Brookfield Congregational Church

8 Common Street
Brookfield Massachusetts, 01506-0457
Phone: (508) 867-6262
Sunday Service starts at 10:00 AM
Communion First Sunday of the Month

Safe Church Policies and Procedures






Adopted by Church Council 















TABLE OF CONTENTS
  • A. INTRODUCTION
    • A.1 PURPOSE
    • A.2 SCOPE OF POLICIES AND PROCEDURES
    • A.3 LOCATION OF POLICIES AND PROCEDURES
    • A.4 SAFE CHURCH DESCRIPTION
      • A.4.1 Safe Church Team Composition
      • A.4.2 Safe Church Team Function
  • D. SCREENING AND TRAINING
    • D.1 DEFINITIONS
    • D.2 VOLUNTEER SCREENING
    • D.3 CRIMINAL BACKGROUND VERIFICATION
      • D.3.1 Policies
      • D.3.2 Procedures
    • D4. TRAINING
  • E. CHILDREN’S MINISTRY PROTECTION AND SUPERVISION
    • E.1 CHILDREN’S MINISTRY POLICIES AND PROCEDURES
    • E.2 CHILDREN’S MINISTRY DEFINITIONS
    • E.3 CHILDREN’S MINISTRY PROCEDURES
      • E.3.1 Two Teacher POLICIES AND PROCEDURES
      • E.3.2 Registration Forms
      • E.3.3 Attendance and Dismissal Procedures
      • E.3.4 Discipline
      • E.3.5 Health and Safety
      • E.3.6 Concern for a Child’s Safety Outside of Church
  • F. YOUTH MINISTRY PROTECTION AND SUPERVISION
    • F.1 YOUTH MINISTRY POLICIES AND PROCEDURES
    • F.2 YOUTH MINISTRY DEFINITIONS
    • F.3 YOUTH MINISTRY PROCEDURES
      • F.3.1 Two Adult Policy
      • F.3.2 Adult to Adult Ratio
      • F.3.3 Permission, Medical, Media, and Covenant Forms
      • F.3.4 Off-Site Event Guidelines
      • F.3.5 Discipline
      • F.3.6 Health and Safety
      • F.3.7 Concern for a Youth’s Safety Outside of Church
  • G. INTERNET SAFETY
    • G.1 DEFINITIONS
    • G.2 LEADERS/YOUTH AND SOCIAL MEDIA
    • G.3 EMAIL/TEXT
    • G.4 YOUTH GROUP FACEBOOK PAGE MEMBERSHIP
    • G.5 MANDATORY REPORTING LAWS
    • G.7 ADULT TO ADULT RELATIONSHIPS
    • G.8 COMMUNICATION AND CONTACT
      • G.8.1 Transitions
      • G.8.2 Digital Covenants
      • G.8.3 Video Chats, Blogs or Video Blogs
      • G.8.4 Publishing/Posting Content Online
  • H. CHILD ABUSE RESPONSE AND REPORTING
    • H.1 DEFINITIONS
    • H.2RESPONSE AND REPORTING OF CHILD ABUSE
      • H.2.1 Standard for Reporting
      • H.2.2 Preventing Imminent Harm
      • H.2.3 Reporting Process
      • H.2.4 Ministerial Staff and Safe Church Team’s Roles
      • H.2.5 Allegation against Ministerial Staff

A. INTRODUCTION

A.1 PURPOSE

As a community of faith committed to following Jesus Christ, we strive to extend a generous welcome to all who enter our doors and to treat them with the love and dignity that God bestows upon each and every one of us. We want our church to be a safe place for everyone.

We cannot simply assume that our church is a safe place. We know that we cannot eliminate all risks, but we can strive to reach that goal by taking intentional and direct actions. The Safe Church Team wants people of all ages to be able to deepen their relationship with God and each other in an environment that is safe and secure. It is in this spirit that Brookfield Congregational Church Safe Church Policies and Procedures Manual was created. We consider this to be a living document which will be amended over time as new issues arise. We hope that this document will provide guidelines to create a safe environment at Brookfield Congregational Church for our members, guests, ministers, staff and volunteers.

What is safety?
Safety means that a person’s spiritual, emotional and physical self is protected from injury. For example:

Spiritual safety

  • People have the freedom to express their faith appropriately  People’s beliefs are treated respectfully

 
Emotional safety

  • Kindness and civility are the norm
  • People refrain from personal attacks and gossip
  • Confidentiality is honored

 
Physical safety

  • Key holders agree to abide by safe church policies
  • Facilities are clean and well lit
  • Exits are clearly marked and free of debris
  • Fire alarms are kept in working order
  • Food preparation areas are clean and health department guidelines for food preparation are followed

 

A.2 SCOPE OF POLICIES AND PROCEDURES

The policies and procedures included in this document apply to all activities which take place within the building and properties of Brookfield Congregational Church, as well as programs, activities, or events scheduled as part of the ministry of this church which take place elsewhere. The policies and procedures apply to all involved in them.

A.3 LOCATION OF POLICIES AND PROCEDURES

A Safe Church Policies and Procedures Manual will be provided to each new employee and to each board or committee chair. All volunteers who will be working with children, youth, or vulnerable adults will review (or be provided access to) the manual. Manuals are located in identifiable binders in six locations.

  • Church Office
  • Sunday School Superintendent’s Desk
  • Minister’s Office
  • Fellowship Hall
  • Church Library
  • Nursery

A.4 SAFE CHURCH TEAM DESCRIPTION

The Safe Church Team’s function is to oversee the implementation of the Safe Church Policies and Procedures.

A.4.1 SAFE CHURCH TEAM COMPOSITION

The team will be comprised of a member of:

  • Board on Christian Education
  • Ministerial Staff (ordained, commissioned and licensed)
  • A church or committee member to be appointed annually by council

A.4.2 SAFE CHURCH TEAM FUNCTION

The Safe Church Team will:

  • Annually review and update Safe Church Policies and Procedures
  • Annually confirm with Trustees that the outstanding Key Inventory List has been updated.
  • Oversee distribution of Safe Church Policies and Procedures to committees and boards
  • Confirm staff and volunteers working with children and youth are trained in Safe Church Policies and Procedures (Section D.4), including keeping an attendance sheet of who has received training and copies of the Volunteer Participation Covenant (Form D-2) and Acknowledgement of Safe Church Policies and Procedures forms (Form G-2).
  • Ensure that the church has a certified CORI Administrator 
  • One person of the Safe Church Team will become CORI certified, serve as Backup to the Lead CORI
  • Administrator and will receive CORI reports referred to them by the CORI Administration (when needed)
  • Receive and manage Incident Report Forms (Form A-1)
  • Verify that Incident Reports and other documents are stored in a safe and secure location
  • When necessary, report incidents to the State of Massachusetts Department of Children and
  • Families in conjunction with the clergy. (Section H.2.4)
  • When necessary, serve on a task force to review formal complaints on adult misconduct (Section I)
  • Maintain strict confidentiality

 

B. BUILDING SAFETY

 
It is the responsibility of Brookfield Congregational Church to maintain physical safety of the church building.

B.1 GENERAL

Brookfield Congregational Church will:

  • Maintain the physical properties to ensure safety.
  • Maintain the fire alarm system, fire extinguishers and first aid kits.
  • Create and post floor plans indicating emergency exits, fire extinguishers, first aid kits and emergency phone numbers.
  • Provide users of the building a mechanism to report any safety issues to the Board of Trustees.
  • Follow health department guidelines for food preparation

B.2 BUILDING ACCESS

Care will be taken to secure entrances to the church by limiting access of keys that cannot be duplicated to appropriate individuals who:

  • Have a documented reason to use the key.
  • Abide by all policies and procedures for building use and Brookfield Congregational Church Safe Church Policies and Procedures.
  • Sign a Key Receipt Form (Form B-1) which states that the signer will not share the key with anyone and will verify that all outside doors are locked if they are the last person in the building.
  • The Board of Trustees will conduct a yearly audit of all keys and will change the locks when necessitated. 
  • To ensure the safety of individuals occupying the church building, no member shall allow entry to another whom they are either unfamiliar with or unknown to them; in particular if they are alone in the building.  If assistance is needed refer them to the resources posted on the outside of the building. 

B.3 OUTSIDE GROUPS

All outside groups who rent or use the church facilities will receive a copy of the Safe Church Policies and Procedures Manual. If groups agree to comply with its provisions as pertain to their use of the building, they will sign the Use of Facilities form (Form B-2).

C. EMERGENCY AND CRISIS ASSISTANCE

C.1 OUTSIDE REQUEST FOR FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE

It is not the practice of this church to carry or hand out cash to anyone.  If someone is requesting assistance, please refer them to contact the church office at 508-867-6262 to make an appointment to speak with the Pastor. 

C.2 EMERGENCY 

If emergency assistance is needed, please call the appropriate resource number.      

  1. Call 9-1-1 to dispatch the Police, Fire and/or Ambulance.  The local Police Department is located at 7 Prouty Street, Brookfield.   
  2. The church shall post a list of local resources and emergency information for additional program assistance and/or specific needs on the outside of the building. 

 

D. SCREENING AND TRAINING

D.1 DEFINITIONS

CORI Processor: a state-certified Brookfield Congregational Church employee or volunteer who manages the CORI process.

Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI): Criminal conviction information of persons within the Massachusetts Court System. Regulated by the Massachusetts Criminal History Systems Board (CHSB) and maintained by the Board of Probation.
Staff or paid employee: Any individual called, hired or compensated by Brookfield Congregational Church on a part-time, full-time, permanent or temporary basis.

D.2 VOLUNTEER REQUIREMENTS

Brookfield Congregational Church welcomes volunteers to become involved in the programs offered as part of our ministries. For those volunteers who work with youth and children on a regular basis, volunteers should generally be at least five years older than the youth or children they work with, have been part of the church community for six months. Volunteers must complete both the CORI background check (Form E-1) and a Church School/Youth Worker Disclosure Form (Form D-4).

D.3 CRIMINAL BACKGROUND VERIFICATION

D.3.1 POLICIES
Brookfield Congregational Church uses the Massachusetts CORI verification process and may also use a national criminal background verification service selected by the Safe Church Team. Brookfield Congregational Church requires a CORI report on:

  • all prospective employees who are 18years and older
  • all volunteers who supervise youth or children overnight and are 18years and older
  • all volunteers who will be working with children, youth or vulnerable adults and are 18years and older

Anyone convicted of any felony or a felony default by the court, with child or elder abuse, whether physical, emotional, or sexual, will not be considered, under any circumstances, for a position at Brookfield Congregational Church.
The Brookfield Congregational Church will appoint an authorized CORI processor whom will be required to obtain training from the Criminal History Systems Board to review and interpret CORI records.


D.3.2 PROCEDURES

Ministerial staff will provide CORI applications (Form E-1) to volunteers and turn them in to the CORI processor. The CORI processor will submit CORI applications and receive CORI reports. The CORI processor will consult the Safe Church Team when there are concerns. The ministerial staff will solicit approval for volunteers from the CORI processor. All attempts will be made to maintain confidentiality.

CORI reports are repeated every two years and are maintained in a secure/locked location in the Brookfield Congregational Church office.

If a criminal record is received from Criminal History Systems Board - CHSB:

  • The CORI processor will compare the record provided by CHSB with the information on the CORI request form and any other identifying information provided by the applicant, to ensure the record relates to the applicant.
  • If the Brookfield Congregational Church is inclined to make an adverse decision based on the results of the CORI check, the applicant will be notified immediately. The applicant shall be provided with a copy of the criminal record and advised of the part(s) of the record that make the individual unsuitable for the position or license, and given an opportunity to dispute the accuracy and relevance of the CORI record.
  • Unless otherwise provided by law, factors in determining suitability are considered on a case-bycase basis and may include, but not be limited to: Relevance of the crime to the position sought; nature of the work to be performed; time since the conviction; age of the candidate at the time of the offense; seriousness and specific circumstances of the offense; the number of offenses; whether the applicant has pending charges; any relevant evidence of rehabilitation or lack thereof.
  • Applicants challenging the accuracy of the CORI shall be provided a copy of CHSB’s Information

Concerning the Process in Correcting a Criminal Record (available on request) and Information Concerning Establishing Yourself as the Victim of Identity Theft for Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) purposes (available on request).

The Safe Church Team may consult with the church's ministerial staff as well as an attorney retained by Brookfield Congregational Church (if necessary) regarding background check findings and reports.

D.4 TRAINING

All staff members, teachers, and youth leaders who work with youth and children will receive training on Safe Church Policies and Procedures. They will sign a Participation Covenant (Form D-2) which will be kept on file with the Safe Church Team. Each will be given a copy of the Safe Church Policies and
Procedures and Information for Volunteers (Form D-3) to review and an opportunity to ask questions.

Those individuals who have regular, direct contact with youth will also receive education about child abuse awareness and reporting procedures.


Training procedures:

  • Training sessions will be offered at the beginning of each church school term.
  • The Safe Church Team will keep an attendance sheet of who has received training.
  • Training will include a review of the Brookfield Congregational Church s Safe Church Policies and Procedures
  • Staff will review the Safe Church Policies and Procedures prior starting to their position.

 

E. CHILDREN’S MINISTRY PROTECTION AND SUPERVISION

E.1 CHILDREN’S MINISTRY POLICIES AND PROCEDURES

Brookfield Congregational Church is committed to creating a safe and healthy environment in which children from Nursery to Grade 12 can learn about and experience God’s love. Therefore, we provide supervision for all activities and programs involving children and employ practices that provide for the safety of children and those who care for them.

E.2 CHILDREN’S MINISTRY DEFINITIONS

Aide: a volunteer who functions in a non-supervisory role in one of the church school classrooms or nursery/ toddler room in the presence of an approved teacher or caregiver. Aides generally should be at least 12 years of age.
Nursery/Toddler Caregiver: a volunteer who supervises activities in the nursery/toddler rooms. The caregiver must be at least 18 years of age.
Teacher: a volunteer who leads classroom activities. Teachers must be at least 16 years of age. However, if under 18, must have an Adult Aide over 18.
One-time Volunteer: someone who assists in a classroom or helps with a trip or event but has not committed to a regular role such as aide or teacher.

E.3 CHILDREN’S MINISTRY PROCEDURES

E.3.1 TWO TEACHER POLICIES AND PROCEDURES

Each class should have at least two teachers [lead teacher and assistant]. If a second teacher is not available, the teacher may either:

  • Request the assistance of another adult
  • Continue the activity but relocate the class to the Fellowship Hall 
  • Contact the Sunday School Superintendent for assistance.

Bathroom Assistance: teachers/aides who accompany a child to the bathroom will wait outside the bathroom door unless the child needs assistance. In which case, two Caregivers or adults will be present or the bathroom door left open; if necessary a Caregiver will request assistance from the parents/guardians.
Windows in classroom doors will remain uncovered.
If circumstances dictate that a child must be alone with a teacher, the teacher should notify another teacher, a parent or guardian and wait with the child with the door open or in a public space on church grounds.


E.3.2 REGISTRATION FORMS

The Board of Christian Life will require parents or guardians of all children participating in the educational ministry program to complete a registration form for each child (Forms E-1, E-2). The registration form includes contact information and information regarding allergies or any other relevant medical concerns. This information will be included in the classroom attendance folder. Welcome forms for visitors are available in the sanctuary with church school sign-in forms. (Form E-3).


E.3.3 ATTENDANCE AND DISMISSAL PROCEDURES

  • Generally, children leave from the sanctuary to church school immediately following the offering.
    Parents are not required to leave the sanctuary to escort their children to class.
  • Attendance will be taken at each class.
  • Parents are expected to pick up their child[ren] after class. Children in the Preschool-Early Elementary classes will only be released from class to their parent/guardian.

E.3.4 DISCIPLINE

The purpose of discipline is to maintain order in a manner consistent with the teaching of Christian responsibility, respect and cooperation.

  • Teachers are encouraged to clearly and respectfully communicate expectations of appropriate behavior to their class at the beginning of each school year and on a periodic basis throughout the church school year. In addition, a covenant of conduct including class expectations may be posted in each classroom.
  • If a child’s behavior is disruptive, the teacher is instructed to address the issue with the child directly. If the behavior continues, the parent will be located and asked to remove the child from the classroom. The child will be allowed to return to class when the parent, teacher and School Superintendent agrees the issue has been resolved.
  • No child will be disciplined by the use of any form of humiliation, or by any other form of verbal, physical, psychological or emotional abuse.  No form of spanking, hitting, slapping or other physical punishment or destructive criticism is allowed.

E.3.5 HEALTH AND SAFETY

  • A first aid kit is available in the nursery, each classroom, and the kitchen. The supplies will be restocked two times per year. A supply checklist for each kit will enclosed, signed and dated when restocked.
    A travel first aid kit for events will be provided with a sign-out sheet and will be kept available in the office. 
  • Fire safety information, emergency evacuation routes and meeting place will be clearly posted in every classroom, along with emergency numbers for the police and fire departments.
  • Emergency procedures, including evacuation plans, will be reviewed at each teacher orientation.
  • If there is a medical emergency, or incident, the parents should be found immediately, the Superintendent of Sunday School contacted, and 9-1-1 called as warranted. In addition, a written report will be given to the Pastor and filed in the church office.  Property damage occurring during an event will be handled similarly.
  • Incident Reports Forms (Form A-1) are found in each classroom and should be filled out when necessary. Forms are kept on file in the Administrative Assistant’s office with the Safe Church Team and given to the parents as warranted.
  • The importance of hand washing before handling food and after any clean-up is emphasized.
 

E.3.6 CONCERN FOR A CHILD’S SAFETY OUTSIDE OF CHURCH

If in the context of a class or other event, a child discloses information that raises concern about his or her safety, the incident should be discussed promptly with the ministerial staff to clarify and determine an appropriate level of response.


F. YOUTH MINISTRY PROTECTION AND SUPERVISION

 

F.1 YOUTH MINISTRY POLICIES AND PROCEDURE GOALS

Brookfield Congregational Church is committed to creating a safe and healthy environment in which young people can learn about and experience God’s love. Therefore, we will provide supervision for all ministries and activities involving youth and employ practices that provide for the safety of all youth participants as well as teachers, leaders or helpers who serve in these ministries.

F.2 YOUTH MINISTRY DEFINITIONS

Youth Fellowship (YF): a fellowship, worship and service program for students in grades 6-12. 
Adult Volunteer: A person 18 years of age or older. Generally be at least three to five years older than the youth..
Chaperone: A CORI checked volunteer 18 years old or older who assists with supervision of youth for a special activity.
Driver: The driver should be at least 23 years of age with a valid driver’s license and have been CORI checked.
Helper, Assistant: A volunteer worker for regular youth activities who functions in a non-supervisory role (e.g. high school student who helps in YF). Helpers function under the supervision of the leader or teacher and generally should be 3 years older than the oldest youth participating in the program.
One-time Volunteer: an adult who helps with an event (trip, retreat) but has not committed to regularly helping with youth activities
Teacher, Leader: A paid or volunteer adult worker who has direct responsibility for the care of youth under their supervision.  Teachers and Leaders are CORI checked and have been part of a church community and volunteered in some capacity outside of youth activities for six months.
Assistant Teacher, Leader: A volunteer adult worker who assists the supervision of the youth during regular youth activities.  Should be 3 years older than the oldest youth they are assisting (e.g. Jr. Youth group.  Assistant Teacher/Leaders must also be CORI checked and have been part of a church community and volunteered in some capacity outside of youth activities for six months.  
Off-Site Event: A scheduled youth event requiring transportation that is scheduled off Brookfield
Congregational Church property.  Off-site events may last an hour or include overnights that last several days (e.g. bowling, mission trip, retreat).
Youth: All students participating in the Youth Fellowship ministry from 6th to 12 grade.

F.3 YOUTH MINISTRY PROCEDURES

 

F.3.1 TWO ADULT POLICY

The Two Adult Policy is intended to protect youth and prevent adults from encountering a situation where they could be wrongfully accused. 

  • No adult should be alone in the church with a youth that is not related to him/her
  • No adult should be alone at a church-approved activity, with a youth that is not related to him or her. 
 

F.3.2 ADULT TO YOUTH RATIO

It is recommended that there be a ratio of one adult for every six youths at all youth programs or activities. If these ratios are unable to be met, the youth activity may be canceled at the discretion of the minister or lay leader.
At least two chaperones should wait with youth being picked up after an off-site event. In the event that an adult is alone with a youth waiting to be picked up, they should wait in a public space.
It is permissible to have one adult per car carrying youth to an off-site event, but at no time should an adult be alone with a child other than his/her own. Two children and one adult in a vehicle is appropriate.



F.3.2 PERMISSION, MEDICAL, MEDIA RELEASE AND COVENANT FORMS

All youth participating in youth programs must have a Brookfield Congregational Church Youth Fellowship Registration Form (Form E–1) and Medication Consent Form (Form E–3) on file. Completed forms will be brought on all youth off- site events by the adult leader. An Brookfield Congregational Church Youth Fellowship Permission Form (Form E–2) will be filled out and handed in for any off-site overnight trips. These forms will be kept on file for minimum of 3 years within the church.
All youth participating in programs will develop and sign a covenant with their leaders at the beginning of the year. See Form F-5 for Youth Covenant: Mission Trip/Event & Social Networking.


F.3.3 OFF-SITE EVENT GUIDELINES

  1. Parents or guardians and participating youth shall be given information ahead of time about programs, activities, leaders, chaperones, dates, times, cost, method of transportation, purpose of the scheduled trip or activity, and other details whenever possible.
  2. All occupants of a vehicle must use an individual seat belt (no multiple belting) at all times during the operation of the vehicle.
  3. No cell phone use while driving except for a true emergency, and then the driver is encouraged to pull off the roadway to a safe spot.
  4. Appropriate supervision: The two adult policies and procedures apply for all church events including those held off-site. On an overnight trip involving boys and girls there will be at least one male and one female chaperone. 

F.3.4 DISCIPLINE

All participants are expected to act in a respectful manner toward all others participating in a Youth Fellowship function. Participants are expected to follow the covenant developed with the minister. The purpose of discipline is to maintain order in a manner consistent with the teaching of Christian responsibility, respect and cooperation. No youth will be disciplined by use of any form of humiliation or by any other form of verbal, physical, psychological or emotional punishment.

Mutual respect in communication between youth and leaders, teachers and chaperones is expected. Appropriate behavioral expectations will be clearly communicated.

Disruptive, disrespectful or dangerous behavior will be addressed by the leader, teacher or chaperone in charge. If this behavior occurs on a trip or at a meeting, the leader reserves the right to contact the parent/guardian and send the youth home at the parents’/guardians’ expense.

Adult volunteers must report all infractions of youth rules to the minister or adult leader of the group.


F.3.6. HEALTH AND SAFETY

  1. A first aid kit is available in the nursery, each classroom, and the kitchen. The supplies will be restocked two times per year. A supply checklist for each kit will enclosed, signed and dated when restocked.
    A travel first aid kit for events will be provided with a sign-out sheet and will be kept available in the office. 
  2. Fire safety information, emergency evacuation routes and meeting place will be clearly posted in every classroom, along with emergency numbers for the church, police and fire departments.
  3. Emergency procedures, including evacuation plans, will be reviewed at each teacher orientation.
  4. Incident Reports Forms (Form A-1) should be filled out when necessary. Forms are filed with the Safe Church Team and given to the parents as warranted.
  5. If there is a medical emergency, the parents and the minister should be contacted and 9-1-1 called as warranted.
  6. The importance of hand washing before handling food and after any clean-up is emphasized.
 

F.3.7. CONCERN FOR A YOUTH’S SAFETY OUTSIDE OF CHURCH

If in the context of a class or other event, a youth discloses information that raises concern about his or her safety, the incident should be discussed promptly with the ministerial staff to clarify and determine an appropriate level of response.

G. INTERNET SAFETY

The internet and social media are evolving tools which offer great promise for developing and deepening ministries but also pose significant safety challenges.

G.1 DEFINITIONS

 
Church Sponsored Sites: any group, page or list-serve that is created by a designated member of Brookfield Congregational Church for the purpose of establishing, maintaining or growing ministries to and with youth and/or adults.

Inappropriate Content: refers both to content that is improper or offensive [i.e. illicit, unsavory, abusive, pornographic, harassing, discriminating or disrespectful].

G.2 LEADERS/YOUTH AND SOCIAL MEDIA 

Accounts should be established for the Youth Leader position and not the individual person. i.e. BCC Youth Leader. This account should be: 

  • Monitored by a second adult.
  • All correspondence should be kept transparent and traceable.
  • Acceptable Accounts: Facebook, Twitter, Instigram
  • Unacceptable Accounts: Snapchat (unable to keep traceable communication), Ask.FM, person alone on one video-chatting. 

 
Adults should refrain from submitting or accepting “friend” requests from minors or youth that are associated with the Youth Fellowship ministry. 

Youth should refrain from submitting or accepting “friend” requests from adult leaders that are associated with the Youth Fellowship ministry.

All youth and adults should be informed that any communication that is sent via digital means (email, social networking site notes or posts, texts, etc.) is not confidential and may be reported or shared with others.

Photo consent forms should be filled out and signed before pictures are posted to websites/ social media. Photos posted online should be dignified and respectful of those in the photo. If any, only first names should be used to identify youth in pictures used on social media sites/online. Do not ‘Tag’ people or allow youth to be tagged in photos

See G.4 Facebook Page Member for additional information on the Youth Group social networking site. 



G.3 EMAIL / TEXT

We recommend leaders should:

  • Archive / save all email correspondence with youth.
  • Copy at least one Leader and/or parent on every email / text sent to an individual youth.
  • E-mails and texts should be sent to entire groups

 

G.4 FACEBOOK PAGE MEMBER

The Members of the Brookfield Congregational Church Fellowship Youth Group will be allowed a secure Facebook page for social networking and to post Youth Group activities.  

Access to the Youth Group site for Adults over 18 years old will be limited to only: parents and CORI’d church leadership.  Parents will receive a copy of our Safe Church Policy if they join the social network group and must abide by the policy or they will be removed. 

A Social Networking Covent will be signed by all that are given access to the Facebook Page.  See Form F-5 for Youth Covenant: Mission Trip/Event & Social Networking. 

G.5 MANDATORY REPORTING LAWS

Any inappropriate material that is covered by Mandatory Reporting laws must be reported to the Brookfield Congregational Church Council, documented for church records, and then deleted from the site.

See “Child Abuse & Neglect Reporting: A guide for Mandated Reporters” (Appendix L) or visit the Mass Dept of Children & Families website: http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/gov/departments/dcf/.

G.6 NON SPONSORED YOUTH PAGES

Adult leaders are not responsible for internet youth pages that are not sponsored by the Brookfield Congregational Church.

G.7 ADULT TO ADULT RELATIONSHIPS

Adult members who seek religious or spiritual advice from clergy via digital means (email, social networking site posts, texts, etc.) should be informed that their communication is NOT confidential. Use of digital means to communicate nullifies confidentiality.

G.8 COMMUNICATION AND CONTACT

 

G.8.1. TRANSITIONS

Ministers who are leaving or retired from Brookfield Congregational Church should refrain from offering pastoral care with members of the Brookfield Congregational Church or youth group members through digital communication after the end date of their contract with Brookfield Congregational Church.

Former youth members and adult leaders of Youth Fellowship, due to departure by removal or loss of eligibility (aged out of a program) should be removed from digital communication youth groups (Facebook groups, list serves, etc.). (See Guidelines for Making Digital Covenants, Form G-1).


G.8.2. DIGITAL COVENANTS

In the Bible a covenant is an agreement between God and his people, in which God makes promises to his people and, usually, requires certain conduct from them.   Likewise, a covenant is be made between members of youth fellowship and adult leaders to create an environment of trust, acceptance and Christian values.  For that reason a Youth Covenant for Mission Trip/Events and Social Networking has been created.  See Form F-5 for Youth Group Covenant: Mission Trip/Event & Social Networking. 
See Form G-1 for guidelines on creating additional Digital Covenants.


G.8.3. VIDEO CHATS, BLOGS OR VIDEO BLOGS

  • Adults should refrain from initiating video chats with youth.
  • Participants in a video chat or blog should consider what will be shown in the video such as their surroundings, their clothing/state of dress, etc.
  • All transcripts of on-line text chats, video chats, blogs or video blogs should be saved when possible.
  • All ministers and youth leaders should consider the content and nature of any post that will be read by or visible to youth because it might be perceived as the voice of the church, and may be misconstrued as church policies and procedures.
 

G.8.4. PUBLISHING/POSTING CONTENT ONLINE

  • Secure signed Media Release forms from parents/guardians of minors who may participate in activities that may be photographed or videoed for distribution (See Forms E-1, F-1).
  • When video of services or activities is distributed on the web or via other broadcast media, signs and/or notifications should be posted that indicate the service will be broadcast.
  • Photos that are published on church sponsored sites should not include name or contact information for individual(s) unless explicitly permitted by the individual(s) (or a parent / guardian in the case of a youth).

 

H. CHILD ABUSE RESPONSE AND REPORTING

Through our Safe Church Policies and educational programs, we seek to prevent abuse occurring at Brookfield Congregational Church. Allegations or reasonable suspicions of abuse will be responded to seriously and reported to appropriate church and state authorities. All the actions and documentation described below must be held in the strictest confidence and as such as few people as possible are informed. It is the responsibility of all concerned to maintain confidentiality.

H.1 DEFINITIONS

 
Child: A person under the age of eighteen.
CORI Processor: Submits and receives CORI forms. The CORI processor will consult the Safe Church Team (See Section A.4) when there are concerns.  All attempts will be made to maintain confidentiality.
Department of Children and Families (DCF): The Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) manages child abuse and neglect reports.
Incident Report: a written report (Form A -1) of any unusual occurrence at Brookfield Congregational Church.
Mandated Reporter: a person who, by virtue of his/her profession or position, is required by law to report all reasonable suspicions of child abuse. Church mandated reporters include: clergy, authorized ministers (ordained, commissioned and licensed), persons performing duties on behalf of the church (e.g. Deacons), church employees and volunteers who supervise, educate, coach, train or counsel children on a regular basis (Children, Youth and Music positions).
Moderator: The lay leader of Brookfield Congregational Church and the presiding officer for all meetings of the Church Council.
Church Council: Please refer to church bylaws.

H.2 RESPONSE AND REPORTING OF CHILD ABUSE

 

H.2.1 STANDARD FOR REPORTING

Brookfield Congregational Church observes the Massachusetts standard for reporting abuse. Anyone with "a reasonable cause to believe" that a child under age 18 is suffering or has suffered from abuse or neglect will follow the Response and Reporting Policies and Procedures.
"Reasonable Cause" - after examining all the facts in a particular situation, most people with similar training and experience would also suspect abuse. This is the 'reasonable person' standard commonly used in the law - Questions and Answers About Reporting Child Abuse ©: Dayl Hufford.

H.2.2 PREVENTING IMMINENT HARM

To protect children, any circumstance of abuse that poses imminent risk of serious harm will be reported to the Brookfield Police Department at 9-1-1 or 508-867-5570.  Because of the vulnerability of children, their right to our protection supersedes a counselee’s right to confidentiality.


H.2.3 REPORTING PROCESS

If in the context of a class or other event, a child discloses information or an adult otherwise has a reasonable cause to believe that a child is not safe, the incident must be discussed promptly with the ministerial staff to clarify and determine an appropriate level of response.

Incident Reports (Form A-1) are required for all unusual occurrences at Brookfield Congregational Church. They must be submitted to the Safe Church Team or the appropriate staff member even if it is determined that an oral or written report will not be filed with DCF. These forms will be stored in a secure and confidential location.

The Department of Children and Families (DCF) is the Massachusetts agency with responsibility for protecting children from child abuse and neglect. No one is prohibited from making a report directly to DCF, and may do so as either an identified or anonymous reporter. Reporters can file anonymously by calling The Child-at-Risk-Hotline at 1-800-792-5200 anytime of the day or night.  For more information see http://www.mass.gov/dcf
An oral / telephone report to the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) will be made within 24 hours as recommended by the Massachusetts Conference, UCC. Written reports will be completed within 48 hours as required by Massachusetts law. Mandated reporters who fail to report suspected child abuse may be subject to criminal prosecution.


H.2.4 MINISTERIAL STAFF AND SAFE CHURCH TEAM ROLES

Any person raising a concern of abuse should contact the Safe Church Team and/or confidentially discuss their concern with the Brookfield Congregational Church minister, or the Minister of Education.

The role of the Safe Church Team is to receive the allegation, provide leadership and to guide the reporter through the Department of Children and Families (DCF) contact process. Investigation and evaluation of concerns of abuse is the role and obligation of DCF and not of the reporter, minister, or the Safe Church Team.


H.2.5 ALLEGATION AGAINST MINISTERIAL STAFF

If there is an allegation against the Ministerial staff, the deacons will be notified and they will contact the Personnel Committee and/or the Area Minister (if necessary). The church will seek the counsel of the Association Committee on Church and Ministry regarding action to be taken.

I. ADULT MISCONDUCT – HARASSMENT AND EXPLOITATION

Brookfield Congregational Church wishes to create and maintain a community in which members, friends, staff, and volunteers can worship and work together in an atmosphere free of all forms of discrimination, harassment, exploitation, or intimidation.

I.1       DEFINITIONS

Ministerial Relationship: exists between a minister and the recipients of their ministry.

  • Ministry: The “ministry” of Brookfield Congregational Church is to provide for the spiritual and social well-being of all those who come to Brookfield Congregational Church seeking support, solace and/or edification. Ministry extends beyond traditional theological constraints and seeks the well-being and wholeness of the entire person. Therefore, “ministry” must be construed in the widest possible ways.
  • Ministers: Ministers include all persons engaged in the ministry of Brookfield Congregational Church, however designated, compensated or volunteer, permanent, interim or temporary in nature, and those so acting on behalf of the church and with the church’s consent, expressed or implied.
  • Authorized Minister: a person who holds ordained ministerial standing or has been commissioned or licensed by an association of the United Church of Christ.
  • Recipients of the church’s ministry may be parishioners, counselees, students, employees and volunteers.

Harassment: repeated misconduct, whether verbal or physical, that creates an environment that is uncomfortable, unwelcoming, discriminating, or intimidating, or leads to an atmosphere in which a person's ability to participate in worship and activities at the church is compromised.
Sexual Exploitation: activity or conduct of a sexualized nature in which a minister engaged in the work of the church takes advantage of the vulnerability of an individual by causing or allowing the individual to engage in sexual behavior with the minister or staff member.
Sexual Harassment: repeated or coercive sexual advances toward another person contrary to his or her wishes. It includes behavior directed at another person's sexuality or sexual orientation with the intent of intimidating, humiliating, or embarrassing the other person, or subjecting the person to public discrimination. Prohibited Sexual Harassment includes unsolicited and unwelcome contact that has sexual overtones. Sexual Harassment also includes continuing to express sexual interest after being informed directly that the interest is unwelcome – and using sexual behavior to control, influence, or affect the career, salary, work, learning,
or worship environment of another.

I.2 POLICY ON ADULT CONDUCT

Brookfield Congregational Church is strongly opposed to Sexual Exploitation, Sexual Harassment and
Harassment of any kind, and such behavior is prohibited. It is the intention of Brookfield Congregational Church to respond to allegations of behavior that are contrary to this policy and, if necessary, to discipline those persons who violate it and/or report it to the appropriate authorities. Every individual always has the right to report allegations to local authorities.
All persons engaged in the ministry of Brookfield Congregational Church are responsible for knowing the possible impact of their words and actions in ministering to the emotional, mental, and spiritual needs of persons who come to them for help or over whom they have any kind of authority. Sexual Exploitation, Sexual Harassment or Harassment in a Ministerial Relationship is unethical and unprofessional behavior and will not be tolerated.

I.3 PROCESS FOR RESPONDING TO A COMPLAINT OR CONCERN

The utmost respect shall be given to the confidentiality and privacy of all parties. Any person who brings a concern or complaint forward, or who assists in investigation of such a report, will not be adversely affected in terms and conditions of employment or church membership, or otherwise discriminated against or discharged. Information will be shared only on a need-to-know basis.


I.3.1 RESPONSE

  1. Informal – The person with a concern may attempt to resolve the matter directly with the person accused. Alternatively, the person with a concern may attempt to resolve the matter with the assistance of his/her supervisor, or seek the direction and guidance from the Church Council Chairperson or a Brookfield Congregational Church authorized minister.
  2. Formal – If an informal resolution of the complaint does not seem wise, appropriate, or possible, or does not succeed, the person with a concern should complete an Incident Report Form (Form A-1) and submit it to the Church Council and/or an Brookfield Congregational Church authorized minister.
    This will lead to a formal proceeding. If the allegation involves the Minister, the person with a concern should contact one or more of the following: the Church Council Chairperson, Diaconate Chair, or Pastor Congregation Relations Committee Chair.

I.3.2 FORMAL PROCEEDING

When the Safe Church Team is requested to initiate a formal proceeding, the following procedure will happen:

  1. A task force will be convened.
    • If the allegation involves the Minister, the task force will be comprised at a minimum of the Church Council Chairperson and Chair of the Diaconate. Brookfield Congregational Church may also choose to consult with the Massachusetts Conference UCC Area Minister.
    • If the allegation involves another authorized Brookfield Congregational Church Minister, the task force will be comprised of the Minister, the Church Council Chairperson and Chair of the Diaconate. Brookfield Congregational Church may also choose to consult with the Massachusetts Conference UCC Area Minister.
    • If the allegation involves another Brookfield Congregational Church staff member, the task force will be comprised of the Minister and the Church Council Chairperson.
    • If the allegation involves a lay person the task force will be comprised of the Minister and the Church Council Chairperson.
  2. The person accused will be notified that an Incident Report Form has been filed.
  3. Statements will be gathered from individuals involved.
  4. The task force will carefully document all activities and meetings and include dates, times, locations, names of the parties present, any decisions, and any further action to be taken. This documentation is to be kept in a secure location determined by Minister or, if regarding the Minister, by the Church Council Chairperson.
  5. The task force will consider all information and determine an appropriate course of action.
  6. If the task force determines that no harassment or sexual exploitation has occurred, all affected parties will be notified.
  7. If the task force determines that harassment or sexual exploitation has occurred, the task force will inform the individuals and take actions that may include:
    • Formal reprimand with defined expectations for changed behavior;
    • Recommending or requiring a program of growth that may include education and/or counseling;
    • Probation, with the terms of the probation clearly identified;
    • Dismissal from volunteer leadership position or employment and, in extreme cases, membership in the Brookfield Congregational Church.

I.3.3 APPEAL

If the person(s) involved is not satisfied with the disposition of the matter, he or she has the right to appeal to the church council to appoint a committee to review the complaint.

J. SAFE CHURCH POLICIES AND PROCEDURES REVIEW

 
The Brookfield Congregational Church Safe Church Policies and Procedures were developed by the 2016-2017 Safe Church Task Force:
Cheri Carty, Darlene Dean and Jan Wilson

The Safe Church Policies and Procedures will be reviewed each year by the Safe Church Team. The Team may recommend revisions to be approved by the Church Council.

Adopted by: Brookfield Congregational Church of Brookfield, Massachusetts      Date: ____________  

Moderator:   ________________________________________________________________________

K. RESOURCES

 

Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Sex Offender Registry Board http://www.mass.gov/sorb; (2016).
Connecticut Conference, United Church Of Christ. “Internet Safety Guidelines” [link on Insuance
Board website] http://www.ctucc.org/resources/onlinesafetyguidelines.html (May 3, 2010).
Criminal History Systems Board. "Criminal Offender Record Information-CORI." http://www.mass.gov/chsb/cori/cori_cert.html (2010).
Department of Children and Families Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting; A Guide for Mandated
Reporters http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/gov/departments/dcf/
Edwards Church of North Hampton, (United Church of Christ) North Hampton, Massachusetts. "Safe Church Policies and Procedures." (July 2, 2012).
General Laws of Massachusetts. "Protection of Children Chapter
119:Section 51A Injured children; reports." http://www.mass.gov/legis/laws/mgl/119-51a.htm
General Laws of Massachusetts. "Protection of Children Chapter 119:Section 51B Physically or emotionally injured children; duties of department; disclosure of  information to department." http://www.mass.gov/legis/laws/mgl/119-51b.htm .
Insurance Board "Safe Conduct Workbench" http://www.insuranceboard.org/safety_solutions/safe_conduct_workben ch.aspx.
Insurance Board "Creating Safer Places for Ministry" http://www.insuranceboard.org/assets/1/AssetManager/Loss%20Control%20Manual%20Vol
%204%20-% 20Camps%20-%202010-11%20Edition.pdf  [2011 edition]
United Church of Christ. "Making Our Churches Safe"
"http://www.ucc.org/ministers_safe"
United Church of Christ. "The Time is Now!" Guide to developing abuse prevention policies "http://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/unitedchurchofchrist/legacy_url/247/ morehelpnow.pdf?1418423609" .