The recent arrests of Jehovah’s Witnesses members from congregations across Pennsylvania on alleged child sex abuse charges reminds us of the responsibilities we all have for protecting the children in our care from harm. For faith-based and other organizations that work with children, it is critical that child protection be integrated into all aspects of the organization’s strategy, structures, and practices. The best place to start is by creating a child protection policy for your organization.
Importance of child protection policies
It is important to have a set of clearly defined and recognized policies and procedures in place for your staff and volunteers. Having a child protection policy in place will help make the reporting process go more smoothly, reduce your staff’s anxiety and confusion, and ultimately protect children in your care more effectively.
What is in a good child protection policy for faith-based organizations?
- Purpose statement: Why your organization is creating a policy, and what purpose the policy fulfills.
- How will your organization provide a safe environment for and adequate supervision of children: What steps your organization will take to ensure there is always a safe environment for and adequate supervision of children at your organization, using best practices for child safety.
- Recognizing suspected child abuse: Clearly define expectations regarding mandated reported training:
- How often training is required
- Whether the training is in-person or online
- Who needs to be trained
- Some staff members may be required by law to have mandated reporter training
- We recommend that all mandated reporters at your organization received regular training, even if not required to by law
- Reporting suspected child abuse: How to report child abuse as a mandated reporter under Pennsylvania’s Child Protective Services Law
- Selection process: What requirements your organization has when selecting employees and volunteers in positions with children, including FBI certifications and clearances.
- Other considerations:
- How to handle employees and volunteers who are under investigation for suspected child abuse
- How to handle participants who are registered sex offenders
Creating your organization’s child protection policy
You can use our child protection policy template to draft your faith-based organization’s policy. The template is written specifically to include requirements under the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law. Once written, the policy should be reviewed and approved by your agency’s legal and insurance representatives before implementation.