The Pacific Central District (PCD) and its member congregations recognize the importance of creating and sustaining healthy communities for all ages and stages of life. We recognize that religious communities are particularly vulnerable to incidents of abuse because of the high level of trust we place in one another, our welcoming spirit, and our strong reliance on and need for volunteers, particularly in programs that serve our children and youth.
We recognize the importance in a religious community of those very factors of trust, welcome and volunteer commitment, and have therefore chosen to adopt requirements, with explanatory guidelines, to guard against incidents of abuse. We further realize that institutions operating in the best manner possible with all due concern still cannot guarantee an absolutely risk-free environment.
We recognize that in order to adequately address the need for safe environments, we will sacrifice some convenience, and that our policies will of necessity be broadly written to apply to the widest possible spectrum of ongoing activities and special events.
In this spirit, we endorse the following requirements for district events, and strongly urge our member congregations to adopt or adapt these requirements for their own activities and events.
Codes of Ethics for Religious Leaders
Our professional religious leaders agree to abide by their codes of professional ethics:
for district staff, the Code of Professional Practice for Members of the UUA District Staff;
for ministers, the UUMA Code of Professional Practice;
for religious educators, the LREDA Code of Professional Practices;
for church musicians, the UU Musicians Network Code of Ethics; and
for church administrators, the Association of UU Administrators Code of Ethics.
Leaders of our youth and young adult communities abide by their codes of ethics: for adults, the Code of Conduct for Adults Working with Youth;
for peer leaders, the Code of Ethics for Peer Leaders in Young Adult and Campus Ministry; for youth, the Code of Ethics for Continental YRUU.
Safety Guidelines will encompass the following topics:
- Screening and Selection of Workers with Children and Youth
- Supervision Requirements
- Transportation Requirement, and
- Response and Reporting Procedures
These guidelines will apply to all PCD sponsored events such as, but not limited to:
- District Conferences, Annual Meetings, Retreats, Trainings;
- Religious Education Conferences, Trainings and Cluster Events;
- District youth council meetings, youth conferences, and sponsored trainings;
- Programs for children or youth sponsored by PCD or committees of the PCD;
- Events co-sponsored by PCD with other districts; and
- All special interest groups using the 501c3 nonprofit status of the PCD.
1. Screening and Selection of Workers with Children and Youth
These guidelines cover two varieties of security procedures. Reference checks seek non-public information, and concentrate on applications process, interview procedures, and reference examination with the persons who are acquainted with the person under consideration. Back ground checks search public data banks such as criminal conviction records.
With the exception of parents or guardians who assist temporarily in settling their babies, toddlers or children into the classroom or activity area, all other workers, whether compensated or volunteer, who provide direct care, supervision or oversight of minors must meet the following criteria:
- An adult wishing to volunteer with children or youth in PCD must have been active in a PCD congregation or recognized district group for at least six months immediately prior to the application. In the case of a person who relocates to PCD from another UUA District and wishes to become immediately active, the District Executive or her/his designee may grant an exception to the 6-month rule after checking references from the applicant’s former district or congregation.
- Youth Advisors for all PCD high school youth events, must be 25 years of age or older. If the event is specifically for Middle School youth the required minimum age of the advisors is 22 years. If both age groups are present all advisors must be 25 years or older.
- Volunteers who supervise and care for babies, toddlers, or children at PCD-sponsored educational or social events must be 18 years of age or older. If the parents are on-site, 50% of the volunteers may be between the ages of 14 – 17 years of age.
- All compensated workers must consent to a criminal background check and such check must be performed. The District Executive or designee shall arrange for the background check and shall be responsible for confidential secure storage of any records pertaining to background checks, or secure disposal (shredding) of such records when they are no longer needed.
- Background checks are recommended for volunteers who work with minor populations, as is building a directory of screened adults to work as advisors during youth events.
- All persons submitting applications for positions as Youth Advisors, Adult Volunteers, or Compensated Workers must complete an application form and supply two references (see Attachment #2, p. 10). These references should be people who have known the applicant for at least three years, preferably in relation to previous work in a congregational or district setting with children or youth. A photocopy of a government-issued picture identification, such as a driver’s license or school ID card, should be attached to the application.
- All workers must sign the appropriate Code of Conduct form listed above.
2. Event Supervision Requirements
For the purposes of these requirements a “group” is defined as those minors who have been assigned to a nursery, preschool, or children’s program, as well as youth who are taking part in a planned, organized component of their program.
A minimum of two adults/caregivers per group is required. Minimum adult to child/youth ratios are as follows:
- Nursery, Toddler — 1:3
- Preschool – 1:5
- Elementary – 1:6
- Middle School – 1:8
- High School – 1:10
Developmental guidelines for the preceding categories are: Nursery, not walking; Toddler, walking but not potty trained; Preschool, potty trained and communicates adequately; Elementary, enrolled in kindergarten through fifth grade; Middle school, 6th through 8th grades; High school, 9th through 12th grades.
Credentialed professionals working with aides or assistants may have a 1:20 ratio.
If a host site has established more stringent adult to child ratios, those of the host site will be used.
Corporal punishment may not be used under any circumstances
If an adult other than a parent or guardian has a private one-on-one meeting with a child or youth, another worker in the program shall be notified about the meeting, either before the meeting takes place or promptly afterward.
No adult, other than the parent or guardian of that child or youth, is to be alone with a child or youth off-site during a PCD-sponsored event or activity without the expressed consent of parents or primary adult onsite advisor.
For exceptions to “two adults” supervision rule, any deviation from the PCD Safety Policy must be spelled out in the literature provided to the parents of participants, and parents must sign their understanding and acceptance of these exceptions.
When the nature of the curriculum or program requires worker-to-group-member ratios different from those listed, the workers developing the program shall insure that the parent or guardian of a minor are aware of and give written permission (informed consent) for the special circumstances on a case-by-case basis.
In the case of exigent circumstances, exceptions to the Event Supervision Requirements may be made by the primary on-site adult leader. This person may be a Youth Advisor, an Adult volunteer, a compensated worker or a PCD staff person. A brief written report regarding the circumstances of the exception should be submitted to the appropriate District staff person within 48 hours.
Youth and adult chaplains for conferences and retreats should receive special training and reporting information before the event.
3. Transportation Requirements
It is the responsibility of the local congregation or of the parents or guardians of participants to provide safe transportation to and from PCD events for all children and youth under the age of 18.
The PCD safety guidelines for fieldtrips recommend that all children and youth ride with adults who meet the following requirements:
- All drivers must be at least 25 years age, hold a valid driver’s license and must provide proof of automobile insurance.
- The vehicle must be equipped with enough seat belts for all passengers and everyone in the vehicle must wear a seat belt.
- Written permission of the parent/guardian of all minor passengers must be obtained prior to being transported. This permission will include all relevant details pertaining to the event, such as date and location, time of departure and time of return.
- No driver may consume alcohol or use any form of drug which might affect the driver’s physical or mental performance during or before carrying out his/her duty as a driver.
- A minimum of two adults must accompany a group going off-site, with the same worker-to-group-member ratios as required for on site events.
- The primary on-site adult leader only may make exceptions for exigent circumstances.
- If rental vans or buses are used to transport children and youth from the primary site of the event to another location, written permission from the parent, guardian or sponsor must be on file prior to the event. Workers responsible for renting buses or vans shall rent from reputable companies that are fully insured.
4. Reporting and Response Procedures
Reporting of Incidents – Any worker at a PCD event, whether compensated or volunteer, who learns directly about or has reason to suspect that inappropriate sexual conduct, molestation, exploitation, or other objectionable conduct has taken place shall immediately report the incident to the person in charge of the event. Reporting procedures for the jurisdictions in PCD (California, Hawaii, and Nevada) are included in Attachment #5.
Every person in charge of an event to whom a report of molestation, injury, or objectionable conduct is made shall:
- Determine whether they are, by virtue of their role as a volunteer or compensated worker, required under the law of the jurisdiction in which the incident occurred to report such incident to law enforcement authorities. If they are so required they must report the incident to the authorities immediately;
- Provide a written report of the incident to either the District Executive (DE) or the Director of Faith Development (DFD) of the PCD within 48 hours.
The DE, DFD or the DE’s designee shall report the incident to the parent or guardian of the apparent victim and to the Senior Minister (or other appropriate leader in the absence of a minister) of the congregation with which the apparent victim is affiliated; provided, that the report does not involve either the parent or the minister.
Adults who, although neither a person in charge of an event nor a person affiliated with the event, nevertheless learn directly about or have reason to suspect that inappropriate sexual conduct, molestation or injury have taken place must consider whether they are required to report the incident to the law enforcement authorities of the jurisdiction in which the incident occurred, and if so, they must report the incident to the DE or DFD.
Only the DE, DFD, or his/her designee may speak to the media on behalf of the PCD in response to inquiries concerning an alleged incident of abuse, injury, or objectionable conduct.
Responding to Media – If the media contacts a society, district body or leader about an alleged abusive situation involving the district, only the District Executive (or his/her specific designee) should speak for the PCD. In general, the following requirements apply for these situations with the public media:
- So long as the speaker has reason to believe that the incident has been reported to the District Executive, the media should be referred to the DE or designee for a substantive response to the inquiry.
- Because of the issue of confidentiality, in the best interests of the child or youth, we cannot discuss specific cases in a public context, particularly if litigation seems possible. It is important that we protect both the District and the interests of the child or youth. A statement that the speaker wishes to protect the confidentiality of the apparent victim, and for that reason declines to add details, is almost always the most appropriate response to further media inquiry.
- The District Executive or designee can freely discuss what steps we have taken to guard against abusive situations.
- In any subsequent litigation, details provided by any person with even apparent authority of the PCD or any of its member congregations may be used against those entities. The UUA’s Office of Information & Public Witness (Boston-based) can also be of assistance in dealing with the media, particularly if the issue seems to be one that will be ongoing.
Removal of a worker — Should circumstances or events arise that indicate that any worker (Youth Advisor, Youth Leader, Adult volunteer or compensated worker) is no longer a suitable person to work with children, youth or adults, appropriate steps will be taken to remove that adult from involvement with groups in the district. Any person with concerns about a worker must contact the PCD District Executive or designee who will assess the need for removal. The District Staff will consult with necessary parties to determine whether action is necessary. The District Staff will then inform the PCD Board President and the appropriate supervisor in the District Services Staff Group of the UUA.
In taking any such action, the District Staff will insure that the affected worker is informed of the charges made against him or her, is told of the nature and source of the evidence supporting the charges and is fully informed of her/his right to reply to rebut such charges.
The primary adult on-site leader may determine it necessary o remove a worker immediately. In the case that a worker is immediately removed, a report will be filed by the adult leader with the DE or DFD within 48 hours.
Any such action will be handled with due caution and discretion. The professional staff of PCD has the full backing and support of the PCD Board in implementing this policy. Because of potential exposure to charges of discrimination or other legal hazard, the Board shall be promptly advised of the circumstances surrounding any removal action under this policy.
Attachment #1 – Code of Conduct rev. 6/2005
Code of Conduct for Adults Working with Children and Youth
As an adult entrusted with the care of minors and young adults at PCD sponsored events, I will hold foremost the best interests of the young people in my care. I will nurture the physical, emotional, and spiritual growth of children and youth by fostering an environment of kindness, trust, respectfulness, and fun. I will model and encourage kindness and honesty among the people in my care, and will discourage meanness and dishonesty.
As a member of the community, I will strive to create an environment in which children, youth and young adults can explore the spiritual and religious nature of their lives. With this in mind, I agree to the following:
- Self-care: I will take care of myself by getting adequate rest and nourishment so that I can be emotionally present for participants, and so that I can think clearly and respond appropriately in a crisis situation.
- Boundaries: Statement of Intent
It is important that adults be capable of supporting meaningful relationships with the children and youth with whom they work; adults must exercise good judgment and mature wisdom in using their influence with children and youth, and must refrain from using children and youth to fulfill their own emotional and peer friendship needs. Children and youth are in a vulnerable position when dealing with adults and may find it difficult to speak out about inappropriate behavior. Adults must be especially aware of the difference between a peer friendship and a friendship between a youth and an adult or between a child and an adult. In a crisis situation, adults must insure the physical and emotional safety and well-being of participants, recognizing that it may be necessary to act in loco parentis until a crisis situation is stabilized or resolved.
Understanding the above, I assume primary responsibility for maintaining appropriate boundaries and for cultivating an atmosphere of health and trust with children and youth. I will not seek emotional fulfillment or support from children or youth. I agree to conduct myself in such a way that relationships I may develop with children or youth will not lead to exploitative relationships when those children or youth become adults. I will seek assistance from appropriate colleagues or religious professionals for any support I might need in maintaining appropriate boundaries. When I make mistakes, I will draw upon the available resources to help me learn from these mistakes and reduce the likelihood that I will repeat them.
- Contact with children and youth outside of PCD events: I understand that it is my responsibility to pro-actively contact the parents of a child or youth with whom I have contact outside of PCD events. I will make it clear that in any ongoing mentoring relationship that I may develop with a child or youth outside of PCD events my behavior will be guided by the principles of honesty and respectfulness as set forth in this document.
- Sexual behavior – I understand that the development of a healthy self-image and identity as a sexual being is vital for young people, and that as an adult I play an important role in this development. I will not engage in sexual, erotic, or seductive behavior with children or youth in my care. I will not sexually harass any child or youth, nor will I engage in any behavior that constitutes verbal, emotional or physical abuse. I will carefully monitor my spoken language, my body language and my emotional energy in all these relationships.
- Confidentiality – As an adult working with minors, I understand that I am responsible not only to the young people in my care but to their parents or guardians and to the Pacific Central District as well. I am responsible for knowing the law related to mandatory reporting in the legal jurisdiction where I am a volunteer or a compensated worker. I will ask for direction in finding this information from the PCD staff if I need assistance. I will report to the appropriate parent, guardian, PCD staff member and congregational representative (minister, DRE, etc.) any statement or action which I believe indicates current, recent or future imminent harm to self or others.
I agree to abide by the terms of this Code of Conduct. I understand that violation of any part of this Code could cause me to be prohibited from working with children and youth at future PCD events. I understand that the professional religious leadership of the PCD congregation of which I am a member or which I regularly attend will also be notified of any violations of this code.
Signature of worker
Printed name of worker
The PCD Code of Conduct is subject to annual revision – the signature above signifies acceptance of the Code for one year from the date given.
Attachment #2 – Application
Pacific Central District, Unitarian Universalist Association
Please type or print clearly. Send completed application to:
PCD-UUA, 4100 Telegraph Avenue, #344, Oakland, CA 94619
Name: (last) (first)
Position you are filling:
Please give information about your present or most recent employment or volunteer position:
Dates of employment or volunteer work:
Reason for leaving:
Give two personal references, not members of your immediate family:
- (name) (phone) (relationship)
- (name) (phone) (relationship)
I certify that the information contained in this application is true and complete to the best of my knowledge.
Attachment #3: Mandatory Reporting Requirements
Mandatory reporters in California include, but are not limited to, clergy, administrators and employees of public or private day camps, public or private youth centers, youth recreation programs, or youth organizations.
They shall report when they have knowledge of or observe a child in their professional capacities or within the scope of their employment, who they know or reasonably suspect has been the victim of child abuse.
Privileged Communication – A clergy member who acquires knowledge or reasonable suspicion of child abuse during a penitential communication is not subject to the requirement to make a report. For the purposes of this subdivision, “penitential communication” means a communication, intended to be in confidence, including, but not limited to, a sacramental confession, made to a clergy member who, in the course of the discipline or practice of his or her church, denomination, or organization, is authorized or accustomed to hear those communications, and under the tenets, customs, or practices of his or her church, denomination, or organization, has a duty to keep those communications secret.
Nothing in this subdivision shall be construed to modify or limit a clergy member’s duty to report known or suspected child abuse when the clergy member is acting in some other capacity that would otherwise make the clergy member a mandated reporter.
Mandatory Reporters in Hawaii are
- Licensed or registered professionals of the healing arts and health-related occupations who examine, attend, treat, or provide other professional or specialized services, including, but not limited to, physicians, physicians in training, psychologists, dentists, nurses, osteopathic physicians and surgeons, optometrists, chiropractors, podiatrists, pharmacists, and other health-related professionals; medical examiners; coroners;
- Employees or officers of any public or private school; individual providers of child care; employees or officers of any licensed or registered child care facility, foster home, or similar institution;
- Employees or officers of any public or private agency or institution, or other individuals, providing social, medical, hospital, or mental health services, including financial assistance; employees or officers of any law enforcement agency, including, but not limited to, the courts, police departments, correctional institutions, and parole or probation offices;
- Employees of any public or private agency providing recreational or sports activities.
When, in their professional or official capacity, they have reason to believe that:
- Child abuse or neglect has occurred; or
- There exists a substantial risk that child abuse or neglect may occur in the reasonably foreseeable future.
The physician-patient privilege, the psychologist-client privilege, the spousal privilege, and the victim-counselor privilege shall not be grounds for excluding evidence in any judicial proceeding resulting from a report of child abuse or neglect pursuant to the reporting laws.
Mandatory reporters in Nevada are
- Any persons who maintain or are employed by facilities or establishments that provide care for children, children’s camps, or other facilities, institutions, or agencies furnishing care to children
- Clergymen, practitioners of Christian Science, or religious healers (unless they have acquired the knowledge of the abuse or neglect from the offenders during confessions);
They shall report
- When they, in their professional or occupational capacities, know or have reason to believe that a child has been abused or neglected;
- When they have reasonable cause to believe that a child has died as a result of abuse or neglect
Privileged Communications – Any person who is required to make a report may not invoke any of the privileges granted under law for his or her failure to report under the reporting law.
*Information obtained from Child Abuse and Neglect State Statutes Elements: Reporting Laws, Number 2, Mandatory Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau, www.calib.com/nccanch/pubs/statso1/mandrep.pdf
This document should be reviewed and updated annually.