Church of the Savior's Abuse Prevention and Response Policies
Child Abuse and Neglect Awareness, Prevention and Response Policy
Brief Information. Scroll down for full policy
If you have "reason to believe" a child is the victim of abuse or neglect:
Call the South Bend police department (574-235-9201 or 911) or the Department of Children's Services (DCS) (1-800-800-5556) immediately to make a report. Your identity will be kept confidential.
DO NOT investigate the claim, contact the child, parents, or guardian of the child, and DO NOT discuss the situation with anyone other than the authorities or the APRT leaders.
"Reason to believe" means information which, if presented to individuals of similar background and training, would cause those individuals to believe that a child may have been abused or neglected.
Child Abuse and Neglect Awareness, Prevention and Response
I. Commitment to Protect
Church of the Savior CRC (“COTS”) is committed to providing a safe, nurturing, and secure place for all children to gather to worship, grow in the love of God and others, and be sent to serve the world around us.
Unfortunately, even within the church context, child abuse and neglect can occur. In order to better assure the safety and care of all persons at COTS and compliance with Indiana law, the Council of COTS has adopted the following child abuse and neglect awareness, prevention and response policy. It applies to all church-sponsored programs and activities and all who perform duties for COTS, whether paid or volunteer. This policy is designed to protect the children entrusted to our care, our employees, volunteers, and the church itself. The best protection is clear and consistently applied procedures and policies to prevent child abuse and neglect, and to deal effectively with actual or alleged offenses.
For the purposes of this policy, the following definitions apply:
“Child abuse or neglect” means physical, emotional or sexual abuse or neglect of a child less than 18 years of age. This includes maltreatment by a parent, a legal guardian, any other person responsible for the child’s health or welfare, such as a teacher or a teacher’s aide, or a member of the clergy. It also includes the commission of certain sex offenses involving a child victim perpetrated by anyone.
“DCS” - means the Indiana Department of Child Services, the Indiana agency to which child abuse or neglect may be reported. The DCS Child Abuse and Neglect reporting hotline telephone number is 1-800-800-5556.
“Local law enforcement agency” – means a local town or city police department, county sheriff’s department or Indiana State Police post.
“Employee” – means any paid personnel, lay or religious, and any person acting as a volunteer, in any capacity, for COTS.
“Reason to believe” – means information which, if presented to individuals of similar background and training, would cause those individuals to believe that a child may have been abused or neglected.
III. Mandatory Reporting
Indiana law requires that all persons, without exception, make an immediate oral report to a local law enforcement agency or DCS if that person has “reason to believe” that a child is a victim of child abuse or neglect (unless that person knows a report of the incident has already been made). The obligation to report exists regardless of who the accused may be. This duty applies to all COTS personnel, paid and volunteer, and includes all religious personnel. The DCS reporting hotline telephone number is 1-800-800-5556.
COTS expects and requires that all its paid personnel and volunteers, especially those who work in programs that are directly and immediately involved with children, recognize and report abuse and neglect in accordance with Indiana law.
If a person suspects that a child may be a victim of abuse or neglect, but is unsure whether he or she has sufficient “reason to believe” to make a report, that person should always err on the side of caution and report.
Any persons required to make a report to the DCS or law enforcement agency in their capacity as COTS’ employees or volunteers are also required to notify immediately their direct supervisor concerning their report to the DCS or law enforcement agency. The direct supervisor then also becomes personally responsible to report, or to cause a report to be made, to the DCS or local law enforcement.
If the direct supervisor of the individual making the initial report is unavailable or if the individual feels the direct supervisor is not the appropriate person to contact, the employee/volunteer should immediately notify the Pastor of the report. The person making the report must document his/her actions.
IV. Report Confidentiality
The identities of persons making child abuse or neglect reports to the DCS or local law enforcement are confidential and only made available to individuals legally authorized to obtain such information. Persons making reports may be required to testify at judicial proceedings if court action becomes necessary.
V. Reporting Immunities
Any person who has reason to believe a child is a victim of abuse or neglect and reports to DCS or law enforcement, or a person who cooperates in a judicial proceeding resulting from such a report, is presumed to have acted in good faith and, therefore, is immune from civil or criminal liability. Such liability will only become a factor if it can be shown the person acted maliciously or in bad faith.
One must remember, however, this immunity is only available to those making the statutorily required reports to a DCS or law enforcement agency and/or their direct supervisor. Legal actions for damages may still be available if a person disseminates information to other, additional parties. Therefore, a person should only make the report to the statutorily designated parties to ensure retention of the statutory immunity protection. Although a well-intentioned person may feel an obligation to inform the parents or guardian of the child, this is not to be done.
Another important point a person reporting child abuse or neglect must remember is that his or her duty is a duty to report only. Once someone reports to DCS or local law enforcement and, if applicable, a direct supervisor or the Pastor, his or her duty under the statute ends. Although the person reporting may have to cooperate in a DCS or other public authority’s investigation, or may have to testify at judicial proceedings, he or she should not conduct a personal investigation. Investigating is the responsibility of DCS or law enforcement authorities. In fact, an unauthorized person who conducts his or her own investigation risks civil liability for invasion of privacy or defamation.
VI. Failing to Report
Persons who knowingly fail to make a required report of child abuse or neglect commit a Class B misdemeanor.
VII. COTS Cooperation with Civil Authorities
Any law enforcement investigations of suspected incidents of child abuse or neglect will be accorded the complete and willing assistance of the appropriate COTS personnel. All necessary action will be taken to ensure the fair treatment of any COTS employee accused of child abuse or neglect. As a precautionary measure, an accused employee may be placed on administrative leave pending the investigation of the claim or the completion of any civil process. Pastoral counseling and guidance will be made available to the accused individual to support the accused through any investigatory period. Additional pastoral counseling may continue at the individual’s request regardless of the outcome of the civil investigation. A child who is alleged to have been abused or neglected by a COTS employee will be offered appropriate assistance and counseling.
VIII. Abuse and Neglect Awareness and Prevention
To help facilitate compliance with this Policy and protect the well-being of the children involved in our ministry, the following standards apply:
All persons in officially mandated positions at COTS are to be screened for previous criminal offenses. Mandated positions include paid ministerial staff, office bearers, children's Sunday school teachers, youth group leaders, all children’s ministry leaders, adult nursery caregivers, CWC and TLC teachers. Volunteers who have regular contact with children must be screened. For new hires, screening will include an application and criminal background check for all mandated positions and, for those who have been regular attenders for less than six months, screening will also include reference checks.
Each ministry division (all children’s and youth programs) shall maintain written guidelines designed to protect its participants from abuse and neglect. Guidelines shall be available for review by any member of COTS for any ministry division upon request. The guidelines shall be submitted to the Abuse Prevention and Response Team (“APRT”) via the Pastor of Youth and Congregation Life (“PYCL”) and reviewed every two years along with the entire Misconduct, Abuse and Neglect Reporting Policy of COTS. Results of this review will be forwarded to the Council.
Training sessions will be held annually before the start of the church program year for staff, leaders, teachers and volunteers who are new or who have not been previously trained. Training will include a review of the COTS child abuse and neglect awareness, prevention and reporting policy, and guidelines for recognizing inappropriate behavior and signs of misconduct, abuse and neglect. Every three years staff, leaders, teachers and volunteers will update the training. A signature of those who have completed training either in person or by video will be obtained after each training session.
Policy Against Discrimination, Harassment, and Sexual Misconduct
Church of the Savior CRC (“COTS”) is committed to providing work and worship environments that are free of discrimination, harassment and sexual misconduct. In keeping with this commitment, COTS maintains a strict policy prohibiting discrimination, harassment and sexual misconduct which violates civil laws or COTS’ religious standards. It is important for you to understand that jokes, stories, cartoons, nicknames, and comments about appearance or other personal characteristics or traits may be offensive to others, and could be unlawful.
Prohibition of Discrimination
Consistent with this Policy, hiring and employment practices at COTS are based on individual merit, ability, experience, performance, education, and training, without regard to race, color, age (within statutory limits), sex, disability or national origin. These practices shall extend to all areas of employment including recruitment, selection, compensation, reasonable accommodation, promotion, transfer, training, and termination. Since COTS is a religious employer, we place a priority on hiring COTS members in good standing, and require all employees to have knowledge of and respect for the doctrine, values and morals espoused by COTS.
Prohibition of Harassment
COTS prohibits all forms of harassment that violate civil law and/or the Christian standards held by COTS. For purposes of this Policy, harassment is any verbal or written communication or physical conduct which is done or has the tendency to threaten, bully, humiliate, demean, embarrass, frighten, intimidate or otherwise cause discomfort to a person based on the person’s sex (i.e., sexual harassment), race, nationality, ethnic background, religion, age, physical or mental characteristics, personality traits, veteran’s status, or any perceived vulnerability. Prohibited harassment may be committed by an employee against another employee, a volunteer, church member or vendor, by a volunteer against an employee, a church member or a vendor, or by a vendor against an employee, a volunteer or a church member.
Prohibited harassment occurs when:
• Submission to harassing conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment;
• Submission to or rejection of harassing conduct by an individual is used as a basis for employment decisions affecting that individual; or,
• The harassing conduct has the purpose or effect of interfering with an individual’s job or professional performance, paid or volunteer, or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive employment, worship or volunteer environment.
Conduct of a Harassing Nature
Conduct of a harassing nature includes but is not limited to verbal or physical advances or actions, verbal or written comments, looks, leers, gestures, jokes, or other offensive actions based on the sex, race, nationality, ethnic background, age, religion, disability, physical or mental characteristics, personality traits, veteran’s status, or perceived vulnerability of the victim.
Harassing conduct prohibited by this Policy also includes electronic harassment, such as email, texting, and posting of offensive comments/photos on social media, etc.
The above types of prohibited harassing conduct constitute harassment not only when the targeted person has indicated, by his or her conduct or verbal objection, that it is unwelcome. In no event will harassing conduct be condoned or deemed acceptable by COTS, regardless of whether it is considered welcome.
COTS retains the right to take those steps it deems necessary to prevent and/or terminate the occurrence of any type of harassment or other inappropriate conduct.
For purposes of this Policy, sexual misconduct includes sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, visual, or physical conduct of a sexual nature.
Examples of sexual misconduct include but are not limited to:
• subtle pressure or requests for sexual activities;
• graphic comments about an individual’s body;
• sexually explicit or offensive jokes;
• sexually explicit or offensive electronic communication;
• exploiting or grooming (preparing) a minor or an adult – regardless of consent or circumstances – for the purpose of sexual touch, sexual activity, or emotional intimacy; with the result of either sexual gratification or power and control over the minor or adult;
• unwelcome touch, sexual activity, or emotional intimacy between co-workers, co-volunteers; or
• sexual touch, sexual activity, or emotional intimacy between a supervisor and a subordinate who serve together in a church program or church ministry.
If you believe that you are being, or have been, discriminated against or harassed, or are aware of sexual misconduct on the part of any COTS employee, volunteer or vendor, you are expected to report the facts of the incident or incidents to your supervisor immediately, without fear of reprisal. In the event your supervisor is not available, or is claimed to be the perpetrator of the alleged conduct, notify the Pastor or Council Chair immediately. In determining whether the alleged conduct constitutes prohibited discrimination, harassment or sexual misconduct, the totality of the circumstances, such as the nature of the conduct and the context in which the alleged incident occurred, will be investigated.