UUA Safe Congregations Guidelines for First Parish Youth Programs
The UUA Safe Congregations Guidelines are designed to “provide clear procedures, policies and workshops for creating, supporting and nurturing safe and healthy boundaries in our faith communities.” Below are adapted Safe Congregations Policies for the Youth Program at FPUUA. If you would like to educate yourself about UUA Safe Congregations policies, a wealth of information can be found at the UUA website, as well as a list of resources for further reading.
Staff and Volunteer Advisor Requirements
All adults working with youth must consent to a CORI criminal background check.
- Youth: adult ratio of 8:1
- There must always be two adults present at any given gathering of youth.
- There should be no one-on-one meetings of adult advisors and youth. If a situation arises where this is necessary, the adult advisor should notify either the Youth Coordinator or the DRE prior to the meeting and also notify them immediately upon completion of the meeting. Under no circumstances should an adult (other than parent or guardian) be alone with a youth off-site in the role of advisor.
- At overnight events at the church, there must be two adults awake at all times.
- At other overnight events (such as service trips or retreats), situations may arise in which everyone sleeps. At no time will one adult be left awake with a group of youth.
Removal of Volunteer Advisor
In the event that a volunteer advisor disregards any of the Safe Congregations policies, does not abide by the youth group covenant, or diverts from volunteer advisor behavioral guidelines, youth program staff will remove the adult’s right to participate in youth programming.
RE Drivers Policy
All drivers for any youth group trip, field trip, or event must abide by the RE Drivers Policies and complete all necessary paperwork. Copies of Drivers License, Registration, and Insurance Documents must be left on file in the church office. All cars must have a First Aid kit in them at all times while transporting youth on a church sponsored event.
By Massachusetts law, the DRE and Youth Coordinator are Mandated Reporters of child abuse or neglect in the state of Massachusetts.
In the case of suspected abuse, volunteer adults should immediately report all information to the DRE and/or Youth Coordinator, who will file a report with the state. As a volunteer advisor, you have the legal right to file such a report, but you are encouraged to enlist the help and guidance of the youth program staff.
Confidentiality at Youth Group Meetings and Events
In general, things said by youth at youth group meetings should remain within the youth group and the adult advising team. Specifically, information shared during worships and candles is confidential, meaning that it does not leave the community formed by the youth, adult advisors, and youth program staff.
The Youth Coordinator will break confidentiality—and notify parents or other authorities—in the following circumstances:
- It is deemed that the youth presents an immediate danger to him/herself or others.
- Child abuse or neglect is reasonably suspected.
- The youth appears to be in immediate danger.
When possible, the Youth Coordinator will tell the youth prior to breaking confidentiality.
If the Youth Coordinator is not present and confidentiality needs to be broken, adult advisors are encouraged to consult with the DRE or RE Assistant, if time allows. If danger is deemed immediate confidentiality can be broken to protect the safety of the youth.
Youth are encouraged to confide in youth chaplains, who have been trained to offer support to their peers. The Youth Coordinator (Marcie) and one designated adult advisor (Maggie) are EXPLICITLY STATED TO BE IN THE CHAPLAIN CIRCLE OF CONFIDENTIALITY.
Guidelines for Electronic Youth/Adult Communication
Adult advisors are encouraged to follow the following “Online Communication” Guidelines, as outlined by the Youth Coordinator.
It is up to you whether or not you choose to be “friends” with youth on Facebook. It is COMPLETELY ACCEPTABLE to reject friend requests from youth if you find this to be an easier line to draw.
If you choose to be “friends” on Facebook with youth, then you must censor your Facebook profile appropriately.
here should be nothing on your profile—pictures, wall posts from your friends, information—that you would not be comfortable having advertised in the Sunday morning bulletin or displayed on the wall at youth group.
DO NOT SEND FRIEND REQUESTS TO YOUTH. Let youth choose to “friend” you, and then you can accept. Let the initiation come from the youth.
You are encouraged to communicate with youth outside of Sunday night youth group meetings, as is appropriate in the situation. You may communicate in person, or via phone, e-mail, text, or Facebook. Please think through what means of communication you are most comfortable with, and stick to that.
—Updated by the Religious Education staff, May 2013