Evangelical Council for

Abuse Prevention

Child Safety Standards

The following draft standards for child safety in ministry were developed on behalf of the Evangelical Council for Abuse Prevention for the purpose of protecting minors in Christian organizations. These standards are designed to help ministry leaders know how to protect kids in their care and to be prepared to respond to allegations of abuse when they occur.

The child safety standards were drafted by a committee of professionals and experts in the field of risk management and abuse prevention, as well as a number of frontline practitioners who work with and serve children. This committee, known as the Expert Panel, met over the course of a year both in-person and virtually. The standards were then reviewed by a team of attorneys with related professional experience.

The ECAP Child Safety Standards have been approved by the ECAP Board of Directors to be presented publicly for a period of Public Review and Comment, March 1 – April 30, 2021. We invite you to review and offer feedback on this resource, which is intended to serve the evangelical community and beyond. Once finalized, this resource will be available widely and freely for reference to assist in the mission of protecting children.

These standards will also become the basis for an accreditation program that is currently being tested in a number of ministries in the United States. Please note these standards do not constitute legal or other professional advice and are not a substitute for such advice; rather, they provide information consistent with ECAP’s mission.

This accreditation program is expected to be announced later in 2021. We welcome input from anyone, but especially hope frontline ministry workers and leaders will take time to review this material and help refine the standards as necessary.

Our sincere desire is that our churches, Christian schools, and ministries that serve children will be safe places for these little ones to hear the gospel and grow in their faith. We also seek to honor the name and cause of Christ as we intend to equip and educate ministry leaders to protect the vulnerable in their care. We believe this is a matter of biblical stewardship that demands our attention and resolve.

Jeff Dalrymple, executive director
Sally Wagenmaker, general counsel
Theresa Sidebotham, expert panel chair

Standards Overview

Evangelical Council for Abuse Prevention Child Safety Standards

Table of Contents

Standard 1: Governance Standard

  • Governance
  • Record Retention
  • Creating & Implementing Policies & Procedures
  • Child Safety Program Review

Standard 2: Child Safety Operations

  • Working with Children of Varying Ages
  • Program Activities Available to Public
  • Offsite Activities
  • Parent/Guardian Orientation Communication
  • Visibility & Monitoring in Facilities
  • Onsite Visitor Protocols

Standard 3: Screening

  • Screening Process
  • Volunteer Waiting Period
  • Applications
  • Personal Interviews
  • Background & Reference Checks
  • Negative History

Standard 4: Training

  • Child Abuse Training
  • Additional Ethical Considerations
  • Training on Child Safety Reporting
  • Safe & Secure Orientation for Children
  • Extra-Ministry Contact with Children

Standard 5: Response

  • Incident Response Plan
  • Receiving & Making Reports
  • Insurance Reporting
  • Organizational Investigation

Governance Standard

The Organization shall provide effective governance and have clear and effective documents concerning the structure, operations, and beliefs of the Organization that are consistent with Child safety.

Indicator checklist: In the tables below, carefully review each Compliance Indicator and check the appropriate box specifying your Organization’s level of compliance.

The Organization’s approach to Child safety must rest on a good governance foundation. Good governing documents are an essential part of any Organization because they create the structure needed to support the operations of the Organization.

INDICATORS COMMENTS
1.1 The Organization maintains a commitment to overall good governance, and has governing legal and spiritual documents in place.  Useful governance documents may include the Constitution, Bylaws, Statement of Faith and Beliefs, Code of Conduct, and Lifestyle Statement(s). These might include theological statements on marriage, gender identity, final authority, etc.
1.2 The Organization maintains spiritual and biblical mission statements that define its commitment to protecting Children as image bearers of God. The Organization maintains codes of conduct defining sexual or abuse-related offenses as unacceptable, including clear spiritual standards.  Applying biblical standards, the Organization should address gender identity and possible sex transition issues consistently with its documented theological statements and in a way that keeps Children safe. 
1.3 The Organization institutes a Child Safety Program (see ECAP Standard #2, “Child Safety Operations”) that creates policies and procedures. These policies and procedures outline roles and responsibilities related to Child protection for the board members, executive leadership, Employees, and Volunteers.
1.4 The Organization is insured by (i) a general liability policy and (ii) Sexual Abuse/molestation coverage, each with appropriate coverage limits.
1.5 The Organization maintains policies and procedures that require all applicable Child abuse reporting, and that all legal claims or threats of litigation be immediately reported to its liability insurance carrier, with legal counsel engaged (per insurance carrier or preferably an attorney selected by the Organization). Suggested Best Practices:

  • If legal counsel is not provided by the Organization’s liability insurance carrier immediately upon notification of a threatened or impending claim, the Organization may choose to engage with counsel knowledgeable in litigation defense and religious organizations for interim advice. Continued engagement with the Organization’s counsel may be appropriate to protect its interests.
  • The Organization may decide not to offer or discuss any compensation or settlement to/with any claimant without assistance of legal counsel and, as appropriate, approval from its insurance provider.
1.6 The Organization has one or more leaders who are well equipped to serve as a communication representative, on an as-needed basis, for handling Child safety and abuse issues.  Suggested Best Practice: 

Organization designates a Communications Spokesperson to handle all communications with claimants, claimants’ counsel and media outlets (See also ECAP Standard #5, “Response”). The spokesperson will also be responsible for any public statements, if deemed appropriate.

1.7 The Organization provides for a Child Safety Program review.  See ECAP Accreditation Standard #2, “Child Safety Operations” for additional detail.

 

Record Retention
Maintaining documentation is a key to demonstrating due diligence in screening and managing your Employees and Volunteers.

INDICATORS COMMENTS
1.8  The Organization maintains a record of employment and other related work materials for every staff member and Volunteer, including application, interview notes, reference checks secured, background check, signed policies, training records, etc. As applicable, student or camper records should also be maintained.
1.9  The Organization retains files according to employment best practices in the applicable jurisdiction. Additional information about performance review, training, or discipline will be added to the file over time.
1.10 Any allegations of Child abuse, investigations, or inquiries are documented, and the files are kept permanently in a separate, confidential location. Note: The statute of limitations on Child abuse litigation varies in different jurisdictions and continues to change.
1.11 Documents related to Personnel are kept in a secure, locked cabinet, or, if kept electronically, are stored securely and backed up on a regular basis.  Suggested Best Practice:

Organization might prioritize following best practices for data privacy, including compliance with applicable statutes.

1.12 Employment, Worker, and abuse prevention documents, including but not limited to consent forms, waivers, incident reports, training, and employment documentation, are maintained per the Organization’s document retention policy. The Organization’s document retention policy addresses maintaining accurate and confidential records of Child safety issues.

 

Creating and Implementing Policies and Procedures
Policies demonstrate the Organization’s commitment to Child safety. They provide guidelines for Employees and Volunteers to serve well. Procedures lay out a defined sequence of steps to follow based on policies. Creating a robust set of Child safety policies and procedures both prevents abuse and gives clear guidance in responding to violations.

INDICATORS COMMENTS
1.13 In policies, the Organization sets forth an explicit commitment to take reasonable measures to manage safety for Children in the Organization’s care, take reasonable measures to protect Workers in Children and youth ministries, and respond appropriately to allegations of abuse or Child Neglect. Organizational awareness of any prior abuse allegations may help current leadership understand the importance of Child safety standards and measures, consistent with the ECAP accreditation process.
1.14 Organization implements robust policies and procedures on Child safety and abuse prevention. See ECAP Accreditation Standard #2, “Child Safety Operations” for additional detail.

Suggested Best Practice:

The Organization may decide to form relationships and agreements with multiple outside resources as needed for guidance, response, and care concerning the safety of Children.

1.15 Policies contain clear and accurate descriptions of the roles and responsibilities of both Volunteers and Employees, including screening and training requirements.
1.16 The Organization implements a robust process for screening potential Employees, Volunteers, and contract Personnel. See ECAP Accreditation Standard #3, “Screening” for additional detail.
1.17 Policies clearly define Codes of Conduct and appropriate behaviors related to Child safety.
1.18 Officers, leaders, Employees, and Volunteers must understand and agree in writing to the Organization’s policies and procedures surrounding Child safety. Such measures should include a written acknowledgement and agreement to comply with Organization’s Child safety policies and procedures, by Employees and Volunteers who care for Children.
1.19 Policies define acceptable use and structure of facilities for Child safety. See ECAP Accreditation Standard #2, “Child Safety Operations” for additional detail.

Suggested Best Practice:

Such measures may include security, video surveillance, and line of sight. 

1.20 Policies define Child care protocols, including Personnel/Child ratios, appropriate check-in and check-out procedures, and appropriate touch.
1.21 Policies contain clear and accurate statutory definitions of abuse, Child Neglect, and maltreatment. See ECAP Resource, “Definitions” for additional detail.
1.22 Policies include reporting and response protocols that meet legal and moral requirements.
1.23 If the Organization allows convicted sex offenders to attend, work, or Volunteer within the Organization, then the Organization has a detailed policy addressing restrictions and considerations related to such matters. See ECAP Resource, “Working with Sex Offenders” for additional detail.

 

Child Safety Program Review
A Child safety or protection policy is the single most important risk management tool in Organizations serving Children. A good Child safety policy protects those in an Organization’s care, avoids unnecessary lawsuits, establishes a defense for the Organization and directors in a civil court case, and maintains the Organization’s ongoing insurance coverage eligibility.

INDICATORS COMMENTS
1.24 The Organization appoints a group of people to develop a plan for Child safety. Suggested Best Practice:

This group may include representation from leaders within the Organization, those who work with Children, parents, and other organizational stakeholders. 

1.25  The Organization provides for review of policies and procedures and compliance thereto, by an objective, qualified person or group. Suggested Best Practices:

  • These review measures may include Board review, staff review, legal review, or other consultant review, particularly to ensure legal compliance and to address any updates in legal areas, insurance coverage considerations, and best practices.
  • The review may provide for a certain percentage of Child safety policies and procedures to be reviewed each year, so that all materials and other information are reviewed through a multi-year cycle.
  • See the following examples of a multi-year cycle:
    • 1) All written policies are reviewed one year, and then current practices are evaluated the following year.
    • 2) One year’s review focuses on half of the policies and procedures and the following year’s review focuses on the remaining policies and procedures.  
1.26 The Organization provides Board oversight in Child protection as appropriate to the Organizational structure. Suggested Best Practice:

The Board may decide it should grant final approval to policies and procedures related to Child safety, since Board members are ultimately responsible for governing the Organization.

1.27 The Organization approves orientation and refresher training for staff, Volunteers, and contract Personnel.   See ECAP Accreditation Standard #4, “Training” for additional detail.
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Child Safety Operations Standard

The Organization shall have clear and effective written policies in place to guide staff and Volunteers, for day-to-day and other regular operations at the Organization’s location(s), for all offsite activities, and for specific care considerations. The Organization shall prioritize transparency and Child safety in all aspects of Organizational activities and operations.  

Indicators & Comments

Program Activities Generally
ECAP Governance, Training, Screening, and Response Indicators fully address an Organization’s Child safety policies, protocols, and practices for all Children’s program activities. With respect to ongoing program activities, such matters are particularly important for communicating rules and boundaries concerning appropriate behavior for Children and their parents/guardians as well as guidelines for resisting inappropriate behavior and reporting it. The following Indicators additionally apply to program activities, more specifically as identified below. 

Working with Children of Varying Ages
The Organization’s policies should be appropriately tailored to address Children’s varying age ranges, such as babies, younger Children, and older Children.      

INDICATORS COMMENTS
2.1 The Organization ensures that      Children are in an appropriate physical space that is well-lit, fully visible, and has controlled access.  Suggested Best Practice:

Ideally, bathrooms will include facilities designed for small Children.  Consider checking local/state licensing rules as far as amount of space needed per Child.

2.2  The Organization creates appropriate policies for access to a secure Children’s area and securely checking Children in and out of the program. Normally, attendance will be taken and kept as a record.
2.3  The Organization creates appropriate restroom policies, with diapering policies for babies and younger Children. Suggested Best Practice:

Organizational policies may state that adults should not be one-on-one with Children in a private space, and they may provide guidance about peers being together in the restroom.     

2.4  The Organization sets appropriate staffing ratios. Applicable local/state licensing rules should be used as a benchmark.
2.5  In addition to Child safety and abuse prevention training, the Organization will provide adequate hygiene and health training. Hygiene and health matters are of paramount importance and may be customized depending on Children’s age ranges (e.g., babies to be diapered, younger Children with toileting and other needs, older Children with more independence).
2.6  Organizational policies require that older Children working with younger Children are adequately trained and also supervised by an adult. 

     

Program Activities Available to Public
Program activities available to the public or otherwise beyond the Organization’s regular participants merit additional attention. 

2.7 Organizational policies include appropriate provision for events that may be open to the public, such as special seasonal programs. Suggested Best Practice:

Public-access events should be appropriately monitored just as with other Organizational activities, including clarification of when a Child’s parents remain responsible.

2.8 The Organization has a formal process for Children to register for events and programs. Such process should reflect similar safety precautions as used for regular attenders. 
2.9 The Organization’s policies address ministry use of picture and video images of Children. Suggested Best Practice: 

Such matters may be addressed through consent and waiver forms, disclaimers in bulletins, programs, and/or website statements.

 

Offsite Activities
Because offsite activities may involve different risks than onsite activities, the Organization should implement protocols that will protect Children from potential harm, adequately inform parents and guardians, and protect the Organization from liability.

INDICATORS COMMENTS
2.10 Organizational policies identify when ministry offsite activities must be pre-approved by designated leadership. Suggested Best Practices:

Such identification should include selection of any overnight accommodations.

2.11 Organizational policies require the following regarding notification of guardians prior to offsite activities: 

  • Parents/guardians will be notified of offsite events in writing (such as by email) prior to said events.
  • Parents/guardians will be advised of identified risks, precautions, sleeping arrangements, transportation, supervision, and other relevant information.
  • Parents/guardians must sign a waiver and release of liability as part of the permission form, including medical information/permission as needed.
Suggested Best Practices:

  • Parent/guardian notification should be provided at least one week in advance.

     

  • It is recommended that the Organization predetermine how to handle over-the-counter medications and prescription drugs.
  • Note that waivers and releases may not be legally enforceable with respect to Children, but they are nevertheless recommended as a Suggested Best Practice. Such forms can provide valuable information to families, deter potential adverse claims, and provide evidence of a knowing assumption of risk in any later litigation.     
  • An event-specific consent and waiver form is appropriate for each offsite trip/event, with particular identification of any notable risks or recommended precautions (e.g., strenuous exercise involved, safety equipment needed). A digital format may be used for the completed form.     
2.12 Organizational policies require the following regarding record retention when conducting offsite activities: 

  • Relevant forms must be accessible to those supervising offsite trips.
  • Documents are to be kept on file, in accordance with the Organization’s record retention policy.
Such information may be especially important for medical care authorizations and medication handling. Volunteers and staff should also be provided with all relevant contact information for carrying out offsite activities.
2.13 Organizational policies require the following regarding supervision (including overnight hospitality arrangements):

  • All activities are to be supervised by a minimum of two screened, trained adults. Children must not be left alone.
  • Ratios of adults to Children are adjusted appropriately for offsite trips and activities.
Suggested Best Practices:

  • The Organization may consider special arrangements to protect Children in particular circumstances, such as line-of-sight arrangements for bathroom facilities and sleeping rooms.
  • With respect to overnight hospitality arrangements, the Organization may require that adults in the host home complete screening and training for Child safety. See ECAP Accreditation Standards #3, “Screening” and #4, “Training” for additional detail. 
  • Other Suggested Best Practices for overnight hospitality arrangements include separating host home destinations by gender and age grouping and ensuring that sleeping arrangements are separate from the host household.

 

2.14 Organizational policies require the following regarding overnight activities:

  • Gender-appropriate supervision must be provided.
  • Children are not allowed to leave the overnight event. Any exceptions are noted on the signed permission form.
  • Adults traveling with the team must be screened and trained.
  • Sleeping areas must be separated by gender and age grouping.
  • A Child must not be left alone in hotel rooms.
  • An adult must not be alone with a minor in a room. 
Suggested Best Practices:

  • The Organization may have additional requirements, such as requiring supervising adults to be unrelated, or requiring that overnight activities with mixed genders must be supervised by at least two adults of opposite gender.
  • For common sleeping areas, an appropriate number of screened workers (at least two) should be assigned. This number will vary by type of Organization/event.     
  • For overnight stays, the Organization may decide that only women should      supervise girls and young women, and only men should supervise boys and young men. The Organization may also decide that if necessary, women may supervise groups of younger boys.     
  • The Organization should establish limits on age groupings for common sleeping, such as Children within a two-year age spread.     
  • The Organization may include in its policies that during overnight events, Children of the opposite sex should not be allowed in each other’s rooms or tents for any reason and should not be permitted to sleep in mixed company.
  • Depending on the situation, the Organization may decide that sleeping areas for Children should be separated from those of adults, and that staff and Volunteers will not sleep in the same bed with a Child unless it is a relative sharing a bed with the related Child. 
  • Some recommendations for housing include:
    • Booking rooms in one wing in hotel/motel; 
    • Encouraging parents to accompany group and stay as families;
    • Booking suites of more than one bedroom so that adults can stay in one room and Children in the other; 
    • Having rooms with adjoining doors with adults in one room and Children in the other. 
  • Note that applicable state and local laws may mandate parental screening and training.
2.15 Organizational policies require the following regarding transportation:

  • Parents are encouraged to drop off/pick up at the event location.
  • Policy should address ways to transport Children for Child safety.
  • Volunteers and staff who transport Children not related to them on behalf of the Organization are approved by leadership and are screened and trained for Child safety.
  • The Organization obtains a copy of a valid driver’s license and current vehicle insurance on file for each driver.
Suggested Best Practices:

  • Check with the Organization’s insurance company on transportation requirements.
  • Prohibit Children from being left alone in a vehicle and prohibit adults from being alone in a vehicle with a single Child not their own Child (with exceptions for medical emergencies).
  • No fewer than two screened and trained staff or Volunteers should be in each vehicle transporting Children; exceptions to this policy should only occur when leadership and parents are informed and there is more than one Child in the vehicle (avoiding isolation).     

     

  • Drivers should have at least five years of driving experience in good standing (as evidenced by a driver history check). 

     

2.16 Organizational policies require the following regarding Home Groups/Small Groups:

  • Small Groups must be approved by leadership.
  • Protocols must be in place to define who is responsible for supervising Children consistent with Child safety policies.      
  • Childcare workers must be trained and screened.
  • Parents must be notified of activities that Children will participate in, including games or any media that will be viewed.
Suggested Best Practices:

  • Organizational policy may state that for Small Groups, one of the following criteria are recommended:
    • When families attend with their Children, the parent is responsible for the care and supervision of his or her Child, whether the Child remains in the same room as the parent or in an alternative location in the home, or
    • Two screened adults are assigned to supervise the Children, one screened adult supervises while a second screened adult checks in frequently throughout the event.     
  • Potential safety issues arising interactions with older Children should be appropriately addressed.     
  • Organizational policy may state that for Small Groups, taking attendance and retaining attendance records is mandatory.

 

Parent / Guardian Orientation Communication
For parents/guardians, the Organization shall provide an orientation letter or similar communication (e.g., email) that provides information about Child abuse. A parent/legal guardian orientation communication clearly and concisely informs families of the Organization’s policies and procedures and communicates information to protect Children from abuse. This communication helps to build Child safety and trust with parents/guardians. 

INDICATORS COMMENTS
2.17 The Organization communicates via emailed letter or other formal communication to parents/guardians an overview of the Child Safety Program and how to educate their Children to prevent abuse. Suggested Best Practice: 

     

Such communication may include the Organization’s abuse reporting policy, offsite and social media policies, home visitation policy, and Code of Conduct.

2.18  The Organization maintains clear guidelines for specific information to be included in such communication. Suggested Best Practice:

The written communication may include: the definition of abuse, characteristics of the grooming behavior of predators, how to prevent abuse, how to respond and report abuse, how to discuss abuse with Children, information about bullying or cyberbullying, and contact information for the Organization.

2.19  The Organization documents templates and examples of high quality letters or other communications to parents. Suggested Best Practice:

     

Letter or other communication can include information about whom to contact if there are concerns.

 

Visibility and Monitoring in Facilities
The ability to see down a hallway, across a field, or into a window helps to ensure physical and emotional safety. The Organization will take reasonable measures to enhance the line of sight for staff and Volunteers to keep all activities in clear view and to increase lighting in dark areas or nooks where isolation, misconduct, and/or abuse is more likely to occur. In addition, the Organization will address security concerns. Internet and digital access will be appropriately controlled and monitored, as well as any images taken of Children.

2.20  The Organization ensures that all areas of the building are well-lit, with clear lines of sight and no dark areas to cause any obstruction.  Suggested Best Practices:

     

  • The Organization requires windows as appropriate, with guidelines as to appropriate privacy for the activity involved (e.g., clear, frosted, one-way mirror, or reflective).

     

  • The Organization implements safety measures, eliminating access to any potential hiding spots. This includes (but is not limited to) closets, empty rooms, under bleachers, restrooms, hedges, fences, signs, and using mirrors on walls around corners.  
2.21 The Organization addresses appropriate structure of bathroom areas for Child safety.
2.22  The Organization takes reasonable measures to monitor the premises.  Monitoring may take place with staff or Volunteers and/or with security cameras.
2.23 The Organization ensures that access to the Internet and other technology within the Organization are appropriately controlled to provide for the safety of Children. Use of technology will be properly monitored. Unauthorized recording/video/photography will not be permitted.
2.24 The Organization requires that any outside users, such as churches and other ministry groups, abide by similar safety policies and programs.        The Organization therefore should either make such expectations clear to outside users or confirm that such similar safety measures are in place for use of the Organization’s facilities.

 

Onsite Visitor Protocols
Organizations may have consultants, contractors, or other regular visitors who could potentially have access to Children, such as a music teacher, sports instructor, or other program Personnel. In addition, Organizations may have vendors that provide regularly scheduled deliveries, maintenance, or service on the Organization’s property. These vendors are not screened by the Organization but, by virtue of their services, could have access to Children. Organizations may have other facility visitors who could potentially have access to Children. To protect Children from potential harm from all such facility visitors, the Organization should have written protocols to follow.

2.25 The Organization’s policies address consultants, contractors, vendors, or other persons who regularly visit its facility while Children may be onsite.                 Suggested Best Practices:

  • The Organization communicates expected conduct, appearance, and any limitations on access within the property.     
  • The Organization requires such visitors to sign a statement acknowledging the protocol before beginning onsite work. Signed statements are maintained in the Organization’s files.   
  • The Organization provides appropriate identification (such as a badge or name tag) that will be worn at all times while visiting the facility.
  • The Organization obtains background checks for visitors who are regularly onsite for ministry activities involving Children.
  • The Organization identifies the designated areas of the property (including what bathroom facilities) that may be accessed.     
2.26  The Organization defines procedures for visitors who engage in ministry-activities involving Children. Suggested Best Practice:

Examples of such procedures may include: 

  • The visitor must sign in;
  • Appropriate training and screening are completed;
  • All necessary background checks are completed;
  • Visitors should never be alone with a Child who is not their close relative;
  • Participation in any organization-related activity requires prior authorization.

 

2.27  The Organization regulates other visitors’ access to Children.  Suggested Best Practice:     

     

Determine appropriate frequency of visiting; if frequent, further screening may be needed.

Visitors may include:

  • Parents/Guardians
  • General visitors
  • Speakers
2.28  The Organization has a process for signing in and identifying visitors. Suggested Best Practice:

Sign-in process may include:

  • Visitor sign-in sheets
  • Visitor name tags that must be worn at all times when at the facility
2.29 The Organization provides training to all Employees and Volunteers on how to identify visitors and make sure they comply with protocol. See comments for training requirements.  Suggested Best Practice:

Training may include:

  • How visitors should be identified, such as with visitor badges;
  • What to do when staff see someone without identification (e.g., stop them, then escort them or ask someone else to escort them to the identified location for visitor check-in);  
  • Unauthorized visitors are not allowed to be in contact with Children.
2.30  The Organization defines procedures for checking Children in and out, with sign-in and check-out procedures appropriate for each age level. The Organization’s signage indicates appropriate locations to pick up and drop off Children. Staff and Volunteers are trained to know appropriate locations and procedures for pick up and drop off.
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Screening Standard

The Organization shall develop and implement a detailed screening process for Employees and Volunteers that includes a written application, waiting period, personal interview (or other sufficient personal interaction), reference checks, and a background check from a reputable provider. If at any point in the screening process, prior unlawful or immoral activity is uncovered, the Organization shall deal with the applicant based on clearly defined thresholds for disqualification. 

Indicators & Comments

Screening Process
Careful vetting of Employees and Volunteers is critical for screening out potential Perpetrators.  

INDICATORS COMMENTS
3.1  The Organization has written policies and procedures that document the screening process applied to Employees and Volunteers.
3.2  The Organization screens all Volunteers and Employees whether they have access to and/or control of Children or not, based on all appropriate factors. ECAP’s Role/Risk Assessment tool may be helpful to evaluate an applicant’s screening materials within the context of his/her expected responsibilities and trustworthiness.

Suggested Best Practices:

  • The Organization may decide to require that Children who are hired or Volunteer must go through the application and reference process. Note that a background check requirement may not apply due to typical confidentiality of Children’s criminal background information. 
  • As part of the screening process, the Organization may include methods to determine whether its Employees and Volunteers meet the spiritual standards required to serve.

 

Volunteer Waiting Period
Predators will often look for the path of least resistance to gain access to Children. By requiring a waiting period for Volunteers, the Organization may deter predators. A waiting period provides the Organization with more first-hand experience with the prospective Volunteer, offering insight into a prospective Volunteer’s gifts, character, behavior, and proclivities. 

INDICATORS COMMENTS
3.3 The Organization maintains a stated policy addressing how long a prospective Volunteer must be associated with the Organization before being allowed to work with Children. The appropriate waiting period may depend on the needs of the ministry.  Suggested Best Practices for Volunteers:

  • Six-Month Rule—A new regular attendee is required to attend services or gatherings at least once a month. The six-month rule allows at least six opportunities to observe this individual.
  • Three-Month Rule—Similar to the above, but within a three-month period, this alternative Three-Month Rule may be appropriate for church plants and fast-growing ministries to balance the need for Volunteers. More frequent attendance may also be required.
  • Independent references from a prior church or affiliated ministry immediately before attending the Organization may reduce the need for a full waiting period if the church or affiliated ministry is similar in beliefs and structure or is of the same denomination.
  • It may be an option for someone to shadow an authorized worker under their direct supervision for the waiting period, or part of it.

 

Applications
The Organization must use a formal, written application for those who may work with Children, including Employees, Volunteers, and independent contractors. Application includes questions about the applicant, references for character, work habits, personal life, and work history. 

INDICATORS COMMENTS
3.4 The Organization provides training to those responsible for handling applications, screening, and interviews.
3.5 The Organization’s written application calls for full information on legal name and current address, as well as places of residence for at least the previous five (5) years. The applicant’s identity is to be verified by checking a government-issued photo ID.

     

Suggested Best Practice:

The Organization may retain a copy of the applicant’s photo ID as part of the application materials.

3.6 The Organization’s written application calls for the applicant’s work history and Volunteer history for at least the previous five (5) years, including but not limited to the following information:

  • Name and address of Organizations where applicant worked or Volunteered;
  • Name, phone, and email address of supervisors;
  • Nature of work/Volunteer position;
  • Duration of Employment/Volunteering; and reason for leaving.
3.7 The Organization’s written application requires two to four professional and personal reference checks. Suggested Best Practices:

 

  • The Organization may require the applicant to sign a waiver of liability so that the reference can answer questions candidly. 
  • The Organization may ask for the following references (with name, address, phone, and email):
    • Professional reference (current or former supervisor, supervisor of Volunteer activities, co-worker, person in the same field);
    • Personal reference (pastor, friend, teacher, coach);
    • Reference from a family member (though this may not be reliable in some cases); or
    • Reference from a person of the opposite sex. 
  • The Organization may further ask a reference for the applicant’s provided reference, as an additional safeguard and to avoid insularity.
3.8 The Organization’s written application calls for other relevant information related to spiritual character, including questions about use of pornography, sexual morality, and substance abuse. Alternatively, such areas may be addressed through the interview process.  Suggested Best Practices include the following:

  • Moral history disclosures may be requested consistent with Indicators on Negative History.
  • The application may include relevant questions regarding areas that could indicate a potential risk to Children.
  • The Organization’s religious ethos may also influence the scope and type of questions.

Note too that some states and localities have “ban the box” and similar laws that prohibit pre-employment inquiries about criminal backgrounds. These laws apply only to Employees, not Volunteers. For Organizations in such jurisdictions, inquiries may be made only after an Employee is hired. A satisfactory result should be a condition for continued employment with the Organization. (This issue is similar to Employee drug testing.)

3.9 The Organization uses a standard set of questions in reference checks. The Organization will evaluate responses from references for red flags. Suggested Best Practice:

Prepared questions for references may include the following:

  • How long have you known this applicant?
  • What is your relationship to this applicant?
  • Would you be comfortable placing your Children in the care of this applicant?
  • Have you ever heard of or known the applicant to use harsh and/or abusive language with a Child?
  • Is this person stable and spiritually mature in interactions with others, with a reliable character? 
  • Do you feel this applicant has the ability to follow rules and guidelines?
  • Would you work with this applicant again?
  • Are you aware of the applicant having any traits or tendencies that could pose a threat to Children or others?
  • Are you aware of any reason why the applicant should not work with Children or others?
  • Is there anything in the applicant’s lifestyle or past that would call into question his or her ability to work with Children or others?
  • Anything else you would like to share about this applicant?

 

Personal Interviews
A personal interview allows the Organization to get a sense of the Worker’s general well-being and spiritual state. While the application has factual data, the interview shows personality traits and allows a conversation about the applicant’s answers on the application. This is also a good place to talk about job expectations and responsibilities, review the policies and procedures of the Organization, and answer questions from the applicant. An interview should always be done by trained and authorized ministry leaders. Interviews should be the rule, not the exception, as noted below.

INDICATORS COMMENTS
3.10  The Organization maintains a standard set of questions to be used in interviews, with a follow-up interview based on any possible “red flags” or problem areas identified in application, reference checks, or initial interview.  The ECAP Screening Questionnaire Resource may be a helpful tool in fulfilling this Indicator. 

Suggested Best Practice:

The following may be considered “red flags” to be followed with further questions:

  • Inaccurate, incomplete information or gaps in employment or Volunteer history;
  • Unstable work history (short duration/abrupt departure/multiple states);      
  • Vague or evasive answers or questions;     
  • Volunteer/work history that has centered on a certain age and/or gender of Children.
3.11  The Organization trains Personnel to identify red flag behaviors, patterns, and characteristics of potential Perpetrators using Advanced Screening Techniques.  The ECAP Screening Questionnaire Resource may be a helpful tool in fulfilling this Indicator. 

Suggested Best Practice:

The interviewer might use follow-up inquiries to address any “red flags” raised by the responses on the application.

3.12  The Organization maintains accurate records of interviews, including time and location, names of people in the interview, general notes from the interview, and answers to a standard set of questions.
3.13 The Organization provides for exceptions to personal interviews in limited circumstances. Suggested Best Practice:

Exceptions to the personal interview requirement may be appropriate when all the above-listed interview goals have been met by other means, such as through the applicant’s long-standing involvement with the Organization, his/her close relationship with the interviewer or other leadership, or through other verification of the applicant’s suitability for service and clear understanding of expectations and Organizational policies and procedures. If the Organization does not carry out an interview, a Suggested Best Practice is that the reasons for not doing so be noted in writing as part of an applicant’s screening materials.

 

Background and Reference Checks
The Organization must take affirmative steps to exclude persons unsuitable for Children’s ministry work (including prior sex offenders) from access to Children, including conducting a background check. However, there is no universal background check for all jurisdictions. Background screening providers rely on various authorities and databases. Not all are equally reliable. The Organization should evaluate the type of background check required based on a particular Employee or Volunteer’s role. A background screening provider should offer different screening options based on the Organization’s unique needs. The Organization should also ensure that the background screening provider has a reputable history with a reliable database. Reference checks from past places of employment or Volunteer work may be particularly helpful for assessing Child safety matters, preferably with accompanying applicant waivers to promote candid disclosure of information.

INDICATORS COMMENTS
3.14 The Organization documents its vetting and selection of a reputable background screening provider. Suggested Best Practice

Background check providers may be found through an attorney or consultant referral. Here are some guiding questions when screening a background check provider:

  • Does the provider have a robust menu of services (different levels of background checks based on Personnel needs)?
  • Does the provider understand ministry needs (such as access given to Volunteers)?
  • What is the cost? Low cost providers may not have a robust database.
  • How user friendly are the online portal and request forms?
  • What is the average turnaround time for a background check?
  • What additional resources does the provider offer (risk management resources, webinars, etc.)?
  • Is the provider compliant with the Fair Credit Reporting Act?
  • Is the provider accredited by the Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA)?
3.15 The Organization requires background checks for all Employees, regardless of position or level of access to Children, to be carried out by an external  provider rather than carried out internally. Different positions may require different levels of background checks.  Suggested Best Practice:

One approach is for the Organization to implement a multi-level background check system based on a risk assessment for different roles. Depending on the level of the background check, the system may include a national background check, local county background check, Child Protective Services (depending on state law), and sex offender registry look-up. Background checks may be required under state law as well. Background checks can also be evaluated for span of time checked (e.g., a decade or longer).     

3.16 The Organization requires background checks for each Volunteer who works with or has access to Children. Different roles may require different levels of background checks.  See above comment. 
3.17 The Organization requires all Employees and Volunteers subject to a background check to complete an authorization form that is legally compliant.  Suggested Best Practices:

  • The Organization may ensure that the authorization form reflects consent for the scope of anticipated background check information (e.g., criminal background check only, criminal background plus reference checks).
  • The Organization may include a section of its policies stating that a credit history check should be considered appropriate only for positions involving financial responsibilities.

Note that the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) may apply to providers’ background checks and therefore may involve additional implications. Background checks may cover a broad range of personal information including criminal history, character, reputation, mode of living, and related creditworthiness aspects.

3.18 The Organization requires all background checks to be renewed within three to five (5) years, but also places an obligation on Employees and Volunteers to update their information.  Suggested Best Practice:

For Employees and Volunteers, the Organization may require an annual renewal application requesting information regarding any arrests or convictions within the prior year. Failing to disclose may be cause for disciplinary action including termination of service. It is recommended that the Organization make sure to comply with state laws about criminal history in implementing such a requirement.

 

Negative History
The Organization must take added measures to ensure that those with access to Children do not have a known history for certain types of unlawful activity; for example, assault, abuse, or sexual offenses. In addition, if an unlawful act does not fall within strict disqualification thresholds, the Organization should have clear protocols for how to further assess the candidate for further eligibility consideration.

INDICATORS COMMENTS
3.19 The Organization maintains thresholds for disqualifying candidates from access to Children who have a negative screening/application. Negative screening/application results may be based on prior immoral or unlawful acts.  Suggested Best Practice:

The Organization may decide that the following criminal convictions or established actions (may vary depending on jurisdiction) be considered as automatically disqualifying:

  • Child abuse, sexual or otherwise;
  • Abduction, murder, or manslaughter;
  • Incest;
  • Sexual assault;      
  • Any offense listed as disqualifying in the legal jurisdiction; and     
  • Pornography use.
3.20 The Organization maintains policies and procedures for evaluating application/screening results based on the circumstances. The Organization should distinguish between automatic disqualifiers and offenses that require further evaluation. Suggested Best Practice:

The Organization may decide that the following criteria be included when evaluating someone’s history and suitability for working with Children.

  • The relevance of the conviction(s) or history to the duties and responsibilities of working with Children;
  • The candidate’s employment history since the Negative History or other information;
  • Circumstances surrounding the conviction(s) or Negative History;
  • Age at which the conviction(s) or Negative History occurred;
  • Length of time since the conviction(s) or Negative History occurred;
  • Whether there are multiple indicators that point to an ongoing pattern of behavior;
  • Evidence of rehabilitation;
  • Evaluation of current spiritual fitness; and
  • Any other mitigating circumstances.
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Training Standard

The Organization shall provide training for all Employees and Volunteers who work with Children, as well as bystanders in the general ministry setting. This training shall comply with state laws, regulations, and minimum requirements, as well as offer guidelines for reporting and responding to Child safety violations. Employees and Volunteers who work directly with Children shall be trained on appropriate limits and controls for any contact with Children outside of ministry activities.

Indicators & Comments

Child Abuse Training
Studies show the negative impact of abuse and Child Neglect on Child development. Children who experience abuse suffer the effects physically, emotionally, socially, academically, and spiritually. They are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression and struggle to develop healthy relationships. It is critical that the Organization provide training to equip all Employees and Volunteers to understand how to protect the safety of all Children.

Employees and Volunteers must be properly trained to recognize abuse (causes, signs, and symptoms of abuse), and their legal and moral duty to report known or suspected Child abuse.

INDICATORS COMMENTS
4.1 The Organization maintains a written policy and provides training on the topics listed in this ECAP Standard from a qualified and knowledgeable trainer to all Employees and Volunteers working with Children. This indicator includes age-appropriate training for Workers who are Children. Training may take place in person or by multimedia/video. 
4.2 The Organization has a written policy regarding a schedule of mandatory training for all Employees and Volunteers surrounding Child abuse, including first-time training and periodic refresher training. The Organization ensures that Employees and Volunteers are made aware of handbooks and policies. The Organization keeps a record of attendance and participation in necessary training. Suggested Best Practices:

  • The Organization may require that first-time training covers the following: Child abuse awareness, definitions of abuse, physical and behavioral indicators, legal requirements under state statutes, reporting and response, how to identify areas of risk, mitigating risk, protection protocols, and documentation requirements. Refresher training might cover similar topics but go into more depth on particular areas.
  • The Organization may require those seeking to work with Children to shadow a seasoned leader for a period of time before serving fully.
  • The Organization may require that failure to meet mandatory training requirements will disqualify Workers from working with Children.
4.3 The Organization maintains a written policy on Child abuse (sexual, physical, emotional, neglect) and provides training on causes, signs, symptoms, and effects on victims (psychological, behavioral, and environmental). Victims of abuse often suffer from these and other issues: an inability to trust, affecting relationships; feelings of guilt, anger, and low self-esteem; a tendency toward alcohol and drug abuse; eating disorders; and suicidal thoughts, attempts, and suicide risk.
4.4 The Organization has a written policy and training that educates Employees regarding physical and behavioral signs that could be indicators of abuse (or of other problems the Child is experiencing) and how to respond. Suggested Best Practice:

The Organization may consider health and safety training and mental health training for its Employees, particularly related to suicide ideation. 

4.5 The Organization maintains Code of Conduct defining sexual or abuse-related offenses as unacceptable, including clear spiritual standards. The Organization has a written policy and provides training on expected conduct for maintaining acceptable boundaries with and among Children, as well as between Employees and Volunteers, including the following topics:

  • Appropriate and inappropriate touch;
  • Appropriate and inappropriate communication between an adult Employee/Volunteer and a Child;
  • Avoiding one-on-one interaction in a private space with a Child not one’s close relative;
  • Three rules for self-protection: to recognize inappropriate behavior, resist uncomfortable situations, report when the Child feels unsafe;
  • Boundaries and personal space for all Employees and staff.
Suggested Best Practices:

  • Code of Conduct may also address the following issues: appropriate communication, offsite or overnight trips, ratio of adults to Children, photography, social media, supervision, health and safety, and transportation.
  • The Organization may decide to include parameters on appropriate touching in its Code of Conduct. Such language may include the following: Interactions such as high-fives, side hugs, and pats on the shoulder or head are generally appropriate when done in front of others. Front hugs are never appropriate and hugs in isolation from others are not appropriate. Touching a child on the areas covered by a swimsuit is not appropriate unless for needed hygiene (for a small Child or a Child with disability) or medical care. Holding a very small Child (below age five) in the arms or on the lap is appropriate in a public area, especially when initiated by the Child. Adults generally should not carry or hold on their lap Children of five and up who are not their close relatives. 
  • Organization may establish parameters on appropriate communication between peers and for adults to Children. Policy language may include the following: Child peers should not engage in cursing, vulgarity, bullying, sexual innuendo, or sexual comments – whether in person, via social media, texting, or other means. In addition to these rules, adults should not comment on the bodies of Children or make overly personal comments on personal appearance. 
  • The Organization may establish parameters on adult supervision of Children. Policy language may include the following: Two or more screened, trained, and unrelated workers, one of whom is an adult, should be present when working with Children: this is referred to as the Rule of Two. In some settings, like teaching a class, there may be one adult present with two or more Children, but the door is open and a roaming adult worker checks the class regularly. For activities such as counseling sessions, the sessions can take place in a space where the session is visible (such as through glass) and at times when other adults are around and periodically monitoring the session. Adults should avoid being alone with a Child not related to them except in cases of emergency.
  • Organizations may also check with their insurer to see if additional requirements apply. 
4.6. The Organization has written policies and training to educate Employees on Child abuse reporting. Suggested Best Practice:

Training and policies on Child abuse reporting may include:

  • How to obtain an appropriate but minimal amount of information from a Child;
  • How to ensure a Child’s immediate safety;
  • Grooming techniques towards Children and caregivers;
  • Legal requirements regarding Mandated Reporting and any doctrinal position on clergy confidentiality;
  • Reporting process for external reporting and internal reporting within the Organization;
  • Timeline for filing the report;
  • How to document any reports filed;
  • System of confidential record-keeping regarding Child abuse reporting;
  • How to file a report (names and numbers); and
  • Cooperation with law enforcement.
4.7 The Organization has a written policy demonstrating the consequences for failing to report, and for failure to maintain supervision in working with Children.
4.8 The Organization maintains a Zero Tolerance policy for Child Sexual Abuse. The Organization will terminate any Employee or Volunteer who is a Child Sexual Abuse offender who has admitted to, had a finding of, or been convicted of Child Sexual Abuse. Suggested Best Practice:

Every Employee or Volunteer at the Organization signs a child safety Code of Conduct that acknowledges if he or she is terminated for a violation of the Child safety policy, that future prospective Employers and other organizations where a person may serve may be advised of such reason for termination.

4.9 The Organization’s Child safety policy describes disciplinary action/responses for violations, whether for sexual abuse, other types of abuse, or other harm to a Child.  Disciplinary consequences for violations not involving Child Sexual Abuse are at the Organization’s discretion. 

Suggested Best Practice:

Discipline for repeat violations could be progressive, such as starting with training/coaching, verbal reprimands, written reprimands, suspension, termination, or combinations of the above – and all documented in Personnel and Volunteer files.

 

Additional Ethical Considerations
The Organization’s leadership, staff, and Volunteers must understand the Organization’s mission and ethics. All ethical aspects should be solidly grounded in biblical principles. The Organization’s Workers should operate with shared integrity, in order to build and promote trust, reduce conflict, and honor the Lord. 

INDICATORS COMMENTS
4.10  The Organization provides training that addresses ethical considerations as well as legal compliance.  Ethical considerations are broader in scope than any particular indicator as identified through ECAP standards, with a transcending overall importance

beyond mere surface compliance with specified accreditation standards. The word “ethics,” as used in this Standard, refers to the moral principles that govern a person’s behavior or activities.    

4.11 The Organization’s training materials emphasize the importance of being proactive with Child safety, as opposed to reactive.
4.12 The Organization’s training materials address the danger of rationalizing or otherwise excusing unethical behavior. Suggested Best Practice:

The Organization may require that its training materials encompass questionable situations that may go beyond specific prohibitions (e.g., no touching genital areas) to broader ethics-and-Bible-based principles (e.g., avoid temptation, and treat each person with respect).

4.13 The Organization provides training that includes biblical sexual ethics.  Suggested Best Practice:

The Organization may require that its training materials define sexuality and the nature of sexual sin from a biblical perspective. Such language would exist not only to communicate basic standards of ethical behavior but to build strong Christian character.

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Response Standard

The Organization shall have written policies and procedures, including a full incident response plan, which shall outline the proper methods and timing for reporting abuse allegations to all those who should have any knowledge of an incident.

Indicators & Comments

Incident Response Plan
Organizations that serve Children must be prepared to respond to allegations of abuse, whether they stem from outside the Organization or within. An Incident Response Plan, which identifies roles and responsibilities of the response team, enables the Organization to respond quickly, with accuracy, and with optimal care.

INDICATORS COMMENTS
5.1 The Organization’s Response Plan is written and identifies how to address relations directly with the Victims, families, and others impacted by the incident. Suggested Best Practice:

Internal roles and responsibilities of a crisis management team to respond during a crisis situation may include:

  • Advocacy Member to relate directly with the Victims and families impacted by the crisis;
  • Executive Member to coordinate all internal and external efforts of the team;
  • Project Manager to support the team through administrative efforts to organize, track and report information; 
  • Child Safety Coordinator; and
  • Communications Spokesperson (See also ECAP Standard #1, “Governance”).
5.2 The Organization’s Response Plan identifies how to coordinate all internal and external efforts, including insurance notification and attorney communications (e.g., through an executive staff member), and to support the team through administrative efforts to organize, track, and report information (e.g., through the Child Safety Coordinator). Suggested Best Practices:

  • The Organization may require its Response Plan to identify insurance protocols, including ready access to insurance representative and understanding of insurance coverage (including legal defense, Employee practices liability, coverage for Volunteers, directors’ and officers’ liability, and sexual misconduct). 
  • The Organization may require maintaining an attorney-client relationship with knowledgeable and experienced legal counsel, to advise as needed on Mandated Reporter obligations, scope and applicability of clergy privilege, safety of the Victim and/or Accused, employment matters, communications with other Organization members and staff, media relations, and other publicity considerations.
5.3 The Organization’s Response Plan identifies how to handle communications for the Organization, including protocols for providing updates to Organizational members and other stakeholders. Suggested Best Practices:

  • The Organization may require its Employees to work with its attorney, its primary spokesperson, and possibly a public relations consultant, in order to address internal communications (e.g., with the congregation or ministry programs) and external communications such as with government investigators and the media.
  • The Organization may require that communications with the Organization’s members and other stakeholders should generally be made on a “need to know” basis, and otherwise per legal advice as warranted.
5.4 The Organization’s Response Plan identifies how to handle internal communications for the Organization’s members and other stakeholders, generally on a “need to know” messaging and distribution basis, and working with the Organization’s attorney as warranted.
5.5 The Organization’s Response Plan identifies compliance measures for potential criminal and civil investigations, such as through a written Records Retention policy, confidentiality protocols, protection of attorney-client privilege, and cooperation with authorities.

 

Receiving and Making Reports
Providing multiple ways to report disclosures, allegations, or other suspicions encourages people who may be reluctant or shy. However, all reports should be funneled to the Child Safety Coordinator or other designated person, which will ensure that the Organization becomes aware of multiple reports against the same alleged offender. It also helps to ensure that the proper response process is carried out effectively.

Additionally, most jurisdictions have mandatory reporting laws in regard to Child abuse. Failure to report to law enforcement or Child Protective Services may constitute a civil or criminal offense. Reporting must be done promptly to comply with applicable law. Mandatory reporting laws require certain categories of persons to report Child abuse to authorities within a limited period after receiving information that abuse has occurred (e.g., “reasonable suspicion” or other reporting thresholds, per applicable state law). The laws vary considerably by jurisdiction with respect to persons covered, time for reporting, and definitions. 

INDICATORS COMMENTS
5.6 The Organization identifies a thoroughly vetted and trained individual as the designated Child Safety Coordinator (along with a designated backup Child Safety Coordinator), who will be responsible for receiving all suspicions and disclosure of allegations in regard to abuse of a Child. Suggested Best Practice:

Some Organizations may use a Child Safety Team, which may be led by the designated Child Safety Coordinator. The allocation of responsibility may vary if the alleged offender is one of the persons on the Child Safety Team or within leadership. Such responsibility would be in addition to any Mandated Reporter obligations that may be owed by individuals to report to government child welfare agencies.

5.7 The Organization notifies its Employees and Volunteers about the various channels available to report suspicions to the Child Safety Coordinator. Suggested Best Practices:

  • Notification may occur through training, postings in public and visible locations in the Organization, website information, and the distribution of the Organization’s abuse prevention policy.
  • Methods of reporting may vary and may include the following: a verbal report to the Child Safety Coordinator, any other trained adult, an online report, access to a hotline or toll-free number, or a receptacle to receive written reports.
5.8 The Organization requires the Child Safety Coordinator to support reporting all instances of suspected abuse to the appropriate authorities, either making or assisting to make such reports, and consulting with legal counsel if needed. Incident Response Plan makes clear that an individual Mandated Reporter will still have independent reporting responsibilities. Failure to report by a Mandated Reporter may give rise to criminal and civil penalties for Organization Personnel. This can be the case even if reports are made but not promptly enough. In some cases, a report is not mandated in the jurisdiction because the Victim is now an adult. For criminal allegations involving Victims who are now adults, a report may still be appropriate.

Suggested Best Practices:

The Organization may take steps to ensure that Employees and Volunteers are aware that since the majority of abuse takes place in the home, they may need to report intra-family abuse or neglect.

5.9 The Organization requires the Child Safety Coordinator to document the child safety response. All such documentation will be kept in a secure file. Confidentiality is required for all Child safety matters.
5.10 The Organization identifies the legal duties of its officers, Employees, and Volunteers to report suspected abuse, as well as the applicable legal standard giving rise to such a duty.  Some jurisdictions impose a duty to report Child abuse on everyone, while in other jurisdictions only certain classes of persons are Mandated Reporters (e.g., childcare providers, healthcare workers, teachers, etc.). 

Also, be aware that some reports may need to be made outside of jurisdiction, even internationally, or they may need to be made to licensing boards or other entities.

5.11 The Organization clearly defines the differences between mandatory reporting and non-mandatory, moral/ethical reporting, and clearly provides for both, based on additional spiritual, moral, and ethical concerns.  Not everyone is a Mandated Reporter. While only Mandated Reporters are legally obligated, individuals may report suspected or known Child abuse to government authorities.

Suggested Best Practice:

Organizations may consider adopting a policy of reporting even if someone is not a Mandated Reporter.

5.12 The Organization addresses confessional or clergy-penitent confidentiality, including any applicable doctrinal statements, whether applicable law provides any relevant exemptions to reporting requirements for clergy, the importance of consulting with legal counsel for specific situations, and appropriate steps for clergy who are bound by confidentiality laws to encourage confessing offenders to self-report to authorities or to encourage Victims to disclose. Clergy are Mandated Reporters in almost all jurisdictions, with some statutory exceptions for the confessional or clergy-penitent privilege. Jurisdictions vary considerably in how they treat the clergy-penitent privilege in the context of mandatory reporting. Some jurisdictions abolish the privilege completely as applied to Child abuse, others restrict it only to sacramental confession like that practiced in more liturgical traditions like Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, and some have a broader exception. 

A helpful resource is Christianity Today’s Church & Clergy Tax 50-state guide on mandatory child abuse reporting and clergy privilege.  See https://www.churchlawandtax.com/web/50-state-child-abuse-reporting-laws/

5.13 If the Organization is a church, it defines its confessional or clergy-penitent privilege doctrinally and in policy so that both clergy and those confiding understand the limits of confidentiality. Even in jurisdictions that recognize the applicability of the clergy-penitent privilege as an exception to Child abuse reporting requirements, the exception may not apply for organizations that do not have a clear and formalized doctrinal commitment to clerical confession or other clergy confidentiality. Note too that confidentiality may not apply if a third non-clergy person is present during a communication (e.g., an elder or deacon). Confer with legal counsel regarding specific situations. 

 

Insurance Reporting
Organizations have a contractual obligation to report suspected losses to their insurance provider within a reasonable period of time or risk the possibility of a denial of coverage. In addition to covering potential settlement demands, insurance may also provide the Organization with additional covered services such as legal and media assistance and communication planning.

5.14 The Organization’s policy is to maintain records of insurance policies and claims information permanently and securely, as part of the Organization’s Record Retention policy.  Insurance policy coverage types and amounts should be sufficient for the risks involved with the Organization’s program activities and facilities, based on recommendations from the Organization’s insurance provider.
5.15 The Organization’s insurance policy provides for formal and verifiable notification to the insurance provider of an abuse incident, along with notification to the Organization’s attorney and other appropriate follow-up steps to protect the Organization. Consistent with such policy, the insurance carrier should be notified whenever there is a threat of litigation, a demand, an allegation of abuse is reported or otherwise discovered, or reporting obligations arise under the policy. Suggested Best Practices:

  • It is recommended that the Organization be prepared to cooperate fully with the insurance carrier in handling any claims. In the event of a claim, the Organization’s legal representation to defend such a claim may be provided or otherwise approved by the insurance carrier, as requested by the Organization or designated by the insurance carrier. It is recommended that care be taken to protect attorney-client privilege throughout all insurance coverage processes.
  • Organization may require that its Employees refrain from making settlement offers to claimants without getting authorization from its insurance carrier, as such settlements may not be honored and may affect insurance coverage.

 

Organizational Investigation
The Organization may need to sponsor an investigation, perhaps in consultation with an attorney knowledgeable in Child abuse and such investigations. Such investigation is apart from or in addition to any investigation carried out by law enforcement or Child Protective Services, and could be needed       when such government investigation does not happen or presents an insufficient result for the Organization’s need. An Organization’s investigation may be of varying scope and extent, internally carried out, or possibly referred to an independent investigation. The following Indicators address such matters on a preliminary basis, for purposes of the Organization’s accreditation process. Additional guidance regarding investigations is contained in the ECAP “Handling an Investigation” Best Practices document.

5.16 The Organization’s policy provides for investigation from law enforcement or Child Protective Services as taking priority over an Organizational investigation. Suggested Best Practice:

It is recommended that the Organization work with law enforcement or social services if needed at any point in the investigative process, usually upon advice from their legal counsel.

5.17 The Organization’s policy addresses specific parameters for its own investigation, whether internal or independent, such as to care for Victims, address offenders, mitigate risk, and develop written reports for all investigations. See ECAP’s accompanying “Handling an Investigation” Resource for additional detail.

Suggested Best Practices:

The investigation’s goals may include the following: follow facts objectively and avoid bias; create no further emotional harm; protect possible Victims; provide justice and due process for possible offenders; avoid legal liability for the Organization; and make findings to a preponderance of the evidence.      

     

The assistance of experts, such as Victim assistance experts, Child forensic interviewers or forensic psychologists, may also be warranted.

     

Results of the investigation may be memorialized in writing and presented to the Organization’s board to make final determinations about next steps and discipline if necessary.

5.18 The Organization’s policy provides for leadership decision-making about interim operations and Personnel leave options, pending any investigation. Suggested Best Practice:

The Organization may decide to include policy language stating that if the Accused individual is a leader in the Organization, the Accused should be put on administrative leave (paid or unpaid, depending on all circumstances). Factors to consider when making such leave determination include: will allowing the Accused to continue to perform his or her duties expose Children to harm or the Organization to liability? Do the Accused and the complainant need to be separated? Usually paid leave is not an adverse employment action for legal purposes, though unpaid leave could be.

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Definitions

Definitions provide the context to communicate ideal standards for child protection. For purposes of these ECAP standards, the following definitions apply. Please note that specific states may prescribe different definitions for legal purposes, so applicable laws should always be identified for legal compliance purposes.

Accused: An individual who has been identified as the alleged perpetrator of an incident.

Advanced Screening Techniques: Methods by which staff and volunteers are thoroughly vetted to identify perpetrator patterns and detect red flags or indicators to exclude individuals who will create an unacceptable risk if placed in positions that offer access to vulnerable people.

Agreement to Standards: Written consent from individuals working with children in any way to be bound to specific standards.

Child: A person who is under eighteen years old, and sometimes also known as a “minor”; the plural is children.

Child Emotional Abuse: Child emotional abuse “is a repeated pattern of parental or caregiver behavior that communicates to the child that he or she is worthless, unloved, unwanted, or endangered. This behavior can impair a child’s emotional development or sense of self-worth. It may include constant criticism, threats, rejection, or the withholding of love, support, or guidance.” (1)

Child Neglect: Child neglect “is usually defined by omissions in care that may result in significant harm or the risk of significant harm and is characterized by the failure of a parent or caregiver to provide for the child’s basic needs. Examples of neglect include physical neglect such as the failure to provide necessary food, shelter, or supervision; medical neglect such as the failure to provide necessary medical or mental health treatment; educational neglect such as the failure to educate a child or attend to his or her special education needs; and emotional neglect such as inattention to a child’s emotional needs or psychological care or letting the child use alcohol or drugs.”

Child Physical Abuse: “Child physical abuse is non-accidental physical injury that is inflicted by a parent, caregiver, or other person who has responsibility for the child. Such injury is considered abuse regardless of whether or not the caregiver intended to hurt the child and can result from severe discipline or physical punishment that is inappropriate to the child’s age or condition. Physical abuse may occur as the result of a single episode or of repeated episodes and can range in severity from minor marks and bruising to death.” (2) A non-accidental physical injury does not include appropriate medical care, appropriate restraints, or appropriate discipline.

Child Safety Coordinator: Person responsible for managing child safety at the organization.

Child Safety Program: The combination of governance, oversight, policies, committees, and operations that work together to ensure child safety and response within the organization.

Child Sexual Abuse: “Child sexual abuse generally refers to sexual acts, sexual exploitation, or sexually motivated behaviors involving children. It includes both touching offenses, such as fondling or sexual

intercourse, and non-touching offenses, such as exposing a child to pornographic materials. It can also involve varying degrees of violence and emotional trauma.” (3) State laws typically define this term similarly.

Code of Conduct: A set of biblically based rules or guidelines for behavior in a specific context. For example, an organization should have a Code of Conduct for employees and volunteers during the period that they work with or volunteer for the organization.  

Compliance Audit: Comprehensive review of an organization’s adherence to ECAP’s accreditation standards, including evaluation of the strength and thoroughness of compliance preparations, policies, and risk management procedures.

Defamation. A false statement of fact (not opinion) that injures another person, and it may be written (libel) or spoken (slander), which is actionable as a civil tort (wrong). Truth is a defense. 

Defendant: An individual or organization accused of wrongdoing in a court of law in a criminal or civil case.

Employees: Employees are individuals who have been hired by representatives of the organization and receive compensation to perform duties for the organization.

Founded: A report of child abuse where there has been a judicial adjudication finding that a subject child has been abused, or Child Protective Services determines that there has been abuse. See also “substantiated” below. 

Independent Service Provider (ISP): An independent contractor, vendor, or non-employee, or volunteer who is providing a service or outsourced function for the organization.

Interview: A discussion with an individual to gather information and evidence regarding an allegation. If a child is interviewed, the interview should be carried out by a trained child welfare professional who specializes in gathering information from children as part of a larger investigative process and potentially for use in a legal setting. This is called a forensic interview.

Mandated Reporter: A person who is legally obligated to report suspected or known child abuse, as provided by state or other applicable laws, and typically arising out of the person’s professional training or specific responsibilities (e.g., a nurse, doctor, social worker, or more broadly as identified in some state laws).

Perpetrator, Offender: An individual who is determined to have carried out a harmful act (often by means of a criminal act).

Personnel: Volunteers, independent contractors, or employees who work for an organization.

Plaintiff: A person who brings a civil case against another individual or organization in a court of law. 

Premises Monitor: An individual who walks around the facility and checks to make sure things on the premise are running smoothly.

Reporter, Complainant: A person who makes a report about an allegation. 

Reporting System: A process or procedure used to facilitate reports of child abuse. This system should clearly identify who in the system is responsible for reporting accusations, tracking accusations, and passing information along to other decision makers. 

Role/Risk Assessment, Threat Level Score: An organization evaluates staff positions or roles that may pose a greater threat to minors because of their amount of access and control within the organization and heightens child safety requirements accordingly.

Rule of Two: Generally, there should be at least two unrelated persons (an adult and another adult or a responsible teenager) with one child. 

Sexual Abuse: According to federal law, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), sexual abuse is defined as the “employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of any child to engage in, or assist any other person to engage in, any sexually explicit conduct or simulation of such conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct” and the “rape, and in cases of caretaker or inter-familial relationships, statutory rape, molestation, prostitution, or other form of sexual exploitation of children, or incest with children.” (4)

Substantiated: It is determined to be more likely than not that abuse has occurred (preponderance of the evidence). This is an evidentiary standard commonly used in private investigations and civil negligence/tort court actions. The term “founded” may be used by some government authorities as synonymous with “substantiated” or otherwise in reference to such evidentiary standards.

Suggested Best Practice: Recommended procedure for optimal or improved effectiveness, utility, or benefit.

Unsubstantiated: Means not supported or proven by enough evidence or failed to meet the “preponderance of the evidence” standard (the allegations are more likely true than not true). Does not mean the allegation was a lie, only that there was not enough evidence to prove it based on a greater than fifty percent chance that the allegations were true. The term “non-substantiated” may be used as synonymous with “unsubstantiated.”  Some government authorities may use the term “unfounded” as synonymous with “unsubstantiated” or otherwise in reference to such evidentiary standards.

Victim, Survivor: A person harmed or injured as a result of a crime, accident, or other event or action; an individual who has overcome a difficult experience that left the individual harmed or injured in some way. The term “V/S” may be used as synonymous with either “victim” or “survivor.”

Victim Advocate: A victim advocate provides emotional support, information about the criminal justice system, and resources and referrals to victims of crime. Victim advocates are generally employed by, or volunteer for a governmental agency or a non-profit organization with the mission of assisting and advocating for victims of crime.

Volunteers: Volunteers are individuals who have been approved by representatives of the organization to perform duties for the organization and do not receive compensation.

Worker: An adult or minor approved by the organization to work directly with children or youth. A worker may be an employee, volunteer, or independent contractor. 

Zero Tolerance: Strict enforcement of regulations and bans against behaviors deemed undesirable, for example organizations should have zero tolerance for anyone who perpetrates Child Sexual Abuse.

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1 ) Definition from the Administration for Children and Families, a division of the US Department of Health and Human Services. https://training.cfsrportal.acf.hhs.gov/book/export/html/2979

2 ) Definition from the Administration for Children and Families, a division of the US Department of Health and Human Services. https://training.cfsrportal.acf.hhs.gov/book/export/html/2979

3 ) Definition from the Administration for Children and Families, a division of the US Department of Health and Human Services. https://training.cfsrportal.acf.hhs.gov/book/export/html/2979

4 ) 42 U.S.C.A. § 5106g.

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Expert Panel (Drafting Committee):

  • Chair: Theresa Sidebotham, esq. Telios Law, Monument, CO
  • Jeremy Herron, Director Providence Kids, Providence Church, Frisco, TX
  • Dee Dee Mayer, Associate Head of School for Spiritual Life, Oaks Christian School, Westlake Village, CA
  • Rick Braschler, Director of Safety and Risk, Kanakuk Kamps, Branson, MO
  • Melodie Bissell, President & CEO, Plan to Protect, Ontario, Canada
  • Ed Sherrill, Executive VP, Red Barn Risk Consulting, LLC
  • Scott Beard, esq. Deputy Director, Crime Victim Compensation, South Carolina Attorney General’s Office, Columbia, SC
  • Randy Coffman, retired forensic nurse and police investigator, Andover, KS

The Legal Review Team:

  • Sally Wagenmaker, General Counsel, ECAP
  • Robert Showers, Simms Showers, LLP
  • Cindee Coffee, General Counsel, Southeast Christian Church
  • Alexandra M. Ableitner, Corporate Attorney, Church Mutual

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