Safe Sanctuaries Responding To and Reporting Plan
All clergy, all church staff (employees), and all volunteers who, as part of a regularly scheduled program, activity or service, accepts responsibility for a child or have direct contact with children, are Mandated Reporters.
As a Mandated Reporter, you must report if you have reasonable cause to suspect a child is a victim of child abuse, a report must be made, without exception. This includes situations where
- you come into contact with a child that has been abused,
- an individual makes a specific disclosure to you that an identifiable child is the victim of child abuse or
- an individual 14 years of age or older makes a specific disclosure to you that he/she has committed child abuse.
Further, Section 6312 of the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law encourages all persons who are not mandated reporters and who have reasonable cause to suspect that a child is a victim of child abuse to report the suspected child abuse. These individuals are called permissive reporters, and we likewise encourage permissive reporters to report incidents of suspected child abuse.
[See Below Section for reporting of suspected child abuse steps.]
The goals of immediate reporting of incidents of suspected child abuse are to ensure the safety and welfare of the victim, provide protection for children from further abuse and facilitate the prompt involvement of appropriate legal authorities in responding to incidents of suspected abuse.
Once an incident of child abuse occurs or an allegation is made, it is crucial that it be dealt with speedily and in a clearly outlined manner. A quick, compassionate and unified response to an alleged incident of child abuse is expected. All allegations will be taken seriously. In all cases of reported or observed abuse in a Children’s Activity, the entire staff of that activity shall be at the service of all official investigating agencies.
Responding to incidents of suspected child abuse or suspected abuse:
In the event that an employee or volunteer suspects that a child is the victim of abuse, the employee or volunteer should reassure the child that their safety and well-being is of paramount concern, following which the suspected abuse should be immediately reported to the appropriate legal authorities, as set forth below.
The child should be calmly moved to another safe place onsite in view of at least two other non-related adults. Someone safe and familiar should stay with the child or at all times.
The employee or volunteer who suspects that a child is the victim of abuse should inform the child victim in an age appropriate manner that a report will be made, or has been made, to the appropriate legal authorities. Should the child be in need of medical attention, appropriate medical professionals or 911 should be contacted for assistance.
Persons, who are suspected to have engaged in abuse, if on site at a ministry or event, will be immediately removed from the ministry or event setting until further direction is given by the Pastor.
Persons who are the objects of the report shall refrain from all children’s activities until the incident report is resolved. The Pastors will take responsibility for informing the person they are to be removed from Children’s Activities and inform them of steps to be taken in the investigation. In any removal of a person from any Children’s Activities, care should be taken to handle this in a discreet manner, recognizing that an investigation is still being conducted.
The parents/legal guardians of any alleged victim of child abuse or should be immediately notified by the Pastors, although it is not appropriate to contact the parents/legal guardians immediately if they are the alleged perpetrators of the child abuse. In such circumstances, guidance should be sought from appropriate Pastors on who should contact the parents/legal guardians and when this should occur.
Reporting of suspected child abuse:
A mandated reporter having reasonable cause to suspect that a child is a victim of child abuse shall immediately:
- obtain the information needed for the filing of report(s) of suspected child abuse, including but not limited to, the child’s name, age and address, the names and address of the child’s parents or legal guardians, where the suspected abuse occurred, the nature and extent of the suspected child abuse, the name and relationship of each individual who allegedly engaged in the suspected child abuse, the source of the report of suspected child abuse, and the name, telephone number and e-mail address of the person making the report of suspected child abuse.
- report the suspected child abuse to ChildLine at 1-800-932-0313, make the required report or immediately submit an electronic report of the suspected child abuse in accordance with procedures established by the Department of Human Services. You must personally make the report, and you cannot rely on someone else (for example, a supervisor or pastor) to make the report. In addition, a written report on CY-47 Form must be made to the county Children and Youth Agency within 48 hours of your oral report to Childline. [Permissive reporters should follow the foregoing reporting procedures if they have reasonable cause to suspect that a child is a victim of child abuse.]
- notify your immediate supervisor/coordinator of the children’s activity and the staff person within the church organization and inform the Pastors. The pastor(s) will mobilize the St. Paul’s Crisis Management Team. The Pastor(s) shall inform the District Superintendent of the State College District of the Susquehanna Conference of the United Methodist Church and these Susquehanna Conference individuals: the Director of Communications, the Legal Council and the Insurance Representative.
Depending on the nature of the suspected child abuse, it may also be necessary to contact law enforcement officials, in addition to ChildLine, to report the suspected child abuse.
If the allegation is against a St. Paul’s UMC and Wesley Foundation staff person or volunteer or if it occurred in the course of a St. Paul’s UMC and Wesley Foundation children’s activity, the staff person in charge of the children’s activity will contact the Pastors who will mobilize the Crisis Management Team. The pastor will contact the Child’s parents or guardian(s) immediately and an in-person meeting arranged as soon as practical. (A 24-hour time frame suggested for reporting).
If the allegation concerns activities or persons outside any relationship to a St. Paul’s UMC and Wesley Foundation related event or activity, the staff person will contact the pastors who will mobilize the Crisis Management Team. An example of this would be a child telling a teacher about abuse by a relative during the prior year.
In all cases, pastoral support will be available to ALL persons involved with the incident as indicated.
When in doubt always report, report, report. Mandated Reporters and permissive reporters are immune from civil liability for good faith reporting of child abuse. Make NO public statements about the report, as this may give rise to a defamation claim.
The criminal penalty and civil liability for noncompliance with statutory requirements are: Mandated Reporters’ Failure to Report Suspected Child Abuse: Criminal penalties range from second degree misdemeanor to second degree felony, depending on the facts.
Allegations of suspected child abuse or are strictly confidential and should be discussed only on a need-to-know basis. Once the allegations of suspected abuse have been reported to the appropriate legal authorities, the person making the report should NOT discuss the matter with other persons except authorized St. Paul’s pastors and Susquehanna Conference personnel and legal authorities investigating the allegations.
The Susquehanna Conference Director of Communications or his/her designee is the only person authorized to make statements to representatives of the media. All media requests for information or statements that are received by employees or volunteers shall be directed to the Conference Director of Communications. Training in how to handle media requests should be a regular part of staff training. A spirit of cooperation, in helping the media locate the “official spokesperson” (the Conference Director of Communications) is often helpful.
If a representative of the media – newspaper, TV station, Radio station, magazine – calls or approaches an employee or volunteer and seeks comments or asks questions about an incident of suspected child abuse, the employee or volunteer should NOT provide any comments or answer any questions about the incident. Instead, the employee or volunteer should get the media representative’s name, business title, phone number and e-mail address and respectfully tell him/her that the Director of Communications will contact him/her as soon as possible. The following response to the media representative should be used: “The Susquehanna Conference’s Director of Communications can best respond to your inquiry regarding this matter. If you give me your name, business title, phone number and e-mail address, I will ask the Director of Communications to contact you as soon as possible.”