Fair Oaks

Safe Practices Policy

Safe Practices Policy

download printable version (pdf)

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08/08

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.

II. Definitions

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.

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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

Leader.

H. “Member” means a member of the Fair Oaks congregation.

I. “Outing” means an activity that occurs away from Fair Oaks.

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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

staffing.

IV. Confidentiality

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

applicable law.

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

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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

Oaks; and

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

Application.

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

applicant’s application.

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.

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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

available.

VII. Staffing

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.

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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.

VIII. Registration

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.

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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

adult.

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

practicable.

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.

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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.

X. Incidents

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

reporting.

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.

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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

the matter.

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

investigation.

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

Session.

C. Duties of Child Advocacy Team. The members of the Child Advocacy

team shall:

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1. Know the provisions of this Policy;

2. Be knowledgeable of Illinois laws relating to the reporting of child

abuse;

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

required;

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

must include:

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

the incident;

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.

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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

Oaks.

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ATTACHMENT A

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:

Pastor

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

Acknowledgments.

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

Policy)

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

child subjects.

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

information.

Additional Resources

For additional information on reporting statutes and procedures, see the DCFS website at

www.state.il.us/dcfs.

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ATTACHMENT B

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

Practices Policy:

Logos table parent

Logos kitchen staff

“Children’s time” presenter during worship


 

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