Religious Exploration

Religious Exploration Health and Safety Policies for Children and Youth Adopted by Board June 10, 2014

A. Health and Safety Policies

The health and safety of our children and youth requires a partnership between parents and volunteers.  This partnership is a based on an understanding and affirmation of responsibilities and boundaries. 

Parents are solely responsible for their children at all times, except when they are under the direct supervision of the Director of Religious Education and/or trained volunteers during Religious Exploration programming. 

All adults and youth will acknowledge the weight and seriousness of their responsibility while also understanding they are a part of a team which is both supportive and equally responsible.

Every adult and youth volunteer is required to review and sign “The Code of Ethics for Adults and Older Youth who are in Leadership Roles with Children and Youth” on an annual basis.  It states;

Adults and older youth who are in leadership roles are in a position of stewardship and play a key role in fostering spiritual development of both individuals and the community.  It is therefore, especially important that those in leadership positions be well qualified to provide the special nurture, care and support that will enable children and youth to develop a positive sense of self and a spirit of independence and responsibility. 

Those qualifications include knowledge of what is required for a safe and healthy environment.  These policies address legal requirements and insurance obligations.  They are also designed to help staff and volunteers provide a safe and healthy environment that fosters spiritual growth. 

To that end:

All volunteer teachers must attend the Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Augusta for at least 6 months prior to volunteering. This provision can be waived by the Minister and Director of Religious Exploration (DRE), in consultation with each other, when the individual in question has been an active member with experience volunteering with children or youth in another UU church and can provide a reference from that church.

Youth who wish to provide childcare should be at least 14 years of age.  This provision may be waived by the Minister and DRE, in consultation with each other, when the individual in question has demonstrated competence, by successfully completed a babysitting course, for example.  

New adult volunteers will:

  1. Affirm the “Code of Ethics for Adults and Older Youth Who are in Leadership Roles with Children and Youth” (adopted by the UUA in 1985)
  2. Provide references
  3. Agree to a criminal records check
  4. Agree to Maine Child Abuse Record Search

Every year thereafter, adult and youth volunteers will reaffirm their commitment to the “Code of Ethics” as part of their annual training.  Annual training will include a review of these policies and procedures. 

B. Education and Training Policies

Education and training are critical for maintaining a healthy and safe Religious Exploration program as well as a healthy and safe environment for children and youth within the congregation at large.  Information, knowledge, and understanding support the development of healthy relationships.  To that end the Religious Education program will provide the following:

Procedures

The Director of Religious Exploration and Religious Exploration Committee are responsible for:

  • offering age-appropriate sexuality eduction (Our Whole Lives) for our children, youth and  

    adults on a regular basis.

III.providing a required annual training that includes a review of health and safety policies to

    anyone working with children and youth and

  1. keeping the staff and congregation, including but not limited to, parents, volunteer teachers,  

    youth advisors and youth working in the nursery informed about these policies, reviewing and

    affirming them annually through the use of the following:

“The Code of Ethics; for those working with children and youth at the Unitarian Universalist  Community Church of Augusta”, hereafter identified as “The Code of Ethics” (Attachment B),

         b) Safety Procedures; including Section C that follows and fire alarm and safety

              evacuation of classrooms.

         c) Posted copies of policies in classrooms and the nursery and

            d) Review of policies in the publications of the church such as the Newsletter. 

C. Supervision Policy

At least two adult volunteers will be assigned to and will be present in each classroom and youth group activity, including in-church events or overnights, off-site retreats, conferences, and other church-related activities.  One individual may be briefly alone with a group when the other must leave as dictated by common sense and necessity for such purposes as bathroom breaks.

When traveling to and from outings, conferences, meetings, or other church activities, no child or youth will be alone with one adult in a car.

All children and you must have a completed medical release form (Attachment F) in order to participate in any off-site activity.  This form will be signed by parents and reviewed by the DRE and volunteers to help ensure any special needs are noted as is appropriate within confidentiality guidelines. 

Exceptions to the two volunteer policy are discouraged but may be approved by the DRE, Minister or Religious Exploration Committee in an emergency situation.

If there is a foreseeable reason a teacher, advisor, or other volunteer will be alone with a child or youth, the written consent of the child’s parent or guardian will be obtained in advance, (i.e. an adult mentor meeting with a participant in the “Coming of Age” program.

We all want church to be a safe place for our children and youth.  However, before and after Religious Exploration class time, parents are solely responsible for the supervision of their children and youth, both inside and outside the building.  At no time should a child be asked to watch another child, especially outside. 

Procedures

The DRE, or a designated substitute, will check in on all classes during the course of a Sunday morning, to ensure compliance with policies and answer questions or meet needs which may arise.

All children under the age of 11 will be picked up from class by their parents as close to 10:30 as possible.  They will not be released until parents arrive unless prior arrangements have been made with the teachers to walk them over to the church to meet their parents. 

No children or youth will return to Drew or Judd House after class time without an adult. 

Children in the nursery will not be released to a person other than the parent(s)/care giver or the family member who initially brought the child into the room. (Example, if a mother brings a child into the nursery, she cannot send her great aunt to come pick up the child.)

D. Behavior Expectations

All children and youth are expected to behave with respect towards each other, adults and their space.  Each class creates a covenant stating shared expectations at the beginning of the year.  Any child or youth who is being disruptive or threatening his/her own safety or the safety of others will be asked to stop the disruptive or unsafe behavior.  If the child or youth can not/will not, then the parent will be called from church to remove the child or youth from the classroom until the behavior can be amended. All efforts will be made by the DRE and volunteers to help children and youth know what the expectations are. 

Procedures

Please feel free to report problems at any time to ask the DRE or Summer Coordinator for help.

If a child is being aggressive to the other children, the child care worker must report the incident immediately to the DRE, who will contact the child's parents to work out a solution.

Any problems that arise must be reported to the DRE immediately.  It is extremely important that we know what is going on and communicate quickly with parents where needed.  Please do your best to come up with a solution in the moment, but then report the incident so that we can look at it from all angles. 

E. General Health and Safety Procedures

The Director of Religious Exploration, with support from the RE Committee, is responsible for the oversight of the following safety procedures:

First Aid

Each classroom will be equipped with a first-aid kit.  There are also first-aid kits located in the kitchen in Drew House, the kitchen in the Church, the DRE’s office and in the downstairs bathroom in Judd House.  The DRE will instruct teachers in their use, including the use of “Universal Precautions” to prevent the spread of infectious disease. Each kit contains:

  • Band-aids
  • Gauze
  • Tape
  • Cold pack
  • ACE bandage
  • Gloves (latex)
  • Tweezers
  • Tick removing spoon
  • There should be a good supply of paper towel in each location

If you notice something is missing or running low please let the DRE know. Kits do not contain antibiotic cream, burn ointment or aspirin.  No one but the parent of a child should administer any form of medication.  If necessary, find the child’s parent immediately. 

Shelves and furniture in classrooms will be cleaned regularly and checked for damage.  Damaged items will either be fixed or promptly removed. 

Candles

Burning candles is generally not permitted in classrooms.  Each class is provided with a battery operated chalice for their use.  Jr. and Sr. Youth may light a chalice at the beginning of class with adult supervision.  The flame must be extinguished immediately following any opening ritual and must not be permitted to burn for the duration of the class or activity. Matches can be obtained and must be returned to the DRE or her substitute.

Transportation

Guidelines for transportation to/from off-site events with children and/or youth:

  • DRE will verify license and insurance coverage of drivers
  • Drivers will insure that seatbelts are be available for all occupants and worn at all times
  • Travel arrangements and destinations of participants must be confirmed, especially if the terminal points and travel times differ from general plans.
  • Drivers must plan to be awake and alert at all times
  • If the driver is a youth, be aware of the current laws regarding new and youth drivers
  • The parents of youth traveling with a youth  driver must give consent to the adult from the church that is coordinating the event.  The adults attending the event must also be aware of the plans. 

F. Nursery Policies for the UUCC

Two childcare workers must be in the nursery at all times. (If one needs to leave, make sure the other one knows where they are going, why, and that both understand that the second one will return within five minutes.)

Both child care workers in the nursery must be aware at all times of the number of children they have in their care.

Children older than four will not be allowed to hang out in the nursery without permission from the DRE. Older children have the game room and their classrooms as their space.

Only parents or caregiver and the DRE are allowed in the nursery. Please discourage others from coming in. If you have an insistent adult, let the DRE or Summer Coordinator know.

Nursery caregivers are required to read and follow nursery guidelines (see attached).

Pay for nursery care providers is $10/hour.

G.  Policy for Child Care for Events at the UUCC  (Adopted by the Board 1/9/12)

In accordance with our Safe Church Policy, all events/meetings/classes that provide childcare or include children/youth must have two screened and trained adults or youth (with a supervising adult checking in on them) present at all times.

For UUCC congregation-wide events and meetings (including newcomer dinners), the DRE will be responsible for obtaining childcare. For all other events, the sponsoring group is responsible for childcare obtaining.

We encourage the use of childcare to provide greater options for all members of our congregation to participate in the important and valuable opportunities our church offers.

Please note, “youth” are defined as people ages 13 to 18. For childcare, we recommend youth 16 or older. At the DRE’s discretion, youth under age 16 may be selected to be childcare providers if they have had formal training in childcare or commensurate experience.

Procedures

The RE Committee and Director of Religious Exploration (DRE) will build and maintain a list of potential childcare providers available to all UUCC groups wishing to employ providers. This list will consist of recommended youth and adults who have had criminal background checks and have had an annual orientation for work as a childcare provider or classroom facilitator; in addition, youth must have provided references able to verify their suitability as childcare providers. 

Requests for child care for a church-wide event will be submitted to the Director of Religious Exploration.  The DRE will assist with securing two child care workers for church wide events (i.e., harvest feast, annual meeting, newcomer dinners) and submit request for payment to the church Treasurer.  Childcare for church wide events will be paid from the RE budget.

Individual committees and groups may obtain a list of childcare providers from the DRE.  They are responsible for arranging for child care and submitting request for payment to the church Treasurer.  It is the responsibility of the program or group requesting childcare to pay for these services from the committee budget. If youth are employed or volunteer, the group is responsible for checking in with the youth over the course of the event.

All groups wishing to provide childcare will be required to read the Safe Congregation Policy Summary and sign a statement that they understand the responsibilities they take on as a group when providing childcare for our congregation. (See Appendix F)

H.  Youth Overnight Policy

Together, the youth, the DRE and the Adult Leaders/Chaperones will create a covenant for the overnight. (Below are listed the elements of the covenant that must be included for safety and to emphasize group responsibility.)

There will be a set time for lights-out and sleep. Adults will remain awake until all youth are asleep.

If there is an unexpected change in the group dynamics or the physical setting that prompts concern, the group will shift to two adults at a time taking shifts to stay awake the entire overnight period.

A youth who needs to leave the immediate area during the night (bathroom or any other reason) will wake two adults; the "immediate area" will differ among locations and will be determined prior to lights-out.

Parents and youth participating in the overnight will be required to attend a short meeting before departure during which all will hear the covenant and sign it as a binding agreement, knowing that consequences for violating the covenant can result in a parent being called to come pick up the youth.

All parents and youth will co-sign a permission slip and agreement for right relations (that is, adhering to the covenant) for the overnight.

The DRE will go through a safety checklist with the adult leaders before departure. (The checklist is printed below.)

Parents will fill out and sign a medical release form that the DRE will carry with her at all times. 

Safety Checks for Overnights Away and at Home

Procedures:

A. The DRE will meet with the adult leaders/chaperones to assess the place we are going and the youth involved to pinpoint any potential difficulties or things to be aware of. For instance, there may be one youth particularly introverted who will need extra attention, or a new couple within the group who will need to be reminded our experience is a team experience, not a date. Health concerns, allergy and food choice, and impulse issues will also be kept in mind.

B. The DRE will find out if the place we are staying has a safety policy. If it does, we will work to meet its policies as well as our own; if it does not we will follow our own policies.

C. The DRE will ensure that all adult leaders/chaperones have met the requirements of our Safe Congregation Policies, which includes being known to the church for at least one year, and being screened through ScreenNow.

D. The DRE will check all adult leader/chaperone’s licenses, registration, and insurance before driving. The adult leaders/chaperones will make sure all people in their vehicle have properly put on their seatbelts.

Policies for Covenanting for Overnights

When creating the covenant with the youth and adult leaders, the DRE must be mindful of including certain elements for group responsibility and safety. The listings need to be very explicit, making our expectations of each other very clear.

Because we respect each other and value the experiences we share, we understand that we are accountable for the success of our journey. It is up to each of us to understand the expectations of this covenant and to call each other to follow the expectations we have agreed on together.

Respect for all (which includes honoring personal space and verbal boundaries, and taking care of the physical space we are occupying)

No exclusive behavior (we are participating as a team, representing Unitarian Universalism as well as our own faith community and concerned youth)

No sex, sexualized behavior, sexual harassment, or exploitive behavior

No alcohol, drugs, illegal behavior

Set lights-out/sleep time honored by all

A policy for electronics will be decided on by the group, with the goal of non-exclusive behavior being most important to our group experience

All will exercise personal safety which includes staying with the group and refraining from risky behavior (if any of us find ourselves in an uncomfortable or risky situation—for instance, being isolated with another youth or with an adult—we will state our discomfort, get out of the situation, and tell an adult leader and/or the DRE)

All will take good care of selves, paying attention to eating properly, getting enough water/liquid, getting enough rest and down time, speaking up if your personal needs are not being met. All are welcome also to look out for each other, asking an adult chaperone for help if needed.

All will pledge to be a part of the group, the team, open to the opportunities of new experiences, paying attention to personal and group safety

Youth and adults will operate as a team, listening carefully to each other’s needs, and all deferring within reason to the plans the group has made

Youth and adults will adhere to the schedule and rules of the event/adventure in which we are participating

Consequences of breaking covenant depend on the seriousness of the breach and can range from a verbal warning to phoning parents to come pick up the youth. Procedures for decisions about consequences will start with adults but may go to a youth council for decision. 

All youth and parents, DRE and adult leaders/chaperone will sign covenant as a binding agreement.

Procedures for Overnights

For sleeping times, adults will sleep by doors. We will make decisions about gender-specific sleeping areas according to the needs of the group. (Expectations are that all will sleep, as sleep deprivation is detrimental to health and to the good spirits of the group as a whole.)

The adult leaders and/or the DRE will carry at all times a charged and working cell phone. The phone number for this cell phone will be shared with all parents and youth.

Permission slips will include two emergency contact numbers, permission to administer health care if needed, insurance information, allergy and health concerns information. DRE will have permission slips at all times. Both parents and youth will have signed the permission slip, which will also state consequences for not following covenant.

Adult chaperones will be in charge of keeping track of their assigned youths, and youth will be in charge of keeping track of their assigned adult chaperone. Group will check in with each other as a whole periodically throughout any adventure. 

 

Supplies for Every Overnight
First Aid Kit General
Band-aids Sewing Kit
Antibiotic Cream Scissors
Tylenol, Advil Spare t-shirt, jacket, sweatpants
Benadryl Umbrella(s)
Ace bandage Gloves and hats (sun hats, too)
Period supplies Water bottles
Sunscreen Flashlight