Children, Youth, and Vulnerable Adult Protection Policy

Child and Youth Protection Policy

…“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth; anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them. Mark 10:14-16

Because we affirm that all children are a gift of God, created by God and created good;
all children are a gift to the whole of the human community;
all children have a real faith, and gifts for ministry;
all children have the right to be children;
and all children are not just tomorrow, they are today.

Because we believe that all children depend upon adults for safety and security
in a world that does not always value children;
all children are affected first and most deeply by those things that work against health and wholeness:
where there is disease, children sicken and die;
where there is homelessness, children sleep on the streets and in other dangerous places;
where there is war, children are frightened and without a safe place;
where the air and water are polluted, children feel the effect in their bodies and in their futures;
where there is shame, children’s spirits are wounded.

Therefore, we hope for a world where all children can find a safe place;
where all ages, races, genders, creeds, and abilities are recognized, valued and celebrated;
where all adults hear the voices of children and speak with as well as for them;
where all children have “first call” on the world’s resources and first place in the minds and hearts of the world’s adults.

Because Jesus welcomed children and encouraged us to welcome them in his name;
Jesus lifted up a child as an example of what the realm of God is like;
Therefore, we hope for a church
where we take seriously our baptismal vow to nurture all children committed to our care;
where we bring good news to all those places where children are in need;
where adults and children alike share in ministry.

We covenant to act so that this vision may be made real for all children, now and in time to come.

Adopted by 205th General Assembly, 1993 and affirmed by the Presbytery of Shenandoah (Child, Youth and Vulnerable Adult Protection Policy, adopted Feb. 23, 2019)

This policy applies to all employees (“paid staff”) and volunteers working with children, youth (minor = under age 18) and vulnerable adults (any person 18 years or older without the developmental or cognitive capacity to consent.)

Child/youth abuse
Any act or failure to act that results in the physical, sexual, psychological, or emotional mistreatment, neglect, or exploitation of a minor

Vulnerable adult abuse
Any act or failure to act that results in the physical, sexual, psychological or emotional mistreatment, neglect or exploitation of a vulnerable adult.

Sexual abuse
Any offense involving sexual conduct in relation to (1) any person under the age of 18 or anyone over the age of 18 without the mental capacity to consent; or (2) any person when the conduct includes force, threat, coercion, intimidation or misuse of ordered ministry or position (Book of Order, D-10.0401c)

Technology abuse
The use of technology that results in the harassing or abusing of a child, youth or vulnerable adult. This includes using technology to send suggestive messages or images to a child, youth or vulnerable adult.

Tobacco and substance use
The use of any kind, tobacco, vaping, alcohol, drugs or any other illegal or illicit substance shall not be on the possession of a chaperone, volunteer or participant unless accompanied by a doctor note or is of medical necessity.

1. To establish clear expectations and standards for conduct;
Those working with our children, youth and vulnerable adults teach not only by curriculum but by example and will behave in a manner appropriate to protecting them and to promoting their spiritual welfare.
a. Respect for children, youth and vulnerable adults shall be shown at all times.
b. Paid staff/volunteers shall not touch or interact with children/youth/vulnerable adults in any way that is sexually stimulating, emotionally demeaning or exploitative.
c. Common expressions of affection and affirmation (e.g. hugs, pats on the back), physical caregiving (e.g. changing diapers or first aid), and support (e.g.hand holding in prayer) are appropriate here. However, care should be taken that physical expressions of affection are not excessive or imposed upon a child without his or her consent.
d. The same standards for personal conduct apply to online communication and social networking. See PROTOCOLS
e. Travel -All drivers must be at least 21 to drive other youth participants. Younger drivers may only drive siblings to events unless written permission is obtained by parent of both driver and non-family member rider.
f. Event chaperones/ All Volunteers must meet supervision requirement listed above. Waivers of parent permission being signed, chaperones being present over the age of 21 for our church as well as others, if other youth are attending the trip too, and our policies should be explained to youth and chaperones before attending the trip,

2. To assure adequate screening of volunteers
a. Background checks: All paid staff and volunteers are required to undergo criminal background checks every two years, and shall sign a release to that effect.
b. Disqualification: Past conviction, pending allegation, probated sentence, or deferred adjudication for any offense noted here will disqualify any applicant from working with children/youth/vulnerable adults at LPC.
1) Any offense against a child, youth or vulnerable adult as defined by Code of VA;
2) A misdemeanor or felony offense as defined by Code of VA classified as sexual assault, indecency, assault of or injury to a child, youth or vulnerable adult, abandoning or endangering any such individual, sexual performance with a child, youth or vulnerable adult, possession or promoting child pornography, enticing a child/youth or vulnerable adult, bigamy, incest, family violence, and ordinarily, recurring drug/alcohol related offenses.
3) A prior criminal history of an offense against a child, youth or vulnerable adult
c. Membership: Ordinarily, volunteers will have regularly attended or been a member of LPC for at least 6 months, or if approved by staff and CE, non/new members shall be paired with an experienced volunteer for 6 months before they may lead church school, youth programs or other positions relating to the care of children.
d. Volunteers from other churches: Volunteers shall complete a “CE volunteer form” to be considered by the appropriate committee and staff person(s) and may be invited to a conversation with appropriate members of staff and/or CE. Volunteers from other churches should fill out application and a current background check (within and every 2 years) prior to chaperoning.

3. Provide for fair evaluation and response to any allegation
a. Allegations and concerns shall be made to two leaders not directly involved in the allegation, in this order: head of staff, associate or director for youth and families (or equivalent leader responsible for program), Executive Presbyter (Shenandoah Presbytery).
b. Every allegation will be taken seriously, and a prompt investigation of the reported incident or charge will be conducted by the appropriate person in compliance with “Procedures for Handing Misconduct Allegations” of the Presbytery of Shenandoah
(p. 24, SP – Child, Youth, and Vulnerable Adult Protection Policy).
c. All employees and volunteers shall cooperate fully with authorities.
d. Information obtained during the investigation will be treated as confidential, to the extent possible, subject to such disclosures as are required under church procedures or required by law. Upon conclusion, appropriate action will be taken.
e. Retaliation against any person who reports a suspected violation of this policy is prohibited and should be reported immediately. Retaliation is itself a violation of the policy and is subject to appropriate sanctions.
f. Further action may be taken in accordance with LPC’s personnel policies, and the legal requirements of the City of Lexington, Rockbridge County, and the Commonwealth of Virginia.

PROTOCOLS (for online, phone and face to face contact)
1. At least two adults (ordinarily unrelated) must be present in classroom with children/youth/vulnerable adults at all times and remain in sight of one another except during emergencies.
2. Doors to rooms in which children/youth/vulnerable adults are present are to remain open whenever practical (giving consideration to noise and containment, doors with glass windows may be closed if necessary). With regard to movies, doors shall remain open at all times (giving consideration to noise and containment, doors with glass windows may be closed if necessary).
3. Youth (teen) volunteers – Teen volunteers (age 13 and older) will not count as adults in the classroom or nursery. Teen volunteers 13 or older need to have 2 adult volunteers present with them. Youth volunteers age 16 and older need to have at least 1 adult volunteer present with them while they volunteer. Volunteers 18 and older are considered to be adult volunteers.
4. Online communication + social networking –
All online gatherings with children, youth, and vulnerable adults shall be initiated by the pastor in charge through the church account and be recorded and shared with parents/guardians upon request. Files shall be stored to a cloud storage for a year.
a. At least two adults (ordinarily unrelated) shall be present during the online gathering. Should there be only one adult and one child in an online meeting, youth parent permission from parent may be obtained visually.
b. Paid staff and volunteers shall not have any online or phone contact with a children/youth/vulnerable adults. unless previously approved with a signed waiver by that person’s parent or legal guardian
c. Ordinarily, parents/guardians shall be copied in all online conversations and correspondence between staff/volunteers and children/youth/vulnerable adults. Exceptions require written permission from parent/guardian. Youth participation in the ONREALM program is viewed as permission from parent/guardian.
d. No photograph, performance, or creative work by a children/youth/vulnerable adults may be posted in any fashion except with written parental/guardian permission.
5. Travel + events -
a. Protocols for transporting children to events will follow same for youth and vulnerable adults. Travel -All drivers must be at least 21 to drive other youth participants. Younger drivers may only drive siblings to events unless written permission is obtained by parent of both driver and non-family member rider.
6. Any volunteer working with children/youth/vulnerable adults shall complete training every three years, which will include a review of the CYVAP Policy, codes of conduct, recognition of abuse signs, and skills on supervising. Training to be provided by staff and/or Presbytery.
7. All records related to any volunteer will be kept confidential and stored in secure files in the pastor’s (head of staff) office.

The Pastor(s) and Personnel Committee of Session shall oversee the implementation of this policy. Written information about this policy shall be sent to all church members and posted in the church office. A copy of this policy will be available on Realm under Session, Children’s Ministries, Youth Group, and CE. This policy will be reviewed and amended as needed.

Sources: Shenandoah Presbytery Child, Youth and Vulnerable Adult PP, Myers Park PC CPP, + existing LPC CPP