Abuse Prevention Policy
HEIGHTS OF HOPE
Office: 995 E. 8th Street, Holland, MI 49423, (616) 392-8559
January 2022, Revision 2
STATEMENT OF PURPOSE
The intent of this Policy is to prevent abuse and ensure intervention and treatment if it occurs with Heights of Hope staff members or volunteers or at a Heights of Hope activity. This Policy is adopted for the following purposes:
The protection of children and youth served by Heights of Hope. The policy is designed to protect them by:
a. Using Heights of Hope’s best effort to screen out potential staff members or volunteers having inappropriate backgrounds or qualifications;
b. avoiding situations where abuse could possibly take place; and
c. establishing procedures for reporting claims of abuse.
The protection of staff members or volunteers from unfounded allegations of abuse or neglect.
To provide a commonly embraced code of conduct for all Heights of Hope representatives, while remaining flexible to meet the unique concerns of each program, thus ensuring a greater sense of security that Heights of Hope's ministry remains pure in a world where both sinful actions and unfounded allegations occur.
STATEMENT OF GENERAL POLICY
Heights of Hope considers abuse to be detestable and completely contrary to the mission of our organization.
Heights of Hope forbids its staff and volunteers from engaging in any conduct which could be considered abuse.
All allegations of abuse shall be reported to appropriate authorities.
Heights of Hope shall not obstruct the investigation or prosecution of the accused.
Heights of Hope shall, regardless of the outcome of any such investigation or prosecution, continue to act in a manner that provides dignity to the accused and the accuser.
Each staff member and volunteer shall submit a fully completed, signed and dated application when they first work/volunteer. A new application must be completed as requested.
Each staff member and volunteer shall be screened by local, state and/or federal authorities for previous criminal offenses affecting children's safety. An updated Criminal Background Check Authorization and Liability Release Form shall be completed every three years.
Criminal Background Checks shall be reviewed by the program director before accepting a new volunteer.
Completed volunteer applications and criminal background checks shall be held on file for the duration of the staff member or volunteer’s service.
A person who has confessed to or been convicted of sexual abuse of a minor, incest, rape, assault involving minors, murder, kidnapping, child pornography, sodomy or physical abuse of a minor shall not be placed in a position involving any contact with children or youth.
Heights of Hope reserves the right to reject an applicant.
A signed Heights of Hope permission slip shall be obtained before permitting a child or youth under 18 years of age to participate in a Heights of Hope youth program.
All staff members and volunteers shall be made aware of Heights of Hope's Abuse Prevention Policy and the dynamics of abusive relationships, the signs of abuse, and types of inappropriate behavior.
Information about abuse prevention will be presented at the beginning of each Heights of Hope youth program.
The Discipline Policy shall be reviewed with staff members and volunteers before the beginning of each Heights of Hope youth program.
During a Heights of Hope youth program or activity, at least two staff members or a staff member and a volunteer shall be present, when possible.
When transporting children or youth in a vehicle for a Heights of Hope activity, a signed permission slip shall be on file and a staff member or volunteer, in addition to the driver, shall be present in the vehicle whenever possible.
No staff or volunteers shall be alone in a room with one child or youth. (See Mentoring Guidelines for exceptions).
When a program is in session, there should always be an unobstructed view of a room through windows or propping open the door.
Conversation of all staff members and volunteers during youth programs shall be wholesome and edifying, without obscenity, inappropriate sexual talk, off-color jokes, coarse language or sexual innuendo.
No controlled substances, other than that prescribed for use by a physician and used only by that person in the manner prescribed, or alcoholic beverages shall be permitted at any Heights of Hope youth program or activity.
No pornographic or obscene literature, videos or other material of any nature whatsoever shall be permitted at any Heights of Hope activity. (NOTE: Educational materials which discuss such topics may be used in education programs or classes with parental and program director consent.)
Proper physical displays of affection. Touch is an essential aspect in nurturing lives, however, displays of affection between a staff member or volunteer and a child or youth should be limited to an appropriate touch in public places. The following guidelines are to be followed in order to promote pure, genuine, and positive interactions:
Hugs: One arm or hand to arm hugs. Avoid and prevent unnecessary full contact or body-to-body hugs. Hugs should be brief.
Lap-sitting: Children should be encouraged to sit next to staff members or volunteers on the floor rather than on their laps.
Casual Touch: Gentle contact during activities may be on children’s heads, shoulders, arms and hands.
The right of anyone to refuse such displays of affection shall be respected.
Any inappropriate behavior or problems should be reported to the Program Director, who in turn shall report to the Heights of Hope Board of Directors.
To assure compliance of the Policy, the following steps shall be utilized:
Program Director shall counsel a staff member or volunteer who is not complying.
If noncompliance continues, the Program Director shall consult with the Board of Directors to determine what steps should be taken.
ONE-ON-ONE YOUTH MENTORING PROGRAM GUIDELINES
These guidelines only pertain to Heights of Hope volunteer mentors who have been screened, matched with a student, and filled out a Mentoring Contract.
By its very nature, mentoring relationships often happen in a one-on-one setting. Before engaging in mentoring, mentors should be aware of the potential for problems and should take all steps possible to avoid the appearance of misconduct.
Mentors shall, if possible, advise the mentee’s parents when they will be meeting and where they will be during their time together. If that is not possible, mentors may also advise the program director of their plans.
Mentors must always be available by cell phone during mentoring time with their mentees.
Mentors shall meet in a public place when possible. If spending time at the mentor or mentee’s homes, ensure that another adult is there and aware of your whereabouts whenever possible.
When unacceptable behavior occurs, an adult may interrupt the behavior, teach what is expected, and provide a positive role model. With time, this is usually enough to change the behavior. Discipline differs from punishment in that it does not try to make the child or youth pay for what he or she has done. Instead it corrects and redeems. Discipline should be administered in humility, while attempting to understand the underlying causes of the inappropriate behavior. Discipline may become abuse if it is used excessively or if it results in pain, injury or humiliation.
The following guidelines have been established to make sure a physically and emotionally safe environment is created and to protect staff members and volunteers from accusations of child abuse:
Accentuate the positive! Focus on the behavior, not the child/youth. Always speak directly to the child/youth, preferably without others overhearing. Set a good example. Use a quiet, firm voice. Be encouraging and respectful.
B. Whenever possible, staff members and volunteers should use one of the following options:
Distract the child/youth with another activity
Children and youth shall be reminded of the kind of behavior that is acceptable for the setting. Give the child/youth options for what to do (every option given should be a good one)
Help the child/youth focus on more acceptable behavior
Isolate the child/youth from others if another staff member or volunteer is present (the child/youth should not be alone with an adult, however, when possible)
C. When applicable, the following procedure should be utilized by all staff members when behavior problems arise:
A verbal warning shall be given.
The child or youth shall be separated from the group in order to cool down, talk with a staff member or volunteer, and make a plan to improve behavior. Program director shall be notified.
The child or youth is taken home or separated from the group for the rest of the activity. Program director talks to parent about when the child/youth is able to attend again.
At any point, a staff member can decide that the problem behavior is creating an unsafe environment (emotionally or physically) for others and the child/youth must be sent home.
Discipline shall reflect age and level of comprehension. (e.g. Time-outs should not last longer in minutes than the child’s age.)
Parent(s) are to be informed whenever a child/youth misbehaves beyond minor correction, or if there is a pattern of escalating misbehavior.
Concerns about specific behavior or appropriate response should be directed to the Program Director.
An additional staff member or volunteer should be present in classrooms where misbehavior is an on-going problem.
Verbally abusive discipline or corporal punishment are not permitted.
When these methods are not working, staff members or volunteers should request assistance before “losing their cool”.
An intentional human act, which results in pain or injury to another person. Abuse usually occurs in relationships of unequal power; the abuser has more power (obtained through socio-economic status, gender or role) than the person being abused. This imbalance of power keeps the person being abused silent and onlookers reluctant to admit the problem or to intervene.
Controlling or attempting to control another person through berating, fear, and/or threats
Weakens a person’s mental and physical ability to resist and erodes self-esteem;
Isolates a person from family and friends and reinforces a sense of helplessness and dependence;
The most subtle form of abuse because it often occurs in private, leaves no visible injury, and involves one person’s word against another;
Is often combined with physical and/or sexual abuse.
Examples include: name calling, excessive teasing, cursing, constant criticism, public embarrassment, lack of consideration for a person’s feelings and needs, false accusations and jealousy, destroying or taking personal property, withholding sleep, friendships, or other life necessities, threatening harm to a person of importance to him/her, abusing or destroying (or threatening to) a pet.
An intentional act, which results in physical pain or injury such as hitting, kicking, etc. Examples include pushing, shoving, kicking, biting, shaking, severe spanking, yanking, grabbing, hair pulling, confinement, hitting with an object, burning, breaking limbs, stabbing, forcing a person to injure him/herself through the taking of unnecessary risks (i.e., by drug or alcohol use, prostitution)
Failing to provide for the physical needs of someone entrusted to another person’s care. Handicapped adults, the elderly, and children are at risk for neglect. Examples include withholding food, clothing, shelter, or medical care.
Any sexual intimacy forced on one person by another. Sexual abuse does not need to involve physical contact. People of all ages, races, and genders can be victims. Examples include:
Non-contact: obscene phone calls, remarks, or gestures, exposing self to others, peeping Toms, requests to engage in sexual activity (without physical contact), exposing to pornography
Contact: fondling, grabbing, intercourse, anal/oral sex
Adult: unwilling partner, forcing practices which are uncomfortable or degrading on partner, rape, sexual relations which are obtained by threat of injury, sexual relations with someone unable to fully understand and consent (i.e., mentally impaired), marital rape/forced intercourse
Child: talking “dirty” to child, exposing to pornography or sexual activity, exploiting child to produce pornography, taking advantage of the child’s inability to understand sexual acts or resist authority, coercion, threats, gifts, etc.
Anyone who experiences abuse should report the incident to one of the Heights of Hope staff members or the Board of Directors. All allegations shall be reported to appropriate authorities.
Any staff member or volunteer who suspects that abuse has occurred during or surrounding a Heights of Hope activity shall report such suspicions to a Heights of Hope staff member or member of the Board of Directors as soon as possible, not to exceed twenty-four hours. All allegations shall be reported to appropriate authorities.
A report shall include as many details as can be remembered of the abuse incident.
Suspicions shall be kept confidential.
Appropriate action shall be taken to assure the safety and support of those involved.
Confidential and secure records of reported allegations shall be kept by the Heights of Hope staff.
Suspension or removal of alleged offenders from service shall be handled by the Board of Directors.