Protection For Our Young Parishioners


Jim McGuffey, CPP, PSP, PCI


Protecting our most valuable assets is best done by increasing staff awareness of impending risk. It is important that Houses of Worship conduct a vulnerability analysis to ensure that the three security countermeasures that protect assets are in place and working effectively. These countermeasures/security strategies are people, policies and procedures and technology.

Policies and procedures must be in place to ensure that all children are protected inside a place of worship or while attending an off-site activities.  Staff must receive on-going training to ensure that they remain aware of possible threats and are knowledgeable of policies and procedures in place to protect children. As noted in other articles on this site, a solid background investigation should be conducted on all paid staff and volunteers entrusted with child care.

Infants require special protection since they are most vulnerable to kidnapping and injury. Injury in many cases may be the result of an untrained or inept care provider. All care providers, especially for infants must receive adequate training and this training must be documented and on-going.

I strongly urge the use of technology especially CCTV with analytic capability. A good example of how the use of this technology might come into play to protect both the infant and care giver would be a parent complaining about a bruise on an infant’s head.

Unlike a child who is old enough to speak, an infant is incapable of sharing what occurred which may result in an inept staff member continuing to injure infants or a suspicious cloud overhanding an innocent staff member. With an adequate camera system in place, playback of video from the time the infant entered into the House of Worship Care Center until the time released to the p[roper guardian can be reviewed.

I mention analytics since using analytics can improve care and protection results. As an example, if there is no movement inside the care center room say within 5 minutes, an alert is sent. The time can be adjusted to ensure that someone is always inside the room. An alert can also be sent when someone enters or exits the room during time periods that this sort of activity should not occur; these are just two examples of many.

Policies and Procedures play an important role in protecting children. Controls and procedures must be in place to ensure that the same child regardless is returned to the authorized guardian which in some cases may not be the parent if a court order exists stating otherwise. Controls must also be in place to ensure adequate supervision for off-site events to ensure that alcohol or drugs are not used or that children are not exposed to unsafe conditions. A female staff member should always be present during activities involving female participants and two staff members should always work together.

There are areas of this website that will serve to address child protection threats such as background investigations to help ensure (not guarantee) that the best care providers are used whether paid or volunteer. All too often church leaders focus on background investigations for paid staff but pay little or no attention to volunteers. The reason I use “not guarantee” is that background checks are only a small part of protecting our children. Total protection is best provided when all security strategies are managed and revised as necessary to address changing threats to our children.

Unfortunately, there are many Houses of Worship that I would not entrust my grandchildren to even for a short time. Take a good look around your place of worship before deciding to entrust your infants to infant care or children to attend youth services and see what conditions exist and remember all children require extra care but infant care should be given special attention! And don’t forget about safety as safety and security go hand-in-hand to protect children. Look for safety hazards such as exposed wiring, unusual clutter that create slip and falls or chemicals such as cleaning agents that are easily accessible by children.