Best Practice #2 is focused on who has access to children. In Best Practice #3 you'll see our focus change to establishing boundaries relating to the behavior of those who have been granted access.
Responsibility for the protection of children needs to come from the top down and someone needs to be accountable for ensuring the safety of the children in your care. Most faith organizations are established as non-profits with the Board of Directors as the highest authority but there may also be a Board of Elders that are involved in the vision, direction and accountability of the organization. It's important to determine who is ultimately responsible for the protection of children in your care.
Integrate Child Protection into the Applicant Screening Process
We grant child molesters access to our kids. We grant access as parents and as leaders in faith organizations. It's tough to hear but it is a reality. Every time you hire an employee or bring on a volunteer, you have potentially given a child molester access to the precious children you serve. You have potentially put your children in extreme danger that could change the course of their lives and they may never tell.(6) Your kids are counting on you to make conscious choices about who you allow to be with them.
We Grant Child Molesters Access to our Kids
Child molesters seek opportunity and what better way to gain access to kids than to choose a career (or community service role) where it is your job to spend time with them. More importantly, staff and volunteers who go above and beyond their assigned duties to develop strong relationships with kids and their families are typically well respected by their leaders, peers, parents and kids. This is especially true in faith organizations where opportunities for personal discipleship are crucial to the spiritual growth of our children and youth. This is the exact image and relationship that child molesters attempt to hide behind and exploit to their advantage.
This Best Practice is designed to transform the way you think during the application screening process. It's important that you take everything you learn throughout the Child Sexual Abuse Best Practices program and use it as a filter during the applicant screening process.
An effective child protection focused screening process is designed to achieve two key objectives:
- To ensure that you are not unknowingly staffing someone with a criminal record or pending charges of a sexual offense or other offense against children; and
- To deter child molesters from wanting to work for you.
Your Child Sexual Abuse Best Practices program should be discussed within the interview process including 1) boundaries that limit private access to kids, 2) your assessment and communication process, 3) mandatory child sexual abuse prevention training for staff members, 4) the creation of an accountability team with parents and children, and 5) pre-established consequences to boundary infractions.
Child molesters will quickly realize that they will not have their desired access to children and it is highly probable that they'll be caught if they try. Child molesters will likely want to work somewhere else that is still consumed by silence.
Create Remote Access to Services and Bible Studies
While it may be difficult for some people to discuss and even more difficult to accept God's calling, registered sex offenders are children of God and part of our local communities and we are called to care for the least of our brothers. Thus it is crucially important for our church body to create an environment where we can fully support the spiritual journey of these offenders. However, we must consciously create this environment in a way that ensures the safety of our children and youth and provides services in a manner that does not result in an offender violating his/her terms of parole, as they are typically not allowed to be in an area where children congregate. Creating satellite campuses for adults only or delivering services via conference call, radio or streaming video are great ways to bring the word to registered sex offenders while restricting their access to kids in your church body. We will discuss supporting the needs of registered sex offenders in more detail in Best Practice #8 but we included the information in this section because it is so important to consider your calling to support the spiritual needs of this population through the lens of managing access to children.