Tag Archives: child protection

Clearances Necessary to Protect our Children: Child Protection Resource

As congregations continue to implement the new Pennsylvania child protection laws, Franconia Mennonite Conference is working to develop resources for the congregations to be available on FranconiaConference.org. While policy changes and trainings are required, under the new law, the most immediate item needed is clearances on employees and volunteers who have “direct contact” with children.

child protection photo 7-16-15Understanding who needs clearances and getting all of the documents in order can be overwhelming. To aid in this process here are the need to know items.

Who needs clearances?

All employees age 14 and older and volunteers over the age of 18 who have “direct contact” with a child or children. A child is defined by the law as anyone under the age of 18. Direct contact can be defined as those acting in lieu of or on behalf of a parent or guardian, someone providing care, guidance, supervision and or has routine interaction.

For Franconia Mennonite Conference congregations, individuals needing clearances include:

  • All credentialed leaders
  • Sunday School Teachers and assistants
  • Nursery volunteers
  • Any childcare worker during special events or service times
  • Youth sponsors/ leaders
  • Chaperones for events

What clearances need to be obtained?

All individuals requiring clearances will need to complete the:

If the individual is paid for their position OR has lived outside of Pennsylvania in the past 10 years, then they are required to complete the:

  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Criminal Background Check which is processed through Cogent.

It is expected that if an individual has lived in Pennsylvania for the last 10 years and/or is applying for a volunteer (unpaid) position that they would:

  • sign a “swear and affirm” document as they are not required to complete the FBI background check.

A sample of a “swear and affirm” document can be found here. Also, Souderton Mennonite Church currently uses a “Volunteer Covenant” that can be viewed here.

Jesus welcomes a child with open arms to sit with him and says in Matthew 18:5, “whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.” Through this we see that the act of providing nurturing spaces for children is an especially holy act. For this welcome to be truly extended to children in the context of our congregations, our churches must be places of refuge and safety. Completing the clearance process for congregational and conference volunteers and staff is not just a compliance with the laws of Pennsylvania: it is a way to live out our calling in Christ to bless, welcome, and nurture children.

For additional information on clearances required under the Pennsylvania Child Protection laws, visit Keep Kids Safe PA: Clearances. Stay tuned to Intersectings and FranconiaConference.org for more resources and information to come.

Protecting God’s Gifts: Congregations Prepare for New Child Protection Laws

Barbie Fischer

As Pennsylvania rolls out new Child Protection laws, Franconia Mennonite Conference is working to support congregations and leaders in the updating of their child protection/safety policies. In this effort, Franconia and Eastern District hosted a Child Protection Seminar held at Towamencin Mennonite Church on May 13th and May 20th. The seminar enabled pastors, associate pastors, youth leaders, along with children and family ministry directors to learn about the new Pennsylvania Child Protection laws that are now in place to help preserve the family.

“We need to set high standards as communities of faith for creating safe spaces for our children to grow in the image of God. The state is setting certain standards for us. This is an opportunity to be a witness in our communities for the value we place on our children and youth,” said John Stoltzfus, conference youth minister.

Child Protection 6-4-15 webThe seminar was presented by Mandy Mundy, from the Network of Victim Assistance (NOVA) in Bucks County. She reviewed briefly how the new child protection laws came to be, and gave an overview of what the laws say. She explained what and who a mandated reporter is. Noting that the new laws expand who is required to be a mandated reporter. For the Conferences and congregations this includes all pastors, credentialed leaders, and paid and unpaid staff who are responsible for children during a scheduled church activity or function. This would include nursery/childcare volunteers, and youth sponsors for all church related activities/events.

Mundy also explained that “a mandated report is required to report suspected child abuse.” She briefly explained what is meant by “suspected” and the information a mandated reporter would need to make a report. Participants were reminded that a report does not mean a child will be removed from their home. Mundy also reminded participants that child abuse is not just physical or sexual but also mental and emotional. Some of the definitions of child abuse have also changed with the new laws and those changes were noted in the presentation.

Following that, Mundy reviewed the basic process for reporting suspected child abuse. She also discussed with the participants who under the new laws would be required to have background checks (referred to as clearances).

At the end of the seminar participants were given an opportunity to share what is already in place at their churches and what changes they have been making to address the new laws. Many ideas were exchanged and discussed.

Stoltzfus stated, “Attending this seminar made it clear to me that while many of our churches already have good child safety policies in place, we also have much work to do in updating our policies to meet new state requirements and in better aligning our vision of who we are called to be as a people of God with our practices of creating safe spaces for our children.”

Franconia Conference continues to work to aid congregations in this transition with the new laws and will be posting a page on the website dedicated to Child Protection. On this page the Conference plans to post the updated Conference Child Protection Guidelines and looks forward to being able to provide sample forms for congregations. If your congregation is willing to share your policy or forms for others to use as an example please contact Barbie Fischer at BFischer@FranconiaConference.org. Stay tuned to Intersectings for the announcement of when the new Child Protection Page is up and running.

To download the slides presented by Mundy at the Seminar click here.

Ensuring Our Children’s Safety

Attend the Leadership and Congregation Training on New Pennsylvania Child Protection Law

In an effort to strengthen our church communities to be safe spaces for our children and youth, and to move toward compliance with the new Pennsylvania child protection law, Franconia Mennonite Conference and Eastern District Conference are joining with Bucks County NOVA (www.novabucks.org) to offer a crucial training for churches – “Child Protective Services Training”. We as a church have an obligation and an opportunity to ensure our child protection policies and culture are at their best. This is why the Franconia Conference Ministerial Committee strongly recommends that credentialed leaders attend one of the seminars. In addition, it is advised that each congregation have a representative or team there as well.

Child Protection training 2 5-7-15This training seminar will be held twice: Wednesday, May 13, 9:30-12:00 noon and Wednesday, May 20, 7-9:30 pm at Towamencin Mennonite Church, 1980 Sumneytown Pike, Kulpsville. To register for the training click go to http://franconiaconference.org/rsvp/.

This new legislation impacts both volunteers and paid staff responsible for caring for children in regularly scheduled programs, activities, or services including Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, Christian Education leaders, pastors, church staff, nursery staff, and Christian nurture leaders.  Therefore it is encouraged that your congregation send a team of persons to this training, both staff and volunteers.

This training will:

  • Increase knowledge of who is classified as a mandated reporter and what those responsibilities are under the new Child Protective Services Law.
  • Increase probability of suspecting child abuse when there is “reasonable cause.”
  • Increase knowledge of procedure for reporting of child abuse to child protective services.
  • Include conversation with other churches regarding best practices.
  • Educate and prepare our communities to deal with and prevent child sexual abuse.
  • Teach the steps to help prevent abuse, recognize warning signs, and react responsibly when abuse occurs.

Some churches are already taking steps to address the new law while others are still trying to determine how to best implement the new requirements. We will hear from a few of our congregations who have already made strides to address the requirements of the new law and will discuss ways in which your congregation can continue to ensure the safety and well-being of our children and youth. We look forward to seeing you at the Child Protective Services Training as we all work together to strengthen our church communities to be safe spaces for our children and youth.

Franconia and Eastern District Conferences to hold Child Protection Seminars

It is a given that all of us want our church communities to be safe spaces for our children and youth.  In light of the new legislation passed in Pennsylvania regarding protection of children, we as a church have an obligation and an opportunity to strengthen our child protection policies and culture.  Some churches are already moving ahead with changes to address the new law while others are still trying to determine how to best implement the new requirements.

child protection 4-23-15This new legislation impacts both volunteers and paid staff responsible for caring for children in regularly scheduled program, activity, or service including Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, Christian Education leaders, pastors, church staff, nursery staff, and Christian nurture leaders.  Churches are encouraged to send a team of persons to this training including both staff and volunteers.

Franconia Mennonite Conference and Eastern District Conference are joining with Bucks County NOVA to offer a crucial training for churches – “Child Protective Services Training”. This training seminar will be held twice: Wednesday, May 13, 9:30-12:00 noon and Wednesday, May 20, 7-9:30 pm.  We will meet at Towamencin Mennonite Church, 1980 Sumneytown Pike, Kulpsville.  Register at http://franconiaconference.org/rsvp/.

This training will:

  • Increase knowledge of who is classified as a mandated reporter and what those responsibilities are under Child Protective Services Law.
  • Increase probability of suspecting child abuse when there is “reasonable cause.”
  • Increase knowledge of procedure for reporting of child abuse to child protective services.
  • Include conversation with other churches regarding best practices.
  • Educate and prepare our communities to deal with and prevent child sexual abuse.
  • Teach the steps to help prevent abuse, recognize warning signs, and react responsibly when abuse occurs.

Executive Board OKs two resolutions for Phoenix

Mennonite Church USA Phoenix Conventionby Gordon Houser, The Mennonite (reposted by permission)

At its last meeting before the delegate assembly in Phoenix in July, the Executive Board (EB) of Mennonite Church USA met April 4-6 in Kansas City, Mo., and decided to send to delegates two resolutions for their consideration.

One resolution, “Protecting and Nurturing Our Children and Youth,” seeks to raise awareness of child abuse and neglect and encourage the adoption of policies and practices to protect children and youth in the church community. Because of concern for liability issues, the board decided to recommend its adoption, “pending legal counsel.”

Another resolution, on creation care, calls for congregations and members to care for creation as part of the good news of Jesus Christ. EB members recommended this without discussion.

A third resolution, on Israel/Palestine, had gone to the Constituency Leaders Council’s meeting in March for discussion.

However, said Dave Boshart and David Sutter, co-chairs of the resolutions committee, “nearly all table groups at CLC discouraged or had significant reservations about presenting the resolution … to the delegate assembly.”

The committee did agree that the topic was important, and EB’s executive committee asked, What do we want to achieve?

Eventually, EB agreed on the following: “Executive Board desires to have conversation in the church which helps us understand both Israeli and Palestinian narratives and the Christian and American narrative in relation to them, and which helps us understand how we interpret the Bible in regard to these issues, particularly how we understand Christian Zionism.”

In an unprecedented occurrence, much of EB’s business time was spent in executive session, which means the press is not allowed to report on what is said.

In an April 8 email, moderator Dick Thomas said: “We spent about one-third of our meeting in either executive session or in session with agency staff and media present [but] where we requested no reporting of the conversation. Some of this conversation had to do with internal board processes and some with matters of discernment that will be reported after further conversation with individuals or groups that could not be at the board meeting.”

In other business, EB decided to reduced its number of meetings per biennium from seven to six, with one meeting in a non-convention year held by teleconference and the summer meeting in a convention year held at the convention site, with no meeting in the fall. EB members recognized the need for cutting budget but lamented the loss of meeting time.

Larry Hauder said, “It’s hard to build relationships with fewer meetings.”

Executive director Ervin Stutzman noted that the Purposeful Plan, which guides the work of the church, did not say anything about “our need for God.”

The board agreed to add the following to the document:”We recognize that because of sin, all have fallen short of the Creator’s intent, marred the image of God in which we were created, disrupted order in the world and limited our love for others. Therefore, through the reconciling power of Jesus Christ, we seek to walk in righteousness, or ‘right-relatedness’ with God and others.”

And in the section under Holistic Christian Witness, they added the following sentence: “Our allegiance to Jesus Christ calls us to love our enemies, demonstrating our willingness to die for our convictions but not to kill for them.”