For Church and Civic Leaders

Sunday School Boy

As a Church Leader

Faith-based organizations are committed to providing services for families and children. Faith-based organizations are not immune to child sexual abuse. Offenders are attracted to organizations that serve youth. Because faith-based organizations are, by nature, more accepting, forgiving and trusting, offenders seek out churches and faith centers to gain access to children.

  • 93% of admitted child molesters surveyed considered themselves religious.
  • 50% of sexual misconduct committed in the church is done so by a volunteer.
  • In a survey of 2,864 church leaders, 20% knew of a sex offender attending/member of their church (Christianity Today 2010.)

Consider these words from a sex offender:
“I consider church people easy to fool…They have a trust that comes from being Christians…They tend to be better folks all around. And they seem to want to believe in the good that exists in all people…I think they want to believe in people. And because of that, you can easily convince, with or without convincing words.”

If you ask, most churches will say they have a policy. But if you dig a little deeper, in most cases, the policy is outdated, stuck in a file drawer and few if any have actually been trained to know what the policy says. Every church has a moral obligation to have written policies and procedure documents. Why? Beside the biblical mandate to be stewards of children, in most states anyone who works with or volunteers to work with children are mandated reporters. That means that if a child discloses abuse, you discover a child being abused or you have “reasonable suspicion” that a child has been or is being abused, you are required by law to report that to law enforcement or child protective services. In some states failure of a volunteer to make a report, or anyone for that matter, is a felony offense, punishable by 5-10 years in prison and thousands of dollars fines. If you ask an adult to volunteer in your church and you have not properly trained them in your written policies you put them at legal risk!

It is imperative that churches address this issue and do it now.

Adults Protecting Children provides resources and guidance to churches to help them with writing and implementing child protection policies. We show you what documents are the most important documents to complete first and then how you build on those documents to create a safer environment for children. Some of our resources and services are free.

We are also offer consultation services to churches and private schools. We walk you through each process step-by-step, providing coaching and guidance, and review of your documents throughout the entire process.

Here are some of the elements that need to be covered in your documents:

  • A Code of Conduct that describes how adults will interact with children.
  • Have a reporting protocol document that each person understands and agrees to follow.
  • Determine your administrative decisions if any history of abuse in the past is discovered either in the application process or after someone is hired or allowed to volunteer.
  • Screen all employees and volunteers (background checks, personal interviews and professional references).
  • Create child protection policies that include no one-adult/one-child situations (and no one-older-child/one-younger-child situations.)
  • Know the reporting requirements in your state as it relates to clergy and volunteers.
  • Do not attempt to handle an accusation or disclosure privately or internally but contact law enforcement.
  • Be sure you have a plan to address/respond to the media in the event of an incident or accusation.

As a Civic Leader

One of the main lessons we learned from the Penn State experience is that not only should individual adults assume the responsibility to protect children, but institutions and organizations that serve youth must be intentional about creating safe environments for children.

  • Ensure that all organizations in your community that serve youth:
    • Receive the Stewards of Children training
    • Have current child protection policies
    • Regularly train their staff and volunteers in how to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse
    • Have clear reporting protocols
    • Host a community awareness meeting to raise awareness about the prevalence of child sexual abuse and how to prevent it
    • Learn about the Partners in Prevention program for youth-serving organizations