Communication is a vital part of any program and ministries are frequently utilising various electronic means of communication. However, we need to be aware that a key trend in grooming children for abuse is through secretive electronic communication. Therefore leaders need to have appropriate contact with children, that is open and transparent, with records kept of all messages.
Parents/Guardians are able to specify their preferred means of direct contact with their child by leaders or, if they would prefer, that all contact is directed through them. All social media platforms must be approved by Session/O&N.
Leaders are to have appropriate contact with children as outlined in this Table. Transparent encouragement is any communication that is obviously seeking to encourage a child positively, this would include Bible references, or relevant material covered in the program the child participates in.
– Contacting children and parents via closed and private email and message systems which leave no trace of the communication or cannot be audited.
– One to one social media communication with children under 13 years.
– Communicating with children via any electronic or digital communication without parental permission.
All drivers (leaders or helpers) involved in a program with children must meet certain requirements before they are able to drive any child that is not their own.
All drivers will need to have completed the PresSafe Selection Process and be minuted by Session as an approved driver. Any driver must be appropriately licensed (no Learner License), your vehicle must be registered and be fit for purpose.
Children under seven years old must have legislated child-restraint requirements.
Children are not to travel alone with a leader or helper unless explicitly approved by Session upon the request of their parent/guardian. A Minister or Ministry Coordinator should be notified of any emergent circumstances that arise in the transport of children.
Leaders need to be aware of parent/guardian preferences regarding the use of images of their child (including videos). Any social media platform must be approved by Session with someone designated to monitor the platform. The Ministry Coordinator should advise parents and children on acceptable social media behaviour, as required.
Acceptable use of images includes:
Respecting a child’s wish not to be photographed or have an image shared.
Respecting the parent’s indicated permission for use of images of their child.
Not disclosing information that can personally identify a child.
Not taking or publishing embarrassing or offensive photos of children.
Parental/Guardian permission is required for any child to participate in an age-appropriate ministry and its related activities at your local Presbyterian Church. This permission can take place at the beginning of a calendar year for the year’s program.
Parents or guardians will need to:
– Approve their child to attend the relevant ministry.
– Acknowledge photographs and images of their child may be taken and published, including via social media platforms. They can advise if they do not wish this to occur.
– Approve the means of communicating with their child (see ‘Communication’ in the next section)
– Approve transport arrangements.
Supervision of children is an important responsibility within a children’s ministry program or activity. It is oversight of children by leaders, with the aim of keeping children from avoidable harm. Supervision extends from the time that children are committed to the care of leaders within a program, until they are returned to their parent/guardian (or designated care provider).
Supervision ratios are dependent on :
– The type of activity (including venue and type of activity)
– Age of children
– Behaviour or needs of children
– Skill set of leaders
A general ratio is one adult supervising for the average age of the group of children.
Each church is required to have a first aid kit located at church property. If activities are taking place elsewhere, then a portable first aid kit must be available. The provision of first aid kits is the responsibility of the Committee of Management, and they need to be checked on a regular basis.
How to respond to illness or injury:
Dangers – Ensure the area is safe for yourself, others and the patient
Response – Check for a response.
If responsive, monitor and seek appropriate medical treatment
If not responsive then:
Send For Help – Call 000 to ask for an ambulance or have someone else make the call.
After the incident, the incident should be documented and an incident report submitted.
You can find a helpful reminder of the St John Ambulance ‘DRSABC’ process at http://stjohn.org.au/
If you are aware of any hazards that exist on church property please notify your Ministry Coordinator or Minister who will bring it to the attention of the Committee of Management (CoM). This may be things like broken windows, uneven flooring, items needing repair, or equipment that needs replacing. The CoM is responsible for ensuring regular safety inspections of children’s playground equipment, and are required to undertake an annual property audit.
It is important to be aware of any children involved in a program or activity have food allergies as well as knowing how to keep them safe from these allergens.
If food handling is part of your program, make sure you understand proper food handling guidelines, particularly check that food is fit for consumption and wash your hands before providing food. You can read more about food handling guidelines from ‘Food Safe In Seconds‘.