Our Religious Education Mission Statement
The mission of our religious education program is to help each child develop an evolving personal, religious faith. Through participation in this program, we strive to give our children:
- The ability to live the principles of Unitarian Universalism
- A broad understanding of world religions
- Literacy in Biblical and other/spiritual writings
- A strong and inherent sense of self worth
- Tools for building personal and spiritual strength
- An awareness of social justice
- Appreciation of the strength of community
- The ability to articulate their Unitarian Universalist identity
Safe Congregation Policy
Safe Congregation Policies and Procedures For Children and Youth
Child Abuse means the non-accidental injury, sexual abuse (touching and non-touching), exploitation, neglectful treatment or the maltreatment of a child or youth (from birth to 18 years) by any person under circumstances which indicate that the child's health, welfare and safety are harmed. Peterborough Unitarian Universalist Church recognizes the reality of child sexual and physical abuse; its impact on children, families and society; and the need for a responsible means of addressing this issue. By overcoming the secrecy involved in this area and by providing a forum for possible problems and concerns, we will reflect our commitment to provide protective care for all children, youth and volunteers who participate in church sponsored activities.
We will achieve these goals through:
- Appropriate screening of church staff and volunteers who work with children.
- Supervising our children and those who work with them.
- Providing a specific process by which allegations of abuse are reported and investigated.
- Treating all persons with dignity and respect.
- Preventing those at risk of incident or accusation to refrain from participating in church activities
While the main focus of these policies is directed to those most directly involved in working with our young people, all members of Peterborough Unitarian Universalist Church carry a responsibility to provide a safe and caring community in which our children and youth are respected, in which their self-worth is affirmed, and in which spiritual, social, and intellectual growth are encouraged. The congregation as a whole will be made aware of these policies and procedures, the screening process will be completed for every person working with our children and youth, and a statement about these policies will be included in the new member packet. We are committed to the care of our children and to the principles of fairness, and kindness that have long been part of our religious tradition.
Selection and Screening of Staff and Volunteers
This policy applies to all committees or groups that are part of The Peterborough Unitarian Universalist Church. ( It applies, as well, to any groups using our church buildings that are not renting space.) For example, when District Youth Conferences are held in our church buildings, our expectation is that all adult advisors will have been through a screening process similar to the one described below.
In this document, "child" shall mean anyone aged from infancy to 13 years and "youth" shall mean anyone aged from 13 to under 18 years.
- Paid Staff and Youth Group Leaders, (Minister(s), Church Staff, RE Staff, Jr. and Sr. Youth Group Leaders , Our Whole Lives and Coming of Age Leaders) •
- Primary Screening Form updated at least every 3 years (requires 2 written references prior to beginning work with children, requested by PUUC)
- Criminal Records Request and Authorization Form
- Criminal records check updated every 3 years
- Code of Ethics Form
- Youth Group Leaders must attend regular training sessions facilitated by the DRE
- Youth Group Leaders must be at least 21 years of age • Personal interview by immediate supervisor or supervising committee with written notes by interviewer kept on file
Regular RE Volunteers
RE Volunteers must have a Volunteer Background Check completed through Trusted Employees RE Volunteers must sign a Code of Ethics form RE Volunteers should complete a training facilitated by the DRE to include fire, first aid, food, and other emergency policies.
RE Guest Visitors
RE Guest Visitors must be accompanied at all times by two fully background-checked staff members in the room (or with open door to nursery providing line of sight into main RE space). RE Guest Visitors may not assist children with the restroom. RE Guest Visitors must sign a Code of Ethics form. If RE Guest Visitors wish to become regular volunteers (defined as assisting in RE more than twice in a church year), they will need a Volunteer Background Check.
Training and Supervision of Staff and Volunteers
Every participant shall receive a copy of the Safe Congregation Policy Statement. Staff and volunteers working with children and youth shall be trained to understand the following: the definition of child abuse; sexual and physical abuse symptoms; what constitutes inappropriate conduct; church policies that govern working with children or youth; the civil and criminal consequences of misconduct; reporting procedures for observed or suspected misconduct; and the rationale behind screening procedures.
Supervision Particular Requirements- Field Trips, Youth Gatherings, Vehicle Rides, Sleepovers
- Permission slip and medical release form for each child
- Proof of 100/300 auto insurance for every driver, when a drive is necessary
- Every person transported in the vehicle must wear a seatbelt
Two appropriately screened adult supervisors will be present at all times in the nursery, religious education classrooms, and during any church sponsored activity involving children or youth.
- The restroom that will be used is located inside the RE classroom doors.
- If a child needs restroom assistance, only a fully background-checked staff member may assist, with the restroom door open at all times.
- Assist the child with clothing only as needed.
- Caregivers will wash hands before and after assisting a child in the restroom
- Caregivers will assist the child with washing their own hands after use of the restroom.
- Any wiping of a child's genital area or changing of clothes will be done only as required, in the restroom with the door open
Classes will not be dismissed until service has ended. Parents will pick up their children from the RE classrooms. Church functions providing childcare require two DRE-trained supervisors, an open door and the presence of adults in the building. Windows will be unblocked in all Sunday School classrooms, including the Nursery.
Reporting and Responding Procedures Procedures for Previously Investigated Offenses or Charges
Anyone who becomes aware of child sexual or physical abuse charges made against an employee, volunteer, member, or attendee of the church should notify the Minister, the President of the Governing Board, the RE Committee chair or the DRE. Of these, whoever receives the information shall be responsible for reporting to the others. In the event that the charges involve a minister, the next points of contact shall be the President of the Standing Committee, the District Executive of the New Hampshire/ Vermont District, or the UUA Department of Ministry.
The Minister(s), the RE Comm Chair, and the DRE shall: collect and review all pertinent facts regarding the incident or charges; review the application and reference forms kept on the person; determine what, if any, actions need to be taken;and carefully document all meetings, conversations, information, etc. regarding this matter, and keep all this information as confidential as the circumstances warrant.
If the allegations have merit or cannot be disproved, actions to be considered shall include:
- Reviewing the situation with our attorney to determine who in the church and the larger community should be notified, and means of notification
- Suspending or terminating employment, volunteer duties or participation in church activities.
Procedures for an Uninvestigated Occurrence
Any inappropriate conduct or relationships between an adult volunteer worker and a member of the youth group or a child should be reported immediately to the DRE. If the DRE is not available, report at once to the minister or President of the Governing Board.
Anyone informed of an incident of child sexual or physical abuse (whether the abuse may have occurred during a church activity or not)shall:
- complete the Report of Suspected Abuse form included in all volunteer training packets or provided by the DRE
- report the incident to either a Minister, the Chair of the Board of Trustees or the DRE.
Of these, whoever receives the information shall be responsible for reporting to the others.In the event that the charges involve a minister or DRE, the next points of contact shall be the Governing Board President, the District Executive of the New Hampshire/Vermont District, or the UUA Department of Ministry. New Hampshire state law, RSA 169-C, the Child Protection Act, states that any person who has reason to suspect that a child under the age of 18 has been abused and/or neglected must make a report to the Division for Children, Youth and Families immediately. This law also states that any person making a report in good faith is immune from any civil or criminal liability. In the presence of one of the above listed church leaders, report the incident to DCYF (1-800-894-5533). Keep careful written notes of the telephone conversation and the name of the person you speak with. A follow-up written report may be required by DCYF.
While you will be required to provide DCYF with your name, they will keep your identity confidential if you wish.
The Minister, the Governing Board President and the DRE shall determine how to address the incident within the congregation. While civil authorities are investigating the reported incident, this committee shall determine the appropriate actions to be taken regarding the accused, as specified heirein under “Procedures for Previously Investigated Offenses or Charges”.
Procedures for Working with and Caring for a Person Against Whom Allegations Have Been Made
Treat the accused with dignity and respect.
If the accused is a paid staff person or a volunteer, that person shall be suspended from participating in all church activities. This is true for an incident that allegedly occurred either within or outside the realm of the church. Suspension will continue pending the outcome of the investigation by the appropriate authority.
Regardless of where or under what circumstances the alleged incident takes place, if a paid staff person is involved and convicted, or a legal charge is brought but not acted upon for reasons that leave too many questions unanswered, it may be considered as job related and affecting job performance.
Reinstatement of a paid staff member or volunteer will occur only after all allegations have been cleared to the satisfaction of the Governing Board and Religious Education Committee.
Monitoring of Policies and Procedures
The RE Committee will conduct an annual review of the prevention program. They will assess how well the program has met its goals.