UUCNH Children & Youth Safety Policy

Approved by the UUCNH Board of Directors on 05/19/20

  1. Purpose 

1.1 The purpose of this policy is to help prevent and protect children and youth who attend UUCNH from harm and abuse when in the presence of unsupervised paid staff and volunteers. It is important that all paid staff and volunteers understand and comply with these guidelines to help ensure a safe physical environment and prevent sexual abuse against children. This policy includes policy guidelines, procedures for protection and prevention, and a volunteer application with references to be signed by those people working with children.

1.2 This policy is designed to:

  • Improve the safety of children in our church programs by implementing preventive steps and by providing guidelines regarding appropriate behavior with the children and youth of our church.
  • Through preventative steps, reduce the likelihood that allegations (true or false) will be made against church staff and volunteers. 
  • Establish procedures to effectively respond to alleged incidents and incidents that may occur, whether during a church activity or at other times.
  • Provide a safe physical environment for all children by ensuring all appropriate building and physical plan safety procedures are in place and enforced. 
  • This policy applies to all members, friends, and congregants that function under the auspices of the UU Church of the North Hills, including the use of the building for denominational activities. 
  • It is the responsibility of the entire congregation, in partnership with religious education parents, to create and maintain a safe environment for children and youth in our church programs. However, this policy is devoted primarily to situations in which children are in a supervised relationship with congregants other than their parents. 

1.3 This is a Board policy applying to all members, friends, and staff of UUCNH. The CYFD team is responsible for creating, interpreting, and revising this policy. 

  1. Definitions

CYFD—Children and Youth Faith Development

DLFD—Director of Lifespan Faith Development

Parent/Guardian/Caregiver—Includes any adult entrusted by a legal parent/guardian with the care of their child(ren) (including but not limited to grandparents or friends who have been given permission to bring children to church) while they are at UUCNH or attending a UUCNH-sponsored event.

Volunteer/teacher—Any adult providing direct care or supervision for children at UUCNH-sponsored events.

Youth—7th–12th grades or equivalent, 13+

  1. Responsibilities of parents/guardians
    1. Parents/Guardians will register their child(ren)/youth at the beginning of each program year or after their third visit to UUCNH.
    2. Parents/Guardians will share all information that is relevant to the safety of their child(ren)/youth or to others (e.g., medical needs, allergies, special needs).
    3. During CYFD-sponsored classes/activity, children/youth are under the care of the designated teachers for that class/activity. At all other times (for example, before and after class, during meetings or choir practice), a parent/guardian or another adult designated by the parent/guardian is expected to be responsible for children/youth. Based on the age and maturity of the child, adults should exercise reasonable judgment about the extent of direct supervision necessary. 
    4. Parents/Guardians of school age children will remain at UUCNH while their children are participating in Sunday faith development programs, other children’s worship programs, or other congregational events unless arrangements have been made with the DLFD. Parents/guardians of Pre-K/K children must sign and have on file a form granting permission if someone other than themselves may pick up their child at the end of a class period. 
    5. Parents/guardians of nursery-age children must fill out Visitor and Special Needs forms (if necessary) and sign in and out of the room with the Nursery caregiver. There must be at least one caregiver for every four toddlers in the Nursery. Parents will be asked to volunteer to stay in the nursery to meet this ratio if needed.
    6. Parents/guardians will speak with the DLFD about any custody issues, and, upon request, put the most important facts in writing. The DLFD will communicate that information with teachers as appropriate.
    7. If Parents/Guardians are concerned about their children’s physical or emotional safety while at UUCNH, or the physical or emotional safety of another child while at UUCNH, Parents/Guardians will contact the DLFD immediately. If the DLFD can’t be reached, Parents/Guardians will contact the Minister.
  1. Responsibilities of children
    1. Children will follow directions and classroom covenants to ensure safety and to prevent harm.
    2. Children will treat each other with kindness and respect.
    3. Children will provide input about how to make this a safer congregation.
  1. Volunteer/teacher eligibility and recruitment

All volunteer assignments are ultimately at the discretion of the DLFD. At a minimum, volunteers must meet the following criteria:

  1. Attending for 6 months, unless the volunteer has previous experience working with children.
  2. All volunteers in a primary teaching/leading role must be at least 18 years of age.
  3. Note: Teens under 18 years of age may volunteer in the capacity of CYFD, but only as additional helpers/support to the 2 primary teachers. It is preferable that any teen doing so will complete the American Red Cross (or comparable) babysitting class.
  4. Couples (legally or otherwise) or related individuals may not serve as the only volunteers supervising a CYFD activity.
  5. All volunteers over 18 years of age must have the following clearances on file with the DLFD:
  • Act 34 Pennsylvania State Police Request for Criminal Record (free to volunteers; must be completed every 5 years)—https://epatch.state.pa.us
  • Act 151 Pennsylvania Child Abuse History Clearance (free to volunteers; must be completed every 5 years)—https://www.compass.state.pa.us/cwis/public/home 
  • Act 114 Federal FBI Fingerprint Clearance (for those living in PA for at least 10 years, complete the Volunteer Pennsylvania Residency Form/Waiver of FBI Fingerprint Service form—http://www.keepkidssafe.pa.gov/
  • Form 6004 Arrest/Conviction Certification Form (signed every year)
  • All volunteers must read, sign, and abide by the “UUCNH Code of Ethics for Adults Working With Children and Youth”
  1. Volunteer training
    1. All volunteers will make their best efforts to attend the annual CYFD fall training/orientation. The DLFD and/or a member of the CYFD committee will make their best efforts to meet with any volunteers who cannot attend the annual CYFD training/orientation to review training content.
    2. At a minimum, all volunteers will receive and review a copy of the Teacher FAQ provided to all volunteers.
    3. It is strongly encouraged that volunteers receive CPR/First Aid training.
    4. Additional training is required for volunteers participating in programs, such as (but not limited to) the following:
  • Spirit Play classes 
  • Our Whole Lives (OWL) classes
  • Youth Group 
  • Coming of Age program (COA)
  1. Classroom environment
    1. Upon arrival on Sunday morning, the assistant teacher obtains a lanyard with whistle and key from the mounted board in the office, to be worn for the duration of the service and coffee hour. The key opens all the upstairs classrooms. The whistle is ONLY to be used in an active shooter situation; please see the full Safety Team policy for more information. 
    2. Attendance is taken upon entry to church at the sign-in desk.  In case of an evacuation, the designated leader will bring the attendance information to the evacuation meeting location, to ensure all children are accounted for.
    3. Teachers will strive to maintain confidentiality regarding any information provided to the DLFD/CYFD volunteers regarding a child’s health (physical and/or mental), family situation, or other information given in confidence.
    4. Number of volunteers required
      • The DLFD/CYFD team will make their best efforts to ensure that non-custodial supervisory ratios shall be no less than (children: adult) for infants 3:1, for toddlers 5:1, for elementary age children & youth (up to age 18) 7:1 with a minimum of 2 adults for every non-custodial minor.
      • When a scheduled teacher is unavailable, the DLFD/CYFD team will make their best efforts to secure a trained substitute. If this is not possible, classes may be combined or cancelled or the children may be returned to the service with their parents in the sanctuary.
    5. Leaving the classroom
      • If one of the two required teachers must temporarily leave their classroom or children’s program, they will stay as close to the classroom as possible and/or return to the classroom as quickly as possible. The classroom door will remain open during the teacher’s absence.
      • Teachers should approve a child/youth leaving the classroom for bathroom visits, water breaks, or other teacher-approved purposes. Children/youth are expected to go straight to the bathroom, water fountain, or approved destination and then return promptly, letting the teacher know they have returned. Preschool through second-grade children are escorted to the bathroom by a teacher; the teacher waits for the child outside the bathroom and then escorts them back to class.
    6. Parents/Guardians are welcome in the classrooms at any time, with the exception of Our Whole Lives (OWL) classes. If they choose to stay, Parents/Guardians of preschool and elementary school age children will try to support the lesson and minimize any distraction their presence may create.
    7. Name tags—For safety reasons, all teachers and students are encouraged to wear their UUCNH name tags at all times.
    8. Covenant—At the start of each church year, each classroom is encouraged to formulate with the children/youth a behavioral covenant that encourages responsible classroom, and reflects UU principles.
    9. Visibility into classrooms: In rooms with blinds, the blinds should remain open except in an emergency situation or if the class activity requires darkness for video viewing. If an adult is meeting one-one-one with a child/youth for any reason, the blind must be open or the door must be left ajar. 
    10. Dismissal from class: Parents/guardians of children in preschool through grade 2 will pick up their children at their classrooms immediately upon conclusion of class, unless appropriate and safe alternative arrangements have been agreed upon in advance. Children in grades 3-6 are dismissed from the classroom.
    11. At the conclusion of Sunday service, teachers return the lanyard with the whistle and key back to the board in the office. 
    12. Food in the classroom—Because of varying nutritional needs and preferences, as well as potential allergies, children should not eat during CYFD classes without prior approval of the DLFD. If prior approval for food is received (e.g., Spirit Play feast), nuts should be avoided. 
    13. Children who are potty training:
  • Teachers or childcare providers for children who are potty training will accompany children to the restroom leaving the door ajar.
  • The teacher may stand just outside the restroom or wait inside the restroom, depending on the child’s level of need.
  • If a child demonstrates a need for help with cleaning or dressing, the teacher will help, always ensuring that the door is ajar. Teachers will not assume their assistance is needed and should wait for the child to ask for help before assisting the child. If the child clearly needs help but does not request it, the teacher will obtain the child’s consent before assisting the child.
  • Teachers will ensure that children wash their hands after using the bathroom, and they will thoroughly wash their own hands after offering any assistance.
  • If an older child has special needs that require bathroom assistance, the teachers will work with the Director of Lifespan Faith Development and the child’s parent/guardian to develop an individualized plan for how to provide that assistance.
  1. Change of class location—If teachers wish to move their class to a location outside of the classroom that is approved by the DLFD, they will post a sign or message in their classroom clearly indicating where they will be and when they will return.
  2. Touch—Healthy, loving touch is a basic, human need. Common expressions include, but are not limited to, appreciation (high five), condolence (hand on shoulder), comforting and affection (hugs); affirmation (pats on the back); and physical care taking (face washing, etc.). These are all acceptable and encouraged as long as three guidelines are followed:
  • Touch needs to be respectful and age appropriate.
  • It is advisable to allow the child to initiate the contact. Teachers will respect a child or youth’s preference not to be touched and adjust activities accordingly.
  • Touch should always be non-sexual in nature. Teachers, youth advisors, nursery school supervisors and helpers shall not touch or interact with children or youth in any way that is intended to be sexually stimulating or undertaken for purposes of sexual gratification.
  • It is the responsibility of teachers to maintain these appropriate boundaries.
  1. There will be no use of alcohol, illegal or intoxicating substances, or tobacco products by adults while in the role of volunteer/teacher for CYFD programs or events.
  1. Positive classroom management

UUCNH utilizes positive classroom management techniques. Teachers will make best efforts to establish clear expectations to provide rewards and incentives for acceptable behavior, and to use appropriate verbal redirection. In particular:

  1. Teachers are expected to nurture the child’s physical, emotional, and spiritual growth by treating them with kindness, trust, and respect. Interactions must be genuine, respectful, and never manipulative of the child’s needs or vulnerabilities. 
  2. Teachers will strive to manage with kindness and patience.
  3. Teachers will discipline with actions and words designed to help children develop a sense of responsibility and self-control.
  4. Teachers will support children in creating caring communities and happy learning experiences.
  5. UUCNH does not practice negative discipline techniques such as corporal punishment and punitive techniques that cause pain, or permit yelling, shaming, belittling, or bullying. This should include behavior that constitutes verbal, emotional, and physical abuse and behavior or language that is threatening. UUCNH discourages sarcasm, which is likely to be misunderstood by children. Physical restraint of children is only permitted to ensure the child’s own safety or the safety of others.
  6. It is never appropriate to engage in any manner of sexualized behavior with a child, including sexually explicit behavior and language, including jokes with sexual content or connotations. (Note that OWL teachers are specifically trained with how to handle these discussions, and thus there is some discretion provided by OWL teachers regarding this during OWL classes. However, such discussion should not be undertaken outside of OWL class.)
  7. Children/youth are prohibited from using tobacco, drugs, or alcohol during any UUCNH-sponsored event. Such use is also not allowed by teachers while supervising children/youth. Such use by teachers at UUCNH functions for which they are not supervising children is allowed, but should be legal, moderate, and discreet, remembering that teachers’ behavior at all times is a powerful statement to children as to what is acceptable and responsible management of these agents.
  8. Teachers will consult with CYFD Staff and children’s Parents/Guardians to plan collaboratively how to improve problematic behavior.
  9. Teachers should draw on our UU principles in order to respect other people and support one another’s learning and spiritual development. This includes: 
  • Listening to others who are speaking
  • Speaking respectfully to others
  • Taking care of the physical space and materials
  • Helping the teachers and other children when asked
  • Being respectful during activities and discussions
  • Taking responsibility for one’s words and actions
  1. If a child is out of covenant, remind them of the covenant rules. If the child’s behavior does not improve after the reminder, inform the child of the consequences (see Section 9, “Addressing disruptive behavior”). If the behavior still does not improve, follow the actions in Section 9, “Addressing disruptive behavior.”

8.11 Not participating in an activity or class does not constitute disruptive behavior. As long as the child is not interfering with the learning of other children, there is no discipline needed. Teachers should encourage participation, not force it.

  1. Addressing disruptive behavior and child-child conflicts
    1. If a child’s behavior is disruptive and has not improved in response to a variety of positive management techniques, teachers will communicate with CYFD staff and may choose to enforce consequences as follows:
  • Break inside classroom: The child takes a break from participation, but remains inside the classroom. The child is directed to sit silently in an area apart from the activity. One teacher is available to supervise the break. The teacher briefly discusses the solution to the problem with the child when s/he is ready to rejoin the class activity.
  • Break in hallway: A teacher accompanies a child outside the classroom for a break from participation in the hallway. They briefly discuss the problem and solution when the child is ready to go back in the classroom.
  • Break with CYFD staff: A teacher walks with the child to find CYFD Staff, and the child has a longer break in the company of CYFD Staff. The CYFD Staff discusses the problem with the child and works collaboratively to develop a plan or solution.
  • Parent/Guardian supervision & removal from a lesson: A teacher or CYFD staff person finds the parent or guardian of the child, and the parent or guardian is asked to supervise the child for the remainder of the class. The parent/guardian and teacher and/or staff member meet subsequently to discuss the problem and develop a plan.
  1. Physical violence and bullying among children are not allowed. In the unlikely event that a child intentionally hurts someone, teachers will enforce one of the more serious consequences above, keeping in mind the age of the child, the context of the situation, and the extent of the offense (i.e., a 3-year-old child swatting another child who grabbed their toy should be handled differently than a 9-year-old child punching a classmate).
  2. In the event that a child’s behavior is highly disruptive, dangerous, or repeatedly emotionally hurtful, the CYFD Staff may decide that the child needs to be excluded from some, or all, participation in the CYFD program or CYFD-sponsored events.
  1. Volunteer/teacher communication with children/youth

Volunteers/teachers shall not initiate personal or private interactions, or those not directly related to CYFD programs, with children/youth via social/electronic media. Parents need to have confidence that no conversation is being initiated by another adult without their knowledge.

  1. Travel/off-site events
    1. All off-site events (e.g., Families Group events) must be approved by the DFLD.
    2. Transportation for all off-site trips will be provided by parents, with the exception of some youth events. See the Section 15., “Youth-Specific Policies,” for more information.
    3. While attending off-site events, all children must be under the supervision of a parent/guardian or a designated representative.
    4. UUCNH encourages intergenerational friendships and mentoring relationships between children and adults as these can be enriching for both the adult and the child involved. However, the monitoring of any interactions between children and adults outside of CYFD-sponsored programs, in addition to monitoring of interactions at off-site events, is the responsibility of the parent/guardian of the child.
  1. Health
    1. Children should not attend CYFD-sponsored classes or activities if they are sick or if they have had any of the following symptoms within 24 hours:
  • Fever above 100.4 degrees
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Runny nose with green or yellow mucus
  • Sore throat
  • Unexplained or contagious rash
  • Pink eye

12.2 If a child is diagnosed with a contagious disease (chicken pox, measles, pink eye, lice, etc.) within a reasonable time of attending CYFD-sponsored classes or activities, the DLFD should be notified as soon as possible so appropriate precautions can be taken. 

12.3 UUCNH requests that all children be immunized according to the guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which advises following the immunization schedule provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, available at https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/hcp/imz/child-adolescent.html. During an outbreak of a preventable disease, non-immunized individuals may be asked to refrain from taking part in CYFD activities. 

  1. Abuse Prevention and Recognition

13.1 Prevention – For our volunteers working with children, we recognize the need for education and training in some form of child abuse prevention or child protection. Greater understanding of the complexities of sexuality and abuse will help us to avoid situations that could lead to abuse or false accusations. The annual teacher orientation/training will include church policies pertaining to child abuse prevention, recognition and reporting. 

13.2 An important way that teachers can prevent actual or perceived child abuse is by following the guidelines contained within this policy.

13.3     Recognition Terminology: Child abuse, according to the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law, means intentionally, knowingly or recklessly doing any of the following:

  • Causing bodily injury to a child through any recent act or failure to act.
  • Fabricating, feigning or intentionally exaggerating or inducing a medical symptom or disease which results in a potentially harmful medical evaluation or treatment to the child through any recent act. 
  • Causing or substantially contributing to serious mental injury to a child through any act or failure to act or a series of such acts or failures to act.
  • Causing sexual abuse or exploitation of a child through any act or failure to act. 
  • Creating a reasonable likelihood of bodily injury to a child through any recent act or failure to act.
  • Creating a likelihood of sexual abuse or exploitation of a child through any recent act or failure to act. 
  • Causing serious physical neglect of a child.
  • Causing the death of the child through any act or failure to act.
  • Child abuse also includes certain acts in which the act itself constitutes abuse without any resulting injury or condition. These recent acts include any of the following: Kicking, biting, throwing, burning, stabbing or cutting a child in a manner that endangers the child.
  • Unreasonably restraining or confining a child, based on consideration of the method, location or the duration of the restraint or confinement.
  • Forcefully shaking a child under one year of age.
  • Forcefully slapping or otherwise striking any child.
  • Interfering with the breathing of a child.
  • Leaving a child unsupervised with an individual, other than the child’s parent, who the parent knows or reasonably should have known was required to register as a Tier II or III sexual offender or has been determined to be a sexually violent predator or sexually violent delinquent. 

13.4 “Recent” is defined as an abusive act within two years from the date the report is made to ChildLine. Sexual abuse, serious mental injury, serious physical neglect and deaths have no time limit.

13.5 Youth Who May be Sexual Abusers

  • If a youth demonstrates an inappropriate interest in younger children, or is accused of sexual behavior with a younger child, the Minister, DLFD, or a member of the safety team should initiate their role as a mandated reporter.
  • Before the accused is allowed to continue to attend religious education, they should receive an extensive assessment by a child psychologist or psychiatrist with experience with children with sexual behavior problems.
  • It is NOT the responsibility of the Minister or the response team to decide if abuse has occurred, but rather to assure that such assessment does take place.
  • The child will not be allowed unsupervised time with other children until the assessment and possible treatment is complete.
  • If an evaluation by a trained professional indicates that the child has a sexual behavior problem that is likely to be repetitive, the Minister, the DLFD, the Safety Team, and the parents need to meet to decide how and if the child can safely be involved with the Religious Education or Youth Group program. A modified Limited Access Agreement shall be developed and signed by both the child and the parents.
  • In some cases, it may be necessary to deny the young person continued involvement with other children until treatment is completed.
  • A family may want to bring a child who has been treated for sexual offenses back into the congregation after treatment is completed. The steps for involving an adult offender can be followed, including a revised Limited Access Agreement (if applicable) signed by both the youth and their parents.
  • Pastoral care and support for all the families involved are crucial.

13.6 False Accusations

  • Protecting adults who teach in the CYFD program or otherwise interact with children at the church from false or mistaken allegations is also an important goal of this policy.
  • A key way to avoid false or mistaken allegations is to follow the guidelines set forth in this policy.
  • All in contact with either the accused or the accuser should be sensitive to the disruption and damage a false or mistaken accusation may cause to both the adults and the children involved.

13.7 Other Inappropriate Behavior – Some incidents or allegations in CYFD or other children or youth programs may involve behavior that is not clearly child abuse but may be in other ways deemed inappropriate by a parent, by the DLFD or by the CYFD team. In such cases, the Safety Team, including the DLFD, the Minister and appropriate members of the CYFD team may be called together to review the situation and decide what action to take.

  1. Reporting

14.1 Mandated Reporting – An individual paid or unpaid, who, on the basis of the individual’s role as an integral part of a regularly scheduled program, activity or service, is a person responsible for the child’s welfare or has direct contact with children is a mandated reporter.

  • When must a mandated reporter make a report? 

A mandated reporter must make a report of suspected child abuse if they have reasonable cause to suspect that a child is a victim of child abuse under any of the following circumstances: 

  • The mandated reporter comes into contact with the child in the course of employment, occupation and practice of a profession or through a regularly scheduled program, activity or service.
  • The mandated reporter is directly responsible for the care, supervision, guidance or training of the child, or is affiliated with an agency, institution, organization, school, regularly established church or religious organization or other entity that is directly responsible for the care, supervision, guidance or training of the child.
  • A person makes a specific disclosure to the mandated reporter that an identifiable child is the victim of child abuse.
  • An individual 14 years of age or older makes a specific disclosure to the mandated reporter that the individual has committed child abuse.
  • Must I report suspected abuse if I learn of the abuse from someone other than the child who was allegedly abused? 

Yes. Nothing requires the mandated reporter to have direct contact with the child in order to make a report. 

  • How does a mandated reporter make a report if they suspect child abuse? 

Mandated reporters must make an immediate and direct report of suspected child abuse to ChildLine either electronically at www.compass.state.pa.us/cwis or by calling 1-800-932-0313.

  • Do I need to notify anyone within my institution, school, facility or agency after I make a report?

Yes, after making the report to ChildLine, you are required to immediately thereafter notify the person in charge of the institution, school, facility or agency or the designated agent of the person in charge (Minister or DLFD).

  • What if a mandated reporter fails to follow the law? 

The penalties for a mandated reporter who willfully fails to report child abuse range from a misdemeanor of second degree to a felony of the second degree.

  • Can you report suspected abuse if you are not a mandated reporter? 

Yes. Anyone who is concerned about the safety of a child is encouraged to make a report. Individuals who are encouraged, although not required by law, to make a report of suspected child abuse, can make a report to ChildLine by calling 1-800-932-0313.

  • Am I protected from civil and criminal liability if I make a report of suspected child abuse?

Yes, persons making a report of suspected child abuse are immune from civil and criminal liability as long as the report was made in good faith.

  • If I make a report is my identity protected?

The identity of the person making the report is kept confidential with the exception of being released to law enforcement officials or the district attorney’s office.

  1. “UUCNH Policy on Safety of Children and Youth”
  2. Allegheny County Department of Child Welfare website on reporting child abuse: http://www.alleghenycounty.us/dhs/childabuse.aspx 
  3. http://keepkidssafe.pa.gov/ 

14.2 Confidentiality – We recognize that while we must encourage reporting of all concerns or suspicions of child abuse, harassment, or other inappropriate conduct, reporting must occur with a guarantee of maximum confidentiality so that no one needs fear retaliation or recrimination. 

14.3 Anyone who is involved in church activities: a child, youth, teacher, volunteer, staff member, congregant, or associated person may have a safety concern that should be reported to the DLFD, Minister, or a Safety Team member. This includes a situation in which it is discovered that a person who is attending the church has a history of abusive behavior.

  1. Youth-Specific Policies

15.1 Defining Youth – As we seek to create a welcoming community of trust between youth and adults, we recognize that we must take steps to ensure that appropriate policies, procedures, and safeguards are in place to protect both. Adults provide oversight for activities that may include driving and overnight excursions with youth. This policy is provided to help volunteer adult advisors maintain the standard of behavior expected of them while also reducing the possibility of unfounded allegations of abuse being made against them. 

  • Youth may be particularly vulnerable to abuse due to the developmental realities of adolescence. These policies have been developed to also guard against abuse and provide our youth with as safe an environment as possible. Policies supersede parental permission for UUCNH events. The youth events guidelines produced by the Central East Region (CER) and UUA will be referred to for guidance should an incident arise that is not covered under this policy.
  • Adults working with youth must be at least 25 years old (note this is different from the RE teacher minimum age).
  • In addition to the requirements in Section 5.6., adults working with youth should:
  • have a confirmed valid driver’s license and record clear of violations (if driving youth)
  • spend a reasonable amount of time “shadowing” a seasoned advisor
  • continue training through district/regional/congregational webinars and in-person opportunities for continuing education 
  • preferably be OWL-trained or have experience with the Competencies for Ministry to/with Youth

15.2 Travel and Overnights

  • Sleeping Policy

  • The sleeping policy will be shared with parents and guardians. Adults responsible for the event will determine the implementation of these policies.
  • Each youth must have their own bedding. The floor must be visible between youth in the sleeping areas.
  • Small Groups: For overnight small group gatherings, there will be two sleeping rooms with two adults required per room whenever youth are sleeping. One room will be designated for those who want to go to sleep early. There is no gender separation for sleeping in order to keep the number of rooms manageable. The group will covenant to a particular bedtime. As long as any youth remain awake, two adults must be awake.   
  • Large Groups: Community cons have clear sleeping spaces defined by gender identity including a multi-gender sleeping space. After programming, youth must be in the single large lit awake supervised room or in a sleeping space. A pair of youth and a pair of adults take turns sweeping the building so the awake room remains supervised.
  • At trainings and small leadership events, the community covenants to a particular bedtime. At least two adults sleep in each room of youth and two adults remain awake until youth go to bed.
  • Housing in dormitories, hotels, cabins (See UUA Youth Safety Guidelines at uua.org)
  1. 3 Driving
  • All drivers of vehicles containing minors other than their own children must be at least 25 years of age and must provide proof of insurance and a valid driver’s license. 
  • There must be a sufficient number of functioning seat belts for everyone and everyone must wear a seatbelt. In addition, the vehicle must have a current registration.
  • No adult may drive alone with a youth other than their own child. The ratio of youth to adults for the group must be at least the same as the ratio outlined for the classroom (see Section 7.4., “Number of volunteers required”). 
  • Written permission of the parent/guardian of all minor passengers will be obtained prior to being transported. This permission form will include all relevant details pertaining to the event and trip, such as date and location, name of driver(s) whenever possible, time of departure and time of return. Emergency contact information including name of physician, health insurance information and consent to treat in case of an emergency must accompany all minors who are being transported by adults other than their parents. During travel, the forms should be kept by the driver of the vehicle. In addition, each driver will leave a list of the names and emergency information for all of the children and/or youth traveling in their vehicle with an adult leader of the event. If possible, every driver will carry either a cell phone or a prepaid long distance calling card.
  • In the rare event that an accident or breakdown should occur or that a driver is pulled over and cited for a traffic violation, drivers should contact a staff member responsible for problem-solving. In case of a medical emergency, drivers should call 911. 
  • No driver may be sleep-deprived, consume alcohol or use any form of drugs that can affect physical or mental performance during or before carrying out their duty as a driver.

15.4 Advisors communicating with youth electronically 

  • Safety precautions need to be taken to protect youth in virtual and physical spaces alike. Just as we advise adults not to be alone with youth in physical spaces, the same applies online. We are always wanting another set of eyes, a record of our online communications, and permissions from parents about how we may communicate with their youth (given the ever growing number of platforms).
  • Recommended Practices – Adults should only accept “friend” requests from youth on social media networks where:
  1. adults stay in an appropriate adult role in posting, content, discussion, and moderation of comments on their posts
  2. posts and discussion are visible to others
  3. posts are not automatically deleted
  • The primary means of electronic communication for teams of youth and adult leaders will be:
  1. email lists
  2. group emails
  3. Facebook groups and group messages
  4. group text messages such as through GroupMe
  5. mass reminder texts such as Remind101
  6. conference calls or video conferencing
  • Groups will covenant to use the forms of communication which work best for them.
  • Communication with youth should be archived rather than deleted.
  • One on one communication should be avoided where possible, such as, by copying another adult on an email/text/message.
  • If a youth contacts an adult one on one, the adult has the responsibility to redirect the conversation to an appropriate channel.
  • If an adult leader is contacted one on one with significant pastoral issues by a youth, they are encouraged to appropriately respond in the moment to support the youth including assisting the youth in finding local sources of support such as their parents, religious educator, minister, teacher, or counselor.
  • Any significant (beyond logistics or reminders) one on one communication between a youth and adult leader must be reported to the staff as soon as is feasible.
  • If it is necessary to have a virtual one-on-one interaction between a youth/adult, the adult will: Let staff and/or the parent/guardian know they will be communicating, around what time, and what about; and will ensure there is a record of the conversation, which may include recording phone calls with appropriate permissions required by law. Documentation should be archived for no less than 12 years.
  • As always, any communication an adult becomes aware of which involve harm to self or others including, but not limited to, self-harm, suicidal ideation, child abuse, sexual crimes against a minor, and bullying, must be shared as quickly as possible with a youth’s parents, DLFD, Minister, and any other pertinent staff. 
  • Staff and parents have the right to ask to view any communication between adult leaders and youth.
  • Parents have the right to be copied on any communication they request. If they request to be added to group conversations, their role is only to witness and share any relevant logistic information pertaining to their youth. They are encouraged to share any concerns about the group business with adult leaders or regional staff rather than participating in conversation.

15.5 Confidentiality

  • Having trusted adults is important in youth lives. Holding the confidences of youth is an important component, but adults may receive information which is unsafe to hold in confidence. This includes any disclosures from youth about harm to self or others, including self-harm, suicidal thoughts, homicidal or abusive thoughts, child abuse, intimate partner violence, bullying, harassment, serious substance problems, and all other ways youth may be at risk of serious harm.
  • FOR THE SAFETY OF BOTH THE YOUTH AND YOURSELF, YOU MUST NOT KEEP SUCH INFORMATION TO YOURSELF. Never give youth the impression that you will keep secrets for them. When you are given information which must be shared for the well-being of the youth, encourage the youth to seek help from a parent, minister, religious educator, or other trusted adult. In addition, you yourself MUST consult with a person of greater authority. If in doubt, ask adult leaders in your program or staff responsible for the youth program.
  • If a youth participant discloses information about their gender identity or sexual orientation that a youth has not made public to an adult; that adult will not share the disclosure with other people without the permission from the youth.

15.6 Youth Safety

    • No violence, weapons or dangerous items This includes physical violence, verbal threats or harassment, or possession of weapons or explosives such as fireworks.
    • Respect property/No vandalism – respect facilities and the community’s possessions, and no theft.
    • No drugs, alcohol, or illegal substances – this includes the requirement to use medication as prescribed, and turn prescription medication over to an adult if required for that event.
  • No smoking, vaping, or use of tobacco products.
  • No harassment on the basis of sex, race, national origin, religion, disability or any other protected status.
  • No sexualized conduct or sexual activity, including open mouth and/or prolonged kissing. In general, includes any touch meant to arouse, sharing sexually explicit material such as videos, apps or games.
  • No unwanted, uninvited touch – only a clearly expressed “yes” means yes – e.g. ask before hugging.
  • Rule of Three – All excursions off-site must include a minimum of three, multigenerational participants. No youth or adults are to ever be alone in a closed space with another youth participant.
  • No leaving the event location without proper permission – what constitutes permission may vary by event but must require permission by the adult responsible for supervising the youth.
  • No exclusivity in community – romantic relationships by their nature are exclusive. Therefore youth events shall not permit exclusive behavior between existing couples nor should new couples engage in such behaviors.

15.7 Restorative justice

  • We seek to create a community that honors the inherent worth and dignity of all participants. This needs particular care and attention in times of conflict, where youth find themselves out of covenant with each other, and when rules are broken. 
  • We know that humans learn best in supportive relationships and that shame and social cutoff interfere with learning. We know that youth will make mistakes. We seek to create communities and cultures which help youth learn, through both holding them accountable and supporting them in their learning.
  • As communities centered on covenant and right relationship, responding to conflict, harm to each other, and rule breaking must center restoring trust, safety, and right relationship over punishment.
  • This requires keeping the well-being and input of those most impacted by the actions as a central part of the process. Restrictions may sometimes need to be set while trust and safety, with the community, impacted youth, local congregations, leadership, and UUCNH staff, is re-established.

Revisions and Annual Review:

Date Reviewed Reviewed By Changes made, if any
4-25-2023 CYFD Team Meeting  Minor context changes, updates to evacuation policies

Upcoming Events or View Full Calendar

Quest for Belief

April 14 @ 9:15 am - 10:15 am

Discerning, Deliberating, and Deciding

April 14 @ 10:30 am - 11:45 am

Coffee Hour

April 14 @ 11:30 am - 12:00 pm

Bocce and Giant Jenga

April 15 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm