Overview of Safety System
Because we love children and desire to protect them, Lighthouse Community Outreach (LCO) requires all volunteers and team members working with children or students to complete FIVE SAFETY STEPS before ministry work:
STEP ONE: Skillful Screening Process
Volunteers and team members are required to complete the LCO Screening Process, which requires:
- Fill out screening application and reference checks
- Connect with (be screened by) a Board Member
STEP TWO: Criminal Background Check
LCO requires that all volunteers and team members working or serving in children’s or student activities or programming undergo a criminal background check. Depending upon position, differing levels or intensity of background check may be required. Individuals who have committed sexually-oriented or sex-related crimes may not serve in any area providing services to children or minors. In addition, certain other past criminal acts may preclude an applicant from serving minors.
STEP THREE: Sexual Abuse Awareness Training
LCO’s policies and procedures require that volunteers and team members avoid abusive behavior of any kind. Staff members and serve team members are required to report any policy violations to a supervisor or a member of the LCO board team. All volunteers should have a basic understanding of the characteristics of preferential sexual abusers and their behaviors in ‘grooming’ a child for sexual abuse. Grooming is the process used by an abuser to select a child, win the child’s trust (and the trust of the child’s parent or ‘gatekeeper’), manipulate the child into sexual activity and keep the child from disclosing the abuse.
To equip LCO volunteers and team members with information necessary to recognize preferential offender abuser characteristics and grooming behavior, LCO requires all volunteers and team members to complete a virtual Sexual Abuse Awareness Training (based on MinistrySafe’s training at www.MinistrySafe.com)
STEP FOUR: Policies & Procedures
Volunteers and team members are required to review the policies contained in this manual, and sign the last page indicating that he or she has read and understood the material, and agrees to comply with policy requirements.
STEP FIVE: Monitoring and Oversight
Continued training, reminders, and vigilant supervision of volunteers and team members as it relates to the care of children at LCO.
Child Safety Policy
LCO has a zero tolerance for abuse in ministry programs and ministry activities. It is the responsibility of every volunteer and team member at LCO to act in the best interest of all children in every program.
In the event that staff or serve team members observe or hear about any inappropriate behaviors (i.e. policy violations, neglectful supervision, poor role-modeling, etc.) or suspected abuse (physical, emotional, or sexual) it is their responsibility to immediately report their observations to the Director of LCO or any other member of the board.
REPORTING SUSPICIOUS OR INAPPROPRIATE BEHAVIORS
LCO is committed to providing a safe, secure environment for children and their families. To this end, any report of inappropriate behaviors or suspicions of abuse will be taken seriously and will be reported, in accordance with this policy and state law, to the LCO board and the Police Department, Child Protective Services, or other appropriate agency.
An element of the safe environment referenced above includes the fostering of a culture of reporting relevant information to a supervisor or a member of the LCO board. Because sexual abusers ‘groom’ children for abuse, it is possible a volunteer or team member may witness behavior intended to ‘groom’ a child for sexual abuse. Volunteers and team members are asked to report ‘grooming’ behavior, any policy violations, or any suspicious behaviors to a supervisor or a member of the LCO board.
ENFORCEMENT OF POLICIES
Violations of LCO’s policies are grounds for immediate dismissal, disciplinary action, or reassignment from a position in Kids’ Ministries – for both volunteers or team members. Final decisions related to policy violations will be the responsibility of the board.
Reporting Abuse or Suspicions of Abuse
REPORTING VIOLATION OF POLICY
In order to maintain a safe environment for our children, LCO volunteers and team members must be aware of their individual responsibility to report any questionable circumstance, observation, act, omission, or situation that is a violation of these policies. All questions or concerns related to inappropriate, suspicious, or suspected grooming behavior should be directed to an immediate supervisor in the ministry area, LCO’s director, or member of board.
CONSEQUENCES OF VIOLATION
Any person accused of committing a prohibited act or any act considered by the organization to be harmful to a child will be immediately suspended from participation in LCO. This suspension will continue during any investigation by law enforcement or Child Protective agencies.
Volunteers and team members who fail to report a prohibited act may be restricted from participation in any activities involving children, students or vulnerable populations at LCO.
REPORTING ABUSE OR SUSPICIONS OF ABUSE
LCO is committed to providing a safe, secure environment for children and their families. To this end, any report of inappropriate behavior or suspicions of abuse or neglect will be taken seriously and will be reported, in accordance with this policy and state law, to Child Protective Services or criminal law enforcement.
Because sexual abusers ‘groom’ children for abuse, it is possible that a volunteer or team member may witness behavior intended to groom a child for sexual abuse. Report any and all ‘grooming’ behavior, policy violations, or any suspicious behaviors to an immediate supervisor, such that the organization may take appropriate action to safeguard children in the program.
REPORTING ALLEGATIONS OR SUSPICIONS OF ABUSE TO LAW ENFORCEMENT
We report all suspected or alleged abuse or neglect of children to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (TDFPS)
Abuse Hotline: 1-800-252-5400
Because many adults are unfamiliar with Texas reporting requirements and may be fearful of the process, LCO utilizes a ‘tandem or dual report’ model, where permitted. A ‘dual report’ occurs when a LCO supervisor reports the suspicion or allegation together with the individual who saw, heard or received information causing him or her to suspect abuse or neglect.
THIS PRACTICE IS NOT REQUIRED, OR INTENDED TO INHIBIT ANY STAFF MEMBER OR VOLUNTEER FROM REPORTING TO LAW ENFORCEMENT, CPS OR THE ABUSE HOTLINE DIRECTLY. Instead, it is meant to facilitate reporting, protect children and support individuals who may not feel able or willing to report alone.
NO PERMISSION IS NEEDED from LCO before reporting to law enforcement personnel or the Child Abuse Hotline.
While not required by state law, please report all suspicions of child abuse or neglect (or any inappropriate or ‘grooming’ behaviors of a colleague or coworker) to an immediate supervisor or board member of LCO. This request is intended to assist the organization in properly protecting children involved in LCO programs.
See Something, Say Something!
When in doubt, report.
Ministry Monitoring Plan
Board members who are volunteers on duty are responsible for ensuring that the ministry program area is monitored during programming serving children. This includes unobserved monitoring of volunteers and other team members and children. No child will ever be left unattended in a ministry area or on a playground during regular programming, classes or activities.
Two trained, screened adults should supervise children at all times.
Avoid being alone with an individual child in during any ministry program. If one supervising adult must leave a group of children, another serve team member or employee must be notified so that the Two Adult Rule can be followed.
If an unusual circumstance occurs and you find yourself alone with a single child, take the child to a location easily observed by others.
If you need to talk with a child alone, do it in a highly visible area, or have another leader with you.
After every ministry event, ensure that every area and/or restroom is checked prior to leaving.
At the park remember to circulate, watching children during play periods, giving particular attention to areas not easily seen from all viewpoints. (Example: under slides, in corners, behind structures).
Any two children together in an unseen or less easily viewed area should be redirected to another (more open) area of the playground.
Child Safety Measures
WORKER TO CHILD RATIOS
LCO is committed to providing adequate supervision in all ministry programs. Accordingly, the following worker to child ratio will be observed: 1 volunteer supervising 8 kids. At least 4 volunteers must be present for any event to happen.
CHECK-IN/RELEASE OF CHILDREN
At any time that a child has been entrusted to LCO volunteers and team members, LCO incurs responsibility for the safety and well-being of the child. Volunteers and team members must act to ensure the appropriate supervision and safety of children during Lighthouse operation hours/location.
LCO strongly encourages families to check in and out each of their children participating in weekly Lighthouse activities to ensure their safety to and fro from the park.
Then park where LCO holds their activities does not have a bathroom. Our policy is for the child to go with their parent to the nearest restroom. If the parent is not available, then two vetted LCO volunteers and child/children must walk together to the bathroom. Volunteer will wait outside but in eye-sight of the bathroom during this time. Only one child at a time can be in the restroom.