This is often the first place that safety concerns begin to emerge in a congregation. We think of children and youth as our most vulnerable population and there are often laws and requirements imposed on us to ensure a higher level of safety for these groups. Basic children and youth safety requires adherence to the “two-person rule.” Following common practice of youth organizations such as scouting and YMCA/YWCA, classrooms and spaces for children and youth require the presence and of two unrelated adults. This can presents challenges, particularly in smaller congregations but this practice ensures the safety of both the child and the adult. Other considerations include background checking, “mandatory reporting” of suspected abuse and in some cases, fingerprinting. These precautionary practices are common for volunteers in public school settings and in some areas (PA in particular) are required for all types of organizations.
A concern that sometimes arises for congregations is how to work with a volunteer or congregant who discloses a prior conviction for a sexual or abuse related offense. A common question congregations wrestle with is who should be notified and how much information needs to be disclosed. This is a complicated question and there is no one answer that fits every situation. I recommend that you reach out to your Primary Contact or to the Central East Region’s Safe Congregations specialist to talk specifically about what is best for your congregation.
The variety of group activities that youth sometimes engage in (overnights, CONs, field trips), adolescent physical development and their evolving understanding of physical and emotional intimacy require an additional layer of safety guidelines. The UUA has recently published a comprehensive set of safety guidelines for youth that all congregations should be reviewing and enacting within their own programs.
Background Checks are available through a number of sources including:
Mandatory Reporting: General Information and state specific guidance.