Youth Ministry Safe Environment
Best Practices and Guidelines
All adults ministering to minors and/or vulnerable adults are required to be fingerprinted, pass a background check, and complete CMG Safe Environment Training but creating a safe environment extends beyond a simple training. This training is not intended to be viewed merely as "checking a box." By training our leaders and following best practices at our programing, our Catholic churches can remain the safest place for our young people.
Best Practices at Youth Ministry
In addition to mandatory training and adherence to the Code of Conduct for adults working with Youth, their are a variety of best practices that can help keep teens safe.
Different types of events require different considerations to keep our young people safe. If you have a specific questions, please don't hesitate to reach out to the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry and/or the Office of Safe Environment. Below are a few simple practices to assist in making your regular youth ministry space a safe environment.
Plan for a Safe Environment
When planning a youth night we consider many things and having a Safe Environment should be one of them. When reviewing the night it is important to ensure that no activity or teaching would put a young people in a position where their healthy boundaries would be ignored or challenged. In other words, we not only want to create a culture that is in keeping with our Code of Conduct, we want to teach young people to expect to be treated with care and respect from all adults, including those outside of the Church. For example, we would never encourage teens to keep secrets from their parents - which is a habit that could be used to manipulate or harm them.
It is your responsibility to supervise the young people in your care - which means you should have a full accounting of teen's whereabouts at all times during programming. That means that you should always count heads when transitioning from one space on campus to another, your adults should be able to see exits to ensure that no child arrives or leaves without signing in/out, and adult should always be tasked to make sure that no teen is left behind, etc.
Institute a "Culture of Three."
That is, whenever possible, try to have at least 3 people in ministry conversations. This prevents any adult from being alone with a teen and necessitates that multiple people hear every conversation. This includes examples like walking between the Church and Youth Room or
praying with a teen. When this is a part of the expected culture of your ministry program it make keeps teens safe easier on and off campus.
Consider the Keeper of the Camera
We love pictures of our ministry, but we often struggle to run ministry and document it at the same time. While it is completely acceptable to enlist the help of a volunteer to take photos, it is best practice to have all ministry photos on a trusted device. That is to say that pictures of youth ministry should be on a parish camera/phone and not on a volunteers phone - or else transferred and completely removed from other devices before the end of the event. Pictures should be in the care of the parish to make sure that they are appropriately utilized and follow the parent's requests via the communication forms.
Monitor Adult Visitors
Volunteers must be fully trained and vetted with no exceptions. Adults from your parish community and beyond are not eligible to attend private youth ministry events and should be asked to leave. In the event that someone is discerning becoming a volunteer, or is a parent of a teen present, they may be assigned a trained/vetted adult to remain with them for the duration of the evening with permission of the Pastor. This visitor is not permitted to be alone with any youth or group of youth at any point (including using a common bathroom). If the visitor would like to continue attending/volunteering it is best practice that they are fully trained and fingerprinted before being permitted to attend a second time.
Regularly Review Policies
Reviewing policies may not be exciting but it it essential. Be sure to review The Code of Conduct and communication policies with your adults including the social media policy. It is important that we make our expectations known to our volunteers. For example, without reviewing policies, a volunteer may not know that they are not permitted to post photos of teens or text them personally.
The same is true for our teenagers. Reviewing your code of conduct, keeping up with Circle of Grace Trainings, and reminding them of the process for reporting serious situations allows them to know what you expect of them and what they can expect of you.
Take Reporting Seriously
If you or a volunteer witnesses something that seems to be a violation of the Code of Conduct or creates the suspicion of abuse or neglect, take it seriously. Make sure to review reporting procedures with your volunteers so they are equipped to keep our young people safe.