Child Safety » Resources for Safe Environment Coordinators » Best Practices
Over the past few years, a number of safe environment “best practices” have been identified. If you need further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact Mary Ellen D’Intino at (603) 669-3100, Ext. 149.
Reminders about volunteers who are minors
If you have any teens under the age of 18 working or volunteering at your parish, camp, or school, remember, they do not need to complete safe environment requirements and must be supervised at all times by an adult. If a teen is approaching age 18, you can keep track of his/her age by entering the teen’s name and DOB into the Safe Environment Database and selecting a status of “Under 18.” Once you have done this, you will receive an automated message when the teen is about to turn 18. Here is how this feature works:
- Enter the teen’s name and other required fields (indicated by an asterisk) as you would enter any new person. You are required to enter a DOB if you want to use the Under 18 feature.
- In the status drop-down, select “Under 18.”
- Those under the age of 18 are not required to complete any safe environment screening or training, so you may leave those fields blank.
- Once you update the record, the teen will now be listed on your parish/school/camp inactive list with a status of “Under 18.”
- During the month that the teen will turn 18, the name will automatically be moved to “Pending” status and you will receive an automated email informing you of this. At that time, if the teen is no longer involved in ministry with minors, you can go into the pending list and change the status to inactive. If the teen is still working with minors, he/she should complete the safe environment requirements within the appropriate timeframes.
Check the Safe Environment Database regularly to verify that volunteers are not restricted
The Safe Environment Database contains the names of people who are restricted from working with minors, some who are restricted from all ministries in the Diocese of Manchester, and others with specific restrictions. These names are flagged so that if you try to add the person to your parish/school list, you will receive a message stating, “Contact Diocese.” In addition, the records of those who have restrictions contain a note in the Comments section indicating that the coordinator should contact the diocese for further information. In order to ensure that a restricted person is not attempting to work or volunteer at your location, it is a good practice to periodically search the names of employees and volunteers who do not work directly with minors in order to check if they have a database record and if it contains any comments.
Protecting God’s Children Training
- Schedule Protecting God’s Children training sessions well in advance. This allows for adequate time to announce and advertise the session. Contact your deanery trainer to schedule a PGC session.
- Host PGC sessions at least twice per year.
- Work with your deanery trainer and with other parishes and schools in your deanery to host joint sessions or to develop an annual schedule of PGC sessions.
of Safe Environment Timelines and the Names of those Working with Minors
- Enter the names of new employees and volunteers into the Safe Environment Database (SED) as soon as they are available. Track timeline compliance using the SED Pending List.
- Have ministry heads submit to the Safe Environment Coordinator a list of the names of those who work with minors. This list can be submitted in September and updated 3-4 times a year.
- If you sponsor a Boy Scout troop, obtain a copy of the troop's Charter. The Charter lists the names of all troop volunteers.
- If you sponsor a CYO team, obtain a copy of the Team Roster, which is supplied annually to the parish and lists the coaches’ names.
- Schedule a meeting for new coaches before the season begins, and schedule a meeting for new school or religious education volunteers each September. Complete all paperwork at this meeting. Consider combining the meeting with a scheduled PGC session.
- Become a notary public (or have your parish/school secretary become one) so that it is easy to notarize criminal records check forms.
- Schools- make sure that any new employees complete all safe environment paperwork, including the criminal check form and fingerprinting, when they complete their W-4 form.
- If you work in a school, provide classroom teachers with a list of eligible volunteers. The list can be updated monthly; teachers know that the names on the list are those of people who have volunteered to help and have met all of the requirements. Teachers can refer to the list when approached by potential helpers and will easily know if a new referral to the coordinator is necessary or not.
- Organize your files alphabetically. Consider using individual file folders for each employee/volunteer. If there are space considerations, staple the items for each volunteer together and file alphabetically in a 3-ring binder
- Separate the active and inactive files.
- Keep documents for pending people in a separate folder or location. File once everything is completed.
to Employees, Volunteers, and the Parish/School Community
- Post child abuse reporting posters and cards in noticeable locations, such as classrooms, church halls, and staff rooms. Another idea is to display the posters and cards in restrooms. This allows for privacy if a person wants to take a card, and may also reach non-parishioners who are visiting the church.
- Periodically distribute child safety articles to parents and staff. Articles can be found on this website (see link below).
- Place notices about how to report suspected abuse in the parish bulletin and school handbook.
- Consider putting a Child Safety section on your parish or school website. Include printable copies of the necessary forms and a link to the PGC training schedule.
- Be visible in the parish or school community. Make sure that your name and face are known so that parents, teachers, and staff know who to approach with questions, ideas, and concerns. Make sure that your name, title, and contact information is listed in the parish bulletin or school materials.
- Post the "Renewing Our Promise" refresher bulletin in your parish hall or school entryway.
- Display the "Code & Policy" books and other materials on a table in a prominent place.
Tips from Safe Environment Coordinators
Lois Powers has been the Safe Environment Coordinator at St. Joseph Regional School in Salem, New Hampshire since 2004. Lois offers these tips for success to other school coordinators:
- Use a checklist: Being a safe environment coordinator requires great attention to detail and a knack for organization. Consider using a checklist in each employee and volunteer file. Check off items as they are completed, and move the file to the “active” file location once all requirements have been met.
- Communicate clearly and regularly: Making sure that everyone has an understanding of the requirements can help prevent problems. Some ideas to aid with communication include sending home information to parents in the summer mailing, posting child safety information in the school handbook and newsletters, and adding a child safety section to the school website.
- Tell employees and volunteers what happens to the documentation: Explain to employees and volunteers that the documents are maintained in a confidential file. Also explain that criminal check results are highly confidential.
- Share with teachers the names of those who are eligible to volunteer: Provide classroom teachers with a list of eligible volunteers. The list can be updated monthly; teachers know that the names on the list are those of people who have volunteered to help and have met all of the requirements. Teachers can refer to the list when approached by potential helpers and will easily know if a new referral to the coordinator is necessary or not.
- Be visible to the school community: Make sure that your name and face are known to the school community so that parents and teachers know who to approach with questions, ideas, and concerns. Take the opportunity to attend family and volunteer orientation programs in order to explain the child safety program.
Tips from Phyllis Hanavan and Sue Nault, Safe Environment Coordinators at St. Lawrence Parish, Goffstown
Sue Nault and Phyllis Hanavan have served as Safe Environment Coordinators at St. Lawrence Parish in Goffstown since 2004. Sue is an administrative assistant at the parish and Phyllis is the Director of Religious Education. In addition to these roles, both women serve in numerous parish ministries such as the Bereavement Committee and Parish Council, and both are Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist. Because of their exemplary work as Safe Environment Coordinators, we asked them to share their tips for successful implementation of safe environment policies.
- Stay organized: It is important to keep files orderly and to develop a routine, such as regularly checking and updating the Safe Environment Database.
- Plan ahead: Safe Environment Coordinators should make folders for pending volunteers and employees so that when they receive safe environment paperwork, the files are ready. Try to schedule training sessions at the parish every few months so that new volunteers can be assured that there is an upcoming session close to home.
- Be present at meetings: It is very important for the coordinator to be present at Protecting God’s Children training sessions. By being present at the session, not only can the coordinator meet new volunteers and answer their questions, he/she can also distribute and collect the necessary forms.
- Meet with each volunteer and employee: Meeting with each volunteer and employee one-on-one has aided in compliance. By meeting with each new person, coordinators and volunteers/employees can get to know one another, and questions and concerns about the safe environment program can be addressed privately.
- Be courteous while being firm: Providing a deadline right from the beginning sets up clear expectations about the timelines involved in meeting the safe environment requirements.
- Consider having two Safe Environment Coordinators: Having two Safe Environment Coordinators results in a built-in support system and leads to a successful program. When there are 2 coordinators, the tasks can be shared and problems can be resolved as a team.
If you have tips to share with other Safe Environment Coordinators, please email them to Mary Ellen D’Intino at email@example.com.