Trustees Interchange Reports
BYM Youth Safety Policy: An Introduction to the Newly Revised Version
Riley Robinson, General Secretary
Baltimore Yearly Meeting approved a revised and updated version of its Youth Safety Policy at the June 2013 Interim Meeting. The original policy had been approved by our insurance company. This time we took a step further and consulted a lawyer who specializes in this area of law throughout our process. We worked with the law firm of Erika Cole in Owings Mills, MD, which specializes in church matters. A great deal of this practice, however, turns out to be with managing matters of abuse.
Certain factors made it especially important for us to update our policy at this time.
- Laws in this area continue to change. Among these changes is greater receptiveness to claims about events that may have happened long ago;
- New situations had arisen which the original policy had not anticipated, For instance, the new environment of electronic communications, such as social networking;
- We wanted to make sure that we were providing a system with adequate confidentiality for all parties. This requires special thought, given the traditional ways that the Quaker community handles business.
- BYM has an organizational emphasis on child and youth activities which merits a special level of responsiveness. Additionally, the policy covers a wide range of activities with children and youth, in a variety of situations.
These conditions apply to Local Meetings, too. Please take some time to review this material at the BYM website and make sure that your Meeting reviews it as well. This would especially include those responsible for religious education, for any youth activities, and for insurance and safety issues at the Meeting. Develop effective polices, train everyone about them regularly, and document that everyone has been trained.
There are three document sections to consider: one is the Youth Safety Policy itself, then the Appendix that comes after the policy with clarifications and forms, and third is a section reviewing child abuse statutes by state in the five jurisdictions in which BYM operates. The policy applies directly to the Yearly Meeting and all of its operations.
It is strongly hoped that this policy and the accompanying material will be used as a reference by Local Meetings. Local Meetings are independent entities and need to assess their own needs. It becomes clearer by the day that everyone in the community is responsible for providing a safe environment for children and youth. This is something that requires proactive planning and attentiveness on a regular basis. When the necessary practices become understood, they need not be an exceptional burden, but rather something to be appreciated and something that will attract families to our community.
The Yearly Meeting and all Local Meetings must follow the law. Additionally we all need to be aware of what is required of us by insurance companies. Baltimore Yearly Meeting has an umbrella policy which gives Meetings the option of getting their own insurance through BYM at reasonable rates. Most Meetings choose to have their own coverage under this policy. BYM’s provider, GuideOne, is one of the few insurers who still provides coverage for matters involving child and youth safety. For years, GuideOne has provided anyone covered with tried-and-true information about abuse prevention. This information is available at the GuideOne website. Currently, GuideOne says that it sees 20 to 25 new cases per month involving abuse among its clients across the country. It focuses primarily on religious institutions, retirement residences, and the like.
We all want to create an environment in our worship community where everyone is truly safe. BYM has done a lot of the leg work to help us all have this. As a result of this experience, BYM has approved an ongoing working group which will annually consider if any updates are needed to the policy. Please take advantage of this opportunity. If you have any questions please contact General Secretary Riley Robinson.