Manual of Procedure Appendix D: Youth Safety Policy Originally Approved October 17, 2009Updated June 15, 2013 at Interim Meeting
Baltimore Yearly Meeting (BYM) seeks to provide a safe and secure environment for the children and youth who participate in our programs and activities. We strive to provide an atmosphere of openness and trust among children, among adults, and between children and adults. We seek Divine guidance in all aspects of our programming, operations and staffing. We affirm that the adults in our programs have the responsibility for the safety and care of all, but especially the children in our programs. Beyond written policies, we recognize that careful attention and vigilance needs to be maintained to nurture this atmosphere and provide individuals the opportunity to experience safety in our community.
All of our youth programs honor that of God in every person. After research, thought, discussion, and prayer, we have created this policy and procedures to promote the safety of all within the Yearly Meeting community while respecting the Light within each of us. The policy set forth in this document acknowledges that each of our youth programs is unique and has different operating norms. Therefore, this document strives to provide overarching policies and guidelines which allow each program the flexibility needed to operate. These procedures focus on preventing harm, responding in a timely and appropriate way to suspicions or incidents of child abuse, and offering support, clarity and allowing room for healing. By implementing the following practices, our goal is to maintain high-quality care and protection of the children and youth of Baltimore Yearly Meeting. The Yearly Meeting also seeks to protect from false accusations all who work with and support any of the Yearly Meeting’s programs.
For purposes of this policy, the terms “child,” “children,” “youth,” or “minors” include all persons under the age of eighteen (18) years. “Youth Worker” refers to someone who is working within Yearly Meeting programs for youth, including paid staff, work-grant recipients and volunteers. “Applicant” refers to anyone who is applying to be a youth worker. “Participant” is any individual, regardless of age, who is not working, but participating in a Youth Program.
Support workers are those who assist in various youth programs by doing jobs necessary to such programs, but who are not involved in directly ministering to youth. By way of example, these workers include, but are not limited to, kitchen staff, grounds keepers and bus drivers. For purposes of this policy, these staff and volunteers shall be referred to as “Support Workers.”
Within BYM programs – which include, but are not limited to, the Junior Yearly Meeting program, the BYM Youth Programs, and the BYM Camping programs – some “youths” may indeed be “Youth Workers,” while some people over the age of 18 may be “participants.” Youth Workers who are under the age of 18 shall be referred to in this Policy as “Minor Youth Workers.”
Those in charge of those programs shall be referred to in this Policy as “Program Managers.”
BYM seeks to prevent the occurrence of child abuse within its programs. Prevention occurs in various ways that include: carefully screening applicants, checking references, conducting criminal background checks, and regularly re-checking criminal records. It also includes training on the signs and symptoms of possible child abuse, regular monitoring of staff during youth activities, ensuring this Policy is disseminated to all who work with youth, training on this Youth Safety Policy, and creating procedures appropriate for each youth program, and monitoring compliance with those procedures, especially those designed to limit situations of one youth meeting with one adult in a closed room that might give rise to the opportunity of child abuse.
Selection of Workers for Positions Supervising Youth
Year-round staff members involved with youth are hired by the General Secretary of BYM using a process that involves but is not limited to a written application, interview, reference checks and criminal background check. These year-round staff members oversee the various BYM programs for youth.
People who oversee the BYM programs serving youth are charged with the responsibility of discerning the suitability of staff and volunteers to work with our youth. All BYM employees and any persons who desire to work directly with the children participating in our programs and activities will be screened using the procedures below:
a. Written application:
All applicants for any Youth Worker position must complete an application. The applications for various BYM youth programs may differ slightly depending upon individual program needs. However, each application will request basic information from the applicant, and will inquire into such matters as previous experience with children and religious affiliation. It will require at least two references, employment information and disclosure of any criminal convictions. (See Youth Safety Appendix A for a copy of the application for use with all youth staff and camp staff, BYM staff, and JYM volunteers.) Applicants with experience in one or more Quaker programs are encouraged to obtain one of their references from someone associated with that program, or from their Monthly Meeting. This shall not be a requirement.
Access to the completed application forms will be available to those reviewing the application, and to relevant BYM staff and committee clerks.
b. Applicant Interview:
Upon review of the applications, a personal interview will be conducted with all selected applicants to consider their suitability. The Camp Directors conduct interviews for the camp staff; the Junior Yearly Meeting committee clerks interview possible volunteer staff for JYM; and the Friendly Adult Presence (FAP) subcommittee interviews possible staff for BYM Young Friends and Junior Young Friends programs. Procedures for conducting and documenting the interview or training process will be determined by the particular youth program. Any concerns raised during the interview process should be noted in writing on or with the application, and signed and dated by the noting interviewer.
c. Reference Checks:
Before an applicant is permitted to work with children and youth in any BYM program, at least two of the applicant’s personal references will be checked. Individuals familiar with the applicant but not identified by that applicant as a reference also may be contacted for input.
d. Six-Month Association Rule:
In an effort to ensure that we know the individuals who will help our youth develop and be asked to serve as role models, no unpaid worker will be considered for any positions involving supervisory contact with minors until she or he has been known to a Quaker community for a minimum of the previous six (6) months before applying for a position in a BYM youth program. Quaker communities may include Friends schools, Friends camps, Monthly Meetings or other Quaker organizations.
e. Exceptions to the selection process:
We recognize that there are some categories of workers which are not vetted using the above detailed application process, such as occasional workshop leaders and non-program-affiliated bus drivers. Notwithstanding, all such workers are still required to undergo a criminal background check unless program staff will be present at all times during the occasional person’s direct contact with youth.
f. Criminal Background Check:
A state/district and national criminal background check covering the jurisdiction in which the worker resides is required for all Youth Workers and Support Workers within BYM youth programs, excepting Minor Youth Workers. Until the background check is complete, no adult applicant will be allowed to volunteer or be employed in any of the youth programs. Periodic re-checks will occur, based on the specific youth program’s need, but rechecks will occur no less frequently than every three years.
Before a background check is run, a prospective worker will be asked to complete and sign an authorization and release form as well as an information form allowing BYM to access this information and share it with appropriate personnel. (See Youth Safety Appendix A for Authorization & Release and Information forms.) A failure to disclose a criminal conviction on the background authorization form and/or declining to sign the authorization form will be a basis for prohibiting the individual from working with children or acting in a support capacity in our youth programs. An applicant will be provided with the opportunity to explain any extenuating circumstances regarding criminal convictions on the application.
Conviction of a crime does not mean that someone could not work with children nor does it mean that he or she does not have gifts to offer the BY M community. But in order to protect the safety of our youth, individuals convicted of any of the following types of crimes will not be employed nor serve as volunteers in our youth programs:
Any crimes involving children such as, but not limited to, child abuse, sexual abuse, child neglect, child pornography, and human trafficking.
Additionally, applicants convicted of “barrier crimes”, as defined by Virginia law, will not be placed in positions working with youth in any BYM programs located in Virginia. All other convictions will be assessed based on the type of crime, numbers of convictions and date(s) of convictions to ascertain whether the individual is suited to working with youth at all, or at the time of the application.
The background check authorization form and results will be maintained in confidence in a locked file at the BYM office. Should the criminal background check indicate any convictions that would ban or limit the involvement of an applicant, the Yearly Meeting staff will communicate with the applicant and notify him or her of the reason s/he is not eligible to work with youth in BYM programs. The applicant has the right to review the report. If the applicant believes that the criminal background report is incorrect, s/he may go through the appropriate legal channels to correct it and then reapply. BYM staff will notify the person responsible for the appropriate program that the applicant is not currently eligible to work with youth. In these instances, the General Secretary, Program Manager and the appropriate program committee clerk will be consulted. The Yearly Meeting Presiding Clerk may substitute for the General Secretary, as needed.
Minor Youth Workers
Because of the difference in legal status between youths and those over 18, the selection process for Minor Youth Workers is somewhat different. We recognize that there may be times when it is necessary or desirable for workers (paid or volunteer) who are under age 18 to assist in caring for children during programs or activities. The following guidelines apply to such workers:
- Minor Youth Workers must be at least age 14; Note, the minimum age may be higher for some BYM youth programs based on the program, job description, location of where the program is conducted and the regulations in that jurisdiction.
- There should be an age gap of at least two years or two grade levels between Minor Youth Workers and the children under their care. Some programs may require a wider age gap.
- Minor Youth Workers must provide at least two references, with one preferably from their Monthly Meeting or another BYM program, or from a person in a position of responsibility concerning such experience at another Quaker or religious institution or other group. It should include information about the applicant’s prior experience working with children.
- All Minor Youth Workers must have the express permission of a parent or guardian to engage in this ministry.
- Minor Youth Workers must be under the supervision of an adult at all times.
- Note: Criminal background checks are not available for minors.
Given that our Yearly Meeting youth programs serve children from infancy through early adulthood, each youth program will develop guidelines for its programs and events that identify the maximum number of participants that one worker may be responsible for supervising, in accordance with applicable laws. Programs employing workers under the age of eighteen (18) years will include in their guidelines the discernment as to the ages of children a Minor Youth Worker may care for, and the number of participants a Minor Youth Worker may reasonably be expected to work with.
For the protection of all, where possible, there should be at least two adult workers in attendance at all times when minors are being supervised during our programs and activities. One-on-one (adult-child) interactions behind closed doors or in a secluded area are prohibited, except as may be required for medical or similar purposes. Transportation of youth or support workers should conform to this guideline where possible.
We encourage any private conversations to be held in public view.
Workers must ensure that they are not alone with only one unrelated youth. Classroom doors should remain open if there is no uncovered window that provides a clear view into the room. Workers are never to be alone with a child in a private bathroom/ or bathroom stall with the door closed.
During times when there are not two adults present with a group of youth, another appropriate adult should be assigned to make periodic unannounced site checks to such group.
Note: The BYM Camping program adheres to state-specific regulations regarding youth-to-staff ratios, which may differ at times with this guideline.
Open Door Guideline
When a program involving youth uses a classroom or other meeting room, the door to the room should always remain open unless there is an uncovered window in the door or a side window beside it that provides a clear view into the room. Doors are never to be locked while youth are inside the room.
All programs which serve youth within BYM will have clear check-in and check-out procedures which ensure that the staff/volunteers can account for the number, identity and whereabouts of the youth under their care from arrival to departure. Each program will provide the particular procedures for these safeguards. Each such procedure should be submitted for approval to the Program Manager, or the person in charge.
BYM strives to create a safe and nurturing environment where youth of all ages can experience the community of Friends. Our program leaders and staff work hard to use conflict resolution familiar to Friends when the need arises. Physical discipline such as spanking, grabbing, or hitting children is unacceptable under any circumstance. Workers should consult with the program director or committee clerk if assistance is needed with disciplinary issues.
Responding to Allegations of Child Abuse
BYM operates in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia, and the terms “child abuse,” "child neglect" and "child sexual abuse" have different definitions in each such jurisdiction, as well as different reporting requirements. (See Youth Safety Appendix B for pertinent laws regarding child abuse for each of these jurisdictions.) Notwithstanding these various definitions, child abuse, neglect or sexual abuse generally include, but are not limited to the following:
- Any treatment, action or behavior or lack thereof to a child by any adult or other child that is not accidental, and that causes physical, sexual or emotional harm or injury to that child. This includes actions or behaviors that are direct as well as indirect though writing, phone calls, texting, instant messaging, via any form of social media or other form of communication or interaction.
- Any act that involves sexual molestation or exploitation of a child by a parent or other person who has permanent or temporary care or responsibility for supervision of a child, or by any household or family member. These acts include incest, rape, sodomy, sexual offense, and unnatural or perverted sexual practices. [These acts by other adults would be defined as sexual crimes and be described in another part of the law.] This includes actions or behaviors that are direct as well as indirect though writing, phone calls, texting, instant messaging, via any form of social media or any other form of communication or interaction.
- Any action or failure to act that deprives a child of essential needs, such as adequate food, water, shelter, or medical care, by a caregiver who bears responsibility for providing such.
If an individual suspects abuse or neglect of a child participating in any BYM program, whether the abuse is suspected to have occurred in the youth program or elsewhere, s/he will immediately notify 1) the Yearly Meeting Program Manager or 2) the appropriate committee clerk for further action, AND make an oral report to the civil authorities, and follow that by a written report to the civil authorities within 24-48 hours, as mandated by state law. (See Youth Safety Appendix C for Important Contact Information.) The Program Manager or committee clerk who receives the initial report shall notify the General Secretary as soon as possible.
Any sexual activity between any Youth Worker (including Minor Youth Workers) and a youth participant of a BYM program in which the Youth Worker is involved, is contrary to BYM policy.
Steps in Handling Suspected or Actual Abuse
While our youth programs strive to foster communities of caring and respect for all, we recognize that the possibility exists for abuse or neglect of children during participation in a youth program, as well as the possibility of discovering, during a youth event, evidence of abuse of a child participant that has occurred elsewhere.
In the event that a suspicion of child abuse or neglect is raised at a BYM program event or activity, regardless of where the abuse is alleged to have occurred, the following procedure shall be followed:
- All youth workers shall comply with state requirements regarding reporting of any suspected child abuse, whether or not the statute includes the youth worker as a mandatory reporter. In Maryland, the duty to report is triggered as follows: “An individual shall immediately report suspected child abuse or neglect to the local department of social services, or report the suspected incident to a local law enforcement agency."
- Report the suspicion or incident to the Program Manager or committee clerk as soon as possible, AND
- Make an oral report of the suspicion or incident to the local Department of Social Services or Police. (See Youth Safety Appendix C for Important Contact Information)
- The youth worker shall follow up by making a written report to the civil authority within 24-48 hours of the oral report. (See Youth Safety Appendix B for required forms or list of information to provide if no form required).
- Immediate steps will be taken by the Program Director or person in charge (PIC) to ensure that all other children and youth in the youth program are safe, as applicable.
- If applicable, the employee or volunteer alleged to be the perpetrator of the abuse or misconduct will immediately be placed on leave from working with children and will not be permitted to participate in any activities involving children or youth, pending an investigation.
- The parent or guardian of the youth will be notified by the person in charge as soon as possible, excepting circumstances in which such parent or guardian is the alleged abuser. (If there are multiple people in charge, those people should meet to be informed about the incident as soon as possible and to designate a point person to contact the parent or guardian and report to the authorities.) Information on the suspicion or incident will be provided to the parent or guardian including the requirement that youth workers must report such suspicions or incidents to the Program Manager, parents, and to the authorities.
- In situations where the parent or guardian is available and not the alleged abuser, the Program Manager will assist as requested by the parent or guardian to care for the needs of the child. If the parent or guardian is not immediately available or is the alleged abuser, the Program Manager will ensure that the child, the alleged victim, receives immediate medical attention, if and as appropriate.
- Investigation of the suspicion or incident is the responsibility of the civil authorities who are trained for this purpose. BYM officials and all involved are expected to cooperate fully with any investigation. During the course of any investigation, all involved are reminded that confidentiality is important to the alleged victim as well as the alleged perpetrator. Any person ultimately found guilty of abuse by the authorities will be permanently removed from his or her position with children or youth, and will not be permitted to participate in any activities involving children and youth in Yearly Meeting.
- The General Secretary of the Yearly Meeting or his or her designee will ensure that all required reports to the civil authorities are made and that internal written records are kept regarding the suspicion or incident. The internal records should include, in detail, all steps taken by BYM in compliance with this policy and state law, as well as all actions to foster the healing of everyone involved. These will be kept in a locked file.
- The Presiding Clerk of the Yearly Meeting and the Yearly Meeting's insurance carrier will be notified by BYM's General Secretary or his or her designee. If the insurer of the local venue is not the same as BYM's carrier, staff will advise the contact person for that venue that an incident has occurred, and that while BYM carries insurance, it is also appropriate for a representative of that venue to contact its insurer.
- After consultation with BYM's legal counsel, the Presiding Clerk of the Yearly Meeting or his or her designee will determine whether, to what extent and by whom internal announcements or reports will be made within BYM to Friends.
- After consultation with BYM's legal counsel, the Presiding Clerk of Yearly Meeting or his or her designee will be our spokesperson to the media, if that is deemed necessary, concerning incidents of abuse or neglect. However, if that person is alleged to be involved, the Interim Meeting Clerk or his or her designee will be the spokesperson. All others should refrain from speaking to the media.
- The Clerk of the Committee charged with supervision of the Program (or Supervisory Committee for staff), the General Secretary, the Presiding Clerk of Yearly Meeting, the appropriate program manager, the Camp Director (where appropriate) and BYM's legal counsel will together determine what information might need to be communicated to help the program community recover. This group will make decisions about communicating information and facilitating healing, and will assist in carrying these out.
- The point person among those in charge will contact the parent or guardian and the victim to inform them of steps that were taken so as to close the feedback loop.
- At the conclusion of the investigation, if it is determined by the civil authorities that they do not have enough information to move forward, or if the suspicion is unsubstantiated, the Program Manager of person in charge will meet with the appropriate persons to determine whether any further internal steps need to be taken.
- Throughout the process, the confidentiality of both the youth and the accused is very important, as is the healing of the community. All are asked to keep this in mind as decisions are made and related actions occur.
Non-Reportable Behavior that Raises Concern
Behavior that raises concern is recognized as something that is very difficult to define, and will vary from program to program depending on the developmental stage of the participants. For example, while it may be appropriate for an adult worker to hold a baby or one-year-old in his/her lap and cuddle it, it is not appropriate for an adult worker to hold a sixteen-year-old in his/her lap and cuddle. That said, appropriate behavior is generally related to interpersonal boundaries and feelings of safety on an individual and community level.
A. Behaviors Occurring Internally
We recognize that some situations, actions or behaviors of Youth Workers that are not reportable as suspicious of child abuse may still concern us. Situations involving disconcerting behaviors are to be handled in the following manner:
- The disconcerting behavior will be brought to the attention of the person in charge (PIC), i.e. Camp Director, Youth Secretary, Designated Friendly Adult Presence (DFAP), or Program Manager by the individual(s) observing or receiving a report about the behavior. The PIC will work with all the individuals involved to attempt to bring clarity to the situation.
- If the disconcerting behavior appears to be of a serious, but still non-reportable, nature, the PIC will note the concern in writing and notify the program staff person or the program committee clerk of the concern as soon as possible. The General Secretary or designee must be consulted as soon as possible and is to be kept informed throughout the entire process.
- If, after this, the behavior is deemed serious by the PIC or the General Secretary, the individual in question will be notified in writing that he/she is being put on inactive status and cannot participate in any Baltimore Yearly Meeting youth program until the matter is cleared up. At this point, an inquiry will be initiated by the program staff person, in concurrence with the General Secretary, to determine the following:1. The complaint has a basis for further investigation. If so, conduct an internal inquiry and,i. If deemed reportable, take reporting steps as indicated previously.
ii. If non-reportable but the behavior indicatesa. a lack of good judgment, or
b. an insufficient level of maturity for the position of Youth Worker, or
c. an inappropriate sense of boundaries, then
2. The PIC and/or the General Secretary shall determine a course of action appropriate to the circumstances. Actions may include, but are not limited to the following:i. provide additional training,
ii. provide closer supervision,
iii. offer a clearness committee,
iv. temporarily restrict participation in Youth Programs pending additional maturity, and/or
v. bar permanently from youth work.
If the internal inquiry indicates that the individual should be barred from the youth program, the program staff person may contact the clerk of individual's Monthly Meeting to convey the general outline of the situation and to request that the Monthly Meeting attend to the spiritual and emotional needs of the individual.
Information about the situation will be shared only on as only on an as-needed basis, and, only to the limited extend necessary. Any written documents will be kept locked in a confidential file in the Baltimore Yearly Meeting office.
B. Behavior Outside of BYM that Raises Concerns
An individual may question the appropriateness of a Youth Worker's involvement with youth based upon that worker's behavior outside Yearly Meeting activities. When such a concern is brought to the attention of a BYM youth program leader, care needs to be taken to discern the appropriate response. The response shall be determined by the Program Manager, program committee clerk and the General Secretary and may include any of the steps listed above. At all times respect and concern needs to be held for all involved, and information about the situation will be shared only on a limited, need-to-know basis.
BYM youth programs will require and provide training on this Policy for all Youth Workers. (See Youth Safety Appendix D for Acknowledgement form for Youth Workers to sign and submit upon receipt and/or training on this Policy.) Additionally, BYM will strive to provide opportunities for additional training classes or events on a regular basis. All persons working with youth are expected to attend training regarding youth safety.
The Youth Safety Policy Working Group will meet at least once per year to review this Youth Safety Policy and will bring proposed revisions of this Policy to Interim Meeting or Annual Session as needed.