United Church of Christ
50712 Main Street
PO Box 490, Osseo, Wisconsin 54758 – phone: 715-597-3292
Where God is Still Speaking
Dear Members and Friends of the Osseo United Church of Christ (Congregational) of Osseo, Wisconsin:
Jesus said “Let the children come to me for to such belong the kingdom of heaven”. That is the basic reason we welcome the children and youth to our places of worship, learning and fellowship in the church. Media reports have raised our awareness that sexual, verbal, physical and emotional abuse can happen in the church and indeed have happened over the years.
On many Sundays in our sanctuary, we baptize and welcome little children. We promise to love them, to care for them, to teach them and to honor them in every way as they grow and mature. Our current education ministries with our children and youth are planned, managed and executed in ways that honor the teachings of Jesus and the Good News he offers us all. We also work very hard to make the United Church of Christ (Congregational) of Osseo, Wisconsin physically and emotionally safe for our children as we fulfill these baptismal promises.
Unfortunately, child abuse of any kind does not discriminate and knows no boundaries. Children are abused regardless of age, race, gender, or socio-economic class. Children can be abused in a home, a school, a car, a public place and yes, even in a church. There is a child abused in this country every twelve seconds! This is both a startling and sobering statistic that requires us to have policies and procedures in place to try to eliminate the possibility of any of our congregation’s children or youth being abused in any way during their involvement in our church.
There are several reasons for us to implement a Child Abuse Prevention Strategy, many of which have scriptural basis:
- Our church must be a community of faith that can offer a safe haven and sanctuary where all people, especially children and youth can seek advice, help and nurture
- Our church must be a place where more than just the facts of child abuse can be taught. We can also teach and proclaim our Christian values: compassion, justice, repentance and grace.
- Our church must be a place where children can come to learn and develop inner strength and spiritual resources they will need to feel truly connected to God.
- Our church must be the place where children and adults are able to learn how to respond to painful and confusing events using the wisdom of scriptures.
STATEMENT OF PURPOSE
The congregation of The United Church of Christ (Congregational) of Osseo, Wisconsin aspires to be a God-centered fellowship. Here, all can seek a closer relationship with God in a trusting, nurturing place. As part of this mission, one of our goals is to provide a safe environment for the children and youth who are entrusted to our care as they participate in our programs and use our facilities. We want our congregation to be a haven, free of sexual misconduct or harassment. To help reach these goals, we have adopted the following policies, procedures and educational programs to reduce the possibility of child sexual misconduct or harassment from occurring in our congregation. The educational aspect will make us aware of potential problems, and the implementation of prudent policies can anticipate and try to prevent misfortune, they can state a purpose and provide guidance to achieve the purpose. These policies express our keen interest in protecting our children and youth, while maintaining the trusting atmosphere of our congregation for the entire congregation, adults and children alike.
Our support of equal opportunity includes the recognition that sexual harassment/child abuse or discrimination on account of race, sex, national origin, ancestry, age, disability or other illegal basis will not be tolerated. Employees, members and visitors have the right to be free of racial or ethnic slurs, unwelcome sexual advances, and any other verbal or physical conduct that constitutes sexual harassment or prohibited discrimination.
Sexual harassment/child abuse in any form is prohibited. Sexual harassment/child abuse can consist of such things as unwelcome, unsolicited or non-reciprocal sexual-advances, requests for sexual favors, sexual innuendoes; sexual oriented jokes, cartoons, pictures, language, gestures, or touching; and coerced sexual relations. The United Church of Christ (Congregational) of Osseo, Wisconsin will not tolerate this type of conduct in any form.
The United Church of Christ (Congregational) of Osseo, Wisconsin does not permit or condone any form of sexual harassment/child abuse or prohibited discrimination or any other conduct that has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with a member’s or visitor’s right to worship. The United Church of Christ (Congregational) of Osseo, Wisconsin does not permit or condone any form of sexual harassment/child abuse or prohibited discrimination or any other conduct that has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an employee’s or volunteer’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive worship environment. Our intent is to create an environment of safe sanctuary for all and to intervene to attempt to prevent any child abuse.
It is the intent of The United Church of Christ (Congregational) of Osseo, Wisconsin to provide employees, members and visitors with an environment free from any verbal, physical, visual or electronic forms of sexual harassment or other prohibited discrimination. All employees, members and visitors are expected to be sensitive to the rights and feelings of others.
Employees and members are required to take every reasonable action to prevent anyone from engaging in any form of sexual harassment/child abuse or prohibited discrimination, whether against an employee, member or visitor. Employees and members must immediately report any incident of alleged sexual harassment/child abuse or discrimination that occurs to the Pastor and/or a member of the Executive Committee following the reporting process described below. We encourage the reporting party to speak with someone whom they feel comfortable.
United Church of Christ Congregational
As difficult as it is to think about, we cannot ignore the possibility of abuse could happen here. For the sake of our children, we need to have in place all the necessary policies and procedures to exclude anyone who might harm one of our children in any way. We also need to protect our volunteers and staff from false allegations
Among the procedures we will put in place are:
- Every adult (age 18 and older) who works with the United Church of Christ (Congregational) of Osseo, Wisconsin children and youth in any way (Sunday school teacher, helper, driver, camp advisor, youth advisor, etc.) must agree to a criminal background check every two years, the results of which will be known only to our moderator and Safe Sanctuary Coordinator. If the volunteer or staff person has had a background check for another organization, we will accept a copy of this if it is dated within the past two years from the date of the start of the volunteer or staff person’s work with our children and a letter signed by the organization requesting the background check verifying that this is a true copy of the background check received is attached.
- All members of a committee working with youth must have a current background check. At least one committee member must be in attendance when other adults are present and helping with youth.
- If several cars are traveling together, it is not necessary to have two adults in each vehicle
- Every church youth event, overnight, car ride etc. will have a minimum of two unrelated adults present at all times.
- All Church school classes on site will have 2 adults present at all times. Any offsite classes or events will have 2 adults present at all times.
- A new person or persons to our congregation must be active with us for at least six months before they will be allowed to work with children or youth. Applications will be required and reference checks will be done.
- All workers must be at least five (5) years older than the children or youth they are working with.
- Mandatory training will be held for all volunteers and staff who work with children and youth annually to help them recognize and report abuse.
- Covenants will be signed by all volunteers and staff who work with children or youth.
- The Safe Sanctuary Coordinator and the Pastor shall also have background checks every two years. The Executive Committee will also have background checks every two years.
The Ministry of Christian Education has been diligently working to put procedures in place and we are proud of the work they have done. They have honored the children, the ministry of education, and this church as a “Safe Sanctuary”. We have made available to all our members and friends of this congregation a variety of information for those who want to learn more. The informational packets, brochures, CD’s and videos are available at our church for viewing upon request
Adopted by the United Church of Christ (Congregational) of Osseo, Wisconsin on January 28, 2007.
Took effect: June 1, 2007
At the individual’s request, anonymity will be maintained insofar as it does not unreasonably impede an investigation and resolution of the complaint. The United Church of Christ (Congregational) of Osseo, Wisconsin will not tolerate intimidation and retaliation against the reporting party for filing a complaint or participating in an investigation of sexual harassment/child abuse or discrimination. Complaints of such conduct will be handled in the same manner as a complaint of sexual harassment/child abuse or discrimination.
For the purpose of these policies and procedures the following definitions shall apply:
- “Child” and “Children” will be used to mean individuals under the age of 18 years.
- “Youth” will be used to mean individuals ages 10-17 in Grades 5-12.
- “Church” will be used to mean The United Church of Christ (Congregational) of Osseo, Wisconsin.
- “Pastor(s)” will be used to mean a minister of the Word of Sacrament duly installed at The United Church of Christ (Congregational) of Osseo, Wisconsin.
- “Safe Sanctuary Coordinator” will be used to mean an Adult duly commissioned to serve in this capacity.
- “Adult” will be used to mean an individual who is at least 18 years of age.
- “Employee or staff” will be used to mean an individual who is compensated for providing services to The United Church of Christ (Congregational) of Osseo, Wisconsin and/or its members, whether that person is treated for employment tax purposes as an employee or an independent contractor.
- “Volunteer” will be used to mean an individual who is not compensated for providing services to The United Church of Christ (Congregational) of Osseo, Wisconsin and/or its members.
- “Youth Worker” will be used to mean any Adult, including both Employees and Volunteers, who has responsibility for teaching, assisting, supervising, or caring for children in any manner that involves direct personal interaction and/or communication with children. This includes all Workers whose positions include any component or function of Youth Worker, even if not as a primary duty. This definition may include Adults who participate in certain activities on any occasional basis, such as participation in overnight trips that also involve Children.
- “Child Abuse” will be used to mean any verbal, physical, emotional, or sexual mistreatment of a child. Unless the context requires otherwise, the term will not necessarily be limited violent behavior or behavior that would subject a person to criminal prosecution or prosecution in a juvenile justice system.
- RECRUITING CONGREGATION WORKERS
Our congregation welcomes staff and volunteers who have been a part of our church family for at least six months who wish to become involved with the Educational and Youth Programs at various levels of commitment. The Safe Sanctuary Coordinator shall be responsible for screening applicants for such volunteer and staff positions.
Screening Procedure: Those volunteers and staff such as teachers and youth group leaders who will have contact with children and/or youth must undergo the screening procedure by reviewing this policy and completing the attached application form. Current congregational volunteers and staff members are requested to submit to the screening procedure as a signal to the entire congregation that they support the steps being taken.
The Safe Sanctuary Coordinator and the Moderator will review the submitted forms and conduct a personal interview. The Safe Sanctuary Coordinator and the Moderator will arrange for a Criminal Records Background Check, when applicable, and will check the references listed on the survey.
Once all the information is compiled, the Moderator in consultation with the Safe Sanctuary Coordinator will confirm the applicant’s suitability to serve.
Any person known to have committed pervious acts of sexual misconduct with children or youth shall be strictly prohibited from serving our children or youth.
All persons will have read and agreed to abide by all Policies and Procedures herein. Signature upon the appropriate primary application denotes a willingness to remain in compliance with theses or their successors.
- EDUCATION AND TRAINING
The Ministry of Christian Education and the Safe Sanctuary Coordinator will be responsible for the implementation of procedures designed to educate volunteers, staff and congregation members regarding these policies and procedures. As part of each new congregation volunteer or employee’s orientation, each volunteer or employee will review these policies, procedures and code of behavior. The Safe Sanctuary Coordinator will insure that the Ministry of Christian Education defines and implements the procedures designed to further the intent of these policies, and educates volunteers and staff on these procedures through regular training programs. When building, remodeling or maintaining the church facilities, the Ministry of Church Property will uphold the intent of this policy. Annual training programs will teach staff and volunteers how and when to report a possible sexual misconduct incident and how to discuss questionable behavior with the Pastor and/or Safe Sanctuary Coordinator. A Code of Behavior, Application Process and Response Plan will be appended to this Policy and are subject to annual review.
- MAINTENANCE OF RECORDS
Records of all actions required by this policy and any material pertinent to it, including reports, workers’ surveys, and application and acknowledgement forms, shall be kept for 7 years in a secure and confidential place, the location and security measures to be determined by the Pastor and Executive Committee.
- EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE
An Executive Committee shall be established for two purposes. In the event that a volunteer, congregation member or staff member is uncomfortable reporting an allegation of sexual misconduct to the Superintendent or Ministry of Christian Education, that person may take the allegation or concern to the Executive Committee. The Committee will also serve to support staff and volunteers charged with confirming the suitability of volunteers and carrying out the Response Plan. This Committee will meet within 12-24 hours of the volunteer or staff learning of any child abuse. If there is a current Pastor, they shall be notified and attend this meeting due to their State Law mandated reporter status
The Committee will be composed of three people, including at least one female and one male, appointed by the Church Council for a 3 year term. The Committee will be a formally constituted congregation committee and its members may serve on other Ministries, Committees, Boards, and Offices of the church. Committee members will be noted on documents related to this policy and changes will be announced promptly in congregation publications. All members of this Committee shall maintain a strict code of confidentiality and shall sign a Statement of Confidentiality.
- RESPONSE TO ALLEGATION(S)
- All allegations will be taken seriously.
- Alleged complainants must not be held responsible in any way.
- Response to allegations must be handled with due respect for everyone’s privacy and confidentiality.
- Care and safety of alleged complainants (and family) are the first priority.
- Extend whatever pastoral resources needed.
- Notify parent of alleged complainant if appropriate.
- When questionable or inappropriate behavior related to possible sexual misconduct or sexual harassment between adults is observed, it should be reported to the Superintendent of the Ministry of Christian Ed and/or the Executive Committee. The incident will be documented by the Superintendent of the Ministry of Christian Ed and/or the Executive Committee who will discuss it and make an initial response.
- When a case is reported, all information obtained should be documented in writing along with an oral presentation
- Document all activity involved in handling the incident; note date, time, persons involved as well as what occurred and the content of what was done. All documentation will be held confidential. (See Incident Report Form)
- Never have contact with the alleged perpetrator and let the Executive Committee make those decisions
- All incidents involving children shall be reported to the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services. The congregation’s insurance writer and attorney and the Association Minister of the Northwest Association of the Wisconsin Conference of the United Church of Christ. The Pastor (if the Congregation has an ordained or licensed pastor at the time) shall notify the Associate Conference Minister
- Should it become necessary, full cooperation will be given to civil authorities under guidance of the congregation’s attorney. The attorney must be present while any investigative questions from the police or applicable agencies are being answered by anyone. If a report is made to Wisconsin Department of Health and Family services, the Executive Committee must carefully document all steps taken, contact legal counsel, the congregation’s Moderator, the Association Minister of the Northwest Association of the Wisconsin Conference of the United Church of Christ, and the congregation’s insurance agent. Due to confidentiality laws regarding children and/or child abuse, identity of any child can only be made to the WDH&FS, the County Child Protective Services hotline and/or law enforcement.
- Treat the accused with dignity and respect and offer support. If the accused is a congregation volunteer or staff, he/she should be relieved temporarily of his/her duties until the investigation is completed. If the accused is a paid employee, a decision will be made by the Church Council on whether to maintain or suspend his/her income, as appropriate, until the allegations are cleared or substantiated.
- The Executive Committee will appoint one official congregation spokesperson to deal with any and all media inquiries. This spokesperson should be prepared to issue a public statement to inform the congregation and respond to press inquiries. This statement should communicate that the congregations regards these allegations seriously and offers responsible action, concern, and support for all involved. No details of the accusation will be released. Do not deny that the incident occurred; do not assign blame; do not minimize the situation (e.g. “It wasn’t that serious.”) No statement will be issued until it has been approved by the congregation’s attorney and consulting with Child Protective Services, law enforcement and/or ADA. Any statement made by a Church spokesperson may have further investigative and/or prosecution implications.
INITIAL RESPONSE TO ALLEGED REPORT:
- Document your efforts.
- Report the incident immediately to the Executive Committee and/or the Pastor.
- Notify the parents unless one of the parents and/or someone close to the family is the alleged perpetrator.
- Do not confront the accused under any circumstance unless you walk into the situation when it is occurring. The accused should then only be confronted only to secure the removal of and safety of the child.
- Do not prejudge the situation.
- Treat the accused with dignity and support, but do not under any circumstance tell the accused any information about the allegation.
- Treat all allegations seriously.
- Handle the situation with respect to everyone’s privacy and confidentiality.
- Immediately contact your insurance carrier and the Association Minister of the Norwest Association of the Wisconsin Conference of the United Church of Christ and/or the Pastor.
- Give full cooperation to the civil authorities with the guidance of your congregation’s attorney.
- Adequate care must be shown for the well being of the victim.
- The victim and/or complainant should not be held responsible in any way.
Create a Response Plan:
- Maintain Adequate Records.
- Select a spokesperson to speak with the media and your congregation. Let the media contact be handled by the Police, Child Protective Services and/or the ADA until the case is substantiated/unsubstantiated and/or prosecution is completed
- Know your state’s reporting requirements.
- Use a reporting procedure.
- Do not engage in denial, minimization or blame.
- Use an attorney.
- Don’t accuse in public interviews.
- Work with your denomination and insurance company.
IV. CODE OF BEHAVIOR FOR CHILDREN, YOUTH AND ADULTS IN OUR CHURCH
Volunteers and Staff who have taken active part of the life of the congregation for at least SIX MONTHS may be invited to become involved with the Educational and Youth Programs at various levels of commitment. During this time, those planning to be directly involved in the life of the congregation shall receive training and accept the intentions provided by the following code of behavior. Volunteers or staff, having satisfied the Screening Process, who will be working with children and youth, may assume their position immediately.
- Guidelines for Appropriate Touch:
-Hugging, holding, back rubbing and patting are all acceptable and important ways of communicating love and care for an infant and toddlers. For children 3 and older, hugs are acceptable if the child initiates the hug. Pats on the shoulder or back are acceptable and important ways to communicate love and care.
-Genital areas should never be touched except during diaper changing and toileting as is appropriate.
-Children should not be tossed in the air, swung by their arms or legs, or tickled.
-Children have the right to refuse touch, except for safety or cleansing.
-Touching should be something the child wants and should be done respectfully.
- Drubs, Tobacco, Alcohol: The use of any drugs, tobacco or alcoholic products on or in congregation facilities, at congregation sponsored youth events or during the trip to or from an event sponsored by our church is not permitted.
- Transportation: Volunteers, adult leaders or teachers cannot transport children or youth between congregation facility and home without written permission from the parent or guardian. Transportation for field trips, to activities, or for events is by groups and to/from the congregation facility except with specific written parental permission.
- Five Year Separation Rule: When utilizing high school and young adults in the Educational Department, Youth Programs and/or Off-site Activities there shall be five year separation between these young persons and those they supervise. Every attempt will be made first to use youth who have reached the age of 18 as workers with children/youth.
- Bathroom Supervision of Educational Department Children: Normally teachers, advisors, or aides who accompany a child to the bathroom should remain outside the bathroom while the child is inside. If a child needs assistance with zipping, buttoning, buckling, or clean-up, the child must come out of the bathroom for assistance and should be done with two non-related adults. If, for any reason, a teacher or aide is left alone in a classroom that normally has two teachers, the teacher in the nearest or neighboring classroom should be so informed. If anything unusual occurred during this assistance, a note describing the help given and persons present should be written and handed to the Sunday School Superintendent at the close of educational program day.
- Parental Consent: All children and Youth shall have a signed consent of a parent or guardian before attending activities or programs away from our facilities.
- Pick-up for Sunday School Students: If parents of students are attending the worship service, they must pick up their child in the Sunday School area. A teacher will be waiting with them until they are picked up.
If parents are picking up their child to take them home after Sunday School, they must pick them up at the Main Street entrance to the church. A teacher will be waiting with them until all parents have arrived. Please pick them up within 10 minutes from the end of Sunday School.
If a Sunday School student is walking to or from church, the Sunday School Superintendent should be made aware of this.
- Discipline: The purpose of discipline with children and youth is to maintain order in a manner consistent with the teaching of religious responsibility, respect and cooperation. No child shall be disciplined by the use of spanking, hitting, slapping, or any form of physical punishment. Verbal reprimands shall not include destructive criticism, insult or shouting. Teachers, advisors and aides and others helping in the classroom are encouraged to listen to the child, communicate expectations or appropriate behavior, use time-outs or give alternate choices. If a child is disruptive, a teacher or aide from the class or neighboring class may be sent to locate the Sunday School Superintendent. The Sunday School Superintendent will call the parent and wait with the child until the parent arrives.
- Overnight Rule: Any and all adult chaperons supervising overnight stays at our facilities or on congregational sponsored trips shall have been cleared to do so by the Safe Sanctuary Coordinator or Pastor. At least, one adult male will dorm with boys and one adult female with girls; and should these adults be husband and wife, a third adult advisor is to be present. Further, a signed written consent form is required, which lists the names of the advisors to be present.
- Youth Group Activities: Physical contact such as wrestling, horseplay or other high contact games are not appropriate recreational activity. No adult leader, staff or volunteer, should initiate or encourage physical or intimate contact with children or youth. Setting boundaries is the responsibility of the adults. The Youth Group is a group ministry. All participants are expected to remain with the groups throughout the times listed in congregation publications. No pairing or otherwise separating off from the group to other parts of the building or grounds is permitted.
- Youth Members of Boards and committees: No youth member of a Board, Committee, Subcommittee, or Task Force, shall be in attendance at a meeting with less than three adult members present, or the youth’s parent.
- Leaving and Locking: Every effort will be made to insure that the last two people, including the staff person locking the door, will leave our facilities together. We avoid situations where one adult and one youth or child are left at the facility’s door waiting to be picked up by parents at the end of an evening activity. Parents are encouraged to respect concluding times. This also includes meeting or events that are for adults only. No one should be left alone in the building to lock up.
- Key Assignment: When a key to the areas frequented by children/youth is assigned to staff or volunteer, an appropriate request form shall be filled out. It is understood that said key will not be loaned out to anyone else, nor will a duplicate key be made. The assigned person shall take full responsibility for the security of the key(s) and will return it when he/she no longer has the responsibility which required use of said key.
- Parental Guidelines: We require parents, when on the premises with their children, to know at all times where their children are, who they are with, and what they are doing. Children 10 or under must remain in sight of their parents at all times unless they are in Sunday School, choir or other supervised activity.
- Visitors on-site: The staff or volunteers serving our congregation shall be aware of who is visiting our facilities. Visitors are welcomed and shall be accompanied on their visit to the areas frequented by our youth and children by a member of our staff of volunteer.
- Reporting Responsibilities: Any inappropriate conduct or relationship between an adult worker and a child or youth shall be promptly reported to the Superintendant or a member of the Executive Committee.
- If a Violation of the Code Is Suspected: If a suspected case of abuse has either been reported or is suspected to have occurred at a congregational-related function or program, immediately contact the Superintendant or a member of the Executive Committee and/or Pastor. In the case where this person cannot be contacted, call the Association Minister of the Northwest Association of the Wisconsin Conference of the United Church of Christ. If the alleged abuser is the Pastor, report the allegation to the member of the Executive Committee and the Association Minister of the Northwest Association of the United Church of Christ.
Sexual Abuse can include:
- Sexual remarks
- Inappropriate kissing
- Touching parts of the body which would be covered by a swimsuit
- Watching any sexual activity
- Showing pornography
If you are unsure whether or not your suspected case falls under this definition, it is strongly recommended that you err to the side of caution and report your suspicion immediately.