Safe Environment Policy

All staff and volunteers are responsible for abiding by the principles and processes as outlined in [JR1]  the Child Protection Policy Manual and related documents and signing the Safe Environment Policy for Child Safety (a.k.a., Safe Environment Policy), stating they have received, understood, and agree to comply with it. This acknowledgement is to be updated at two-year intervals during the completion of the IC Volunteer Application.

1. Background

The welfare and safety of children are paramount in our policies and procedures. This includes valuing them, regarding them positively, and treating them with respect and care at all times. Adult staff must assume the full burden of setting and maintaining clear, appropriate boundaries in all interaction with children.

The most effective way to prevent abuse of children is to be vigilant. By being vigilant in adhering to the following standards for interaction with children, we hope to protect children from abuse.

This Safe Environment Policy includes, but is not limited to, the following expectations of staff.

2. Visibility

All work with children shall be planned in a way that minimizes risks as far as possible. This includes being visible to other adults when working with children.

This can be accomplished by planning activities in areas where other adults are present and at a time when other activities are occurring. It can also be accomplished by installing windows in all classrooms and other rooms occupied by children or by keeping doors open.

3. Overcoming Isolation

It is preferred that at least two unrelated adults be present in work with children. Isolation can also be overcome by avoiding being alone with children. For example, take two or more children to the bathroom together, rather than only one; drop off siblings last in a carpool or take your own child along when providing rides. An adequate number of adults shall supervise youth events, especially overnight activities.

4. Accountability

All staff are expected to interact with children in a mature, capable, safe, caring, and responsible manner, with a high level of accountability. All adult staff are responsible for giving and accepting feedback from others in order to maintain our high level of professionalism and integrity in interactions with children.

When ministry to a child involves one-on-one contact, the following procedures shall be followed, as applicable:

Always be accountable to other adults regarding your interactions with children.

Parents and/or supervisors are to be notified beforehand of any activities with children, for example, before transporting a child, keeping a child after school, a youth activity, or when tutoring a child.

Counseling or other necessarily confidential meetings with children shall be done in an area that is in full sight of others and only when others are in close vicinity, aware that the meeting is occurring, and willing to stay in the vicinity until it is completed.

In an emergency situation, find someone to go with you if at all possible, or notify whoever is available. Carry a mobile phone or arrange another method to contact parents.

5. Supervision

Supervision also reduces risk. Program coordinators shall periodically and randomly inspect classrooms, offices, work areas and other areas where children and adults are together.

6. Technology

Technology shall be used appropriately to protect children from abuse and exploitation, for example, to prevent inappropriate Internet content and use.

7. Discipline

Discipline shall be used to teach and correct rather than punish. It shall not include slapping, hitting, shaming, yelling at, or belittling a child or other forms of hostile or rejecting treatment.

8. Differential Treatment

Adults shall avoid favoring or showing differential treatment to particular children to the exclusion of and in the presence of others, or excluding children in the presence of others.

9. Touch

Because healthy, caring touch is valuable to children but unhealthy touch is abusive, the following guidelines apply:

Touch shall be in response to the need of the child and not the need of the adult.

Touch shall be open rather than secretive. For example, a hug in the context of a group is very different from a hug behind closed doors.

Touch shall be age-appropriate and generally initiated by the child rather than the adult. It shall be with the child’s permission and any resistance from the child shall be respected.

Touch shall always communicate respect for the child. Adults shall avoid doing things of a personal nature for children that they are able to do for themselves, including dressing, bathing, etc.

Adults and other youth or children shall not hit, slap, pinch, push, hold against their will, or otherwise assault children.

The following signs of affection are generally appropriate within specific contexts: verbal praise, side hugs, or shoulder to shoulder hugs. For smaller children, touching their hands, faces, shoulders and arms, arms around their shoulders (when culturally appropriate), hugs, or holding them when others are present.

The following behaviors between staff and children are inappropriate or may be perceived as inappropriate and shall not be engaged in: touching buttocks, chests, genital areas, or thighs; showing affection in isolated areas or when alone with a child; lying on a bed with a child; flirtatious or seductive looks; any form of affection that is unwanted by the child; sexually suggestive or explicit language, showing sexually-suggestive pictures or videos or playing sexually-suggestive games with any child; any behavior that could be interpreted as sexual in nature.

Staff and volunteers shall monitor each other in the area of physical contact, helping each other by pointing out anything that could be misinterpreted.

10. Verbal Interaction

Words shall be used to support and encourage a child, such as praise, positive reinforcement, and appropriate jokes. Inappropriate verbal interaction includes the following: shaming, belittling, humiliating, name calling, using harsh language that may frighten, threaten or humiliate the child, cursing, or making derogatory remarks about the child, their family, and/or their place of origin. Inappropriate verbal interaction also includes inappropriate comments that relate to physique or body development, telling derogatory or sexual jokes, making sexually suggestive comments, telling inappropriate secrets, or inappropriately discussing sexual encounters or desires with children.

11. Parent Involvement

Parents are responsible for knowing where their children are at all times. Therefore, parents shall be informed of planned activities (e.g. trips included in the schedule) and sign a consent form. Parents shall be encouraged to make unannounced visits to program activities.

12. Monitoring Child-to-Child Behavior

The following actions may involve abuse or inappropriate behavior of one child to another and are prohibited: bullying, hazing, derogatory name-calling, ridicule or humiliation, singling out a child for negative treatment or exclusion, child-to-child inappropriate sexual touch, inappropriate sexually explicit language, showing of sexually explicit images, hitting, slapping, pushing, holding against their will, or otherwise assaulting another child.

13. Volunteers

All approved workers will wear a name tag or approved clothing that clearly identifies them as volunteers to parents and visitors.

The use of adult volunteers (eighteen years of age and older) is preferred, however volunteers between the ages of thirteen and eighteen may be accepted. Teens should never care for children alone, but we see the value of allowing teens to serve in appropriate team-teaching settings with appropriate supervision. Volunteers should be at least four years older than the oldest child they supervise.

14. Cleanliness and Well Child Policy

Children and workers should wash their hands before eating or handling bottles, after rest room use and as the diaper changing and standard precautions procedures suggest.

A child who is ill and could expose other children and workers to illness will not be received into the nursery or classroom. If we have enough staff, a sick room will be set up and the sick child will be kept isolated from the other children during class time. Parents are responsible to keep their children isolated during non-class times.

Children who have had two or more incidents of diarrhea in the last 24 hours or a fever of 100 degrees or higher must not come to class. Children who show these symptoms during class will be isolated and the parents will be contacted. Children must be free of diarrhea and fever for 24 hours before returning to class. 

15. Age Based Guidelines

15.1 Nursery (birth to age 23 months)

The preferred minimum staff/child ratio is one caregiver per two infants (with a minimum of two caregivers).

Sign-in and out forms should be at the entrance to the nursery. Parents should write their child’s name and condition when dropped off.

Children will only be released to parents or other authorized persons and these must have the proper identification.

All diapers are to be changed in full view of another adult.

15.2 Toddlers (2-3 years) and Pre-school (4-6 years)

The preferred minimum staff/child ratio is one caregiver per two toddlers.

The preferred minimum staff/child ratio for pre-school aged children is one caregiver per four children.

There must always be a minimum of two leaders for every class. In the event that a worker is momentarily left alone with children, be sure the door is ajar and the windows are not obstructed. Avoid even the appearance of impropriety.

Children through age eight must stay with leaders at the end of class until released to a parent or authorized person.

All diapers are to be changed in full view of another adult.

Toilet trained children through age six will be given a bathroom break for the whole class or will be taken with a buddy by an adult. Workers should make sure the bathroom is clear of any other adults. When workers assist in the rest room, they should alert other workers. Leave the rest room door open. When assisting with a child’s clothing in the rest room, workers are not to be in a closed stall with a child.

15.3 Elementary (7-11 years) and Teens (12-18 years)

The preferred minimum staff/child ratio is one caregiver per six children.

The preferred minimum staff/child ratio is one caregiver per eight teens.

Staff will not discipline children by use of physical punishment. Supervised “time out”, finding an alternative activity, or loss of a privilege (i.e. game time), are acceptable alternatives.

There must be one (or more) adult leader(s) present during all youth gatherings.

Parents are responsible for their own youth before the designated starting, and after the designated ending of any class or event.

Youth boys are not allowed in girls’ areas of residence and youth girls are not allowed in boys’ areas of residence for any reason during the official program times.