[Approved by Abington Meeting July 2013]
ABINGTON FRIENDS MEETING RISK REDUCTION
We encourage those who work with our youth to keep the following risk factors in mind and to increase monitoring safeguards according to the Meeting’s risk reduction practices.
This document distinguishes between paid childcare staff, program volunteers and occasional volunteers. The salaried childcare staff is self-explanatory. Program volunteers may be: members of committees such as Religious Education, which has primary responsibility for the First Day School; First Day School teachers; and the coordinator of sandwich making. These volunteers are integral to the program’s success, have positions of responsibility and serve in these capacities on a regular, recurring basis. Occasional volunteers may be those members of the Meeting who may assist with the Hannah Obadiah program or help with sandwich making on an irregular basis. Finally, all members of the Meeting interact with children and youth through their participation in intergenerational Adult Class programs and through the provision of hospitality in the form of coffee hours and other Meeting activities. Members of our Meeting community should be aware of the practices described here.
We recognize the following risk factors:
Levels of isolation
Risk increases as isolation increases. In general, the Meeting should avoid activities that present situations of greater isolation.
Accountability relates to the individuals involved and how the program is managed. Accountability provides boundaries for the safety for both the adults and children, and provides the groundwork for trust.
Power and Control
Children are particularly vulnerable to abuse because there is an imbalance of power related to age, size, strength, and control and authority. Because there cannot be a balance of power between a child and an adult, equilibrium must come from the presence of others and policies designed to maintain a low risk environment.
The Meeting must establish and communicate specific safety procedures to all parents, children and youth on a periodic basis and/or as necessary. The person responsible for the program must understand protocol with regard to the safety procedures.
- Levels of Isolation
- Whenever reasonably possible, apply the “rule of three”: two unrelated adults accompany a single child, or a minimum of two children accompanied by a single adult
- Make clear to children and adults the spaces that are “off limits.”
- Encourage children to use the closest bathroom. Supervise children going to distant bathrooms.
- Communicate how space and play ground equipment are to be used safely to children and adults.
- Provide easy accessibility to the telephone and make its location known to adults and youth whenever the meetinghouse is used.
- Whenever possible, maintain ratios of adult staff (21 or older) to youth of 1:8 for elementary and junior high programs, and 1:10 for high school programs.
- Hold activities in rooms with windowed doors or doors open whenever possible. Doors to the classrooms should never be blocked.
- Have both male and female adults (21 or older) who meet the Qualification & Screening requirements supervise co-ed overnight activities whenever possible
- Require background screening of each person working with children and youth in a salaried capacity or as a program volunteer. The levels of background screening requirements are specified in Qualification & Screening statements.
- Have salaried employees and program volunteers sign a clear job description and code of conduct.
- Include in the annual report of any committee who provides regular, routine leadership for programs involving youth and children a discussion of its efforts to address the four principle risk factors described above. This will facilitate and encourage an open dialogue within the community and among committees on these topics throughout the year.
- Acknowledge that parents’ have a duty to familiarize themselves with activities in which their children participate and to ask questions on any aspect of the program and to share concerns with the clerk of the responsible committee or the coordinator of the program.
- For the purpose of getting to know one another sponsor a gathering of teachers and parents early in September before First Day School classes begin.
- Encourage parents and occasional volunteers to read this document and remind salaried employees and program volunteers that they are required to read it so that everyone understands the Meeting’s practices and responsibilities.
- Adult volunteers provide those in their care with explicit statements of the physical boundaries, behavioral expectations, and time limits that apply in each situation.
- Require written permission including emergency contact information for off-site trips as well as overnight programs. For specific details see: Trip Permission Form
- Have drivers provide driver’s license and proof of insurance. For specific details, see: Volunteer Driver Application Form.
- Require drivers for all off-site trips originating at the meeting to be at least 21 years old.
- Have eighteen-year-old drivers who plan to transport themselves and any passengers complete two forms: one for the driver and one for the passenger(s).
- Power and Control
- Consider the numbers and relationships of adults in programs. If possible, a mix of genders and relationships among teachers is desirable.
- Consider where authority lies and the restraint and compassion with which we apply that power and authority.
- Have committees collectively monitor whether those in positions of authority are using it properly by taking advantage of opportunities for regular communication concerning each program.
- Encourage the Meeting community to report to a member of the responsible committee any incident of perceived risk of physical or emotional harm to a child or youth.
- Make an effort to involve a large body of members in support roles that are not individually responsible for supervising children but still very helpful and foster a greater connectedness in our Meeting community.
- On-going recruitment of prospective program volunteers.
- Make every effort to have a qualified substitute available so that there is more than one teacher with the students.
- Strive to develop opportunities for interaction so the children will understand that the Meeting community values open communication and that what they have to say is important and valued.
- Life Safety
- In advance, have the person or committee responsible for each activity of the Meeting that involves children, develop a written plan to respond to situations in which children may be in danger (ex: a traffic accident during a field trip or a child having an asthma attack).
- Keep well-stocked, easily-accessed First Aid Kits in locations convenient to programs.
- Ask the Religious Education Committee to maintain up-to-date contact information and general medical information about special needs of children who participate in Meeting activities and provide each activity leader with information relevant to his/her group. Keep this information in binders and keep a master binder in the office. Make every effort to provide binders for each class in the appropriate classrooms.
- Ask parents to inform the person responsible for a program of any unique health circumstances that may affect the safety of an individual child or youth.
- Inform parents of children participating in First Day School or other Meeting programs of the expectation for the parent(s) to be on the Meeting grounds during those programs. Ask parents to obtain agreement from the program leader and provide contact information if parents will not be on the grounds for a particular program.
- Assess all programs for risk and safety. Consider using a questionnaire or any number of other checklists to determine if the activity is age appropriate and identifies likely risks. See example of an assessment questionnaire.
- Have teachers in First Day School and leaders of youth activities, including field trips, take binders with emergency information for all minors on the trip when they leave the Meeting grounds.
ABINGTON FRIENDS MEETING
QUALIFICATIONS & SCREENING PROCEDURES
FIRST DAY SCHOOL TEACHER
“Quakerism is caught, not taught” is an expression often heard in Quaker circles. In selecting our First Day School teachers, the Religious Education Committee should carefully choose people who embody Quaker ideals in their life choices, in their character, and in their work.
It is written in Faith and Practice that “it is a facet of Quaker belief that truthfulness and integrity are a part of the Inner Light and to ask otherwise is ‘to imply double standard of truth’”; however, it is in the best interest of our children and the Meeting to follow best practice and consider all resources available to assure the safety of the children under the Care of the Meeting. Therefore following the guidelines and procedures below will enable the Meeting to provide excellent care for every child that participates in Abington Monthly Meeting activities.
Guidelines to follow in identifying our teachers:
- Teachers should be known within the Meeting community.
- Teachers should have experience working with children.
- Teachers should have knowledge and skills appropriate to teach First Day School.
These three attributes would ideally be found in each First Day School teacher but we recognize that this is not always possible. For further details please refer to the Religious Education Committee’s clerk’s book.
- Individual First Day School teachers shall fill out the Pennsylvania State Police Criminal and Child Abuse History Clearances for themselves. Once he/she has received the clearance document, he/she should bring the original to the Clerk of Religious Education and a copy will be placed in a binder for future reference.
- The Clerk of Religious Education shall authorize reimbursement for the cost of obtaining the clearance.
- Initially, every FDS teacher shall have this requirement but following initial implementation, returning teachers will obtain new clearances every five years so long as they continue to be involved with the Meeting.
- An individual who already has the clearances, may present those documents so long as it is dated within the prior two years and during that time they have been active members of the Meeting community.
- If, as expected, the child abuse history clearance is returned with no offenses listed, see #3. If the clearance indicates anything other than ‘clear’ then, upon being made aware of this, the Clerk of Religious Education shall inform the Clerk of Care of Members and the Clerk of the Meeting and that group shall determine appropriate action with care.
It is beneficial to have a list of individuals who are able to substitute on short notice as a First Day School teacher. The Religious Education Committee shall develop such a list and, when possible, have clearance documentation on file for them as well.