Child Safety

“Do we really need to do background checks?

“We’re a small church.  We already know everyone, so why screen children’s workers?”

“Our church can’t afford background checks.  They’re not in the budget.”

“We’re not staffed to conduct interviews, process applications or check references.”

“We trust God to keep our church and kids safe.”

“Background screening and secure check-in, check-out procedures are for mega-churches in urban settings.  We’re a small church in a rural area.  We don’t need any of that fancy stuff.”

Sound familiar?

If you’re in Children’s Ministry, child safety and security should be paramount.  Screening workers, both paid and volunteer, is no place to scrimp or cut corners.  In fact, the question may not be, “Can we afford annual, nationwide background checks/screening of all our C.M. workers?” but rather, “Can we afford not to?”  Your screening process should include a volunteer application, reference checks, background screens and a formal interview for everyone who works with children, both paid and volunteer.   Many organizations include a Code of Conduct or similar policy to be read and signed by all who work with children or minors.

The Spotlight

According to Church Law Today, “News reports have spotlighted the problem of child sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church, but Protestant churches also have reason to be concerned. Our research indicates that on average, over the past ten years, approximately 3,500 churches per year have responded to allegations of sexual misconduct in church programs involving children or youth. (Emphasis added.)

Thousands of churches have taken steps to reduce this problem. Yet much more still needs to be done.  Screening workers is essential to protecting children from sexual predators. Churches are making progress in screening paid employees, but screening volunteer workers remains problematic.

Nearly 3 out of 4 churches use a written application for paid workers, up from 47% in 1993. Yet, the vast majority of churches-almost 70 percent-do little to screen volunteers.”

Why Screen?

Says Brotherhood Mutual:

Carefully screening people before allowing them to work in your ministry is an important investment in your ministry’s future. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. It’s one of the best ways of protecting your church from incidents of child sexual assault.
  2. It helps you avoid appointing staff or volunteers who might skim money from church accounts.
  3. It allows you to select drivers for church vehicles who have safe driving records.
  4. It’s a prudent step to take before allowing someone to become a leader in your ministry. Without it, you run the risk of having someone misrepresent his or her background.
  5. If you communicate that your ministry is committed to making itself a safe haven for children, screening could become a tool that attracts volunteers and new members.
  6. It also reduces your liability in court if you should accidentally hire someone who commits a crime, because it demonstrates that your ministry has taken reasonable care to safeguard its members.

Screening is Vital

Screening workers – including volunteers – is vital, says James Cobble, Jr. in Screening Children’s Workers, for two reasons:

– First, churches can be found liable for the negligent selection of a volunteer, just as they can for a paid employee. Second, our research indicates that volunteer workers are just as likely to be the perpetrators of abuse as are paid staff members.

– The main goal of a church-screening program is to ward off individuals who have an intent or history of abusing children. A church that establishes a screening program sends a message. Predators do not want to be in such a church.

Make Sure It’s Mandatory

Don’t be one of the “almost 70%” who do little or nothing to screen volunteers.  Make sure  thorough, nationwide background checks  are mandatory for everyone who works with minors in your church, both volunteer and paid staff.*

Additional Resources:

Background Screening FAQs (including Why, Who, and How)

Selection and Screening Kit for Church Volunteers

Volunteer Service Booklet

Background Checks Are Paying Off.

Additional screening resources.

Click here for Screen Now.

More Safety & Security tips here.

Click on our “Child Safety” category for more.

* Nothing in this page or related posts constitutes legal advice.  Be sure to consult your attorney and insurance carrier for specifics.

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