Communication with Congregations Regarding UUA Programs

Because we are an Association of Congregations, UUA youth programs seek to be in covenant and partnership with congregations. As we aspire to high standards of safety across UUA programs, communication with religious professionals and congregations is paramount to the success of our youth ministry endeavors. All stakeholders are encouraged to reach out to the UUA staff responsible for these programs with questions and concerns.

For the kinds of communication listed in this document UUA staff responsible for youth programs communicate primarily with religious professionals. In congregations without religious professionals, UUA staff will communicate with presidents or their designee.

Responsibilities of Congregations

When youth and adults attend youth events, there are several responsibilities the current Youth Safety Guidelines gives to congregations.

  • Approve youth as attendees. You know best if a youth is emotionally ready and prepared to be a safe and covenantal participant in an event.

    • The policy requires youth to be active participants in a UU community and trusts the community to know the youth. Each congregation/covenanting community will decide how they define “active.” How much participation is needed to be “known” varies by congregation.

  • Approve adults as attendees including providing a copy of the local background check to the UUA.

  • Pair youth attendees with adult sponsors (for programs that require adult sponsors) so that youth are paired with adults who can support them.

    • We encourage congregations to pair youth with adult sponsors who know the youth and attend the same congregation as the youth.

    • Orient sponsors to specific congregational expectations and/or policies.

  • Consider holding pre-event orientations for youth and adults attending immersion experiences.

So that our youth can be best supported and cared for, we request that local congregations communicate with UUA staff responsible for event anything which UUA staff should know including:

  • Prior: Any substantial support required by a youth including inclusion and support suggestions from the congregation’s experience.

  • Prior: Any issues regarding a youth's life or behavior in the local congregation that could impact a youth's experience at a youth event such that chaplains or adult leaders should be alerted. For example, a recent mental health difficulty, concerning behavior, or local covenant violations.

  • After: Any concerns, including rumors after an event.

Our policy does not take responsibility for transportation to UUA events. We ask congregations will follow their own Safe Congregations’ transportation requirements.

UUA Staff Responsibilities when Communicating to Congregations

UUA Staff are responsible for sharing the Youth Safety Guidelines with congregations.

Congregational staff and/or leaders will be given access to incident report forms involving their youth and/or adults, as well as incident report forms for incidents that happen in their building.

When UUA staff hear of issues after or between events, we will include congregational staff and/or leaders in the plan to reach out and interview any involved participants.

Congregational staff and/or leaders will be informed of incidents involving their youth and/or adults including:

  • When there are concerns about an adult’s ability to be a healthy and safe adult in a youth space or to follow the Adult Code of Conduct

  • When a youth has a medical or behavioral issue noteworthy of documentation,

  • When a youth engages in behavior which breaks Participant Rules / Behavioral Expectations

  • When a youth is out of covenant within the community and needs support in their relationships.

  • When a youth has been hurt by other participants’ behavior and needs support from their home community

  • When UUA staff hears of a past covenantal or rule issue requiring follow up.

  • When a youth has shared a pastoral concern where leaders are concerned for their safety (See Reporting Procedure For Harm to Self and Others Including Child Abuse)

  • Where UUA staff must make a mandated report of child abuse (See Mandated Reporting Procedure For Child Abuse and Neglect)

If parent/guardians are present or the situation is life-threatening, parents/guardian communication may be prioritized over communication with the congregation.

Note: the UU College of Social Justice (UUCSJ) open enrollment programs may communicate directly with parents/guardians as these programs are open to all youth and the UUCSJ does not always have congregational information. The UUCSJ does have a reference check process.