy” and “practices to support policy.” The policy has been adopted by the organization of New England Yearly Meeting, which means there is a legal obligation that it be followed. Practices are ways of pursuing the policy, and may vary depending upon the program.
The policies and practices in this document will provide all of us with guidance for how we care for the safety of our children and youth.
Introduction approved by Youth Ministries Committee October 30, 2016
Child Safety Policy
NOTE: “Youth worker” or “worker” will refer to all paid and volunteer staff for youth and children’s programs sponsored by NEYM, including retreats, programs at NEYM Sessions and childcare provided at other NEYM events.
Qualifications and Screening for Youth Workers
1. Youth workers must be mature and responsible adults. In general youth workers should be 18 or older and no less than five years older than the children they serve. Exceptions can be made at the discretion of the coordinators in consultation with their advisor. If workers under 18 are used, they should be in an assistant capacity under the direct supervision of an adult youth worker.
2. All youth workers will undergo a careful screening process, including an application and reference checks. A documented interview will be at the discretion of the coordinator.
3. Criminal background checks are required for all workers who spend significant amount of time with youth and children. This includes Program Coordinators, people who staff retreats, people who staff any of the youth programs at Sessions, including staff of Afternoon Choices, Childcare and the Family Neighborhood as well as people who provide childcare at NEYM sponsored events. Decisions regarding the requirement for criminal background checks shall be at the discretion of NEYM and pursuant to applicable state law.
Expectations and Training of Youth Workers
4. Responsibilities and expectations for proper behavior will be clearly defined and communicated to all youth workers.
5. Training will be offered regularly to youth workers, including a job description, resource information, crisis procedures, mandated reporting laws and information about abuse and neglect.
6. In support of youth workers, there will be a communitywide effort to educate both adults and children, appropriate to the groups being addressed, on sexual abuse awareness.
7. Safeguards will be provided through careful monitoring and staffing. It is recommended that no fewer than two adults be present at any activity. Where this two adult rule is not possible, minimally there should be a roamer regularly checking on all group activities. Ratios of staff to youth for elementary and junior high programs should be no less than 1:8. For high school, 1:10.
8. Staff workers will engage in a risk assessment at the beginning of any new activity and as part of a review of any regular programs or activities. They will monitor and plan in consideration of levels of isolation, accountability and degree of caretaker power and authority. As risk increases, increased supervision is needed. (See appendix on risk assessment.)
9. Youth and children will be regularly educated regarding sexuality, personal boundaries and assertiveness, appropriate to the age.
Reporting and Responding to Allegations of Abuse
10. Youth workers who suspect a child is suffering from abuse or neglect or receive a report from a child must report this to the coordinator. If that person is unavailable or involved in the allegation, the worker should report to the Clerk of Permanent Board. Similarly, if that person is unavailable or inappropriate, the Presiding Clerk should receive the report. The youth worker must insure that a report is made to the proper state authorities. Anyone who works with children is a mandated reporter. Mandated reporters are defined as the people who are required by law to report suspicion or knowledge of abuse or neglect of a child to the proper authorities. (See Appendix)
11. Program coordinators must know and comply with mandated reporting laws. They will report suspicion or report of abuse or neglect to the proper state authorities.
13. Programs will have a written response plan regarding suspicions or allegations of abuse, including identifying the individuals responsible for the plan.
If the concern is within the program, the plan should take into account:
a) the immediate requirement is to stop all possibility of further harm;
b) the documentation of allegations and the community’s response to them;
c) a plan for long term outreach and follow-up, including who needs to know;
d) the centrality of pastoral care as a process to support individuals and the community.
If the concern is outside the program, after reporting, the coordinator will
a) Consult with their advisor to develop an appropriate pastoral care plan.
b) Document who was involved and what was done.
14. Personnel files will be kept for all workers who are significantly involved with children, as determined by NEYM. Documentation of allegations will be placed in personnel files of affected parties. All files related to personnel and any alleged incidents will be kept permanently in a secure place with limited access.
15. The Youth Ministry Committee will review this Child Safety Policy at least once a year and will bring proposed revisions of this Policy to Permanent Board as needed.
Policies Approved by Youth Ministries Committee: June 28, 2016
Permanent Board Edits: August 2, 2016
Approved by Youth Ministries: September 22, 2016
Vetted by NEYM Legal Counsel: November 7, 2016
Approved by Permanent Board: November 19, 2016
NOTE: Procedures and appendices will be posted as soon as available. Please contact the Yearly Meeting Office if you have questions.
Mandatory Reporting Guidelines
NEYM’s position is that over-reporting is preferable to under-reporting. Reports should be made in the state where the abuse is alleged to have occurred, the home states of the perpetrator and of any effected children, and in NEYM’s organizational home state of Massachusetts if the allegations pertain to NEYM programs or personnel.
Links to the requirements for each state:
New Hampshire: http://www.dhhs.nh.gov/dcyf/cps/stop.htm