What can previous employers tell me as part of a reference check?
Previous employers may hesitate or refuse to share information about a candidate in fear of liability for defamation. To encourage full, candid information about a potential volunteer, you can request candidates to sign a waiver that releases references from liability or other restrictions that can otherwise make information privileged. The Caring Well Hiring Guide provides a sample authorization and release form on page 9.
Can sex offenders come to church in North Carolina?
North Carolina laws restrict sex offenders who are deemed a danger to minors from coming within 300 feet of areas designated for children, which includes schools, nurseries, playgrounds and more. Those statutes may effectively bar sex offenders from attending worship services in some facilities. If you have questions about specific applications of those restrictions regarding worship services or church facilities, contact your local law enforcement office.
From Brotherhood Mutual: Sex Offenders: Should they be allowed to attend church?
How should sex offenders be addressed if they come to my church?
Church leaders should seek advice from subject matter experts and legal counsel to determine the appropriate policies and practices regarding strategic communications. Allowing sex offenders to participate in activities on church property will require proper safeguards and communication plans to protect children and ensure a safe environment for all worshippers.
Church leaders may also need to consult with an insurance company to make sure they understand the liabilities of having sex offenders on church property. The protection of church members is of primary concern and a church’s insurance company should be able to assist with the development of appropriate policies to safeguard the vulnerable if the church chooses to engage registered sex offenders.
From Brotherhood Mutual:
Registered Sex Offenders and Ministry
Sample Contingent Participation Agreement
Sample Sex Offender Attendance Policy
How do we interview prospective volunteers who wish to work with children and youth?
An important step in vetting prospective volunteers is to have a face-to-face interview. Responses should allow the interviewer to assess the volunteer’s suitability to serve. Discuss questions or concerns involving incomplete application answers; patterns of behavior, such as frequent moves; gaps in life history or concerns from references.
Suggested interview format:
- Greeting and prayer
- Purpose of interview
- Questions of purpose:
- Why do you want to serve in children or youth ministry?
- Statement of belief/personal testimony: Are you a Christian, and what does that mean to you?
- Optional follow-up question: Do you have a practice of personal spiritual disciplines, such as prayer, Scripture reading, etc.?
- Additional questions:
- Do you have an age preference for serving? If so, why?
- What is your previous experience serving with children or youth? Provide what, when and where.
- What would you do in the following scenarios:
- Defiant child
- Recurring misbehavior
- Witnessing grooming or abuse by other youth group members or adults serving children/youth
- Review main policy points that are appropriate to position being sought:
- Never be alone with a child or youth. Follow the two-person rule.
- Appropriate touch and discipline befitting the age of children/youth
- To whom to report suspicions of abuse both internally and legally
- Check-in and release system
- Requirement to prepare teaching materials before arriving to serve
- Requirements and reasons for being on time to serve
- Diapering and toileting restrictions, if appropriate to position
- After-session communication limitations, if appropriate
- Other points as needed to provide a safe church environment
- Find out the volunteer’s policy compliance:
- Are there any areas of policy with which you disagree?
- Are you willing to agree to abide by policies and procedures at all times even if you have a personal disagreement?
What do we do if an allegation of abuse occurs in our church?
Report allegations immediately
North Carolina is a must report state, and there is no pastoral exemption. Any person receiving an allegation of abuse should report this within the first 24 hours to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Social Services Child Protective Services.
It is important to have the name, address and contact information of the person making the allegation so that the Department of Social Services (DSS) may investigate allegations. Any person making a report in good faith is immune from any civil or criminal liability that might otherwise be incurred.
Department of Social Services Contact Directory
Requirements of Mandatory Reporting in North Carolina
Do not conduct an internal investigation
Allow professionals to conduct investigations to avoid damaging or influencing testimonies or evidence.
Set up an abuse response team
Develop and utilize an abuse response team that includes a media spokesperson and church leaders who can be trusted to maintain confidences of disclosure. Having a team in place can help your church’s initial commitment become more than just good intentions and move from ideas to implementation.
Offer caring responses and take allegations seriously. Provide additional support by offering professional counseling, especially if the alleged abuser is a church staff or volunteer.
Document at every step
Document allegations and response of church at each step of investigation.
Remove alleged abuser from service
If the alleged abuser is a church staff member or volunteer, remove them from service until allegations are resolved. The church may decide to continue paying the staff member involved during the investigation, but they should not be allowed to serve with children or youth in any capacity.
Contact your insurance agency
Contact the church’s insurance agency. Be proactive by checking that the church’s insurance policy has an additional rider that covers claims for sexual abuse.
What insurance agencies do you recommend?
This list is not exhaustive but can offer some guidance regarding church liability and sex offenders as well as other safeguards that you will want to consider for the safety of your church.
Insurance Company Resources