The UUA's resources for Responsible Staffing outline practices for screening and hiring congregational staff, including those who work with children directly.
Guidance for Background Checks
- Employees and volunteers serving in positions involving children and youth, the elderly, vulnerable populations, money, or transportation should be screened prior to any job offer or volunteer placement.
Only screen employee applicants who are finalists.
For applicants under the age of 18, use reference checks.
Re-screen current employees and volunteers annually.
Always conduct criminal background screenings at the state and national level as well as through the Nationwide Sex Offender Registry.
Use a service, such as Trusted Employees, that conducts criminal background screenings and identity verification.
Kim Sweeney offers this additional guidance:
- All prospective workers and volunteers should complete an application. At a minimum, it should ask for the applicant’s name and address, the names of other organizations in which the applicant has worked as an employee or volunteer, a full explanation of any prior criminal convictions, and the names of two or more references.
Contact references, and ask appropriate questions about prospective hire’s previous experience.
Follow up with each person and organization listed as a reference in the application, and specifically request a reference addressing the suitability of the applicant to work with minors (or money if it is a position involving financial matters).
Staff Must Be Unrelated to Each Other
The UUA advises congregations to require that at least two unrelated adults, who are not in a relationship with each other, be present at all times as teachers/volunteers for religious education, youth group, children and teen choirs, and other children or teen activities in the congregation. For example, a third staffer would need to be present with a wife/husband team in the nursery.
In addition, many congregational insurance policies now require that churches adopt the “two-person” rule. One adult should never be alone with a child or in a classroom, and, under no circumstances, is a child to be left in a classroom or anywhere unattended. This protects children from abuse, and it protects our children’s ministry volunteers from accusation.