Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Churches exist with a common mission – and that is to help people.
Because of this, churches and church leaders are often exposed to the less desirable aspects of human behavior – the neglect or abuse of a child.
Churches Care For Kids
Unfortunately, programs that support children often witness neglect or abuse of a child.
What is the definition of child abuse and neglect?
“Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or an act or failure to act, which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.”
Department of Health and Human Services
The Department of Health and Human Services did a Maltreatment of Children Report in 2020 and the details of that report are heartbreaking.
Child Abuse Stats You May Not Know
- There are four major types of maltreatment: neglect, physical abuse, psychological maltreatment, and child sexual abuse.
- In 2020, 76.1 percent of victims are neglected, 16.5 percent are physically abused, 9.4 percent are sexually abused and 0.2 percent are sex trafficked.
- In 2020, there are nationally 618,000 victims of child abuse and neglect.
- The victim rate is 8.4 victims per 1,000 children in the population.
- Children younger than 1 year old have the highest victimization rate at 25.1 per 1,000 children of the same age in the national population.
- The victimization rate for girls is 8.9 per 1,000 girls in the population, which is higher than boys at 7.9 per 1,000 boys.
- In 2020, a national estimate of 1,750 children died from abuse and neglect at a rate of 2.38 per 100,000 children.
- More than four-fifths (83.2%) of perpetrators are between 18 and 44 years old.
- More than one-half (52.0%) of perpetrators are female, and 47.1 percent of perpetrators are male.
- The majority (77.2%) of perpetrators are a parent of their victims.
All 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Territories have child abuse and neglect reporting laws that mandate certain professionals and institutions to refer suspected maltreatment to a child protective services (CPS) agency.
Each state has its own definitions of child abuse and neglect that are based on standards set by federal law. Federal legislation provides a foundation for states by identifying a set of acts or behaviors that define child abuse and neglect.
What You Can Do To Help Protect Kids
1. Conduct Background Checks
Make it a priority to know the people you assign responsibility to care for kids.
Background checks are always the first line of defense and should be done on every employee and volunteer who works with children.
It can be tempting to forgo this step, particularly for that kind, unassuming volunteer or employee. But the profile of a child predator is often just that.
Require new employees and volunteers to be screened, and background checks should be redone every couple of years.
2. Write Policies And Procedures For Reporting
Employees and volunteers need written policies and procedures that help them recognize suspected abuse and expectations for notifying church leadership.
These policies should be specific to your particular state’s reporting requirements.
Access a template for your child abuse policy and procedure here.
3. Perform Training on Policies and Procedures
Policies and procedures are only as effective as the training of personnel and volunteers.
Schedule a required annual training for volunteers and employees.
Use this event to partner with ministry employees and volunteers to protect all children within their care.
This training event should be used to educate and prepare volunteers to be the eyes and ears of the ministry to protect the children you serve.
As well as instructions for the reporting process should there ever be a need.
4. Provide Access To Reporting Forms
Make reporting easy by providing easy access to the required reporting form.
Create reporting forms that are easy to understand and that provide instructions for completion and who to deliver the forms to.
You can access an editable copy of child abuse and neglect reporting form here.
5. Pledge Confidentiality
Churches deal with lots of confidential information. Teach employees and volunteers to respect confidential information and not succumb to the temptation of gossip.
Each suspected case of abuse should be treated with the highest levels of confidentiality.
Respecting the privacy of a family is key to maintaining the trust and will keep the door open for help and support.
Any information about the case should be shared only on a need-to-know basis.
6. Stay Current With State Laws
Every state has different codes and reporting mandates.
Keep current with your state’s code for child abuse and neglect, and adjust policies and training as requirements are updated.
Make Care For The Children A Priority
Let’s be real. No one wants to report the parent or caregiver of a child in their care. However, the safety of the kids we serve should always be a priority.
Take the time to educate yourself, your staff and volunteers about this sensitive issue and put practices in place to intervene if necessary.
You never know if the uncomfortable step you take will save a child from an abusive situation.
How does your church handle suspected child abuse or neglect?
If you are a member of SCM, you can access reporting forms and policies for Child Abuse and Neglect here. If you are not a member and would like to access these documents, you can learn more here.