Why does my church need a child protection policy?Common Good
We are reminded daily that we live in an unsafe world. This is especially true for children! We do many things to protect ourselves. We install burglar bars, alarm systems, high walls, locked doors, armed response, insurance and much more. And we hope and pray that someone does not break into our homes.
Are we, as church communities, doing all we can to protect and safeguard the children in our care? We hope and pray that our children will not be harmed but hope alone is not enough. It is crucial that we put measures in place to protect our children.
We have a responsibility as church communities to apply wisdom and prudence to make sure that children in our care are safe from harm. We cannot turn a blind eye or pretend that because the child is at church, they are safe. This simply is not true! The Bible warns us (and we know it to be true) that some people pretend to be good but have evil intentions toward children. Too often, it is the very people that the child is familiar with, that are known and trusted by the family that abuse and harm the child. Proverbs 26:23-25 warns us about people who hide their evil intentions under a good appearance:
“Smooth words may hide a wicked heart, just as a pretty glaze covers a clay pot. People may cover their hatred with pleasant words, but they’re deceiving you. They pretend to be kind, but don’t believe them. Their hearts are full of many evils.”
As church communities, we need to be doing all we can to protect our children from the wolf in sheep’s clothing amongst us.
Why must we have a policy?
A child protection policy helps to bring structure to HOW children are protected. It moves us from hope to action.
As faith leaders and organisations we have a legal obligation:
Did you know that all church leaders are mandated by law to report any form of child abuse or neglect – whether that is suspected or confirmed abuse or neglect?
Churches must find ways to reduce or prevent harm and create a safe environment for children. This is where a Child Protection Policy is necessary. It outlines measures, procedures and behaviours to safeguard and protect children in our care as well as how to report suspected abuse.
What is a policy?
- It is a written document that is specific to a church/organisation.
- A policy outlines what staff and volunteers must do or not do.
- A policy provides direction, limits, guidance, and principles for decision-making.
- A policy details the procedures (actions) that make sense to the particular context because a policy is customized to the specific structure, personnel, and activities of the church/organization.
- Once a policy is in place, it is not optional. Compliance with the written policy is required for all staff and volunteers for whom the policy is applicable.
- The purpose of a policy is to bring standardization to how things are done and thereby reducing the risk of an unwanted event.
Simply, a good policy brings order to how things are done. It tells staff and volunteers what to do and how to do it – related to the topic of that policy.
For example, a fire safety policy will outline what to do in the event of a fire and what measures need to be in place to prevent a fire. Everyone in the organization will need to be trained and know the fire safety policy procedures. The management will need to ensure that this policy is implemented, reviewed, and updated regularly to ensure that the organization is actually protected and doing all it can to prevent a fire, and everyone knows what to do in the event of a fire.
A policy makes sure that all the relevant things are addressed to achieve a particular outcome. Without a policy and thought-through procedures, all the best intentions of people will not result in the desired outcome.
What is a Child Protection Policy (CPP)?
A CPP is an official document describing what is expected to happen to protect children. It is a document that guides and equips the leadership, staff, and volunteers to implement child protection1 and safeguard children2 in the church. A CPP is a practical way of implementing the church’s commitment to safeguarding children from risk or harm and neglect.
A Child Protection Policy helps to protect:
- children by minimizing the risk of abuse and harm
- staff and volunteers by providing clear guidelines on appropriate behaviour and clear procedures for reporting concerns or allegations.
- organisations by screening for potential abusers
- organisations from damage that can be caused by allegations of abuse*
A Child Protection Policy includes procedures for prevention; reporting; and responding
- How to recruit and screen church leadership, staff, and volunteers to ensure the right people are working with children in the church programmes and activities.
- What interactions between adults and children are appropriate, as well as between child and child, to prevent abuse.
- Behaviour protocols, discipline rules, transport rules, use of technology, supervision rules, how to use photos of children, administration of medication, use of child personal info, rules for volunteers, consequences if rules are broken, and more
- Procedure and correct steps to take when reporting abuse or suspected abuse.
A Child Protection Policy outlines the right actions to take to allow everyone to know what their roles and responsibilities are regarding creating a safe environment and safeguarding children in their care. A good CPP puts measures in place to reduce risk, and ensures compliance with the law, and mitigate potential harm, litigation, and reputation risks.
1What is child protection – protecting children from the risk of abuse, exploitation, harm and neglect*
2What is safeguarding children – safeguarding is the overarching term used to describe the ways of creating a safe environment for children to thrive and to prevent them from harm. It includes child protection*
Therefore, safeguarding is what we do to prevent harm, while child protection is the way in which we respond to harm.
As churches, we value children, we seek to see all children flourish and reach their God-given potential. We desire for our churches to be safe and free from any threat or harm to our little ones. The last thing we want is to hear about a child in our care that has been harmed by a staff member or volunteer. Or that a child shared about the abuse they are experiencing, and nothing was done. We don’t want our children in our care to be another statistic. There is something we can do. We can put the right things in place to move our desires to reality by writing a Child Protection Policy and implementing it in our church – as a matter of urgency.
Tools to help you write a Child Protection Policy
Together with partner organisations, Sikunye hosted a practical workshop discussing how to write a Child Protection Policy for your church.
You can watch the recording and listen to the interview with Mariette Jacobs from Ezrah (https://www.ezrah.co.za/) on the law, the importance of a Child Protection Policy (CPP) and tips on how to write and implement a CPP for your church.
We have put together a summary document on How to write a Child Protection Policy (https://sikunye.org.za/wp-content/uploads/How-to-write-a-Child-Protection-Policy.pdf) from this workshop. This document discusses the importance of a Child Protection Policy and what the legal requirements are for church leaders and members.
In this document, you will find a range of useful resources, websites, and documents that you can edit and use for your church. We hope that this resource answers any questions you may have and gives you the tools to write your own church policy.
We urge you to edit and use this Child Protection Policy Template: https://sikunye.org.za/wp-content/uploads/1.-Child-Protection-Policy-Template-for-Churches.docx
Organisations that you can connect with to assist you further:
- Connect network – https://connectnetwork.org.za/how-we-work/we-equip/qis/
- Ezrah’s Child Protection Resources: https://www.ezrah.co.za/child-protection-resources/
*Sources: Connect Network, QIS Child Protection / Safeguarding Module 2020 https://connectnetwork.org.za/how-we-work/we-equip/qis/