In October of 2011, the North American Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church passed Working Policy FB-20, which mandates training and background screening for all church volunteers who work with children/youth in all Seventh-day Adventist ministries. Many conferences, churches and schools already have background screening in place but the North American Division and Adventist Risk Management have partnered with an organization called Shield the Vulnerable that takes the protection solution to another level. This solution includes an educational component and a national database for background screening, making Shield the Vulnerable (STV) a more flexible and complete option for our church-at-large.
The training courses are intuitive, informative, and individualized. Because the instruction is completely web-based individuals may start and stop, go back and review and complete the coursework whenever it is the most convenient. Courses can even be completed on smartphones.
A closer look at both mandatory training and additional training options offered by STV show how valuable this resource can be. Required training courses include Detecting Predators, and Recognize and Report Child Abuse. Additionally, when individuals complete the required classes, they have access to other STV classes for a full year, including Cyberspace: Risks and Solutions, Eliminating Bullying, and Cyber Safety for Teens, etc. The required training will achieve our goal of greater child safety in four important ways. All those who take the training will be able to:
- Identify signs of abuse or neglect
- Know how to report suspected abuse
- Know the techniques and methods of predators
- Know how to interact appropriately with children and youth
This training arms the church with a well-trained, educated workforce that will not only make our churches and schools safer, but our communities as well.
The process for individuals is simple and completely on-line. Each individual will click on the link to the STV home page and follow a few simple instructions. Personal information, including a unique username and personal password, will be recorded, along with the city and state of their residence. Local information is necessary so that individuals receive their state-specific instructions for reporting abuse. Each local conference is also identified so that the costs for the training and screening can be forwarded to the appropriate conference.
Once an individual has successfully registered, training may begin. When the required courses are completed a printable certificate is available and course completion information is forwarded to the union/conference in which the individual will be working.
Criminal Background Screening
The screening information page will appear when the required courses are completed.
Additional information and permissions will be filled out, and following completion of an electronic signature page, the individual’s name is forwarded for background screening. Screening is done by Employment Screening Resources. Results of the screening will be returned to the conference. Then, one of three designations will be forwarded to the local entity (details regarding a criminal record will not be forwarded to the local entity). The designations are:
- Eligible - The individual has completed both the training and screening and they are eligible for service.
- Application Pending - Either the individual has not yet completed the required training courses or the background screening has not yet been completed.
- Advisory - There is either outstanding information or issues on the individual. The local church or school STV program administrator will need to contact the Conference office and review the name to learn the nature of the situation.
- Ineligible - The individual has completed both the training and screening but it has been determined that they are not eligible for service in working with children or youth programs at the local church or school.
The presence of the screening process in our churches and schools will also serve as a deterrent to offenders who may consider “hanging around” our children and youth.
Program Administration and Rollout
Each union, conference, and local church entity will designate a program administrator whose responsibility it is to manage all screening and training completion data for their particular entity. The decision regarding selection of the program administrator for each entity is up to the discretion of the entity leadership. Prior to the rollout, STV will hold training sessions for all those designated to administer the program. Once the process training is complete each Union will be notified and will then notify their conferences and local entities that individual training and screening can begin.
STV has been working diligently to upload all the necessary information from unions, conferences, churches, and schools throughout the NAD. When this upload is complete rollout will begin. It is the goal of ARM and STV that all rollouts begin by June 30, 2012. Each church, school and local entity will be notified by their local conference when the rollout is to begin for them.
One of the greatest benefits of this program is that the information will be held in a secure, national database housed in secure servers at STV. Churches will not have to worry about security issues involving hacked church servers or lost laptops that contain personal information stored on them. Also, because the database will be accessible throughout the NAD, individuals who move away from the location in which they were screened will not have to re-screen in their new location. Information can be accessed wherever someone relocates. Screenings are good for three years.
ARM and the NAD unions are sharing the STV setup costs. Individual training and background screening costs are nominal and total less than the amount of one meal at the Olive Garden, three Happy Meals or 3 drinks from Starbucks. It’s an affordable process and money well spent.
As we implement this church safety program we collectively strengthen our workforce, both in paid church workers and volunteers. Each will now be trained in helping to prevent abuse by understanding the patterns and techniques of predators, understanding the signs of abuse/neglect, and the reporting requirements where they live. In addition, each will clearly understand the appropriate way to work with and lead our children and youth.
The average age of victims of abuse is 8-11, the age that many of our children are making their decision for Jesus Christ. Is it any wonder that the Evil One has targeted this age group? As I travel throughout the NAD one message resonates clearly when Shield the Vulnerable and child protection are discussed: “I’m proud of our church for taking this stand,” is heard over and over. It is small price to pay for the protection of our most precious of church resources.
Want more information? A dynamic resource kit is available for church boards, church members, and all who have interest in child protection. Just click on the link below:
Dr. William Chunestudy, Resource Education Specialist
at Adventist Risk Management, Inc.
“A service of LawRoom, Inc. Shield the Vulnerable is dedicated to raising awareness and prevention of mistreatment of children and the elderly by training young people and adults about abuse, neglect, predators, bullying, boundaries, respect, and the perils of cyberspace.”
Employment Screening Resources (ESR) is the firm that literally wrote the book on background screening with “The Safe Hiring Manual.” ESR ws rated the top U.S. employment screening firm in the first independent study of the industry.