Safe Practices Policy
Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church
Oak Park, Illinois
I. Purposes of this Policy
Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church is committed to protecting all children who
participate in the programs sponsored by the congregation from physical, emotional,
and sexual abuse and harmful neglect. Fair Oaks also is committed to protecting
the integrity of the people who are called to work with our young people. This Safe
Practices Policy is intended and designed to meet those goals. It establishes
standards and procedures for selecting, training, and overseeing youth leaders. It
also sets forth the methods for effectively responding to matters of concern.
Fair Oaks’ Safe Practices Committee will be principally responsible for
assisting the Session in administering this Policy.
In keeping with Fair Oaks’ goal to provide a safe and secure environment for
children and youth participating in church activities, the environment at Fair Oaks
is to be free from any form of abuse. Church staff, volunteers and other leaders
participating in Fair Oaks activities are required to conduct themselves according to
the procedures described below. Additionally, the Senior Pastor, Associate Pastor,
Director of Christian Education Ministries, Director of Music Ministries and certain
other members of the church staff may have additional responsibilities as mandated
reporters under Illinois state law, and those responsibilities are described in the
Mandated Reporter supplement to this Policy, found as Attachment A. A copy of
this Safe Practices Policy will be provided to all church staff as well as volunteers
prior to starting work with the children and youth of the church, and each such staff
member or volunteer must sign that he/she has received and read a copy of the
Policy. Violation of this Policy shall be considered grounds for corrective
action, pastoral counsel and/or possible legal action.
This Policy governs conduct with children and youth as defined in Section II
of this Policy.
It is important to define certain terms used in a policy of this type to assure
that persons guided and affected by the policy understand all of its provisions. It is
difficult, however, to define some terms exactly without lengthy and technical
writing. Accordingly, the users of this Policy should responsibly apply each term
defined in this Section and be guided by the context within which the term appears
and by the purposes and goals of this Policy.
A. “Activity,” “event,” and “program” each mean, generally, a gathering of
children sponsored by Fair Oaks and for which Fair Oaks has responsibility for, or
oversight of, leadership staffing. These terms generally are used collectively in this
Policy, but when one word is used separately for convenience, it is meant to be
inclusive of the others.
B. “Adult” means a person 21 years old or older who serves as a Leader or
in another volunteer capacity.
C. “Child” and “youth” are used interchangeably and refer to a person
until that person reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school, whichever
occurs later. Additionally, if the person chooses to participate in youth activities
after his/her graduation from high school or attainment of age 18, this policy is
intended to cover that person’s participation in youth activities until the start of the
next program year. The words also mean any person without regard to age who is
specially challenged and requires special attention.
D. “Child Advocacy Team” means the group of persons designated by Fair
Oaks’ Session from time to time to address reports of incidents and acts of child
abuse. The Child Advocacy Team shall consist of the Senior Pastor of Fair Oaks,
Fair Oaks’ Director of Christian Education Ministries, and one person currently
serving on Fair Oaks’ Session, except as provided in Section X(B)(8), below. The
Child Advocacy Team also may, in its discretion and from time to time,
within or outside of the church membership other persons with special expertise,
including, for example, a social worker, psychologist, or counselor with expertise in
the area of child abuse, an attorney, or an insurance advisor.
E. “Incident” and “child abuse” mean a non-accidental injury or pattern of
injuries to a child. “Child abuse” is injury to a child for which there is no reasonable
explanation, which may include non-accidental physical injury, neglect, sexual
molestation, and emotional abuse. The abuser may be an adult, an adolescent, or
another child. Child abuse may be sexual in nature and such abuse includes
behavior that involves touching and non-touching aspects.
F. “Leader” means any person who works with children in any activity,
event or program sponsored by Fair Oaks and for which Fair Oaks has
responsibility for, or oversight of, leadership staffing and meets the qualifications
set forth in Section V. below. Volunteer and staff positions that are specifically
excluded from the definition of “Leader” are set forth in Attachment B to this Policy.
G. “Leader Application” means the application form prepared by the
Committee that must be completed by each person who wishes to be selected as a
H. “Member” means a member of the Fair Oaks congregation.
I. “Outing” means an activity that occurs away from Fair Oaks.
J. “Policy” means this Safe Practices Policy.
K. “Safe Practices Committee“ and “Committee” mean the committee
appointed by the Session principally responsible for implementing the provisions of
this Policy. The Committee shall consist of at least the following: one member of
the pastoral staff, the Director of Christian Education Ministries and one member of
the Session. Each member of the Committee shall qualify as a Leader.
L. “Supervisor” means a person who qualifies as a Leader, who has been
designated as an on-site supervisor for Sunday School, Logos, or a youth group, and
who has the authority to act as a Supervisor pursuant to this Policy.
III. Applicability of this Policy
This Policy protects children who are participating in, and applies to all
persons, whether volunteer or paid, who are selected by Fair Oaks to act as leaders
of, education programs and other activities and events that are sponsored by Fair
Oaks and for which Fair Oaks has responsibility for, or oversight of, the leadership
It is the intent of this Policy that all personal and sensitive information shall
be held in confidence to the extent possible, with the understanding that such
information may need to be shared with and reviewed by those persons having the
responsibilities for administering and enforcing this Policy, law enforcement and
other government agency personnel involved in investigating allegations of abuse
and/or in securing the safety of a child, and personnel, or attorneys representing
Fair Oaks. It also is the intent of this Policy that information shall be gathered and
reviewed only as necessary to fulfill the purposes of this Policy or to comply with
All information obtained in connection with the application or enforcement of
this Policy shall be kept in a secure location and used only in connection with
administering and enforcing this Policy and for no other purpose. All information
gathered about Leader applicants, including applications, reference and interview
reports, background checks, and all related notes and information, shall be
maintained in a secure location, with access managed by the Committee. All
information relating to a report of an incident and the response to that report shall
be maintained in a secure location, with access managed by the Child Advocacy
Team. All third-party requests for information maintained by Fair Oaks pursuant
to this Policy shall be referred to the Senior Pastor for handling and response.
The original of all information for Leaders who are not members of the
church staff will be maintained by Fair Oaks for a minimum of five years after the
person ceases to be a Leader, and copies will be maintained electronically
indefinitely. The original of all information for Leaders who are members of the
church staff will be maintained by Fair Oaks indefinitely.
V. Selection of Leaders
A. Leader Recommendations. Leaders shall be selected from among all of
the qualified persons who have been recommended by the Committee in accordance
with this Policy.
B. General Qualifications for Leaders. Each Leader shall have completed
and submitted to the Committee a Leader Application. Except as specifically
provided otherwise in this Policy, each Leader shall be:
1. At least 21 years old; and
2. A member of Fair Oaks or the spouse or offspring of a member of Fair
3. An active participant at Fair Oaks for at least six months preceding
service as a Leader.
Fair Oaks provides certain opportunities for participation in youth
activities by persons who do not meet all of the criteria listed above. Those
opportunities include the positions described in Section VII. of this Policy.
C. Safe Practices Committee Responsibilities. The Committee shall
recommend a qualified person to be a Leader by undertaking the following: (1)
review completed Leader Application, (2) two reference checks, (3) a background
check with the assistance of the local police department and/or a private reputable
credit reporting agency to determine any record of sexual assault, physical assault,
sexual abuse, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, or any other incident
involving misconduct toward a child, and (4) a personal interview.
A member of the Committee or the person in charge of the activity for
which the Leader applicant is applying shall interview at least two of the personal
references (other than an employer or a relative) provided by the applicant, using
the questions provided in the Reference Interview Form, generally in the form
attached to this Policy, to substantiate the information set forth on the Leader
A paid staff member of the Committee shall review the results of the
background check solely for the purpose of verifying that the applicant’s background
is consistent with the standards and goals of this Policy. If necessary, the results of
the background check will be reviewed with the Senior Pastor or Director of
Christian Education before further action is taken with respect to the Leader
One member of the Committee and/or the person in charge of the activity for
which the Leader Applicant is applying shall interview the Leader applicant.
D. Annual Information Update. Each Leader must update her or his
Leader Application annually so that Fair Oaks knows that all information in the
Application, and the Leader’s commitment to service, is current. It is not necessary
for the Committee to review a Leader annually, but instead the Committee shall
undertake a review at any time when two or more members of the Committee
believe that circumstances warrant such a review.
E. Subsequent Background Checks. Once a Leader is accepted into
service, he/she will be required to submit to a background check as described in
Section V(C) above every three years.
F. Parents/Adult Chaperones. Any parent or other adult chaperone who
attends an activity or outing (but who is not otherwise a “Leader” as defined in this
Policy) may, at the discretion of the person in charge of the activity, Director of
Christian Education or the Senior Pastor, be asked to undergo any or all of the
screening procedures for Leaders described above.
VI. Leader Training
Each Leader must attend one training session each year hosted by the
Committee. The training session will be designed to teach Leaders (1) how to
recognize the signs of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse and harmful neglect in
children, (2) what constitutes acceptable and appropriate behavior for youth
helpers, (3) when and how to report incidents, and (4) about the provisions of this
Policy. Additional training will be provided on basic first aid as resources are
A. General Standard. Except as specifically provided in this Policy, each
Sunday School class, each Logos class, and each Fair Oaks-sponsored youth group
shall be led by at least two Leaders. Fair Oaks follows a “five-years-older” rule,
under which all church staff and Leaders must be at least 60 months older than the
oldest child participating in the activity.
In the event of a short-staffing situation, a class may be staffed by one
Leader provided that a Supervisor or another Leader without specific responsibility
is present in the building, visits the short-staffed class or event periodically, and is
generally available to assist as needed.
B. Senior Highs Meeting at Fair Oaks. A group comprised mostly of
senior high school-aged youth and meeting at Fair Oaks may be led by one Leader,
if a second unrelated adult (otherwise qualified to be a Leader) is present in the
building, visits the meeting area periodically, and is generally available to assist the
group as needed.
C. Driving Youth Home. Transportation provided in connection with a
Fair Oaks-sponsored outing shall comply with Section IX.B. of this Policy and shall
begin and end at the church building. In general, parents are responsible for
arranging transportation to and from church. However, simply as a convenience to
parents when it would be substantially inconvenient or impossible for a parent to
transport a child home, the parent may ask the driver to drive his or her child home
if the permission slip for the outing expressly contains the parent’s permission, the
driver leaves directly from the program or event with the purpose and intent to take
the youth directly to their homes, and the driver contacts a parent of the youth
immediately before leaving the program or event.
D. Nursery. Nursery helpers shall be governed by the Child Supervision
Policy, generally in the form attached to this Policy.
E. Babysitting for Church Functions. For occasional congregational
events that are limited in time, teams of two youth each at least 12 years old may
be used as babysitters, so long at least two adults (otherwise qualified as Leaders)
are present in the building, those adults visit the babysitting areas periodically, and
both adults are immediately available to assist the babysitters as needed.
F. Exceptions. Exceptions to this Policy may be made on a case-by-case
basis by Fair Oaks’ Director of Christian Education Ministries after consultation
with the leader of the affected program or activity after all reasonable attempts to
comply fully with this Policy are made.
Each child who will participate in Fair Oaks’ Christian education programs
must be registered by her or his parents annually. Fair Oaks will provide a
registration form for that purpose, generally in the form attached to this Policy.
IX. General Guidelines and Standards
A. Supervisors. Fair Oaks will endeavor to have a Supervisor available
during regular program hours for Sunday School, Logos, and youth group meetings
to assist Leaders. Among other duties, the Supervisor will visit classrooms,
restrooms, and hallways periodically.
B. Transportation Guidelines.
1. Each driver who drives youth in connection with an outing shall have a
valid driver’s license and current automobile insurance providing
acceptable limits. Drivers will be required to provide written proof of a
valid driver’s license and current automobile insurance. The driver
must be between 25 and 70 years old.
2. The number of persons in a car shall never exceed the number of
functioning seat belts in that car. Seat belts must be worn at all times.
C. Supervision for Overnight Activities and Outings.
1. Overnight activities conducted by Fair Oaks at the church building
shall be supervised by at least two unrelated Leaders and sufficient
additional adult chaperones. The optimal student-to-adult ratio is 6 to
1, and a reasonable effort should be made to achieve that ratio for
every event. If that ratio cannot be achieved, then a higher ratio is
acceptable provided that the ratio shall never exceed 10 students to 1
2. Overnight outings shall be supervised by at least two unrelated
Leaders and sufficient additional adult chaperones so the student-toadult
ratio is not more than 6 to 1.
3. Each youth who participates in an overnight activity or outing shall
deliver to a Leader, before the start of the event, a copy of the Youth
Covenant, generally in the form attached to this Policy, signed by the
youth and by a parent or guardian.
D. First Aid and Emergency Response Guidelines.
1. A first aid kit shall be available in all classrooms and carried on every
outing. Ice for ice packs shall be available in the church kitchen.
2. Each injury and accident involving a child that requires first aid or
other medical attention must be reported by the Leader to the
Supervisor, if one is available, and to the child’s parent as soon as
3. If the circumstances warrant it, minor first aid will be administered
immediately by a Leader. Depending on the nature and severity of the
injury or illness, additional medical attention, including a call to “911,”
may be taken, particularly if a parent cannot be located.
4. The Leader involved in the incident will enter the incident in a log
maintained in the church office, identifying the persons involved, the
time and nature of the injury or accident, the person or persons who
administered first aid, and the person who reported the matter.
5. The Supervisor or Leader shall endeavor to make a follow-up telephone
call to a parent of an injured child within 24 hours after the injury.
E. View of Classrooms. Each classroom door must have a window or
panel affording a clear view into the classroom.
F. Individual or Group Counseling and Advising of Youth. Counseling
and advising of youth and children is to be done in such a way that both the
counselor and counselee are both clearly visible from outside the room. If possible,
the adult serving as counselor should notify the child’s parent about the meeting in
advance of the meeting; if that is not feasible, the counselor should notify a member
of the church staff.
G. Bathroom Visits. Routine "bathroom breaks" are recommended to
minimize disruption caused by youth visiting the bathroom during classes. It is
recommended that an adult escort children under age 6 to the bathroom. Adults
may choose to remain outside of the bathroom after first checking the safety of the
room. When a pre-school child or a child who needs assistance uses the bathroom,
an adult may enter to assist. In that circumstance, the door for the bathroom must
be left open while the adult is assisting.
H. Discipline. Physical punishment of all kinds is strictly prohibited. In
general, discipline must be administered carefully and sparingly, with careful
consideration of a child’s dignity and psychological and social development.
Gentleness, respect, and understanding must guide all acts and words of discipline.
Discipline will be carried out through instruction, training, and verbal corrections.
I. Changes to this Policy and Forms. The Session may amend this Policy
from time to time. An amendment will be effective immediately upon its approval.
The Committee may revise any of the forms used in conjunction with this Policy;
provided, however, that any change to a form that effects a substantive change in
this Policy shall require the approval of the Session.
J. Review of this Policy. This Policy shall be reviewed at least every five
years and more frequently as may required to make any amendments necessary to
comply with applicable law.
A. Fair Oaks’ Commitments. Fair Oaks is committed to avoiding all
incidents and acts of child abuse in its programs. Fair Oaks also is committed to
achieving 100% compliance with this Policy’s reporting requirements and to a
timely and thorough response to each such report. To those ends, all Leaders shall
be taught that abuse may be committed by anyone, including adults and youth, and
that the best and essential response to an incident or to abuse is prompt and proper
Notably, it is not the responsibility of a person reporting an incident or
an act of child abuse, or the responsibility of the person receiving the report, to
substantiate any allegation or suspicion. A person reporting a suspected incident or
act of child abuse shall do so without fear of reprisal.
B. Reporting Procedures.
1. Every adult working with youth in an activity shall report any
suspected or alleged incident or act of child abuse observed in
connection with that activity promptly to a member of the Child
Advocacy Team. However, the child’s safety and well-being are
paramount before any reporting. If there is an immediate danger to
the child, the staff member or Leader shall first take all necessary
steps to ensure the child’s safety.
2. As soon as possible after receiving the initial report of an incident or
act of child abuse, a member of the Child Advocacy Team shall inform
the child’s parent or guardian of the incident.
3. Each report and all circumstances that lead to a report are highly
sensitive and strictly confidential information. No person, including
Session members and the person initially reporting the incident, may
disclose any such information to any person outside of the Child
Advocacy Team, except as required by law or pursuant to the request
of attorneys representing Fair Oaks.
4. The member of the Child Advocacy Team who receives a report shall
convene the Child Advocacy Team promptly to review the report and to
determine the appropriate response to the report, including gathering
the facts and circumstances related to the allegation.
5. The Child Advocacy Team shall notify the Session promptly about an
investigation. That notice shall not describe the facts or circumstances
related to the report and shall not identify any individual involved in
6. The Session, with the assistance of the Child Advocacy Team, shall
determine whether any communication shall be made to the
congregation, church authorities or the media about any report or
7. The Child Advocacy Team shall determine whether to advise any law
enforcement officials or any state or local agencies about any report.
8. No person who is the subject of a report of an alleged incident may
serve on the Child Advocacy Team in any capacity until all aspects of
that incident are resolved. Any resulting vacancy shall be filled by the
C. Duties of Child Advocacy Team. The members of the Child Advocacy
1. Know the provisions of this Policy;
2. Be knowledgeable of Illinois laws relating to the reporting of child
3. Review all reports made to the Child Advocacy Team and gather such
facts as needed to decide what further action is appropriate to respond
to the report;
4. Assure that an objective, effective, confidential, and caring response to
an initial report is made to all interested parties;
5. Notify law enforcement authorities and state and federal agencies as
6. Write an incident report including the information listed in Section
X.D. below; and
7. Seek additional sources of expertise that members of the Child
Advocacy Team determine are needed.
D. Incident Reports. Each incident report of the Child Advocacy Team
1. The names of all persons involved, including the accused, victim, and
the person who reported among any others;
2. The allegations made by the person who reported the incident;
3. The response of the accused;
4. The names and reports of witnesses and others with information about
6. A copy of each relevant document; and
7. Recommendations for further action or assistance if any.
E. Suspension of Involvement. A person who is the subject of a report of
an alleged incident shall withdraw or be suspended from all involvement in
programs, activities, or events sponsored by Fair Oaks until the matter is fully
resolved. In addition, if a paid staff member is the subject, the Child Advocacy
Team shall make a recommendation to the Session concerning the suspension of
other duties and the continuation of salary and benefits while the matter is
pending. Additional actions may be taken as required by the Presbytery of
Chicago’s Child Protection Policy and as required by applicable law. Reinstatement
will be considered only after final action is taken by all appropriate authorities.
F. Management of Information; Confidentiality. Members of the Child
Advocacy Team shall maintain confidentiality in all of their activities. All
information about a report shall be managed exclusively by the Child Advocacy
Team and shall be kept in a secure location for so long as required by the applicable
legal statute of limitations. Such information shall be disclosed only to persons who
are required to have it to fulfill the purposes of this Policy or to comply with
applicable law or under the advice and direction of attorneys representing Fair
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MANDATED REPORTER SUPPLEMENT
Most states have child protection statutes that provide for reporting incidents of child
abuse or neglect. In Illinois, the applicable statute is the Abused and Neglected Child
Reporting Act (“IANCRA”), 325 ILCS 5/1 et seq., which is administered by the Illinois
Department of Children and Family Services (“DCFS”).
Who Are “Mandated Reporters” at Fair Oaks
Under the IANCRA, the term “mandated reporters” refers to professionals who work
with children in the course of their professional duties. Under Illinois law, mandated
reporters are required to report to state authorities when they have reasonable cause to
suspect that child abuse or neglect may have occurred. Teachers, school personnel, child
care workers and members of the clergy are specifically included in the list of individuals
who are deemed “mandated reporters” under the IANCRA.
Under its Safe Practices Policy, Fair Oaks deems the following positions to be mandated
reporters for purposes of complying with the IANCRA:
• Associate Pastor
• Director of Christian Education Ministries
• Director of Music Ministries
In compliance with the IANCRA, Fair Oaks requires that individuals holding the
foregoing positions sign a statement acknowledging their status as mandated reporters
before they commence employment. The statement is made on one of two DCFS forms –
either the Acknowledgment of Mandated Reporter Status or the Acknowledgment of
Mandated Reporter Status (Clergy). Fair Oaks will retain the originals of all signed
Fair Oaks staff and volunteers who are not clergy, who are not among the categories of
professionals specifically identified in the IANCRA and who do not hold one of the four
staff positions specified above are not considered mandated reporters under Fair Oaks
Safe Practices Policy.
Making a Report to the Child Abuse Hotline
A mandated reporter who has reasonable cause to suspect child abuse or neglect is
required to immediately report or cause a report to be made to DCFS. In many cases, the
reporting requirement will be satisfied if the Pastor makes the report, but if the Pastor
fails to report, the mandated reporter must nevertheless make the report if he or she has
reasonable cause to believe that child abuse or neglect may have occurred.
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In compliance with the mandated reporting obligations upon members of the clergy
imposed by the IANCRA, Fair Oaks requires that whenever the Pastor or Associate
Pastor has reasonable cause to believe that child abuse or neglect has occurred (either
through his or her own observation or based on a report received under the Safe Practices
Policy), he or she must personally make the report to DCFS and may not rely upon any
other member of the church staff or volunteer to make the report. Additionally, the
Pastor or Associate Pastor should inform the Executive Presbyter of the Presbytery of
Chicago that he/she has made a report to DCFS.
The initial report is an oral report made by calling the Child Abuse Hotline. Following
are hotline numbers:
Illinois Department of Children and Family Services: 1-800-252-2873
National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-422-4453/1-800-4-A CHILD
Section 5/7 of the IANCRA, 325 ILCS 5/7, provides, "Any person who knowingly
transmits a false report to the Department commits the offense of disorderly
conduct under subsection (a)(7) of Section 26-1 of the Criminal Code of 1961. A
first violation of this subsection is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a term
of imprisonment for up to one year, or by a fine not to exceed $1,000, or by both
such term and fine. A second or subsequent violation is a Class 4 felony."
The oral report to the Child Abuse Hotline must be followed by a written report on the
applicable state reporting form. In Illinois, the written report must be made within 48
hours after the initial hotline report.
In addition to mandated reporters, persons who are not mandated reporters are also
permitted to make reports of suspected child abuse or neglect. Whether or not the person
making the report is a mandated reporter, his or her identity is protected by statute, and a
person who makes a report in good faith is immune from civil or criminal liability.
Criteria prompting a child abuse or neglect investigation:
• The alleged victim is a child under 18 years or person of diminished capacity.
• The alleged perpetrator is a parent, guardian, foster parent, relative caregiver or
any person responsible for the child’s welfare at the time of the alleged abuse or
neglect. (This applies only to filing a report with DCFS. Any person who abuses a
child must be reported under the other provisions of Fair Oaks’ Safe Practices
• There is a specific incident of abuse or neglect or a specific set of circumstances
involving suspected abuse or neglect.
• There is demonstrated harm to the child or a substantial risk of physical or sexual
injury to the child.
Information the reporter should have ready to give to the Child Abuse Hotline:
• Names, birth dates (or approximate ages), genders, races, etc. for all adult and
• Addresses for all victims and perpetrators, including current location.
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• Information about the siblings or other family members, if available.
• Specific information about the abusive incident or the circumstances contributing
to risk of harm.
• When the incident occurred and the extent of the injuries.
• How the child says it happened, and any other pertinent information.
• Reporters should be prepared to provide phone numbers where they may be
reached throughout the day in case the Hotline must call back for more
For additional information on reporting statutes and procedures, see the DCFS website at
EXCLUSIONS FROM “LEADER” DEFINITION
Because it is expected that individuals serving in the following volunteer roles
will not have the opportunity to work directly with children in an unsupervised capacity,
they are excluded from the definition of “Leader” set forth in Section II(F) of the Safe
• Logos table parent
• Logos kitchen staff
• “Children’s time” presenter during worship