BOOM contributes to creating Safe Sanctuaries
Providing a safe place for children and youth to learn about God and grow in their faith is a priority for the churches of the Baltimore-Washington Conference. To assist them in this endeavor, the conference recently launched a partnership with Trak-1 Technology to offer a cost effective way to protect children and youth.
Every United Methodist church in the conference is required to have a Safe Sanctuary policy. In these policies, most churches require background checks for volunteers and church staff who work with children and youth.
As part of the connectional system, churches will now be able to provide these checks at the affordable rate of $9 per person. As part of their commitment to Safe Sanctuaries, the Board of Ordained Ministry will be picking up the $4,000 administrative fee, explained Debra Albrecht, an administrator in the episcopal office.
“It really is kind of a gift to our churches,” said the Rev. David Cooney, director of the conference’s Grow Spiritual Leaders team. “We’re building on our partnership with all of our churches. This is an important issue.”
Requiring background checks for staff and volunteers who work with Sunday school classes, youth groups, Scouts, camping and other programs dealing with children and youth is a best practice, Cooney said. “It’s also now an affordable one.”
Individuals may wish to pay for their own $9 online background checks, or they can be reimbursed by the church, said Albrecht. It’s up to each local church to make that decision when setting up the church account.
Those who want to begin using the system, are asked to have a pastor and/or an administrator visit the Trak-1 web site to register. They should then sign up for a training Webinar to learn the system so that they will be able to answer any questions or concerns raised by those being screened.
Individuals will then be given instructions on how they can get an online background check, which includes a broad screen criminal and sex offender search.
The search, Trak-1 officials say, queries a national data base of more than one billion sources including a social security verification.
More extensive searches, which include motor vehicle and credit reports, are also available for a small additional fee. There is also a data base for reference checks, which local churches and individuals can use as they see fit and this is a free service.
Online Safe Sanctuary training is also available to churches for a small fee. Joy Melton, the author of the denomination’s guidebook, “Safe Sanctuaries,” is on the Trak-1 staff and offers training webinars throughout the year.
Currently, Albrecht said, local churches are responsible for developing and implementing Safe Sanctuary policies that address the following:
- Recruitment, screening, and hiring procedures for all staff, volunteer and paid;
- Basic procedures and practices for safe ministry;
- Storage and handling of forms and data;
- Response to allegations of abuse;
- Plan for caring after abuse;
- Training all workers with children and youth in requirements and procedures;
- Periodic review of policy procedures, and practices;
- Certifying at the charge conference annually that a policy has been developed and is in use; and
- Ensuring that the mandatory sexual misconduct questionnaire is used in conjunction with safe sanctuaries policy and procedure and the certification report is filed each year at charge conference.
For more on Safe Sanctuaries, visit the webpage.
This year at annual conference, members will be voting on conferencewide policies and procedures to be used in case of sexual misconduct. A copy of these guidelines can be found here.
For more information on Trak-1, visit www.trak-1.com.
To get started with this new program first contact your pastor or church administrator for the authentication password; then visit this site and, when prompted, enter the authentication password.