Those who are striving to implement a safe environment for vulnerable sector individuals often voice similar questions. Perhaps you too have some questions. Let us know! We continue to add to our list of FAQs.
Disclaimer: The development, preparation and publication of this work has been undertaken with great care. However, the publisher, editors, employees and agents of Plan to Protect®, are not responsible for any errors contained herein or for consequences that may ensue from use of materials or information contained in this work. The information contained herein is intended to assist organizations in establishing policy. Plan to Protect® and references to the manual are only as current as the date of the publication and does not reflect subsequent changes in law. This information is distributed with the understanding that it does not constitute legal advice. Organizations are strongly encouraged to seek legal counsel as well as counsel from your insurance company when establishing a policy.
1a) Q: If an organized activity runs short on screened helpers, is it OK for parents/caregivers to help out or can we also include other people connected to our organization to assist?
A: We recommend that you have a screened hall monitor observing the activity rooms and available if children/youth/vulnerable adults need supervision when going to the washroom. We would strongly recommend that you manage your ratios according to Plan to Protect® with screened workers. We do not recommend using unscreened workers, even if they are parents/caregivers, because the children/youth/vulnerable adults may recognize them as individuals who they can trust. Children/youth/vulnerable adults do not know the difference between screened workers or non-screened workers.
All individuals placed in a position of trust should be screened. Adhere to ratios for supervision, and any exception to two unrelated screened, adult workers in the activity room would be cause to have the door open with a hall monitor acting as the second overseer.
You can use other people connected to your community in the activity room. We would not encourage you to have them be alone in an activity room unless they are over 16 years of age. Even then the door should be left open and there should be a hall monitor.
1b)Q: As we lose volunteers temporarily to sickness and other circumstances, what do we do if we cannot meet our staff to vulnerable person ratio?
A: Thinking ahead and screening additional staff will be helpful for these occasions.It may be advantageous to have some ideas in your back pocket for needed open sessions where you combine all the children/youth/vulnerable adults but even in this case you will need to maintain ratios. The courts will hold you to the same level of protection and care even during the challenge of staff shortages.
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1c) What's the big deal with ratios?
A:Research in all areas of education has shown that low staff to child ratios are critical for learning to take place. Also, one of the ways an organization can demonstrate that they are fulfilling their duty of care to their staff and volunteers is to manage appropriately child-to-staff ratios.
Program leaders must seek out funding to ensure that they can maintain low ratios. They can also enlist the support of volunteers, including parents and other family members, senior citizens or older teens. Volunteers, like other staff members, should be screened and have experience working with children and youth, and should be trained before they begin. These volunteers should have meaningful experiences and skills to share, thereby helping to build a community of learners.
The formula for establishing ratios is based on the age of the child or young person, the age, experience, training and qualifications of the staff member or volunteer, and the level of risk of the program.The ratios that are mandated by licensed centers and the Day Nursery Act will vary across provinces and states, and also from the ratios we recommend in Plan to Protect®. If you are primarily utilizing volunteers that are not qualified and educated workers (i.e. teachers, Early Child Educators, etc.) your ratios should reflect this.
We strongly recommend you establish ratios for what is best for the children and young people, not what your organization can manage based on staffing.It is better that you not hold a program or expand your program and enrollment if it means putting the children and your workers at risk.
Remember that demonstrating due diligence is anticipating the worst-case scenario, then planning to prevent that outcome, through risk avoidance measures. Recently we reviewed a policy from a client. Their established ratios were one volunteer to every six infants between the ages of 1-12 months. This ratio is extremely high. I can’t imagine if there were a fire and the need to evacuate the building quickly with six infants in my arms. It would be impossible. This does not even take into consideration the love, care and nurture that would be difficult to provide this many young children. Our recommended ratio for this age group would be 1:3.
A best practice we learned from another client, Compass Church in Regina, Saskatchewan was a point system formula for ratios that can be used when you have mixed ages in your classes. When age groups are combined:
The ratio then would be two personnel (staff or volunteers) for 20 points. During off-site trips, it would be two personnel for 10 points.
Every once in a while individuals will ask why we lower the ratios for Junior High Youth. Those with experience working with Junior High Youth can quickly list off the many reasons, including but not limited to:
My final thought on the topic is a tip I provide in our Orientation and Refresher training on abuse prevention and protection.
"If your ratios are over, it doesn't mean you should refuse to accommodate an additional child or young person or refuse to work and go on strike. However, if your ratios are more than 10% over on a daily or weekly basis, please bring this to the attention of your program leader. With continuity in staffing, your staff and volunteers will get know the children and young people in the classroom including their specific needs and disabilities, and behaviour. Based on this knowledge and experience, you may also need to ask for additional assistance."
With that all said, ratios are a big deal!
2. Leadership Buy-In
2a) Q: How do we work with our leadership if they do not feel the issue of abuse prevention is important or that we are blowing it out of proportion?
A: Persistence and building awareness are your best vehicles for moving abuse prevention forward. We suggest that you present your recommendations to the Board as a whole rather than to individuals alone. Follow up your recommendations with written communication. Board members are often motivated by risk management and concerns regarding liability, however sometimes presenting it from a different angle will also be advantageous (i.e. protecting the vulnerable sector individuals, protecting the reputation of the organization, protecting volunteers and staff, building trust with the community). As a leader, you can make day-to-day decisions that will begin to provide an environment of protection for your organization. We would encourage you to work within the parameters that have been given to you. Continue to be diligent in your protection of the vulnerable sector individuals, and be diligent in seeking your leadership's participation in this important task. Also, you aren’t alone - call us for additional help.
2b) Q: Where do I even begin to deal with abuse prevention?
A. We strongly encourage you to purchase a copy of Plan to Protect®. You can order it on-line or by calling our Plan to Protect® offices. The Plan to Protect® manual is a guide to help you both establish policy and implement an abuse prevention program. We recognize that implementing an abuse prevention plan is an overwhelming task. Don’t be tempted to take any short cuts - it will be manageable if you break it up into bite size pieces. In Plan to Protect®, we provide an Implementation Strategy. Let the manual guide you step by step. If you need additional support our implementation memberships is the perfect tool.
3. Plan to Protect® the Manual
A: Your hard efforts to date will not be affected by newer versions of Plan to Protect®. You can continue to build on the work you have already done and become very familiar with the new manual. Assess your progress and see where there may be opportunities for your organization to complete compliance. We encourage you to purchase a new copy of the Plan to Protect® manual if your copy is older than 2008.
3b) Q: What’s new in this manual that’s different from the previous two versions of Plan to Protect®
A:There are a number of new or updated portions in the manual including:
3c) Q:How much freedom do we have to make changes to the volunteer application in Plan to Protect® manual?
A: The Plan to Protect® manual is not a policy but a recommended plan to establish policy and procedures for your organization. We have provided you 100+ pages of templates and forms in Word document format for your use. Don’t hesitate to adapt them for your organization. The templates that we have provided to you, including the application were carefully reviewed by legal counsel and insurance companies. The Volunteer Application was crafted by a lawyer specializing in employment and human rights law. We recommend you avoid questions that would conflict with human rights issues, i.e. age, gender, ethnicity, and marital status. We do though however recommend you ask pertinent questions that will help gather critical information for you to make an informed decision regarding the candidate, including area of interests, experience and criminal convictions in the past. As always, we strongly recommend that you have your own legal counsel review your policy and procedures when you establish a customized Plan to Protect®. Once legal counsel has reviewed your policy and forms, they will be ready for board approval. Don’t miss these critical steps!
4. Facility Use/Rental
4a) Q: We are a small group in a rented facility i.e. school – how can we implement Plan to Protect®?
A: When you are first launching a program for children, youth and vulnerable adults this is the perfect time to set in place good habits, strong practices and disciplines which you will carry forward as your organization grows. When securing a location, observe the environment and structural settings: find a location that has windows in doors and the absence of dangerous and hazardous materials.Communicate with the on-site caretaker and in the rental agreement to limit access to the building. Recognizing that many small organizations have limited personnel, the recruitment and screening of a hall monitor to walk through the facility throughout the duration of program activities will enable you to provide programs with the minimal requirement of personnel. This is very important considering schools are public settings and visitors can easily come in unnoticed.
4b) Q: Who is responsible if we rent out our facility?
A: If an organization decides to allow the rental or use of their facilities by an outside group, organization or individual, it is extremely important to transfer the responsibility for legal liability to the tenant and to verify that the tenant has the resources to back up the legal responsibility for their potential negligence in the supervision and operations of their activities at the host premises. This transfer of risk fulfills the stewardship responsibilities of the host organization's board members in the preservation and efficient use of the organization's property and resources and avoids unnecessarily placing the host facility in a position of sole legal responsibility for negligence of the tenant organization’s leaders and volunteers. It also satisfies the principle of accountability; that leaders should only assume responsibility when they also exert full authority and control. All organizations should have formal property use guidelines and require a waiver of legal liability and furnished Certificate of Liability from the tenant or user group that includes a minimum of $2,000,000 General and Tenants Liability Coverage and names the host site as additional insured. This documentation should be provided to the host site prior to use of the facilities.
FacingTheRisk Outside User Groups
FacingTheRisk Protecting Charitable Property.
4c) Q: What policies and procedures should we ask of individuals who wish to teach private music lessons within our facility?
A: Great question! We are always surprised when we speak to music instructors, tutors, dance teachers, babysitters, etc. that they have never considered risk management and protection procedures.
We strongly recommend that you contact your insurance company. Most companies will advise you to secure insurance certificates with a recommended minimum of $3M from renters who are using your building/facility. If the program is not an activity sanctioned by your Board, an insurance certificate from the renter or user is advisable. If it is a program or activity of your organization we would strongly recommend they comply with your protection procedures. We hope that you are using Plan to Protect®.
If the individual or group that is independent of your organization does not have a standard of care that reflects a high standard of protection, we would suggest you refer them to Plan to Protect® www.plantoprotect.com to purchase a manual to develop their own policy. Many times they have never considered managing risk. If an individual was abused and it did occur at your facilities, there may be a risk to you if the insurance certificate did not cover the claim. They may try to piggyback your organization and say you could have done more to prevent the abuse as you provided a venue for the abuse to occur. Bottom Line: we recommend that you stipulate to those using your facility to comply to the same standard of care as Plan to Protect® recommends. We also recommend you ask your insurance company for further criteria for risk management.
5. Off-Site Trips
5a) Q: Why do you recommend that drivers for off-site or special events have a minimum 5 years of driving experience?
A: Most insurance companies state drivers driving on behalf of the organization should be 25 years of age or older with a good driving history. It is the recommendation of Plan to Protect® that you have either have 5-year of driving history or be 25 years of age or older. If you lower the level, we strongly encourage you to seek legal and insurance counsel. To demonstrate due diligence on behalf of the organization, we would also encourage you to secure and keep on file the driver’s abstract. This is a document you can ask the volunteer to secure to demonstrate a good driver’s history. This is a service that we offer at Plan to Protect®.
5b) Q: Is our organization liable for events that happen off-site?
A: A civil court could consider an organization vicariously liable for abuse taking place off-site and/or outside sponsored activities and caused by screened personnel if the affected individual was introduced to that offending individual as a person placed in a position of trust (nursery worker, Sunday School teacher, club leader, youth leader) by the organization.
5c) Q: How does Plan to Protect® affect small group settings that meet in homes or off-site property?
A: Precautions should be taken for all meetings, including those that are small group events taking place in a house setting. Screen and train any and all individuals that will be caring for vulnerable sector as part of your programming and strive to create an atmosphere of accountability through compliance to policies. It is wise to remember that often these settings are where abuse can easily happen.
5d) Q: We are planning for our summer programs with retreats, off-site trips and camps. We will need volunteers to drive children/youth/vulnerable adults and would like to know what precautions we should take beforehand.
A: While it is preferred that parents and caregivers pick up and drop off children/youth/vulnerable adults at each event, we recognize that is not always possible. It is recommended that all drivers:
Transportation plans must be outlined on your Letters of Informed Consent.
We also recommend that you consider your numbers - while it is fine to spread out a group of children/youth/vulnerable adults into a number of different vehicles, it would be a better option to transport all the children/youth/vulnerable adults together in a school bus or commercial vehicle and put the liability into the hands of a bus company with a professional driver.
Lastly, remember to adhere to the recommendations of having 2 screened leaders in each vehicle.
5e) Q: When transporting students via van or bus, there may be instances where the first student on and that last student off the van/bus would be in the vehicle alone with the driver. What kind of recommendations for protection would you have on this?
A: Our recommendation would be that either the school should provide a second screened adult on the bus as a monitor or the school or bus company should strive to arrange their schedule (as much as possible) for a bus pick-up area where a group of students would be picked up not an isolated student. If group pick up is not a possibility, parents should sign an Informed Letter of Consent, not only that their child is riding the bus but communicating that their child would be alone with only one adult on the bus. The bus driver should be fully screened and trained on child protection. Both the child and the bus driver are being placed in a position of high risk as there could be harm done to the child or allegations that the bus driver would not be able to defend. We have written policies for transportation companies and schools for this purpose.
5f) Q: What constitutes as a"clean" driving record? Is there any leeway in this definition?
A: While clean is a relative term, along with our advisory council, we would consider a clean drivers history someone who has been licensed for 5 years or more, and has less than 2 minor infractions.
A minor infraction would include backing up (unsafe, illegal, improper), brakes (none, inadequate, improper), and other offenses (speeding with less than 2 points deducted), failure to stop at a stop sign, driving imprudently. If they had less than 2 of these, you could consider it a clean driver's history.
A major infraction would include distracted driving, G1 driver driving unaccompanied, fail to obey school crossing stop sign, failure to report an accident, improper passing of a school bus, improper passing/speeding in a school or playground zone, careless driving. I think if they have a major infraction you'd want to be weary of using them as a driver, especially if i was recent. We recommend you contact your insurance company.
A Serious or Criminal infraction would include DUI, speeding 50kms above posted limit, driving uninsured, refusing a breathalyzer, failure to remain at an accident, racing. If they have a serious or criminal conviction we would not recommend they drive on behalf of your organization.
What you are really looking for is a pattern of unsafe driving behaviour. Typically 1-2 minor infractions in a 3-5 year period is fine. But again, I would really encourage you to check with your insurance company.
6a) Q: How much insurance do we require?
A: The insurance industry is now recommending a minimum general liability coverage limit of $5,000,000 - $10,000,000, but not less than $2,000,000. While most responsible organizations carry general liability coverage in the amount of $2,000,000, such limits may no longer be adequate in light of the size and frequency of civil damage judgments being awarded in Canadian courts today. We encourage you to confirm that your general liability policy does not contain an exclusion or limitation for physical or sexual abuse, harassment, molestation, or prohibited conduct. (FacingTheRisk HowMuchIsEnough.pdf)
6b) Q: Can the insurance company withhold insurance if we do not comply to everything or if we do not comply to portions of the program?
A: Yes, there have been many incidents when insurance coverage has been withheld or put on hold if the organization does not acknowledge compliance to the requirements outlined by the insurance company which is deemed as due diligence. We have included in Plan to Protect®, a copy of a Declaration of Abuse Prevention that is sent out by insurance companies on an annual basis prior to insurance renewal, reflecting also the questions on the application for abuse coverage.
6c) Q: Have you sought legal counsel for Plan to Protect®?
A: As with the previous two editions of Plan to Protect®, legal counsel was consulted, and legal counsel has reviewed the manuals. We have secured input from both our legal team and from an insurance company that specializes in protecting churches and non-profit organizations. Both parties reviewed the document and adjustments were made following their recommendations. We are confident that we are providing you with the best and most reliable research available at the point of publication. Please note however, that Plan to Protect® should not be considered legal counsel, we do recommend that every organization secure independent legal counsel prior to Board approval of customized policies.
6d) Q: We talked to our police department, lawyer, insurance company and they have told us something different than you have in Plan to Protect®. Who do we believe?
A: We do encourage you to secure legal advice from your own lawyer. We discovered even in our research that if you ask 10 people, even experts, you may receive 10 different answers. Prior to publishing Plan to Protect® we secured input both from our legal team and input from an insurance agency that specializes in protecting churches and non-profit organizations. Both parties reviewed the document and adjustments were made following their recommendations. We are confident that we are providing you with the best and most reliable research available at the point of publication.
6e) Q: Is Plan to Protect® governed by provincial laws?
A: Plan to Protect® is not governed by provincial law but does recommend the best practices for your organization to adhere to the laws that pertain to the care of the vulnerable sector. Our publications are not legal bills or regulations but rather recommendations to use to compile policies and procedures for providing safe environments for vulnerable persons. Many insurance companies are now saying the policies as outlined in Plan to Protect® are basic requirements for insurance coverage. These guidelines will also ensure due diligence if your organization is named in a lawsuit. We encourage you not to cut corners, but to take every precaution to protect the vulnerable sector.
6f) Q: We are wondering about the legality of a volunteer/staff leader's young children attending events. We don't feel they should be attending, but aren't sure of our legal recourse to state that they should not be attending. We have your latest Plan to Protect® issue, yet I haven't found anything in there regarding this. Is there anything?
A: We really can’t speak to the legality as we are not lawyers. We can only advise you from a protection perspective. There are a few issues of caution we want to alert you to: Having young children at youth events could put their own children at risk, as we have heard of too many stories wherein youth abuse children. We are assuming all of your youth are not all screened and trained, which would mean they would not be aware of the protection procedures we recommend for children, nor would you know if the youth have a history of child abuse. We also would think that this could be distracting for the youth leaders as they now have to provide oversight to their own children and may be distracted from providing care to youth that they have been assigned to. They may also not be able to provide adequate supervision to their own children. It also impacts your ratios for child/youth to program leaders.
6g) Q: What is the best way or time to inform our insurance company that we are using Plan to Protect®? Do we advise them that we are in the process of implementing Plan to Protect® or do I wait until everyone is trained and the policies are all in place?
A: If you don't currently have abuse coverage, I would recommend you contact your insurance company right away and ask for it to be added to your insurance. Implementing Plan to Protect® will help qualify you for the coverage. Some insurance companies will charge for this coverage, other companies will add it without it being an additional cost. You do need to qualify for it, though, and most insurance companies will be looking to see that you have indeed developed a written policy and established procedures in place, including: defining abuse, a procedure for screening and training volunteers and staff members (and you have completed this with on-going updates), mandatory reporting of abuse suspicions, disclosures and allegations, and modifying your premises to minimize opportunity for abuse to occur. Some insurance companies will ask you to provide in detail the steps you have taken and are taking to minimize abuse on the application form, others will ask you to complete a Declaration form. Some insurance companies will ask that you submit a copy of your abuse prevention policies for review, though most do not ask to review it. If you already have the abuse coverage included in your personal injury coverage, they will ask for confirmation on an annual basis that you are maintaining compliance and adherence to the policies and procedures. More and more we are hearing of insurance companies that are requiring the Board to audit the organization or insurance companies that are conducting on-site Audits themselves. If you are interested, we offer the service of Policy Audits. If the insurance company finds you are not up to date on your abuse prevention strategies, they will give you a time frame for compliance to be completed. Our services and training will help you with compliance. We can help you meet your deadline!If you are unsure if you have coverage or not, contact your insurance company and tell them what you have been doing to implement Plan to Protect® and that you wish to confirm coverage. Implementing Plan to Protect® will help you find favour with the insurance company and qualify for abuse.
6h) Q: Help! We have a person attending our church that has been convicted of a crime against a child. What should we do?
A: This is a question we receive often. There are many great chaplains serving in our prisons ministering to offenders and I am deeply grateful for their service. Once an offender has been released, many have a desire to establish themselves in a new community group where they can continue to grow in their faith, be held accountable, and make lifestyle changes. Is a church, parish or synagogue a good place for them? Absolutely! However many of us, if honest, would say “Yes, but not my church!”
Faith communities can be vulnerable because we have generally been regarded as places of trust in the community. They are also public settings where individuals from different age groups attend. I know in my own life, church was a second home. Growing up as a preacher’s kid, church family members were like extended family members. We often called them Auntie’s, Uncle, and Grandpa, Grandma!
With this in mind, we would encourage faith communities to not let their guard down if an individual discloses that they have a history of crimes of abuse. We would encourage the Board and the Pastor, Priest or Rabbi to enter into a covenant agreement with an individual who is a known to have abused Children or Youth in the past, and/or has been convicted of crimes against Children or Youth, if they wish to attend on a regular basis. Parameters should be put into place restricting access to Children and Youth utilizing established guidelines. Together, establish an Offender’s Covenant that all parties sign. We would also recommend that you meet on a quarterly or bi-annual basis to check-in on progress and accountability.
*Members can check out the Member Section of our website for our newest policy statements and sample Offender’s Covenant.
6i) Q: Should we avoid all high risk activities and play in our programs?
A: When I think of my favourite childhood memories, I think of building forts in the woods, climbing trees, canoeing, ice skating, swimming, sleep overs, and camping trips. In 2006, H. Little [Children’s Risk Taking Behaviour: implications for early childhood policy and practice, International Journal of Early Years Education Vol 14, no.2], stated, “Risk is any behaviour in which there is uncertainty about the outcomes. It involves a consideration of the benefits against the possible undesirable consequences of the behaviour as well as the probability of success or failure.” We believe that risk should be managed not eliminated or completely avoided. There are benefits to risk. Many educators and child development professionals encourage Risky Play. Risky play can be defined as a thrilling and exciting activity that involves a risk of physical injury, and play that provides opportunities for challenge, testing limits, exploring boundaries and learning about injury risk. For example, “risky play” for children and young people provide many benefits, including:
If children and young people are not allowed to explore and learn through playing and taking part in positive activities, they will not learn how to judge risks and manage them for themselves.
These skills a child or young person learns through play and other activities can act as a powerful form of prevention in other situations where children and young people are placed in positions of risk.
At Plan to Protect® we do not believe that all risk should be avoided in child and youth programming. We do believe that organizations should be planning on how to protect children and young people as part of the programming.
Determining whether or not to retain the risks that are associated with an activity should be a leadership decision. Program personnel should present a well thought out and researched plan on the benefits that will be gained by doing the high risk activity versus consequences that could result from doing the activity. Do your homework …. Present your written plan to your leadership …. Contact your insurance company to determine if the risk can be transferred to your insurance policy …. And share the risks with parents so they can make an informed decision whether or not to allow their child to participate. We also encourage you to communicate in brochures, signs, newsletters etc.: “Risky play is encouraged here’. We want children to feel safe to take risks - to be daring. We cannot guarantee accidents will not happen."
6j) Q: What is “duty of care” and “standard of care?”
A: Duty of care often comes up in our training for our Administrator / Leader Certification course.
Definition of Duty of Care: The concept of duty of care identifies the relationship that exists between two persons (e.g. two individuals, an individual and an organization) and establishes the obligations that one owes the other, in particular the obligation to exercise reasonable care with respect to the interests of the other, including protection from harm. The duty of care arises from the common law, as well as municipal, provincial / state, federal and international statutes.
As organizational leaders, we are so grateful for our volunteers and staff, but we often forget that they have a duty to care for our organization as we also have a duty to care for them. An exercise we do in the course is to list ways that volunteers and employees can demonstrate their care for an organization, and ways an organization can demonstrate their care to the volunteers and employees. The is long … and can training, confidentiality, truthfulness, identification of risk, established ratios, policies, adherence to policies, communication, accountability, supervision, resources, etc.
In a court of law, it is the first element that must be established to proceed with an action of negligence. Once a duty exists, the plaintiff must show that the defendant breached it. This is generally treated as the second element of negligence in United States and Canada. Breach involves testing the defendant's actions against the standard of a reasonable person, which varies depending on the facts of the case. This leads us then to “standard of care” which is similar to that of doing “due diligence”. Due Diligence is anticipating the worst-case scenario, then planning to prevent that outcome, through risk avoidance measures.
6k) Q: Our organization has a situation where a leader and an unrelated student travel to the youth program together. They are 20 miles from our organization and there are no other students in the area that can be included. The parents of the student are willing to sign an informed consent which likely doesn't stand up if an incident were to be alleged. are there any possible work arounds that you have come across that would allow this student to continue to be involved?
A: This is a tough question, and one that I hear very often. We strongly recommend that organizations and program only allow transportation if there are two screened volunteers or staff members in the vehicle. (Relation in Canada now within the court system is relationship only by marriage. The laws were changed on this last year. Prior to that it included common law and/or divorced.)
Best:Two completed unrelated screened adults with a group of students.
Good or better than good: Having more students in the car, and/or having another witness in the car. Ex. a family member that is an adult but not married to the driver.
Bad: There is only one adult and one student. We strongly discourage this.
If an emergency arose and it was needed, we would say the organization should have the parent sign a letter of Informed Consent, release and waiver. Other ways to minimize the risk would be calling a parent and having the parent on the phone while you are transporting the student. This should not be a weekly or regular occurrence. If the organization allowed this, they are putting both the student and the leader at risk. We would strongly recommend they avoid bad at all costs.
If the organization is concerned that the student come to the program, they should go out of their way to provide transportation which meets insurance requirements and demonstrates they care for the protection of the student and the volunteer.
If the adult was not a volunteer or staff member, and a parent asked a friend to transport the minor to the organization, that should be done without any involvement of the organization, only between two family friends. If the organization is helping to coordinate this, they should require the parent to arrange transportation on their own without involving a volunteer or staff member; or drive the student on their own.
6l) Q: Is Plan to Protect® a legal requirement?
A: There is no legal requirement to screen your volunteers, have a policy or prevention procedures to prevent abuse.
There are laws around reporting abuse.
If someone knows of or suspects that a child is being abused, that person has a legal responsibility to report the known or suspected abuse. It is your duty to report.
Anyone who knows of or suspects that a child is being abused, that person may report the known or suspected abuse. However, professionals and mandated reporters are required under the law to report. In some states, everyone is required to report abuse.
Organizations must be able to demonstrate in a court of law how they protected the vulnerable sector in which they serve, and how they demonstrated their duty of care to the volunteers and staff that they utilize if there was ever a lawsuit against them.
Organizations that desire to qualify for abuse coverage must demonstrate that they have the following in place:
6m)Q: Is it OK to use the words "procedures" and "procedure manual" in place of the word "policies"?
A: You can certainly separate policies from procedures, but for your own protection, you should establish policies that the Board or Leadership is requiring to be adhered to in all cases. Otherwise, there are no parameters put on your staff and volunteers, identifying how they will demonstrate care to the vulnerable or the organization. Insurance companies also require policies to be put in place to qualify for abuse coverage.
For this reason, we would recommend differentiating policy from procedure.
Here is a list of suggested policies and a list of suggested procedures:
Policy: (the what / the rules):
Policies should spell out who they apply to, and if any exceptions are made to the policies, how and when those exceptions should be handled i.e. Written permission from leadership and parents.
Procedures: (the how to)
6n) Q: What constitutes a high-risk activity?
A: According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of high-risk is: likely to result in failure, harm or injury or more likely than others.
When assessing the risk level of an activity, assess the severity of the harm, injury or abuse: whether it is trivial (little to no effect), minor (requiring first aid), moderate (sprains, strains, referral to a doctor, or 1-6 days of lost time), or intolerable (major injury including 7 days of lost time, disastrous results, life changing injury, or trauma). Also assess the likelihood of an accident, injury or abuse: whether it be improbable (unlikely to occur), possible (likely to occur) or probable (risk will occur).
At Plan to Protect® we recommend that program leaders conduct a risk assessment prior to the event and submit this to leadership to secure approval prior to the event. Once approved prepare a Letter of Informed Consent with a carefully written Release and Waiver. The Letter of Informed Consent should include:
6o) Q: Can we use electronic Releases and Waivers for activities in place of a paper version?
Contract law in Canada is governed by province, as each will have stand-alone electronic commerce statutes that are derived from the U.N. and the Uniform Law Conference of Canada. Electronic documents are being recognized as equivalent to paper-based for most purposes, “subject to certain requirements with respect to authenticity and integrity”. In provincial legislation, there are generally stipulations stating that signatures and documents are not rendered invalid or unenforceable “reason only of being in electronic form”.
While there is not legislation directly addressing the validity of electronic waivers, the enforceability has been tried in the Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench, in the cause Quilichini v. Wilson’s Greenhouse & Garden Centre Ltd., 2017 SKQB 10:
The plaintiff was injured while go-karting at a racing facility operated by Velocity, a business owned by the defendant, Wilson’s Greenhouses. It was contended by the plaintiff that the defendants either: (a) breached their contractual obligations to maintain the go-kart in sufficient working condition; or (b) engaged in a negligent breach of the same obligation.
The defendants contended that the plaintiff’s injuries were incurred as a result of his own conduct, including driving at excessive speed. Moreover, the defendants brought an action for summary judgment dismissing the plaintiff’s action, given that the plaintiff executed an electronic form of waiver and release that the defendants argued was binding.
Please find the article here: Quilichini v. Wilson's Greenhouse.
There is a legal foundation that exists regarding the validity of an individual’s e-signature on an electronic document. Chris Lofft, a Research Lawyer at Stikeman Elliott LLP, and Michael Laurie, Silanis co-founder, have identified the following best practices to address legal requirements for e-signature and electronic documents: Intent, Method of Signature Capture, Signer Authentication, Document and Signature Integrity, Electronic Delivery, Document Storage and Retention, and Evidence. Further information on these best practices can be found here.
Plan to Protect® now recommends electronic Informed Letters of Consent with a release and waiver if they involve either a fingerprint or a signature of the signee (ie. Through SmartWaiver – used by many large organizations and recommended by Insurance companies in the states—or Docusign). The waiver should be activity specific and include the risks associated with the activity, as well as the steps you have taken to mitigate those risks.
With that said, when we reference online waivers, we are not referencing an email or a text message. Some Insurance companies have been reluctant to endorse electronic waivers as they were being tested in the court system. However, we have asked lawyers and judges of this issue, and they say it will not be tested, as it has already been accepted in the court system and through common law.
6p) Q: Why should we use Informed Letters of Consent instead of just a Rlease & Waiver?
A: At Plan to Protect® we recommend that program leaders conduct a risk assessment prior to an event identifying the risks associated with the activity. For the Risk Assessment, CLICK HERE. A Letter of Informed Consent will include a carefully written Release and Waiver, but it also includes:
The benefit of an Informed Letter of Consent is that it shares the risks associated with the event. When you share this information with the parent, they will not be able to say they were unaware of the risks. Provide the Informed Letter of Consent well in advance of the event, and in a language that the parent will be able say they were unaware of the risks.
7a) Q: How do I determine reasonable grounds for reporting suspected abuse to the Department of Social Services?
A: Reasonable grounds are what an average person, given his or her training, background and experience, exercising normal and honest judgment, would assume to be an action that needs attention. No action would be taken against a person making a report unless it is made maliciously or without reasonable grounds for the belief. See Plan to Protect® Orientation training or Plan to Protect® APP for a list of characteristics to watch for in helping you determine reasonable grounds and for definitions of abuse. These characteristics may be indicators of abuse, although they are not necessarily proof. One sign alone does not constitute abuse and may simply be indicative of other issues.
For specific guidelines for what constitutes reasonable suspicion and duty to report please visit the website for Child and Family Services or Children’s Aid in your Province or State.
7b) Q: At what point should we report abuse when we suspect inappropriate behaviour of a volunteer or staff member?
A: If you or a parent are concerned with the interaction of staff members and volunteers with children/youth/vulnerable adults, either through observed inappropriate touch or sexual innuendos and communication via email, texting, tweeting or messaging, we strongly encourage that you immediately address the concern with that staff member / volunteer and as necessary, begin appropriate discipline steps of verbal warnings and written warnings insisting the inappropriate interaction cease immediately. Some of this touch or interaction may not yet be clearly defined as abuse but it may be the start of behaviour that is crossing the line. It is very important for you to document your discipline steps.
If your concerns escalate, and you hear of an allegation or you have reasonable suspicion of abuse or inappropriate behaviour; do not confront the individual, nor should you ask leading questions of the victim. The laws in Canada require that you immediately report the suspicion or allegation to child protection agencies. This is the most important of child protection laws in Canada. The laws are provincially legislated, however the wording across Canada is very similar. The report must be a direct report, immediate and it is an on-going duty to report. Leave the investigation to the officials, yet cooperate with them.
7c) Q: What are the consequences for failure to report?
A: There are a number of consequences for failure to report. Failure to report alleged or suspected abuse may put an individual at risk of further harm. We know that abuse is progressive in nature and will not stop unless there is some intervention to address it. There are consequences written into the provincial legislation for failure to report (Child and Family Services Act.) Professionals have the same duty as any member of the public to report a suspicion of abuse. However professionals are expected to have a special awareness of the signs of abuse and neglect and therefore have a particular responsibility to report their suspicion and can be charged for failure to report and if convicted fined up to $1000 to $10,000. Clergy, priests, rabbis, youth and children's workers are also considered professionals. If your work involves the vulnerable sector, you are considered to be a professional for purposes of the duty to report.
7d) Q: What would you do if another child was threatening the safety of the environment? For example, sexual comments to other children and leaders, as well as profanities. What is the policy here? What are the steps to take?
A: We would recommend that you follow discipline/anti-bullying steps here. Give a verbal warning, a written warning (including a notice to the parent/caregiver), and if it happens again a suspension from the program for a week. If the child does not stop then you can elevate this with a longer suspension from the program. You could also require the parent to sit in the program with their child for a few weeks.
Also, recognize that the behaviour the child is exhibiting may be indicators of abuse. If you see a pattern, you should notify Child and Family Services. If there is a 3-5 year age difference between the two children involved we would suggest you also contact Child and Family Services and ask what your legal duty is in this situation. Child and Family Services will assess the situation and determine if you have a duty to report.
7e)Q: Our Hall Monitors have asked us what exactly they should do if they walk in on an abusive situation - especially sexual abuse - where the perpetrator could run. Can you make suggestions on how they should respond?
A: As with any volunteer or staff member, we would recommend that if they walk in on, observe, or have a suspicion of any form of abuse (including sexual misconduct), that they should immediately record and report it. If the individuals involved are of the age of majority, the hall monitor should notify the Senior Leader and document their observation and conversation, submitting this to leadership. Many organizations have whistleblowing policy in place for this purpose. If one or both of the individuals involved are minors, the hall monitor should immediately call for the abuse or misconduct to cease, remove the individual from the situation, and at the earliest opportunity document their observation, conversations and actions on the Suspected Abuse Report Form. The hall monitor should also notify organization leadership and immediately contact Child and Family Services or Children's Aid Society. Nothing should delay the report to the appropriate protection authorities. If the individuals are a child and adult (not a family member), the caregivers of the individual should be notified by the Senior Leader or designate. Caregivers should also be notified if children or youth are engaged in abusive behaviour (including sexual misconduct) with each other. If the sexual engagement is between minors of the same age and it appears to be consensual, parents should be notified but child protection authorities would not need to be notified. If the sexual engagement involves minors but there is an age difference of three years or if it is not consensual, child protection authorities should be notified along with the parents. No parent or organization’s leadership has the right to tell you not to fulfill your legal duty to report to child protection authorities.
7f) Q: What should a leader do if she/he is concerned that a parent is intoxicated/drunk when picking up a child or youth from a program?
A: If the leader has a legitimate concern about the safety and protection of the child they should report this to Children’s Aid or Child and Family Services. In most cases, proof is not required and the law protects you in your reporting if you are not malicious in your reporting. They do have a duty to report if they feel the child is in need of protection. It is best to contact Children’s Aid or Child and Family Services and ask if this is something that should be reported.
If the parent is indeed drunk, I would distract the parent and delay the pick-up and immediately call the police. As deemed necessary, ask the police how to proceed, possibly having someone block the parent’s car so they do not drive in that condition. I would do whatever is necessary to not allow the child to leave with the parent without causing too much of a distraction. I may avoid speaking directly to the parent about them being inebriated as this could cause more aggressive behaviour and put others in danger.
If the leader is unsure of the parent’s condition, they should complete an incident report, notify their direct supervisor and watch for additional indicators of harm. If they see further indicators, they should report this to authorities as noted above.
7g) Q: If we suspect a minor is self-harming what would be the proper action to take? Do we have a legal requirement to report our concern to their parents?
A: The young person harming him/herself is crying out in pain. I have been told that as high as 60-80% of young people that are cutting have been abused in some way. The pain within is so intense they are trying to draw attention away from that pain. The self-injury is a coping mechanism.
The one suspecting the self-harming behaviour can talk with the minor about it. The concern should also be shared with the parent although I don't believe there is any legal requirement just a moral one. As a parent, I would want to know that my child was self-harming and provide whatever is needed to help my child overcome this.
The parents response will likely clarify whether there is now a legal duty to report to Children’s Aid Society / Child and Family Services. The ACT reads, “if a child is in need of protection we have a duty to report.” Our hope would be that the parent is willing and able to provide the protection the minor needs.
The parent is not required to report this to Children’s Aid Society / Child and Family Services, although they could certainly call for assistance.
The parent can call their local children's mental health agency for assistance as well or their medical doctor. A CMH Agency and medical doctors have the duty to report if they believe the child is in need of protection.
Bottom line, this minor needs caring people to come along side of them and help rebuild the walls of protection they need. I think the worst thing we could do is to ignore it and just believe this is a craze among young people. Our hope is that the parents will be part of the solution, and it will take a community to build hope, healing and restore value in the young person's life.
From an organization perspective, we would recommend you have policies and procedures in place that stipulate how situations like this should be dealt. We would recommend that the staff member or volunteer complete an Incident Report, and notify leadership. After speaking to the young person, and informing the parents, regular follow-up should occur to continue to support the young person and if possible the parents.
Help and Healing for Kids who Cut (2009) by Dr. Marv Penner
Self Harm by Brett Ullman https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAOoDSK5a7o
7h) Q: What should we do if a volunteer or staff member wants to report abuse, but we disagree
A: Each province, state and territory has its own legislation about duty to report child abuse and the age of a child entitled to protection under the law. The statute of limitations also varies depending on where you reside.
If someone knows of or suspects that a child is being abused, that person has a legal responsibility to report the known or suspected abuse. It is your duty to report.
Anyone who knows of or suspects that a child is being abused, that person may report the known or suspected abuse. However, professionals and mandated reporters are required under the law to report. In some states, everyone is required to report abuse.
If there has been an allegation or disclosure of abuse, report it immediately.
If there is a suspicion, as a result of observing indicators of abuse, you see a pattern emerging, or a concern is raised –call child and family services or Plan to Protect® and ask “is this something that should be reported?”
If you do disagree that a report should be made:
8. Screening and Training
8a) Q: Can you help us understand who should be screened and trained under Plan to Protect®?
A: Plan to Protect® believes is it is better to screen than not to screen. The steps of recruiting and screening we recommend include: a three month waiting period, a position description, an application, an interview, reference checks, Criminal Record Checks, and Training. This chart will be a helpful guide on who to do a Criminal Record Check on.
We have all been in that difficult place where we need someone to fill in for a teacher or assistant that does not show up in the classroom and we need someone to be a substitute teacher. If you have a current list of individuals within your community who have been screened and trained, you will have a pool of personnel available to draw from. On the other hand, someone may never be entrusted to the care of children, but their role may be one where a child or youth would look up to them and consider them an authority figure that they are to obey – these people would still be considered a person in a position of trust and would be someone you should screen.
Board Members, Trustees, Elders, Deacons who may work or interact with the vulnerable sector
Board Members, Trustees, Elders, Deacons who do not work with or interact with the vulnerable sector
Executive Directors, Administrative and Office staff, Ministers, Lay Pastors, Children's and Youth Workers, Teachers, Counsellors, Nursery Workers, Dorm Parents/Residence Advisors, VBS Workers, Hall Monitors, Camp Counsellors, Personal Support Workers, Case Workers, and any other persons in a position of trust and supervision who interact with vulnerable persons
Cell Group / Home Church and Childcare Providers
Refugee Sponsorship Team Members
Children's Helpers under the age of 18 (all screening except criminal record checks)
Custodians and Maintenance Staff (when vulnerable persons are on the premises)
Custodians and Maintenance Staff (when no vulnerable persons are on the premises)
Ushers and Greeters (only in sanctuary / auditorium)
Security, Ushers and Greeters, checking halls, doors, Hall Monitors
General Membership / Community
Third Party Contractors (when no interaction with vulnerable persons on premises)
Volunteers in programs and event not directed at, or working with, vulnerable persons
Note: Vulnerable Persons means children, youth (under age 18) and vulnerable adults.
This chart was first published in Robertson Hall Insurance Inc., Abuse Prevention: Newsletter for Churches and Christian Organizations. Used with permission.
8b) Q: We are constantly falling behind on our screening and training. How can we manage this properly?
A: It is a challenge keeping this in the forefront in our minds. Most organizations would readily say that protection is one of their core values. However, we think there is a disconnect as we let ourselves think of protection as a necessary evil and major headache to our programming. We do realize that it adds to your TO DO list.
Our best recommendation is to make sure you have the right person(s) doing the screening and administration. We encourage you to stay organized and set aside time to do the administration of screening. There are tools available to make this happen (check out the services we offer at Plan to Protect®).
Abuse prevention is not a task for one person, it takes a whole community to protect the vulnerable sector. As staff and volunteers we can step up to the plate and provide up-to-date criminal record checks and offer to take annual training. As board members and administrators we cannot put this task on our program leaders and leave it to them to do it on their own. So much of the recruitment and screening process of Plan to Protect® are tasks for administrators – organization and administration skills are essential. If those are not your strengths, admit it. We recommend you carve out time on your calendar, well in advance of your program starting.
We must be held accountable for protection. Just last week we had a conversation with a senior pastor who realized he needed to hold his youth director’s more accountable for their time alone with students. The staff had established their own policies and they included determining who needed to be screened and who didn’t and who they could be alone with. No one person should make these decisions on their own.
If protection is one of our core values, we really need a different perspective when it comes to the process of protection. Instead of looking at it as an obstacle, we need to see it as a means of valuing and caring for vulnerable persons. Remember also that the process of how we do our work is as important as the end result. Finally, as you continue to develop your character, strive for and role model integrity and accountability.
8c) Q: Should the board or senior staff be placing staff and volunteers into positions of responsibility without going through the recruitment and screening process?
A: Once policy has been developed and approved by the Board, no one person should make these decisions to not observe these policies on their own. Once policies are approved by the board, everyone is responsible to submit to these policies as they provide the parameters which will offer protection those involved with the organization. If the Board with ‘one’ voice makes a decision to override a policy, this is their prerogative, however, we would recommend that they document this decision and exception along with the due diligence they have done and include this as part of their minutes.
8d) Q: Why does Plan to Protect® recommend a 6-month waiting period?
A: Yes, we do recommend a 6-month waiting period for new comers to the church. If someone is new, they should take time to get to know the church or school and for the church or school to get to know them. The perspective volunteer can begin the screening near the tail end of the 6 months. This also is on behalf of the children and youth as they will identify the individual as someone they can trust in their life.
This recommendation also mirrors many insurance company requirements. However, some exceptions may apply, for example if the individual is a new staff member obviously, or an intern coming from a local college, or if they have transferred from another church within your denomination. Though it is important to note that in all of these situations, and if a six month waiting period is not possible because of your type of organization (camp, community group, nursing home) a third reference should be added from another organization where they volunteered or worked in the past. Ideally the person would have also been serving in a similar capacity.
After their waiting period and screening and training is complete, when they have been approved to volunteer, we would recommend that they be assigned to a seasoned volunteer that they can shadow.
8e) Q: If we can’t do everything, what are the basic requirements we must do?
A: Though it has been said that police records checks and a six-month waiting period are crucial, we are hesitant to suggest that you take shortcuts with Plan to Protect®. Many insurance companies are now saying the policies as outlined in Plan to Protect® are basic requirements for insurance coverage. These guidelines will also ensure due diligence if your organization is named in a lawsuit. We encourage you to not cut corners, but to take every precaution to protect the vulnerable sector.
8f) Q: We have had some of our seniors volunteering for years – is it really necessary to have them go through the recruiting and screening process?
A: We recommend that you have a no-exception rule for recruitment and screening. Establishing a no-exception rule will take the responsibility off of your shoulders to determine who you will require it from and who is exempt. Otherwise, where do you draw the line? Your approach with seniors serving in the organization should be with sensitivity. Explain why this requirement is now so important in today's world. Individuals responsible for recruitment and screening can make the process easier for seniors by offering to drive them to get a police records check, meeting them in their home for the interview while providing an opportunity to hear their stories and memories. Thank them for being positive role models.
8g) Q: Do we need to ask all the questions on the Volunteer Application Form? The "Information about your ability to work with children and youth" questions are very personal and seem intrusive.
We would recommend that you commit the same level of care and attention to recruiting volunteers as you would to the hiring of employees. The questions on the application form in the appendices were reviewed and/or recommended to us by our legal counsel. One comment we received from our legal counsel was that volunteers have the same rights as employees in relation to human rights and we must avoid any appearance or cause for them to believe they were discriminated against. As we often stress, Plan to Protect® is not a policy but a plan to develop a policy. You certainly have the option to change or revise the questions. We strongly recommend that you have your lawyers review your forms and your policies. As laws differ in certain geographic areas, we would also encourage you to research your particular provincial guidelines.
8h) Q: We have done our required Plan to Protect® training session for our staff & volunteers last year before camp. Is it really necessary to do it again even if they did it last year or can we just train the new recruits only?
A: We recommend that you have all your staff & volunteers attend a 2 Hr. Plan to Protect® Orientation training as part of their initial volunteer training. If they continue to volunteer the next year, we recommend that they attend a 1 Hr. Plan to Protect® Refresher training that will highlight the main points and refresh them on the policies and procedures that are vital to the training. Going forward we then recommend that they attend the above-mentioned Refresher training on a yearly basis so that they can be properly informed of any new policies or procedures that have been implemented.
8i) Q: Last week you held a webinar on the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service that meets the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) requirements. Does everyone that works with children, youth and vulnerable persons need to take this training? What if I missed this training?
A: Yes, it is a required training that any business or organization (including churches) in Ontario that provides goods or services to the public must add to their policies and procedures and provide training to their representative staff and volunteers. Please see the link provided for more specific information regarding the AODA requirements and how it affects your organization here
8j) Q: Can we simply distribute our policies instead of conducting training?
A: Distribution of policies is important for your personnel to get a head start on your organization’s specific requirements for abuse prevention. The policies do not replace the discussion that takes place during the training seminar, the explanation of the policies and prevention procedures, and the illustrations that help to put the policies into perspective. Many insurance companies are now requiring annual training for all personnel. We have provided you recommended training schedules, templates, PowerPoint presentations and contact information for securing needed resources. Check our website for online training options and an overview of our Certification Training for Trainers.
8k) Q: Can we send a video/DVD home for training instead of holding a training program?
A: The best training option is to hold on-site, face-to-face training in a group setting where there is opportunity for interaction and discussion and a walk-through of your facilities. We would encourage you to pursue the highest level of training for your personnel, and avoid shortcuts. However, in the rare occasion when individuals cannot attend the scheduled group training seminar, we would encourage the lead to meet individually with the prospective personnel and supervise the watching of the training video/DVD. Another option is having that individual take our on-line training or live webinar. Plan to Protect® trainers cannot distribute our copyright materials including PowerPoints and training.
8l) Q: We have been informed by a caregiver that a personal care worker will be accompanying an individual with disabilities to our camp. Do we have a responsibility to screen and train the personal care worker?
A: In many cases, the parent/guardian may have already screened and trained the personal care worker. However, as this individual will be interacting with other vulnerable persons in your programs, and be recognized as a helper, you may be held responsible for their actions. We would recommend that you follow your protection policies and procedures with personal care workers. As this individual may not be well known within your community, we would recommend that you provide additional supervision of those interacting with youth in your program ensuring they comply to your policies and protocols. A strong abuse prevention screening process includes a completed volunteer application form, interview, references, criminal record check, training, and supervision.
8m) Q: I have a young man who left for a year to go to work with youth internationally and he's back and thinking about volunteering. Does he need to wait 6 months? I believe he grew up in our organization, and I have a file for him already because he volunteered in the past
A: We do not think it is necessary to ask the individual to wait an additional six months, but because he has been gone for a length of time we would recommend that you screen him again i.e. interview, current references, and a new police record check. He should also take the annual refresher training to remind him of your protocols and procedures.
8n) Q: Do my volunteers and staff need to have refresher training for Plan to Protect®? If so, what should be included in the training?
A: According to insurance companies, to qualify for abuse coverage, the following requirements are stated:Training for all staff members and volunteers who regularly work with vulnerable persons to assist in the prevention of abuse through the following means:
Yes, we strongly recommend that all staff and volunteers in a position of trust participate in annual refresher training. This can be offered on-site or on-line. Refresher training is approximately 60 minutes in length. Our on-line refresher training option for Plan to Protect® involves 4-6 modules (depending on the age levels with whom you work). Each module is approximately 10-18 minutes in length. Students also apply their learning when examining case studies relating to the module. Once students successfully complete the training on-line, they will receive a certificate of completion and the program leader will receive a monthly report indicating the students who completed the training. The on-line refresher training reflects the high standard of content and excellence of our on-line orientation training. To date, we have trained thousands of individuals on-line for Plan to Protect®. If you are offering training within your organization on site, we recommend that the trainer be certified and equipped to provide the training. To date, Plan to Protect® has certified over 2,000 trainers. With certification, you receive PowerPoints, Instructor and Student notes, and creative methods of training, along with recommended media clips to enhance your training. Certification is valid for three years. Plan to Protect® has received high marks on our certification training, with consistent reviews of “excellent” and “very valuable.” With the knowledge that students receive, they feel so much more confident to train others and answer the questions that will come up during their trainings. Taking attendance at your training and maintain records of trainings as an additional step towards demonstrating due diligence and a strong standard of care.
8o) Q: In our policy, we expect volunteers to take training one time per year (initial Orientation training, and Refresher training every year after that). Today, I was told by one of our Program Leaders that we should only be training our volunteers one time every three years. She feels like it is too much to ask our volunteers to attend training every year! What are the requirements we should be meeting for our personnel training?
A: Plan to Protect® recommends initial Orientation training and annual Refresher training. We recommend this for a number of reasons:
Please note: At Plan to Protect®, we are a consulting and training organization. We recommend the HIGHEST STANDARD of protection and we won’t apologize for that. Each individual organization is able to modify their policy and procedures as they see fit though. However, we would HIGHLY recommend that if you are making ANY changes to your policy (for example only requiring training every three years), that you first check with your insurance company and consult with a lawyer followed with board approval. No individuals or team leaders should change policy without board approval first. And, you should note that if you are making this change that it is contrary to what is recommended.
8p) Q: We recruit young people to work with children! What do we need to keep in mind and do they have to be screened and trained?
A: They key principle here is never, ever have minors working with children without the supervision of an adult.
Every individual is different – some young people are more mature and responsible than others. However, we do know from research that a brain is not fully developed until it is 25 years old. (1)
You might respond, but what about babysitters, they babysit on their own. Yes, they may babysit on behalf of parents, and are left alone with the children, but that is different than on behalf of an organization where you are recruiting young people to care for someone else’s children. In this situation, the parent is still responsible for their children, and, the actions of the babysitter that they hired to provide the care for their children.
We recommend that you screen and train all your personnel, whether they are minors or adults. When possible, do background checks (police record checks) on workers that are 16 years of age and up. From this information, you will learn if they have been tried and convicted of crimes as an adult. Asking young people to complete an application, provide references and be interviewed communicates the elevated responsibility of the role that you are placing the individual in and ensures that they have the maturity and ability to care for others.
The Plan to Protect® manual states Personnel between the ages of twelve and sixteen must be assigned to work alongside of another screened worker over the age of sixteen. Personnel must be seventeen years of age or older tow work along in a classroom. In both situations, the door must remain open with designated hall monitors circulating periodically from room to room. It is recommended that thee be at least a five-year gap between ministry personnel and the children they serve.
An adult should always be providing oversight and supervision. They may not always be in the classroom as a Supervisor or Hall Monitor they should be checking in often with the youth workers.
8q) Q: Why do we have to do abuse prevention training? No one wants to come!
A: Training does not need to be boring, training does not need to be just a lecture, training does not need to be just reading a policy – and it shouldn’t be! But, yes training is very important.
The truth is that the importance of training cannot be understated. Doing initial orientation training and annual refresher training with your volunteers and staff may be an insurance requirement but it is also a critical step in protecting the vulnerable sector. Training also helps you make sure everyone in your organization is on the same page; it helps you communicate your policies and procedures; develop people’s potential; encourages people to think about safety; demonstrates your commitment to protection; reinforce best practices; and communicates your expectations and your care for your volunteers and staff.
At Plan to Protect®, we are big believers that your training can be creative and can include games, activities, discussion groups, and Q&A periods. If you need help making your training creative we recommend checking out our Train the Trainer course. Participants receive PowerPoints, Teaching Notes, Student Notes and Creative Methods (like Jeopardy, Family Feud, videos, case studies and more) for Orientation and Refresher training.
Plan to Protect® recommends initial orientation training (2hrs) and annual refresher training (1hr) for all volunteers and staff in positions of trust. Training should include awareness (what is abuse and how prevalent is it), protection (what are the different types of abuse, what are the indicators of abuse, how do you report abuse and protect the vulnerable sector) and prevention (what policies and procedures does your organization have to prevent abuse to the vulnerable sector).
We truly believe - and insurance companies require - that training should be taught by qualified and knowledgeable instructors, which is why we have developed a Train the Trainer Certification course. We are passionate about the fact that training can be creative, engaging, and interesting for volunteers and staff. The best training is also customized for your organization and your policies.
Need some help with training? We can help!
Check out our Train the Trainer Certification course; on-line Orientation and Refresher training courses; and Orientation and Refresher Webinar training.
8r) Q: How should we screen short-term and occasional volunteers quickly? Are there steps we can skip?
A: We recommend that everyone who is put into a position of trust in your organization is fully screened and trained as a volunteer – this includes short term and occasional volunteers. Remember occasional volunteers aren’t considered occasional observers because they are helping and in a position of trust with those who are vulnerable. There aren’t any ways to short-cut the screening process while still creating a safe environment for the vulnerable in your programs, but there a number of ways of fast-tracking the screening process. You might consider getting them to take an on-line training through Plan to Protect® rather than waiting for your next live training, or doing their background checks through Plan to Protect® Screening Canada or Verified Volunteers (a third party provider who can get checks done in 24 hours or less) , or if you have a number of folks trying to get through the process quickly you can have them come in for a concentrated batch-processing session. For example having everyone do their applications, interviews and references together during your training session. In some situations you could replace the 6 month waiting period with a third reference check but we would recommend you check with your insurance company prior to making this exception. If you’re really stuck for solutions and you’re a member, try giving us a call in the office, we’ve got lots of strategies and solutions for how to help you efficiently screen and train your volunteers. Please note: if you are making exceptions to your screening process we recommend you check with your insurance company prior to making any exceptions and these are also approved in writing from your board.
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8s) Can we provide Plan to Protect® Orientation or Refresher trainings to our leaders via platforms such as Zoom, Skype, Facetime, or Facebook Live?
Both the copyright guidelines in the manual and the terms and conditions of Plan to Protect training content stipulates that the training must be live, and that you are not not permitted to deliver or distribute any of the content online.We truly appreciate those of you who have reached out to us asking if you can use Skype, Zoom, or Facetime to complete your training.However, please note that it is in breach of copyright and the terms and conditions to deliver Plan to Protect® Orientation and Refresher trainings through these platforms.
Plan to Protect does offer many options for training including on our school www.plantoprotectschool.com, our LIVE WEBINARS. If you are interested in an extended license to do training online, please contact email@example.com
8t)Q:Who should we be screening and training?
A: According to Steve Chase, Senior Corporate Counsel for Brotherhood Mutual, less than 10% of predators have ever been caught. We recommend a holistic approach to screening and training including an application, interview, personal and professional reference checks, Criminal Background checks, training and oversight and supervision.
Volunteer Canada and Points of Light (USA) recommend that all volunteers be screened and receive an initial orientation training.
This same level of screening and training should be part of every staff member’s onboarding.
For the purpose of Plan to Protect® we recommend the following roles be required to be screened and trained: Executive Directors, Administrative and Office Staff, Tech Team Members, Parent Volunteers, Chaperones, Children’s and Youth Workers, Teachers, Counsellors, Nursery and Pre-School Workers, Ministers, Pastor, Vacation Bible School Workers, Hall Monitors, Cell Group and Home Church Leaders, Childcare Providers, Registrars, Board Members, Elders, Deacons, Trustees who may interact and engage with the vulnerable sector, Bus and Transport Drivers, Custodians and Maintenance Staff (when vulnerable persons are on the premises), Ushers (checking halls, rooms, and doors).
For the purpose of Plan to Protect® we recommend the following roles be included in the screening and training process: Board Members, Elders, Deacons and Trustees (as they are in a position of authority, influence, authority and control), Custodians and Maintenance Staff, Ushers, Greeters (handling finances).
9. Social Media
9a) Q: Our personnel are asking if they can email the children/youth/vulnerable adults. Is this okay?
A: Our recommendation would be that everything be done in public! In other words, if you email children/youth/vulnerable adults, we would encourage you to include a cc: to your team members, caregiver of the vulnerable person or to someone on the Plan to Protect® team. This will provide a level of accountability. We would also recommend that you touch base with the caregiver first and ask permission if you can send emails, stating the reason for the communication. Assure them that you are willing to copy them in on the email or even send it to them to forward to the children/youth/vulnerable adults.
9b) Q: Can we post pictures on the internet?
A: We recommend having policies in place in regards to the use of photographs. On our registration form in Plan to Protect® we have included a waiver for parents to sign, indicating the location photos can be used i.e. website, promotional pieces, newsletters, etc. If caregivers have signed this form and granted permission, you could then use the photos with discretion and discernment.
We encourage you to strongly restrict volunteers and staff from taking pictures and putting them on their own Facebook pages, and tagging (assigning names) the pictures. Caregiver permission on the registration form does not provide this level of permission, nor is it wise to do so. People believe Facebook is a secure site, however experts say that it is not “hacker” proof.
If caregivers grant permission for the individual’s picture to be used on promotional pieces on the internet, we encourage you not to put names of the individual with the picture and still to restrict your volunteers from doing this. The permission has been granted to the organization, parents have entrusted you with the care and supervision of the photos.
This is very difficult to police, but you do want to strive to do your “due diligence” in this regard. Legal counsel informed us that we may soon see legislation come down in relation to social networks and personal information.
9c) Q: We have campers and counselors bringing their cameras to camp, then posting pictures on Facebook and tagging the photos. Can we control this on our end? We would like to include a policy on photography for our camp policies. What would you advise?
A: We have wonderful memories of camp as a young person; and even as an adult we loved our summers when we were counselors. Most of us want to capture these memories on our camera. While you can’t really keep the children from taking photos at camp, however you can attempt to influence them where and when pictures can be taken, or discouraging them form bringing valuables to camp such as their cameras just like you may restrict them from bringing iPods, laptops, radios, etc. You may choose to have a designated camp photographer who is capturing photos of camp activities, and then put together a photo album or scrapbook for each camper and counselor to be given to them at the end of camp. This would allow you to monitor what photos are taken and avoid photos being taken in cabins, locker rooms, in beachwear, etc.
You should certainly put restrictions on your volunteers and staff and their personal picture taking of campers. Policies for the camp and volunteers and staff could include: 1) having a designated camp photographer, 2) camper registration forms including permission for photographs to be taken for camp promotional purposes (newsletters, website, commercials), 3) restricting photographs to be taken in cabins, washrooms, etc., 4) restricting photos from being added to personal Facebook pages, twitter, and other social networks, and 5) no tagging of photos, or publicly distributing them. Some caregivers may not grant permission for photographs to be taken of the individual, in which case you will need to identify a way to distinguish which campers can have their picture taken and which campers cannot have their picture taken. The use of a silicone wrist band may be helpful. However more and more camps are not giving parents this option and just informing parents that pictures will be taken for camp use, and that permission will be secured if the image will be used for promotional purposes.
The camp could have a group page on Facebook with selected photos included on this page; however, written parental permission should be secured from all minors including counselors under the age of 19, and we would recommend that no names be associated with the photographs. Finally, we recommend that you add to your camp newsletters a statement summarizing your photography policies and procedures, informing parents and campers that the privacy of others should be observed (ie. not everyone wants their picture taken, nor do they want it on Facebook), and that though precautions are taken, the camp cannot monitor all campers’ photography use. To audit these policies, the camp should monitor Facebook pages of their counselors on occasion.
9d)Q: Today young people use social media for communication and community building. How can we use social media to engage our young people and still demonstrate care, accountability, and integrity?
A: We get it! Very few, if any young person will want you to copy their parent on your emails and text messages. Many young people do not have their parents as a friend on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
However, this is an area of increased risk. Organizations can be held vicariously liable for the actions of their staff and volunteers. It is very difficult to monitor and control the use of social media. Therefore, it is imperative that organizations establish policies and procedures and clearly communicate these to their workers, both in written format and during training sessions. We would also recommend that you have your youth workers sign an Agreement or Covenant of Care, acknowledging that they have read the policies and procedures and will abide by the guidelines.
We encourage your staff and volunteers to view their roles professionally. Whether they are paid to do the work or are unpaid, they have a duty of care to the youth, to the parents, and to the organization where they serve. In fulfilling their duty of care, staff and volunteers should adhere to the policies and procedures of the organization. The policies and procedures should outline the parameters of their interaction with young people outside of program times. Many organizations that allow their personnel to engage in communication via social media state in their policies the purpose allowed for the communication, i.e., Social media will be used for the dissemination of information of events and activities. Social Media will not be used for the purpose of counseling, mentoring or engaging in intimate conversations.
Policies should also include the age level of the students, i.e., No communication via social media with students under 13 years of age will be allowed.
Policies should also include the times allowed for communication, i.e., During the hours of 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
We also recommend that you consider limiting the communication to a group page and prohibit private messaging. Alternatively, you could request that a program leader or team member also be copied in lieu of the parent.
Parental permission should always be secured on the registration form from parents, that staff and volunteers can communicate with their son or daughter via email, text, and social media.
10. Criminal Record Checks and Vulnerable Sector Screening
10a) Q: It seems like information regarding Criminal Record Checks are changing once again. I just heard about a new component called Local Notes and FIP - what are these and can we accept them as part of our screening?
A: Some 3rd party providers are now able to access national criminal record databases through police agencies that allows them to access both a CPIC (Canadian Police Information Centre) check as well as an alternative database check through Local Police Information (or Local Notes) via the Firearms Interest Police (FIP) database.
The information on the FIP database is updated nightly through a daily review of police local record management systems and includes all information submitted within the past 5 years.
The information found in the FIP database consists of entries pertaining to convictions, discharges, or otherwise negative police contact relating to violent and/or sexual offence incidents, treatment for violent mental illness, or other public safety concerns.
Plan to Protect® continues to strongly recommend that prior to placing any new volunteers and staff recruits into a position of trust with the vulnerable sector, that the Vulnerable Sector Search be returned CLEAR and not flagged.
We recommend that renewals of Criminal Record Checks, be done every 3 years. We recommend annually for camp programs, or annual mission trips, when you have not been in constant contact with the individual. In a school or church program, the renewal could be done every 3 years, based on the regular contact you have with the individual.
On renewals, we recommend that you do a CPIC check and Local Police Information checks. (Plan to Protect® can provide these checks through our third party provider.)
For additional information on checking young adults <25 years of age, please contact our office at 1-877-455-3555.
Contact Plan to Protect® for additional information on staff and volunteers that are minors and young adults.
10b) Q: It is too costly for our organization to do police records checks on all of our volunteers – what do you suggest?
A: Yes, it is costly to have all your personnel complete police records checks at the same time or when you first begin. Some jurisdictions waive the cost if the individual is a volunteer, and if the organization is registered with the police department. Some organizations include police records checks for all personnel in their budget. When cost is a concern, we would suggest asking individuals to cover the cost for the Police Record Check themselves, or to donate to this project. You may also find other donors are willing to donate or subsidize the cost for those that cannot afford to pay for it. Remember, this is a small price to pay compared to the hundreds of thousands or millions that the organization may have to pay out in a lawsuit if you are found guilty of not providing a safe environment and doing due diligence in abuse prevention.
10c) Q: Do we need to do police records checks? If so, how often do we need to do them?
A: We recommend that for a complete picture on prospective personnel, police records checks be pursued every three (3) years for those age 16 and older serving in positions of trust along with permission asked to pursue a child welfare check if deemed necessary. Insurance companies state that it should be no longer than five (5) years.
Police records checks should be conducted for all paid staff, board members and personnel serving in positions of trust. All positions that involve contact with vulnerable individuals or where the individual is deemed by the vulnerable individual to be in a position of trust must be screened.
10d)Q: Do we need to do a complete Vulnerable Sector Searches (VSSs)? Is a Police Record Check (CPIC) adequate?
A: The Criminal Records Act requires that a VS check be performed for "a paid or volunteer position" when that "position is one of authority or trust relative to those children or vulnerable persons".
A child means a person under the age of 18. Vulnerable persons are defined as:
"a person who, because of his or her age, a disability, or other circumstances, whether temporary or permanent:
Because of the requirement that a person be in a position of ‘authority or trust,’ positions with casual or occasional contact with children or other vulnerable persons would not normally require VS checks unless the position could lead the organization's clients to have trust in the individual.” (Volunteer Canada Screening Handbook, 2012)
10e) Q: What is the definition of vulnerable sector?
A: Vulnerable persons are defined as:
"a person who, because of his or her age, a disability, or other circumstances, whether temporary or permanent:
The vulnerable sector includes children, youth and vulnerable adults who because of age or disability, whether permanent or temporary, need additional support and protection.
10f) Q: A candidate has disclosed that they have a criminal record on their file. What should we do?
A: We truly believe that people could change for the better. We also believe, though, that there are consequences to actions that often last a lifetime i.e. someone who has been killed in a car accident by a drunk driver (the family is forever without a family member).
It would be difficult to enter court if another incident occurred and to use as a defense that you knew of a record for a violent crime but allowed them to serve among the vulnerable sector because they show signs that they have changed.
This stipulation is not ours but has come as a strong mandate from both the insurance companies and legal counsel we sought. You would not be protected as an organization if you chose this defense.
10g) Q: We are receiving conflicting recommendations from the police, lawyers, Plan to Protect® and the insurance company about what to do with completed criminal record checks. In one instance, the police are telling us to shred the Criminal Record Check while another police officer in the same jurisdiction is telling us to give the criminal record check back to the applicant, however Plan to Protect® is telling us to keep criminal record checks on volunteers and staff indefinitely. Who do we believe?
A: Conflicting advice … we encounter the same challenge at Plan to Protect®. The development, preparation and publication of our recommendations have been undertaken with great care and been well researched. We have had numerous conversations with employment labour lawyers, criminal lawyers, insurance companies and the RCMP in Ottawa. Your responsibility is to screen your volunteers and staff. However, we recommend that for your protection that you retain the documentation so that you can demonstrate in a court of law that you did screen your volunteers and staff and that the criminal record check came back “clear”. In a court of law, if you are able to produce the documentation, you will be in a better position than if you just produce a file with a checkbox that the criminal record check was verified. The lawyers we have spoken to recommend that you do retain permanently the original criminal record check (with the candidate’s permission to secure it). Keep all confidential information on your staff, volunteers and constituents under lock and key in a secure location. We would recommend that those handling this confidential information, sign a confidentiality agreement.
However, as with all of our recommendations, the information is intended to assist you in establishing policy for your organization. Our recommendations and the references in Plan to Protect® are only as current as the date of the publication and do not reflect subsequent changes in law. We distribute information with the understanding that it does not constitute legal advice. Organizations are strongly encouraged to seek their own legal counsel as well as counsel from your insurance company when establishing a policy.
To sum it up…establish policy, seek your own legal and insurance advice. Absolutely keep all personal information under lock and key! Build a file on each individual that will be able to demonstrate, if necessary in a court of law that you exceeded your obligation of what an average person would do to provide reasonable care.
10h) Q: If someone was accused 20 years ago but never convicted or found guilty of a violent crime and then changed for the better, why do you recommend that they not be able to serve vulnerable sector individuals?
A: We are pleased that your candidate has disclosed this information to you prior to doing the criminal record check, as it demonstrates integrity on their behalf. You will want to confirm what their conviction(s) were, and the type of offense. If a criminal record check comes back not clear, you do not receive details of the conviction, only a "CLEAR" or "NOT CLEAR", or a notation that "THERE MAY OR MAY NOT BE A CONVICTION ON THEIR RECORD AND IT MUST BE VERIFIED BY FINGERPRINTING".
To confirm that this individual does indeed have a criminal record, it will be suggested that the person be fingerprinted. We understand from our clients that a number of Vulnerable Sector Searches come back flagged. However, our recommendation is that you send each flagged person for fingerprinting and wait for the results to come back prior to placing this person in a position of trust with vulnerable persons. This is exactly why we recommend Criminal Record Checks as part of screening. Through the services we offer (Plan to Protect® Screening Canada), we could confirm that conviction that the candidate has put on their form to grant permission to do the Criminal Record Check is correct. If they have been truthful, it will come back as "NOT CLEAR", but "CONFIRMED", indicating that what they put on their form is the extent of their conviction.
If you do not use our criminal record service (Plan to Protect® Screening Canada), we would recommend that you either send the candidate for fingerprinting or secure confirmation of their stated convictions so that you have a full picture of the type of offense that they were convicted for. We would also recommend you secure strong qualitative references. If the crime is not a crime against children or youth, or a violent crime, you could choose to still use the candidate in a volunteer or staff role with supervision. Though there may have been both regret and reform that has taken place since the conviction, our position is that there are still consequences. Our position would be that the individual should not be placed in a position of trust with children, youth or vulnerable adult. We recommend that you speak to your legal counsel for a consultation regarding placing someone in a volunteer or staff role of responsibility where they have been convicted in the past for crimes.
10i)Q: I hear that only 30% of organizations working with the vulnerable sector do Vulnerable Sector Searches (VSSs)? Do we really need to do these?
A: We certainly recommend it! As much as we may be concerned that the new changes (as of July 2009) may be a deterrent to recruiting volunteers, and that we will see many more VSSs being returned flagged, we are more concerned that many organizations that serve the vulnerable sector are not doing everything in their power to provide a safe place for the vulnerable sector. The RCMP website http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cr-cj/vulner/index-eng.htmprovides very helpful information as to the process, timing, reasoning, reporting, and even a commitment to destroy the fingerprints once an individual has been flagged and submitted fingerprints.
We are concerned to learn that as little as 30% of organizaitons are doing VSSs on new volunteers and staff recruits ~ this demonstrates there is no standard of protection in Canada. We believe a VSS should be done on first time screening and we urge all organizations to do a comprehensive screening process including applications, interview, reference checks, training, background screening, and final approval. These processes could be audited regularly by Senior Leadership and Board members.
Plan to Protect® strongly recommends that prior to placing any new volunteers and staff recruits into a position of trust that the Vulnerable Sector Search be returned CLEAR and not flagged.
Renewals of Criminal Record Checks, depending on your program, we recommend criminal record checks we renewed every 1-3 years. We would recommend annually for camp programs, or annual mission trips, when you have not been in constant contact with the individual. In a school or church program, the renewal could be done every 3 years, based on the regular contact you have with the individual. On renewals, we recommend that you do a CPIC check and local police information checks. (Plan to Protect® can provide these checks through our third party provider.) For additional information on checking young adults <25 years of age, please contact our office at 1-877-455-3555.
Contact Plan to Protect® for additional information on staff and volunteers that are minors and young adults.
10j)Q: Can we use high-level clearance checks, for example, Government Security Clearence, or Nexus? How can we know if the Security Clearance certificate is legitimate?
A: We do not recommend receiving any 2nd hand screening from employers or schools. We often receive these requests, but it is hard to know where to draw the line. I understand this may be high clearance screening, but it was for a specific role and responsibilities. It may have been done 6 months to a year ago, and things change as you know.
We recommend that each organization do their own screening, and that the references, criminal record check or VSS be current as of the time of screening. These should also come directly from the source of the individual providing the reference, or from either an approved third party provider of criminal record checks, the RCMP or the police station.
10k) Q: There are so many variations on Criminal Background Checks in Canada - can you help us understand the difference?
A: In Canada there are primarily three components of a Criminal Record Check. When working with the vulnerable sector we recommend you complete all the steps of screening including an interview, 2-3 reference checks, a Vulnerable Sector Check or Enhanced Criminal Record Check, Training and a Covenant of Care.
There are many acronyms when it comes to Criminal Record Checks or Criminal Background Checks in Canada. Here is a quick summary of the checks that are the most common.
|CPIC||Canadian Police Information Check
|The Enhanced search will discover any Canadian Criminal Convictions that have not been pardoned or discharged as well as identifiers that additional information may be present related to the candidate. Search result details are not released to third parties, however, candidates identified by the Enhanced search are recommended to attend their Local Police Detachment for a detailed report or submit fingerprints. Candidates who obtain results independently from their Local Police may share results with the organization requesting a search.|
|VSC/VSS||Vulnerable Sector Search
Third party providers of Criminal Record Checks, including our Enhanced Criminal Record Checks cannot access the pardoned offender database. Plan to Protect® is recommending that you send new candidates directly to the police station to secure a Vulnerable Sector Check. Plan to Protect® ScreeningCanada is able to provide Enhanced Criminal Record Checks, however, they do not include the pardoned component of the VSC/VSS.
A fingerprint comparison would verify whether or not the individual is the individual that was convicted of a crime.
One of the most significant changes to police record checks as of November 1, 2018 is the disclosure of youth records. Youth records are only permitted to be disclosed in two circumstances:
Prior to November 1, 2018, police were able to release a police criminal record check containing youth records directly to the applicant, who in turn would provide the check to the organization to which they were applying. Under the new act, only federal, provincial and municipal government agencies will receive youth records, as police cannot disclose the existence of or any of the information contained within a youth record to non-government agencies. These agencies can no longer request youth records from applicants.
10l) Q: There are so many variations on Criminal Background Checks in the United States - can you help us understand the difference?
A: In the United States, there is no one central database that provides all the criminal convictions on file. Therefore, we would encourage clients to ensure the checks you secure include the following:
These checks are all available through our preferred partner Verified Volunteers.
Alias/Maiden Name Search
An alias or maiden name is any name an individual has used at another time, in another place, or in another circumstance, for any reason. Our alias/maiden name search searches those names provided during the screening order process as well as those names uncovered through an SSN Trace. This includes nicknames, but excludes obvious errors and misspellings. When we conduct an alias/maiden name search, we search the National 50 State Sex Offender Registry, the volunteer’s current county/state of address, and every county/state identified through the last 7 years’ address history for each alias and maiden name. We must conduct separate searches for each of these names because, in the eyes of the courthouse, each name represents a unique individual.
County Civil Searches
The County Civil Search searches the upper and lower civil courts for violations of trust and civil law. Results generally include case number, court, plaintiff, defendant, disposition and judgement details and are usually verified by name match only. Get a clearer picture of your volunteer by searches for potential cases in which they were involved in civil court.
County/State Residence Criminal Search (Current)
The address entered during the background check order process is used to determine the county and state of residence (U.S.) for the volunteer. Current and prior Puerto Rico, Virgin Island, Guam, and American Post Office addresses can also be entered by the volunteer. We search for any reported criminal history for the volunteer in that county or state at the primary source of information (the state or county courthouse). Should we find any criminal history, we report the information in accordance with applicable FCRA rules.
County/State Search(es) - 7 Years of Address History
We identify all counties/states in which the volunteer has lived in the last 7 years. We search those counties/states at the primary source of information (the state or county courthouse) using the name in question and other personally identifiable information. Should we find any criminal history, we report the information in accordance with applicable Federal and State of Residence FCRA rules.
Federal Criminal Searches
The Federal Criminal Search searches all district courts throughout the U.S. and related territories (94 in total) for crimes different than those found through a county level search. These may include, but are not limited to, international/inter-state drug trafficking, kidnapping, tax law violations, immigrations, weapons, and civil rights violations. Since crimes that are committed on federal property (national parks) or across state lines (drugs, kidnapping, etc.) are tried in federal court, the results wouldn’t be reported at the state or local level.
Locator Select Search with Validation
Locator Select is a proprietary Verified Volunteers integration that directly accesses over 2,000 county jail and or/Sheriff’s departments. Locator Select alerts us to arrest history dating back as far as 7 years and straight through to the night prior to the search. We identify locations where an individual may have been arrested or incarcerated and then search that location’s zip code at the state or county courthouse to verify the information and see what happened after the arrest. The result? We find over 20% more hits using Locator Select! When combined with the National Criminal Database, the resulting search closes many gaps.
Nationwide Criminal History Search with Validation
A Nationwide Criminal History search uses the full name and date of birth provided by the volunteer during the order process to search over 900 criminal information data sources from all 50 states. Although this sounds comprehensive, the quality and breadth of data varies by state, and is limited for over 2/3 of the nation’s states (defined by limited data sources or stale information updated infrequently). At Verified Volunteers, we recognize the limitations of this search. Still, it’s a valuable locator tool that helps us identify areas outside of address history where criminal history might have occurred – areas where the volunteer has worked, travelled or played. We always validate potential matches found in the Nationwide Criminal History search at the primary source of information (county or state courthouses) for criminal history records. This helps us ensure clients that the data reported about their volunteers is the most accurate and up-to-date possible.
National State Sex Offender Registry Search
The National State Sex Offender Registry Search / National Sex Offender Public Website is a comprehensive state sex offender search – it is the only up-to-date, comprehensive source of sex offender information. While the website is maintained by the U.S. Department of Justice, it is the responsibility of each jurisdiction in the United States to keep sex offender information for their area accurate, up-to-date, and accessible by the NSOPW. Sex offenders are not reportable under Nevada state law, so Verified Volunteers is not able to return results for offenders registered in Nevada. Oregon only reports information for those sex offenders considered to be “predatory.”
A neglect or abuse registry is a statewide database which includes individuals against whom a court has found guilty of abuse or neglect. Organizations that deal with vulnerable populations often require a check of their state’s Neglect/Abuse registry to keep those they serve out of harm’s way.
11a) Q: Many of the parents in our community discipline children with spanking. Some of them use objects to punish. What is reasonable force in punishment of children?
A: Reasonable discipline is defined by the courts in Canada.
Supreme Court of Canada’s limits on reasonable force - Under Canadian law, physical punishment of children is deemed reasonable if:
In 2004, the Supreme Court of Canada set out these seven criteria to distinguish reasonable from abusive corrective force with children. This information sheet summarizes a study that assessed the validity of the criteria defining reasonable corrective force by mapping them onto a nationally representative data set of substantiated cases of physical abuse.
Many parents across Canada are using unreasonable force in disciplining children.
Let us invest in training our parents as to what is reasonable discipline. We encourage you to invest in training seminars and workshops to educate the parents in your community as to what is corrective discipline and reasonable force. We encourage you to educate parents on discipline strategies that are life-giving and positive in nature.
Share these seven criteria with the parents in your community and provide resources that support these seven criteria.
For the full information sheet CLICK HERE
In conclusion, unreasonable punishment escalates. Let’s win the race against abuse and train parents, provide resources that reflect the Canadian criteria, and remember we each have a legal responsibility to report abuse including physical abuse.
11b) Q: How do we handle a child who is disruptive and/or refuses to take verbal direction? Do you ever recommend physical touch?
A: There are times when physical redirection/touch is necessary when directions are ignored, or when the child is harming another child or causing him/her discomfort. If after verbally directing the child several times on what you would like him/her to do, the child doesn’t respond appropriately, you can gently direct the child to sit where you ask. No corporal punishment should be used when dealing with a child in a disciplinary way.
Communicating your challenges with the parent/caregiver is critical in this situation as well. Together you can come up with a plan of action that you have both agreed upon. Documenting your plan and having the parent sign it is ideal. If you do not have regular access to the parent/caregiver, we would recommend you write up an incident report stating how you tried to redirect the child and his/her refusal. However, if you are able to speak with the parent and can agree on a plan, that would be preferred. This may suggest that the child be physically removed by one of your leaders taking the weight of what to do off your hands.
If the parents/caregivers do not seem to be cooperative, and the child refuses to behave, and/or the parents do not want you to physically constrain or remove the child, communicate to the parent that for the protection of the other children, that if his/her child's behaviour continues they will be asked to come and remove the child from the classroom and cannot return until classroom guidelines are followed. (This is the last resort, as we want to make sure we do all we can to serve children and their parents.)
An Incident Report form is found in the Appendices the Plan to Protect® Manual.
11c) Q: We have a child who has been diagnosed with Autism who is prone to outbursts. There have been times during our programs that they have become physically and verbally abusive to other vulnerable persons. The parent or caregiver has informed us that the individual may need to be restrained when they are like this, but we have been resisting this. What are the standard protocols that we should follow?
A: Your decision to avoid restraint is very wise. Doing proper restraint requires that your staff and/or volunteers complete a non-violent crisis intervention training. In addition, bodily contact with the vulnerable person may increases the risk of abuse. A general protocol in case of violent behaviour should aim to protect the individual, other vulnerable persons in the classroom, and staff members from being hurt:
However, the best protocol is always a preventive one. Obtain as much information as you can from the caregivers, such as diagnosis, patterns of behaviours, triggers of the behaviours, any effective calming techniques, etc. It will be good if the family gives you permission and information to contact the therapist and/or other professionals to understand how the individual’s behaviour is usually handled in other settings. For example, you may be able to learn effective calming method and re-directing strategies that teachers use with these individuals so that you could also implement the same procedures. The benefit is that the individual is already accustomed to this management protocol. Try to keep a very detailed activity log (who, what, when, where and how) so that you can find out the triggers of the behaviour in your program. Once you can observe a pattern, then you would know how you can modify the program to avoid these triggers.
Behaviour management is often very complex. To become more informed, be sure to join Cynthia Tam for her Disability Concerns Webinar Series
11d) Q: As an organization, what disciplinary actions are we to take if one of our volunteers isn't adhering to our policies?
A: At Plan to Protect®, we encourage organization leadership to hold staff and volunteers accountable for the compliance of policies and established procedures for they could be held vicariously liable for the actions of others.
As part of the screening process, your staff and volunteers should sign a Covenant of Care agreement, confirming they have read, understood, and agree to comply with the Policies and Procedures, including appropriate/inappropriate behaviour. Appropriate/Inappropriate behaviour will also be reviewed annually during abuse prevention training. Annual volunteer and staff reviews also provide an opportunity to discuss areas of strength and opportunities for growth. However, don’t wait for annual reviews to discuss non-compliance of policies and procedures. These should be addressed as they happen.
This means that at any time when unacceptable or undesirable actions are displayed, you will take the proper steps to ensure those actions cease and redirect them to appropriate response. Plan to Protect® recommends a four-step process for dealing with inappropriate/undesirable behaviour.
Step One: Verbal Warning
Some examples of reasons for verbal warnings would include: Not completing an incident report, tickling a child, being alone in a classroom with a child with the door shut.
Step Two: Written Warning
Some examples of reasons for written warnings are: Inappropriate or rude interaction with Youth or a Parent, a raised voice, inappropriate jokes or comments, or impatience, prolonged hugging or touching, or driving alone in a vehicle with youth without parental written permission.
Step Three: Suspension
Some examples of reasons for suspensions are: Suspicion or allegation of abuse, inappropriate text messages, meeting a Child or Youth outside of program without permission and knowledge of leadership, an incident of verbal abuse, or inappropriate touch.
Step Four: Termination
Some examples of reasons for verbal warnings would include: Conviction of abuse, physical or sexual assault, theft, repeated unsuccessful disciplinary attempts.
For more information and a sample Policy Statement see: Disciplinary Actions available on the Plan to Protect® Store and Member Section of our website.
11e) Q: What should we do if we see parents disciplining their children in a way we would consider "inappropriate"?
A: At Plan to Protect®, we encourage organization leadership to hold staff and volunteers accountable for the compliance of policies and established procedures for they could be held vicariously liable for the actions of others.
Plan to Protect® recommends sending an email/letter out to all parents at the beginning of the program year, spelling out the discipline laws, listing examples of inappropriate discipline, and putting parents on notice that they have a legal duty to report these actions.
Add suggestions and encouragement on appropriate forms of discipline. That will both inform parents, and make them aware of their legal duties.
We also have a webinar on our school on appropriate discipline. Click Here
12. Implementing/Upgrading Policies
12a) Q: How often should we review and update our policies? Have we seen the last of the changes to the requirements that will be put into place for vulnerable sector protection?
A: These are great questions and we hear them often. If your policies haven’t been updated in some years, you may be operating with ones that are really out of date, (similar to a black and white television, when the rest of the Canada is using HiDef television).
Customizing policies doesn’t need to be an overwhelming task, nor should it be a project that takes years to complete.
There are a number of reasons why it’s important and necessary to review your policies and why more changes to them are forthcoming.
Are your policies more than 3 years old?
Are you overwhelmed with the task of updating your policies?
Have you been working on polices for months and can't seem to get them done?
Plan to Protect® can help. We will prepare a customized first draft in only 2-3 weeks starting at $995.00*. You can begin by completing a 30-minute online questionnaire. A Plan to Protect® team member will produce your first policy draft within 2-3 weeks. *Member discounts apply. Some membership types include policy writing.
12b) Q: We are concerned about putting policies in place. If we do, then we have to make sure we comply with them and we don’t know how we can do this; it's a lot of work. We are thinking it is better to not put the policies in place, than to have them and not comply with them. Isn’t that right?
A: From a general business perspective, it is true that creating company policies means that businesses and organizations must comply with the policies. However, there is a significant difference between creating an administrative risk or burden by adopting an employee fringe benefit program that is not required by law and creating a risk by not implementing policies and procedures that help insure compliance to existing labour laws and other government regulations. Vulnerable sector protection is a matter that the federal and provincial governments take very seriously and one that no organization can afford to ignore. The costs of non-compliance can far exceed the nuisance and cost of compliance.
"Negligence in employment covers several actions in tort law, mainly when an employer is responsible for the accident (or other tortuous act) caused by the employee. The employer in this case is negligent in providing the employee with the ability to create this situation. A person who is claiming negligence must prove that the defendant owed them a duty of care, that this duty was breached and that the claimant was injured as a result of the duty breach. This duty exists only if the injury is labeled as "reasonably foreseeable" (can cause the harm of the type which occurred at the current accident). The claimant must also be the person for whom the harm would be a "reasonably foreseeable consequence." Generally, the law divides Negligence in Employment into four scenarios: negligent hiring, negligent retention, negligent supervision and negligent training.
Negligent Hiring: Negligent hiring refers to a situation where the employer hires the employee, while ignoring the evidence in some of his or her work records that pointed to the fact that the accident could occur. This is one of the cornerstones of negligence in employment, because at this point everything depends on the actions of the employer and his professional skills in hiring employees. All the other scenarios can include some factors that appear later during the working process, but hiring is the moment when only the employer is guilty for the possible future incidents. Negligent hiring could be an underlying factor in a scenario that could be prevented by the buyer alone. Additional investigation may uncover some facts about a potential employee. So it is best for the buyers to conduct interviews, verify work and educational histories, check references and conduct a background check on any potential employee. In some cases the check can be considered insufficient; still, it is best to do to it, especially if the employee looks like he may be hiding something from his previous work experience.
Negligent Retention: This type of negligence occurs when the people in charge failed to remove an employee from a position of authority or responsibility after it became clear that the employee wasn't capable of handling the responsibility. The consequences of this type of negligence are probably the most serious; a non-professional person with authority can cause huge losses for a company. If a person is sued for negligent retention, very often he or she pleads negligent supervision or training. It changes the penalties from firing of the employee to the conducting of additional training or the adding of supervision to the working process.
Negligent Supervision: Negligent supervision occurs when the party fails to monitor or control the actions of the employee. As with the other types of negligence, it may result in injuries or losses if the work of an employee was not observed correctly.
Negligent Training: Negligent training occurs when a party fails to provide adequate training of an employee or fails to make him aware of certain aspects of the working process and it results in injuries or losses. This occurs only in certain types of companies where additional training for employees is required:"
"Canada has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and one of the two optional protocols to it, while signing the other. Responsibility for implementation is split between the federal government and the provinces. Canada’s ten provinces have nearly universal health insurance plans that cover virtually all children and maintain most social welfare agencies. Another provincial responsibility is education. Children receive tax-supported elementary and secondary education. Universities charge subsidized tuition. Minimum ages for employment are yet another provincial responsibility. On the federal level, there are many criminal laws designed to prevent child abuse. The number of related offences and the maximum punishments for them have been greatly increased in recent years. In its national defence laws, the federal government now prohibits Canadian soldiers under the age of eighteen from being deployed in armed conflict. The federal government also created a new juvenile justice system in 2002 that gives the police and judges more options in handling cases of juveniles charged with criminal offences than the previous law."
12c)Q:We wrote policies many years ago, we are now wondering what updates should we be considering for our policies?
A: If you haven’t updated your policies within the last five years, your policies are likely out of date and may not reflect the changes within our society. The following are some areas for discussion:
At Plan to Protect® we provide policy templates and customized policies for our clients and members. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us to ask for a quote on these services.
13. Plan to Protect® 101
13a) Q: Is it even possible to keep all the attendance forms and personnel files permanently?
A: An important filing system is critical to maintain attendance records and personnel forms. Attendance records can be retained electronically, which will minimize maintaining a paper trail. Ensure a procedure is in place for backups of electronic files and recording dates and revisions. Originals should be maintained of police records checks and signed application forms. Scanning and electronically filing documentation of interviews, reference checks and attendance at training seminars can also minimize paper files. Our Admin/Leader course can provide additional resources in documentation management.
13b) Q: We find it difficult to collect all the forms back from our people – any suggestions?
A: This is a common challenge that many organizations face. Encourage prospective personnel to complete their forms prior to the time they attend training. If that doesn’t work, set aside time during the training session for the forms to be filled out and submitted. Police jurisdictions vary in their requirements for submitting forms and collecting results. If your police jurisdiction permits you to submit all the police records checks at one time, and have the results sent directly to the organization, this will minimize the turn-around time and avoid having you wait for individuals to bring them into you. Another option to consider is Plan to Protect®, will provide for a fee, police records checks compliant with PIPEDA and Canadian privacy and human rights legislation and is available within 24 hours. For additional help in recruiting and screening volunteers, see our Admin/Leader course.
13c) Q: We don’t have paid staff for some of our programming – how do volunteers implement this program?
A: This question represents most of our organizations and it does require a lot of hard work and commitment on behalf of volunteers to implement Plan to Protect®. Identify individuals who have a burden for the protection of vulnerable persons and empower them to work the plan. An individual with strong administrative gifts is also a key to the success of the program. Some organizations have hired someone on a short term contract basis to assist with the initial implementation of Plan to Protect® while others network to find the tools and help that is needed. Plan to Protect® can help you do this.
13d) Q: We implemented Plan to Protect® years ago but have not kept it up to date – how do we get back on track?
A: Plan to Protect® involves both an extensive implementation stage and a commitment to maintain the program through process management. Many of the organizations we surveyed acknowledged that they do a few of the steps in Plan to Protect®, but not 100%. It is not necessary to start over, but rather pick up where you left off. Take time to become acquainted with Plan to Protect® 2014 and assess where you are and what needs to be done. Continue to raise the bar on abuse prevention and set S.M.A.R.T. goals until you are 100% compliant.
S.M.A.R.T. goals are:
S – Specific Goals
M – Measurable Goals
A – Attainable Goals
R – Realistic Goals
T – Time Oriented Goals
Our Admin/Leader course is a great way to learn how to administer, implement and maintain Plan to Protect® - this is a great resource to help you get back on track.
13e) Q: As a smaller organization, we know everyone who attends. Is all of Plan to Protect® really necessary?
A: This issue of abuse is not limited in its scope. It affects organizations regardless of size, function or geography. And regrettably, it is also present in our organizations. “Unfortunately, we are now aware of 43 multiple or individual cases of documented abuse at organizations within evangelical Christian circles in Canada … 37 of these have occurred in smaller congregations or at organizations in rural communities.” (Abuse Prevention Newsletter – Robertson Hall Insurance Inc., 2nd edition, September 2005, pg. 1).
13f) Q: What should the responsibilities be for the Plan to Protect® Coordinator? Do you have a job description?
A: We do not have a job description for this role as we really recommend that a committee be formed to bring oversight to Plan to Protect®.
Over the last few years, we’ve seen the role delegated to program directors, a supervisor or a pastor. We have also seen the role delegated to individuals who only look at it from an insurance/liability perspective, or to an adult survivor of child abuse who is passionate to make a difference in the lives of other vulnerable individuals.
We believe the task is too big for one person, and the skills needed to be successful are quite varied. Some of the skills and gifts needed are:
The committee should be made up of representatives from the board, staff, parents, and a community member at large. You could look for individuals that have experience in Human Resources, insurance, protection, fire and emergency safety, and adult facilitation training.
Probably the most important reason that we believe it should be a committee versus being delegated to one person, is for accountability purposes to make sure that policies are being adhered to and not overwritten or neglected. Sharing the responsibility also ensures that the work is being done; we can hold each other accountable and this allows us to share the workload.
I (Melodie) currently volunteer in a church that takes Child / Youth protection very seriously. There are four people that make up the committee. My role is the trainer and Chair, and I have also customized the policies for the church and secured buy-in and board approval. We have two individuals on the committee that do the administration and screening of volunteers, including reference checks and interviews. Finally, we have our Assoc. Pastor on the committee who signs off on all the volunteer and staff files. He reviews the files to make sure everything is in place and complete (he is the one ‘in the know’ in most cases). Two of our committee members also sit on the Church board, and the other two members (including myself) are representatives of either children’s programming or youth programming.
With that said, we believe that every organization should have one person (possibly the Chair), who will be at the helm, taking the lead and championing the cause. They should have a commitment to the protection of vulnerable individuals, a burden for the oppressed, and a desire to mitigate risk. Organizations in Canada are required to have a privacy officer. My dream is that one day every child, youth and vulnerable adult serving organization will be required to have a protection officer.
We highly recommend those responsible for overseeing and coordinating Plan to Protect® at your organization take our Admin/Leader course. This course will help you administer, implement and maintain a strong Plan to Protect® program in your organization. Start off right and stay strong!
Finally, these are the responsibilities of our current committee. I believe I have captured everything.
Screening Personnel / Administrator
13g) Q: Is it true that most organizations only implement Plan to Protect® for their children’s programs and not their youth programming; or that Plan to Protect® is only designed for those up to the ages of 12 years old?
A: Myth: Plan to Protect® is a protection plan for children, not youth
The youth component of the manual was researched and written by Dave Brotherton, Professor of Youth Ministry at Ambrose University and Seminary and National Youth Facilitator for the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church in Canada. He knows youth programming well and is passionate about protecting youth and protecting youth leaders. Hats off to Dave and those of you who are youth leaders that wrestle to create safe environments for your youth; we know it is not an easy task but you are raising the bar.
One of the biggest challenges that youth program leaders face is interacting with and mentoring young people without putting themselves in vulnerable situations. They also face the challenge with how to communicate with youth when the name of the game is emailing, texting, Facebook and MSN. Top this with the issue of youth with camera phones tagging images of young people on the internet and posting videos of them on YouTube.
We recognize that implementing abuse prevention in youth programs is a challenge. But please don’t throw out the program or plan because it is a challenge. Youth programs and activities are often very high risk.
Plan to Protect® is also important for vulnerable adults and those with disabilities. We are working on updating our resources to include expanded procedures, policies, and training for those working with this section of the vulnerable sector.
Myth: Plan to Protect® says you can’t mentor individuals off-site and you can’t do off-site programs
Myth: Plan to Protect® says you can’t email individuals or communicate via facebook.
When we hear the resistance that some program leaders have towards Plan to Protect® we sense the need to emphasize again that Plan to Protect®is not a policy but a plan to establish a policy. It is the responsibility of the organization’s leaders and board to establish a policy. We recommend that these policies be set up in conjunction with the youth leaders where they address challenges and concerns being mindful that within programming there are many risks.
We prefer not to focus on specific scenarios as the possible number is great. Can we throw the ball back into your court leaders and encourage you to embrace these five principles? The first four principles are adapted from Reducing the Risk. At Plan to Protect® we have added one which we believe is key in demonstrating due diligence and reflects the plan. We encourage your supervisors to hold you accountable to these principles:
Five Key Principles:
We believe that one of the most important pieces of documentation is “An Informed Letter of Consent with a Release and Waiver.” Provide this as a download from your website for easy access.
On behalf of the many people who have been exploited and abused, we want to say a big thank you for doing your part to protect others. On behalf of leaders who have been falsely accused of abuse, please don’t let down your guard. On behalf of Plan to Protect®, we are so encouraged to see many program leaders attend our training courses as this provides opportunity to network together to learn from each other.
13h) Q: Can we use the term Plan to Protect for our abuse prevention program?
A: Check out our Terms and Conditions guidelines for the registered trademark and copyright! CLICK HERE
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13i) Q: What is meant by keeping documentation permanently?
A: One of the keys to demonstrating due diligence is to keep documentation on file. There is a lot of misunderstanding about the length of time documentation should be kept. Unlike financial records which should be kept for seven years, in Canada there is no time limit (called a statute of limitations) on bringing criminal charges for sexual assault – meaning you can swear a criminal complaint and file charges at any point in your lifetime. In many States, the laws are changing and we see Reform relating to the Statute of Limitations.
Therefore for the protection of the organization, and to be able to demonstrate that you fulfilled your duty of care and due diligence in protecting those under your care, documentation should be kept permanently.
14. Disability Concerns
14a) Q: How can we ensure our organization is doing everything we can to accommodate people with disabilities?
A: “As of January 1st, 2012, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act legally required all organizations, both public and private, that provide goods or services either directly to the public or to other organizations in Ontario (third parties) and that have one or more employees to provide accessible customer service to persons of all ability levels.“
Plan to Protect® has provided resources to help make this happen in your organization:
&*The Information Form and Interview Template are made available to members of Plan to Protect® &*
15a) Q: Can the caregivers of new children/youth/vulnerable adults sit in the program if they are not screened?
A: Occasional observers including caregivers may visit a program and sit with their own children, youth, or vulnerable adult with the understanding that they are not placed in a position of trust with any other participant. It is important to limit this attendance as the participants may begin to consider this adult as a teacher/leader. Individuals who become regular participants in a program must submit to the recruitment and screening process. Those who have not yet completed the recruitment and screening process must submit and complete all requirements within a three month period of time. In the meantime, their access to participants will be limited and they are not to be placed in a position of trust. If their service is required, they will be placed in settings with approved personnel. Only approved personnel will accompany participants to the washroom and assume the responsibility for their care.
15b) Q: Is there an alternative to bleach for disinfecting and cleaning toys/games and counters? We have concerns about using bleach.
A: For those who have concerns about using bleach due to safety and environmental reasons, other alternatives include hydrogen peroxide, vinegar, or rubbing alcohol to clean and disinfect; however, we recommend that you research these thoroughly before proceeding to use them. Other products you may consider using include Metrex Caviwipes, made by Metrex which offers a variety of cleaning and disinfectant products. Because they are largely used in the medical field, such as hospitals and clinics, it would be an effective substitution for the 10% bleach and water solution to clean children's toys and play areas. However, due to its price, it may not be feasible for every organization.
15c) Q: Do you have guidelines or recommendations regarding inclement weather and outdoor activities?
A: To ensure that outdoor activities are safe for everyone, weather conditions are an important consideration when planning. Here are our recommendations:
15d) Q: We ask our volunteers and staff to sign a Code of Conduct. However, they are pushing back. How can we explain the importance of signing this document?
A: Many organizations ask their members to sign a Code of Conduct. These documents are often very good and call members to a lifestyle that that is reflective of the standards of the organization in order to provide strong role models for the vulnerable persons whom they serve.
Over the years, Plan to Protect® has found that there occasionally tends to be pushback from some volunteers or staff members on the term ‘Code of Conduct.’ Individuals seem to be more willing to sign a document called ‘Covenant of Care’. It is possible that they don’t see their rights being upheld or that from a Code of Conduct they cannot determine what protection there is in place for them personally. Further, they may feel that should an incident transpire it may appear that them they would not be protected or supported by the organization that they serve?
The Covenant of Care / Code of Conduct is a volunteer or staff member’s commitment on their part to your organization and the individuals you serve, demonstrating their understanding that they have a duty of care.
Duty of Care: The concept of duty of care identifies the relationship that exists between two persons (e.g. two individuals, an individual and an organization) and establishes the obligations that one owes the other, in particular the obligation to exercise reasonable care with respect to the interests of the other, including protection from harm. The duty of care arises from the common law, as well as municipal, provincial, federal and international statutes.
A Covenant of Care / Code of Conduct is a means of securing people’s commitment to the values, standards and policies of an organization. It in no way says you are out on your own, rather the opposite. It is stating as an oath that you are part of this community / organization and will abide by the tenants of this community / orgnaization. It actually is a means of protecting those that are committed to the protection of the youth, it demonstrate “due diligence” on the part of a volunteer or staff member that they will uphold these values.
A Covenant of Care / Code of Conduct is also a means of ensuring that all volunteers and staff are on the same page and are making an oath to care for the vulnerable sector.
One of the best ways for an individual to be protected under their organization is to sign the Covenant of Care, and to submit to the screening and training process. Screening is legally required under the Duty of Care. Once screened and approved as a volunteer or staff member, they will fall under the umbrella of insurance and protection that your organization will provide. The condition for staying under that umbrella of care is to continue to be a staff member or volunteer. Organizations ought to ask their people to abide to a code or covenant that is reflective of their values.
Please also find a link below that will direct you to a great resource developed under Volunteer Canada and Imagine Canada – Canadian Code of Volunteer Involvement. You may want to consider some of the content that is included in this document for your volunteer management. Volunteer Canada and Imagine Canada - Canadian Code of Volunteer Involvement
15e) Q: I see in Plan to Protect® that you recommend that there be two unrelated screened adults in the classroom. To which family members does this refer?
A: Yes, according to Plan to Protect® and our training, we recommend that there be two unrelated screened adults supervising in a program. From our most recent research and feedback from legal counsel, related adults refer to a marriage / common law / or previously married, etc. So, siblings or parent-child are fall under the unrelated category. You may wish to confer with your own legal counsel to confirm this information.
If you do have two related individuals working together (as previously defined), our recommended standard states that there should be a third screened adult present, or they should keep the door open and there should be a screened hall monitor making rounds.The open door recommendation also relates to one adult and one youth serving together alone, two youth serving alone, one adult serving alone. Best practices would avoid these scenarios.
15f) Q: Can we use staff/volunteers from other organizations to work our programs and substitute for our leaders/volunteers? We were hoping to do an all staff/volunteer event and would like to allow other community organizations to offer relief for our regular staff/volunteers?
A: Plan to Protect® recommends that you also ask your insurance company to address this question for you. They may have a problem with you allowing workers that you have not screened and trained to be in a position of trust with the children, youth and/or vulnerable adults. Also, your organization could certainly be held responsible if anything goes wrong and, if the other organization holds insurance from a different company, it could become a liability nightmare if there are numerous insurance companies involved. We find that child and youth serving organizations all have such different standards of implementing Plan to Protect®. Some people call their programs “Plan to Protect” even though it is a registered trademark and you should only use the term if you have purchased a copy of the Plan to Protect® manual. We find some organizations take abuse prevention so seriously and follow the recommended guidelines of Plan to Protect®, where other organizations are quite lax. The standard of protection nationally really varies. We encourage you to follow the standard outlined in Plan to Protect®. Policies and training standards also vary. Every organization is unique. I’d be cautious about putting your kids in the hands of other staff/volunteers that you have not screened or trained.
15g) Q: If a potential volunteer/staff has a youth record, can we have access to that information?
A: Unless you are a government employer/organization you will not likely be given any information about someone's youth record.
The police will not give any employer or prospective organization where youth are volunteering (except a government employer) information about a youth record directly – even if the youth grants permission. However, an employer / volunteer organization can ask the youth candidate to go to the police and get proof that they do not have a record. The candidate has the right to refuse to do this, but a criminal check may be required for some roles.
It is not illegal for an employer or perspective organization where youth are applying to volunteer to refuse to hire the young person because he/she has a record, as long as the record is still open. Once the record is closed, it is against the law for an employer or organization to refuse to hire the young person for having committed a crime as a youth. Under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, once a young person has finished a sentence, including probation, it is as if they have never been charged or found guilty. After the record is closed, the young person will no longer have a record.
Also, an employer may ask whether the young person has been convicted of a crime. However, under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, youth are not convicted of a crime, but rather, found guilty
If a young person commits another crime before the record is closed, it makes the record for the first crime stay open longer.
If the young person is under 18 when they commit the second crime, the record for the first crime will stay open as long as the record for the second crime does. If they are over 18 when they commit the second crime, the record for the first crime will become part of the permanent adult record, and people are then allowed to access it.
15h) Q: How should we respond if we suspect or know of a vulnerable sector individual who is exposed to domestic violence? How can we address domestic violence in our community?
A: Did you know that exposure to domestic violence is a form of abuse? In 2008 Canadian Incidence Study of Child Maltreatment and Neglect prepared by the Public Health Agency, Exposure to Domestic Violence was the leading (primary) cause of child abuse in Canada.Scientific research proves that the impact of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), often associated with domestic violence can be very severe. It may include when someone's life has been threatened or severe injury has occurred (ex. they may be the victim or a witness of physical abuse, sexual abuse, violence in the home or in the community, automobile accidents, natural disasters (such as flood, fire, earthquakes), and being diagnosed with a life threatening illness. An individual's risk of developing PTSD is related to the seriousness of the trauma, whether the trauma is repeated, the individual’s proximity to the trauma, and his/her relationship to the victim(s). Domestic violence is present in our families, schools, organizations, and communities. Let’s not sit idle! At Plan to Protect®, we are committed to win the race against abuse. We can do this through education and policies that incorporate recognition and response to domestic violence. Our customized policies and training are now recognized as a strong STANDARD in Canada. We can also do it by equipping parents through education, pastoral care and professional counseling. There are excellent training resources available to strengthen families. Draw attention also to the impact of domestic violence in your newsletters, classes, sermons, homilies, etc.
Knowing how to recognized indicators is also a key. Include this training in your Plan to Protect® Orientation and Refresher training. Indicators of PTSD include headaches, stomach pains, angry bursts, difficulty concentrating, low participation and interest in important events, memory gaps about the violence, sleeping problems, overly fearful reactions, discipline problems, and deficient verbal, intellectual or motor skills, learning problems and falling behind at academics. I know believe that the impact of domestic violence can be as severe if not more severe than other forms of abuse.
Finally, if you know of or suspect that an individual is exposed to domestic violence, we implore you to follow the laws in Canada and report your suspicion to a protection agency in Canada. Let’s get the help these families need so the impact on the individual can be urgently addressed.
15i) Q: We have community programs where there is no childcare provided, but parents bring their children and they are left on their own in our building while the program is being held. The children run around the building unsupervised. What responsibility does the church have when this happens?
A: We would recommend that if they child care is not being offered during a particular event, you make sure that doors to unused rooms are locked keeping children from running around. We would also recommend that you notify parents that child care is not offered and that children should not be left on their own. An announcement should be made at the beginning of the event or even included in a bulletin or flyer about the event. You could also put a notice in the nursery or children's area on the door stating PARENTS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR OWN CHILDREN EXCEPT DURING SUPERVISED ACTIVITIES - WHEN RELEASED TO A TEACHER DIRECTLY.If parents still bring children, and this is going to be allowed, then the best solution would be to have identified, screened and trained personnel watch the children - that is what most churches try to do - or require the kids to stay in the same room so they are in view of the parents. If something happens to the children not in view of any adults, the program could still be held responsible - so it is best not to allow this type of running around.The program administrators should be made aware of this situation as it is ultimately their responsibility to oversee all program-sponsored activities and put reasonable measures in place.
15j) Q: We have young people in our College & University groups who are still under the age of majority. As they are graduates of High School, do we still have to apply the same standard of protection with screening and protection procedures, etc.?
A: Our recommendation is that these students should still be provided protection, as they are still minors and based on your Provincial guidelines are in need of protection and/or defined as “a child”. Screening a few key leaders responsible for the College/University programs would provide an element of protection, and would begin to demonstrate due diligence on your part. Continue to be accountable to parents, securing parental permission for activities of elevated risk. Continue to do this until the students have reached the provincial age of majority (identified as an adult). Please note that the ‘age of a child’ varies across provinces (either 18 or 19), so it is important to check within your province as to what defines the age of a child (not necessarily to be based on high school graduation).
15k) Q: We have 18 & 19 year olds in our youth programs who are taking a GAP year and still want to attend our retreats, activities and programs. Can we allow them to attend our High School age programs, and what steps should we follow to maintain safety in our programs?
A: We would recommend that youth programs be limited to minors (setting an age limit) and assigned screened adults. When you provide opportunity for adults that are not screened to participate in youth programs, risk will increase. Risk increases when you will have adults participating that are not screened and trained and not accountable to the policies and procedures for engagement with youth. Whenever possible encourage these young people to attend programs designed for their own age group.
When risk increases we recommend parents be notified. Therefore, if students 18 and 19 years old are attending programs intended for youth, the parents of the younger youth should be informed that there are older students participating that are not screened workers. Coach the older youth that although they are older, they do not hold a position of leadership and should not be interacting with the younger students in such a way that they are viewed as leaders. Encourage them to be role models to the younger youth in their behaviour. In the event of overnight and off-site trips, we would recommend that they be assigned to staff sleeping quarters separate from the youth, and not be driving on behalf of the organization. Strong supervision will be needed if they participate in your programs.
If your organization wishes, you could require a screening process for the older students. This too will be a step towards demonstrating due diligence in the area of a care and protection. Please note however, that Plan to Protect® recommends a five year age difference between leadership and the students that they are assigned to.
Please note that the ‘age of a child’ varies across provinces (either 18 or 19), so it is important to check within your province as to what defines the age of a child (not necessarily to be based on high school graduation). (Reference: www.cic.gc.ca/english/study/study-minors.asp)
15l) Q: Bullying is a problem among our students. How should we handle bullying when we encounter it in our programming?
A: We recommend having a zero-tolerance policy in place in all programs. All personnel should take action to prevent bullying, teach against it, and assist and support the vulnerable sector individuals who are being bullied. Any incidents, reports or suspicions of bullying should be accepted, reviewed and dealt with appropriately and immediately. The supervisor should be notified, an incident report should be filled out and all caregivers should be notified immediately. Counseling and support should be recommended and provided for the victim of bullying. Remember that an incident of bullying is no an incident of conflict. We do not recommend that you deal with bullying the same way as you do when two children have a minor conflict.
15m) Q: We have a zero-tolerance policy for bullying within our program. How can we enforce this policy?
A: We recommend all incidents are dealt with appropriate and immediately. Make sure an incident report if filled out whenever an instance of bullying occurs. Supervisors and all caregivers should be notified. Possible action may include, but is not limited to: warning, change of group or program, suspension temporarily from program, removal of privileges, and suspension permanently from program. If necessary, and appropriate, police should be consulted. All action should be age and situation appropriate. We recommend dealing with all cases of abuse on a case-by-case basis and deal with cases immediately before it escalates.
15n) Q: Where can I find more information on bullying and cyber bullying?
A: Plan to Protect® has pre-recorded special interest webinars on these topics. The webinars are available on the Member Section of the website. A detailed sample bullying policy and procedure is now available on the Member Section of the website.
15o) Q: In years past I have been taught through Plan to Protect® that men do not take either boys or girls to the washroom at all. We do use hall monitors to help with escorting children to the washrooms. If I am correct about woman being the only ones to assist, if we only have male hall monitors on duty, can they go as the second adult, when escorting through the halls to the washrooms?
A: You are correct that in the past Plan to Protect® recommended that only adult females diaper children, accompany and assist toddlers and pre-schoolers to the washroom, and that males should not accompany female elementary children to the washroom. Our recommendation was based on the statistics that report significantly more males sexually abuse children than females. Our desire has always been to reduce the risk of abuse.
However, recently this has been challenged from a human rights perspective, as it relates to gender discrimination. Legal counsel has since encouraged us to review our recommendations, which we have done.
Providing personal care as it relates to washroom guidelines and diapering is identified as a high risk activity. Removing this recommendation and allowing either gender to accompany children to the washroom will require creative thinking and strategizing such as:
Finally, I would recommend that parents provide written permission for diapering, and ensure parents are informed of the personal care policies of the church.
15p)Q: Our leadership just received notice from a family in our organization who has decided NOT to have their children vaccinated. This raises some concerns as we have other children in our programs who have very weak immune systems. Our executive director is thinking that some form of policy must be put in place, what are your thoughts regarding this issue?
A: Yes we would recommend that your policies include procedures regarding immunizations. We would caution organizations from restricting access to children that have not been immunized, as this could result in a parent taking you to court for discrimination. However, you can request to be notified of children who have not been immunized. This information will be used to protect all children who have and who have not been immunized.
Based on information provided by the Public Health Agency of Canada, Plan to Protect® recommends that you:
The Public Health Agency state that there is little need for concern for those that have been immunized but struggle with low immunity as they are being protected due to the vaccinations. The primary concern is protection of those children who have not been vaccinated.
The Public Health Agency of Canada also provided us with some general information regarding vaccinations:
Immunization is one of the most effective interventions available to prevent and control vaccine-preventable diseases. While immunization is important in all stages of life, many parents are not aware that infants and young children are particularly susceptible to vaccine-preventable diseases because their immune systems are not mature enough to fight infection. Older children and adults also require immunization to restore waning immunity and to build new immunity against diseases that are more common in adults.
Immunization directly protects individuals who receive vaccines and also prevents the spread of infection in the community. This "herd immunity" indirectly protects infants who are too young to be vaccinated; people who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons; and people who may not adequately respond to immunization.
In Canada, immunization is a shared responsibility among the federal, provincial, and territorial governments. The federal government is responsible for regulating vaccines, monitoring vaccine safety, and providing evidence-based recommendations on the use of vaccines in Canada. The provinces and territories are responsible for funding, planning, and delivering immunization programs in their respective jurisdictions, including child/youth-serving organizations implementing childhood immunization requirements.
Depending upon the nature of your programs and facility, your organization's policy regarding immunization may vary, especially if children in your program are immuno-compromised and therefore particularly vulnerable. We encourage you to discuss this matter further with your provincial and/or local public health authority. Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care contact information can be found at the following web link: www.health.gov.on.ca/en/common/
15q) Q: What should our volunteers do if they have a student/individual that is threatening suicide?
A: Suicide threats should be taken seriously and respond appropriately:
15r) Q: What should the procedure be if a concussion is suspected in a participant of one of our programs?
A: If a child or youth has sustained an injury and they are demonstrating any signs or symptoms or, the injury is of a nature that it may be believed that a concussion has occurred (keeping in mind that symptoms do not always present immediately), the child or youth must be removed from all physical activity, and the parent/guardian shall be contacted and advised to seek medical attention. If a child or youth has a serious injury or loses consciousness, immediately call 911 and follow their instructions, and contact the parent/guardian. In either case, fill out an incident report to be kept on file permanently. The child or youth may not return to physical activity until cleared by a physician to do so. (Adapted from Variety Village’s Concussion Policy, 2014)
15t) Q: Recently on an outreach to our community one of our staff members was assaulted. Both the staff member and the volunteers present were really shaken up from the event. What should we do in the aftermath of such an event?
A: We are so sorry this happened to your staff member and within your community.
As much as you desire to do community outreach, care, and development, probably one of the best things you can do is to immediately report the assault to law enforcement and seek medical care. We would also recommend you complete an Incident Report form noting the date, time, events leading up to the assault, what transpired, and any injuries that occurred. Include the names of individuals involved and any witnesses.
Your staff member and volunteers encountered a traumatic event. Demonstrate your concern by providing trauma counselling and care. We also would recommend you bring in a professional to train your team on situation awareness and de-escalating training. Your local law enforcement may be able to direct you to community options for this training.
It is important with Incident Report forms to not only track the events of the assault, but also to return to it a few days later to document follow-up from the event, including findings from the care provided, the investigation if law enforcement conducted one.This is important for future use and reference.
What can we learn from this for the future? We will never know what we will encounter when we are on the streets. Therefore, at Plan to Protect® we recommend adjusting your ratios, providing elevated supervision of adults, and to always conduct a risk assessment prior to the event identifying the risks associated with the activity. If you are doing outreach in a community known for a higher volume of crime, gangs, substance abuse, homelessness, high traffic, this should be noted on the Informed Letter of Consent as an inherent risk and in the training provided prior to the outreach. Parents should be well informed of the risks their minors may encounter and sign off on their participation.
The benefit of an Informed Letter of Consent is that it shares the risks associated with the event. When you share this information with the parent, they will not be able to say they were unaware of the risks. Provide the Informed Letter of Consent well in advance of the event, and in a language that the parent will be able to read and understand.
We recommend that you secure legal counsel when drafting Informed Letters of Consent.
16. Vulnerable Adults
16a) Q: Do we needs to include policies and procedures for the Elderly and Vulnerable Adults?
A:If you have a policy in place to protect children and youth, you should also have a policy in place that protects vulnerable adults to whom you serve. Therefore, if your community includes the Elderly or adults with disabilities, we recommend that you have policies and procedures in place to protect this vulnerable sector of our society. Whether the programs are limited to visiting those that are shut-ins, or those that are in the hospital or nursing homes, policies and procedures will establish the parameters the Board is putting into place for this visitation. These policies and procedures are often the best practices that most organizations follow. Common procedures include avoiding isolation and being alone with the individual, recording your visits, refraining from assisting with personal care, completing incident reports, accountability and reporting of financial gifts, establishing ratios for group activities, etc.
16b) Q: We have volunteers and staff visit shut-ins and the elderly. When we arrive, the family member or caregiver has asked if they can run errands while we are there? We are concerned that this will put us in a position of being alone or even being asked to provide personal care. How should we respond in this situation and how can we provide a safe environment?
A: When you are visiting nursing homes, hospitals and vulnerable people in their homes, we recommend you visit in teams of two screened people. If that is not possible, then it is advised to make sure a family members, PSW (Personal Support Worker) or a caregiver is present. All personal care should be the responsibility of PSW’s, nurses and care givers / family members, not the volunteer or staff member visiting the vulnerable person. If you state this upfront when scheduling the appointment this will minimize having to have a difficult conversation later on. If you are visiting alone, we also recommend that you keep track of your visits, register your attendance at the nursing home, and when possible meet in common areas or with the door open. Avoid pulling the curtain around the bed of the individual that is bedridden.
16c) Q: What if I expect, or know of a Vulnerable Person being abused?
A: You may come into the knowledge of abuse in two ways:
All allegations and/or suspicions of abuse against the vulnerable adult should be taken seriously. When it comes to vulnerable adults, we have a duty to respond to abuse.
We are never prepared to hear an accusation of abuse. As pre-emptive as we may strive to be, no plan can be 100% preventative.
Plan to Protect® provides guidelines as to how to respond to the reasonable suspicion of abuse and / or an allegation of abuse.
If a vulnerable adult is not in immediate danger and they are cognitively capable of making a report on their own, it is their responsibility to make that report. Some vulnerable adults may know they are in danger but will resist all efforts of intervention. What we can do is support them and encourage them.
If they are resisting all efforts of intervention:
Regardless of whether or not the vulnerable adult is ready to respond or not, we recommend you document your concerns.
In Canada, mandatory reporting of abuse to an adult is not required. In the United States, some States have mandatory reporting laws in place. An adult has the right to decide how he/she wants to deal with the abusive situation. Unfortunately, this does potentially leave adults with disabilities and seniors, who have reduced mental capacity, in a very vulnerable situation. The only instance where reporting of suspected abuse of an adult is mandatory is when that person resides in a long-term care home (e.g., nursing home, senior home). When abuse is suspected to have happened in a long-term care facility, everyone, with the exception of residents themselves (who have a choice in the matter), is required to report to the Ministry of Long-Term Care.
In conclusion, here are some guiding principles:
17. Social/Human Rights Issues
17a) Q: We have a Jr. High student that informed us he is transitioning. The student has asked not to use the male bathroom and change room, rather the female bathroom and change room. Can we put a policy in place that states the student must use the bathroom of the gender of birth?
A:We understand that there are private schools and public school districts in Canada and United States that have strict policies in place mandating what bathroom students must use. Recently, changes have been made in many Provinces and States adding gender identity as an individual’s human right (meaning an individual’s gender identity is determined not by the gender of their birth, but the self-identify and of the individual).
At Plan to Protect® our mission is to provide the HIGHEST standard of abuse prevention and protection for organizations servicing the vulnerable sector. Therefore, we would encourage our clients to create a safe environment for all individuals, including the Jr. High student that is asking for accommodation.
More and more organizations are providing universal / all gender, barrier free washrooms. We would recommend you provide this option. Where change-rooms do not have separate privacy stalls, reasonable accommodations should be provided on a case-by-case basis that endeavors to effectively meet the individual’s particular needs.
This student needs protection and freedom from isolation, bullying, discrimination or harassment. This is an opportunity to live out your organization’s vision and mission, and to extend welcome and care.
This also provides an opportunity to strengthen you bullying policies, and your harassment and discrimination policies.
Disclaimer: The development, preparation and publication of this work has been undertaken with great care. However, the publisher, editors, employees and agents of Plan to Protect® are not responsible for any errors contained herein or for consequences that may ensue from use of materials or information contained in this work. The information contained herein is intended to assist organizations in establishing policy. Plan to Protect® and references to the manual are only as current as the date of publication and do not reflect subsequent changes in law. This information is distributed with the understanding that it does not constitute legal advice. Organizations are strongly encouraged to seek legal counsel as well as counsel from your insurance company when establishing a policy.