SAFE SANCTUARY/CHILD PROTECTION POLICY
A. PURPOSE: Epworth United Methodist Church of Huntsville, Alabama (EUMC) seeks
to provide a safe, secure environment to teach and care for the children and students of
our faith family in which opportunities for abuse and neglect are minimized by providing
proper enlistment and supervision of those persons working with our children and youth.
This document contains theological foundations, definitions of child abuse ascribed to
them by Chapter 14, entitled “’ Reporting of Child Abuse or Neglect” and Chapter 16,
entitled “Child Abuse and Neglect,” of Title 26 of the Code of Alabama 1975, and
policies and procedures related to preventing, responding, and reporting of child abuse.
B. THEOLOGICAL FOUNDATION: “Then Jesus took a little child and put her among
them; and taking her in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one such child in
my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who
sent me.’” (Paraphrase of Mark 9:36-37) Jesus also said, “If any of you put a stumbling
block before one of these little ones…, it would be better for you if a great millstone
were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.”
Our Commitment in Baptism: The Church is called to welcome and nurture the child.
Our goal is to maintain a safe, secure, loving place where children may grow and where
those who care for them may administer to their needs in responsible ways.
Our Mandate: The 1996 General Conference approved a resolution that called upon
local churches and annual conferences to institute policies and procedures to reduce
the risk of child sexual abuse in our churches and church-related activities. We as a
church endeavor to create an environment where all forms of abuse, not just sexual
abuse, are prevented and where justice is sought for abuse that we learn of which
occurs outside of the church.
Statement of Covenant: We uphold the idea that to report abuse is to be a witness to
the world of the love and justice of God and fully recognize that reporting abuse is a
form of ministering to the needs of those crying out for help. Simply, reporting abuse can
help to stop existing and prevent further abuse.
As caring Christians, we are also committed to protecting children from abuse, sexual
abuse, child molestation, or any type of inappropriate sexual behavior. To achieve that
goal, EUMC is committed to advocating for children, youth, and vulnerable adults
participating in the life of the church. The Church, at all levels of its organization, is
entrusted with the responsibility of providing an emotionally and physically safe,
spiritually grounded, healthy environment for children, youth, and adults in which they
are protected from abuse. Additionally, we care for abused children and their families by
offering resources that will contribute to healing. Further, we recognize the grace that
God gives in upholding Christian community; and we will look for grace-filled ways of
dealing with both the victim and the accused.
C. DEFINITIONS—The following terms shall have the meanings respectively ascribed
to them in this Policy:
1. Abuse—harm or threatened harm to a minor’s health or welfare by a person
responsible for the minor’s health or welfare or by a person in a position of trust,
which harm occurs or is threatened through non-accidental physical or mental
injury or sexual abuse. Abuse may include but is not limited to, sexual abuse,
physical abuse, neglect, and verbal abuse.
2. Child- A person under 18 years of age (#26-14-1(3) and #26-16-2(1), Ala. Code
3. Conference—The North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church
4. Duly Constituted Authority—The chief of police of a municipality or municipality
and county; or the sheriff, if the observation of child abuse or neglect is made in
an unincorporated territory; or the Department of Human Resources; or any
person, organization, corporation, group, or agency authorized and designated
by the Department of Human Resources to receive reports of child abuse and
neglect; provided, that a “duly constituted authority” shall not include an agency
involved in the acts or omissions of the reported child abuse or neglect.
(#26-14-1(4), Ala. Code 1975).
5. Employee – Anyone who is paid by EUMC or Epworth Mother’s Day Out,
Preschool, and Kindergarten on a full-time or part-time basis, whether or not they
work directly with preschoolers, children, or students.
6. Volunteer – Anyone who is not paid by EUMC on a full-time or part-time basis
and is serving in any position involving the supervision or custody of a child
participating in any program sponsored by EUMC to include MDO. Examples:
Nursery, childcare, preschool, grade school, middle school, high school, and
college workers, vehicle drivers, teachers, chaperones, etc.
7. MDO—the Mother’s Day Out Program utilizing the facilities of EUMC.
8. Sexual Abuse—
a. harm or threatened harm to a minor’s health or welfare by a person
responsible for the minor’s health or welfare or by a person in a position of
trust, which harm occurs or is threatened through non-accidental physical
or mental injury or sexual abuse. Abuse may include but is not limited to,
sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect, and verbal abuse.
b. Also includes any sexual activity with a child, whether in the home or by a
caretaker, in a day-care situation, in any organized ministry, whether at the
main facility (church) or away, or in any other setting, including on the
street by a person unknown to the child. The abuser may be an adult, an
adolescent, or another child (The National Resource Center on Child
c. Can be violent or non-violent;
d. Can involve fondling; penetration of the oral, genital, and anal areas;
intercourse, and forcible rape;
e. Other forms of abuse can include verbal comments, any exposure to
pornographic materials, inappropriate Internet activity, obscene phone
calls, sexualized text messaging, exhibitionism, or allowing children to
witness sexual activity.
9. Sexual Exploitation—Includes allowing, permitting, or encouraging a child to
engage in prostitution and allowing, permitting, encouraging, or engaging in the
obscene or pornographic photographing, filming, or depicting of a child for
commercial purposes. (#26-14-1(1), Ala. Code 1975).
a. Negligent treatment or maltreatment of a child, including the failure to
provide adequate food, medical treatment, supervision, clothing, or
shelter. (#26-14-1(2), Ala Code 1975.
b. Harm to a child’s health and welfare by a person responsible for the child’s
health or welfare which occurs through negligent treatment, including the
failure to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, or medical care (§
26-16-2(6), Ala. Code 1975)
c. Verbal Abuse- spoken or unspoken violence or emotional cruelty against a
d. Ritual Abuse – regular intentional physical, sexual or psychological
violations of a child to appeal to a higher authority.
D. SCREENING PROCEDURES FOR VOLUNTEERS AND PAID STAFF WORKING
WITH CHILDREN AND YOUTH.
All persons who intend to work with children at Epworth-sponsored events, including
overnight or longer events, must be properly screened including a current background
check, and must attend an orientation/training session on child protection and abuse
prior to serving. A local church training with a certified district trainer will be offered
every year. Documentation of this training will be kept in a confidential file.
Employee Selection Process:
1. Current or new employee
a. A written job description will be provided and must be signed and dated.
b. An application with references shall be completed.
c. A background check consent form must be completed and renewed every
3 years. The background check includes Social Security trace, State of
Alabama criminal check, national (multi-jurisdictional) criminal check, and
national sex offender check if not part of a national (multi-jurisdictional)
d. Background checks must be completed and the results reported before
e. Undergo a personal interview.
f. Read and understand Epworth UMC’S Safe Sanctuary Policy and attend a
training event every 3 years or within 6 months of a change to the policy.
2. Regular, Occasional, and Last-Minute Volunteers
a. A background check consent form must be completed and renewed every
b. Background checks must be completed and the results reported before
c. Read and understand Epworth UMC’S Safe Sanctuary Policy and attend a
training event every 3 years or within 6 months of a change to the policy.
E. SUPERVISORY PROCEDURES AND POLICY
1. Five-Year Rule – All persons must be at least five (5) years older than the age
group they are leading/supervising, unless employed to work with a specific age
group that is included in their job description.
2. Six-month rule – Any volunteer working with minors must be a member of
Epworth United Methodist Church, or a monthly participant, for at least six (6)
months. A volunteer who does not meet these membership requirements may
serve only upon approval of the safe sanctuary team.
3. Two Adult Rule – Two non-related, non-cohabitating adults must always be
present in groups of children except in emergency situations. When the two-adult
rule is not feasible, a floater may be utilized to supervise multiple rooms.
4. Persons leading a group of children must be 18 years or older.
5. Doors are to be left open unless equipped with windows, as well as being
6. Staff and volunteers will avoid being alone with a child without being visible to
others in the immediate surroundings. If you find yourself alone with a child, you
should take the child and move immediately to an area where other adults are
7. All Employees and Volunteers will be required to comply with all Safe Sanctuary
Policies during Epworth United Methodist Church sponsored within town
activities and/or overnight activities.
8. Adult to Child Ratios –At no time shall a leader person be responsible for more
than ten (10) minors
F. POTTY POLICY
1. Nursery – when changing diapers the person changing the child should have
another adult visible in sight watching the process.
2. Preschool-age children should be provided as much privacy as possible, but
when assistance is needed, the child should be helped with another adult
3. Elementary-age children should be taken to the bathroom by an adult who stands
outside the bathroom within hearing distance.
4. Bathrooms should be checked by an adult before the children are allowed to go
5. Youth should travel to the restroom together in pairs or groupings. When off-site
an adult should check the public restrooms before the youth enter the facilities.
Adults should keep an eye on the restroom while providing the youth as much
privacy as possible.
G. TRANSPORTATION OF CHILDREN/YOUTH TO EVENTS:
1. Drivers must be safe sanctuaries qualified leaders.
2. Drivers must complete motor vehicle record check and provide proof of
3. A volunteer should not be alone with a child in a car. If they are transporting
children/youth they need to have a copy of the medical permission form in order
to provide that to the doctor in case of emergency.
4. When traveling the two adult rule must still be followed. If traveling in a caravan,
one adult per vehicle is permissible provided (1) all vehicles remain in site of the
other vehicles in the caravan (2) all vehicles stop and start at the same times and
at the same locations (3) at all times a lead car should be designated which no
other caravan vehicles are allowed to pass (4) when traveling through large cities
(or other crowded traffic conditions) if the caravan gets separated, the lead car
should find a place to regroup as soon as safety permits and communicate that
to the other drivers in the caravan (5) if a vehicle has mechanical trouble take
whatever measures are necessary to ensure that the driver is not left alone with
his/her minor passengers
5. If a charter bus is used, the chartering company must have background checks
on their drivers and no minor should be left alone with the driver.
6. All children/youth must provide a permission/liability form with emergency
information signed by their parent/guardian. These forms are to be kept with the
leader at all times during travel events.
H. HOTEL AND LODGING
1. Adult chaperones with children/youth must be the same gender, must never
share a bed with a child/youth or be alone in the room with them at any time.
2. Large room (dormitory style) settings allow two same-gender adults to sleep in
the same room with children/youth.
3. In a hotel type -setting – “Youth should be assigned to rooms and adults be
assigned to separate rooms. If possible, make the room assignments so that the
adult room is in between two youth rooms. Also, the adults should arrange
among themselves to check on the youth rooms on a random schedule during
the night. If you have a volunteer to take the night shift they can monitor comings
and goings. If possible, choose a hotel where the rooms open to the interior of
the building rather than the outside.” (P. 94) Joy Thornburg Melton, Safe
4. Offsite trip information exchange5. Parents must receive contact to include:
a. Departure/arrival times
b. Location of event
c. Program content
d. Lodging information
e. Covenant rules expected of their child
6. Staff/volunteers must receive:
a. All contact information for parents
b. Signed permission/health forms
c. Emergency Information
I. OUTSIDE GROUPS MEETING IN EUMC FACILITIES
1. Outside groups using Epworth facilities must also abide by this EUMC Safe
Sanctuary/Child Protection Policy. In order to use the facility, a representative of
that group must review and agree to comply with this Policy.
2. This policy still holds true for organizations that perform their own background
checks and train their own leadership, such as scouts. If such organizations have
already conducted child protection training, and the volunteer has had a
background check done on all persons who will be supervising youth or children,
they may bring a copy of those documents to the chairperson of Safe
Sanctuaries Committee. These training confirmations and background checks
should be completed and turned into the chairperson before the individual works
with the children or youth. No evidence of training, or background check, which is
more than 3 years old, will be accepted.
Teach children and youth to use the internet and social networks as a form of
communication—not a place to bully or pick on others. You may feel safe because you
are sitting behind your computer sharing confidential information or saying something
that could hurt someone else. Words can be extremely hurtful, and we should teach our
children and youth to be responsible for what they say online that could harm
themselves or others.
Photos of children or youth members should not be posted without parents’ written
L. COMMUNICATION WITH CHILDREN AND YOUTH
Prior written permission from parents or guardians should be obtained to digitally
communicate with individual children or youth, and should be done in a public forum
M. REPORTING PROCEDURES
Volunteers and staff of the Church will practice and advocate voluntary compliance with
the Alabama statute on reporting of known or suspected abuse/neglect of children.
Allegations of suspected abuse/neglect will be reported to the Department of Human
Resources or local law enforcement.
Nothing in this policy is intended to call upon a pastor to violate the confidentiality of
confession or clergy counseling relationships. Nonetheless, clergy are considered
mandatory reporters under state law and must report known or suspected abuse unless
disclosed within the confidentiality of confession or clergy relationships. However,
pastors are permitted by law, and are encouraged, to report known or suspected cases
of child abuse or neglect even if the pastor learns of the abuse or neglect in the course
of a confidential communication. If possible, the pastor should alert a person of the
pastor’s obligation and commitment so that the person, during a counseling session or
other confidential communication setting, may choose not to share the information
about the child abuse or neglect with the pastor.
The individual who observes or suspects abuse is responsible for making a report to law
enforcement or the county Department of Human Resources. Immediate notification of
the report must also be made to the volunteer or staff member’s supervisor. It shall be
the pastor’s responsibility (or chair of the staff/pastor-parish relations committee in the
event the pastor is implicated) to notify the district superintendent.
N. RESPONSE PROCEDURES
1. A quick, compassionate and unified response to an alleged incident of child
abuse is expected.
2. All allegations will be taken seriously and church staff will take appropriate action
in accordance with the laws of the State of Alabama, insurance policy
requirement, and based upon the advice of legal counsel.
3. Epworth personnel and members are not to undertake an investigation of the
incident. However, in all cases of reported or observed abuse in a children’s
activity, the entire staff (paid and volunteer) shall be at the service of all official
4. The official spokesperson for any communications with the media in any of these
matters will be the District Superintendent or the Bishop. No other employee,
volunteers, or church members shall speak to the media on behalf of EUMC.
5. The church staff will document (in writing, with date and signature) all efforts in
the handling of any incident using the attached Incident Report Form.
6. The church staff will not deny, minimize, or blame any individual involved in
allegations. Epworth United Methodist Church staff will minister to all involved, as
well as cooperate with representatives of Duly Constituted Authorities.
In view of the fact that people’s lives can be greatly affected, we will keep a Christian
perspective on how the church portrays the incident to the community and let the law
decide the opinions of truth. We will show respect to both parties and as a community,
we make a covenant at Epworth UMC to keep these matters private and provide
respect and privacy that the accused and accuser both so rightly deserve.
P. REVIEW OF POLICY
A Safe Sanctuaries Team, led by the Safe Sanctuaries Coordinator (elected from the
Administrative Council) should be comprised of representatives of the
Staff/Pastor-Parish Relations Committee, Board of Trustees, Children’s Committee,
Youth Committee, Finance Committee and pertinent staff members; as well as others
whom they invite to participate in the Team’s work. This team shall be responsible for
reviewing this policy on an annual basis for adherence to requirements established by
the North Alabama Conference and recommending changes to the Administrative
Q. EFFECTIVE DATE
October 17, 2021
SAFE SANCTUARY/CHILD PROTECTION POLICY