Q What does it mean Creating a Safe Environment?
A This means building on aspects of children's care that most adults are familiar with - for instance - is there anying in the room that is dangerous, like an unguarded electric fire. It means risk assessing the environment which includes: helpers, children, the building, the activity etc.
Q Does this mean I can't take the Altar Servers to the pictures without risk assessing first?
A Yes. Haven't you always thought how many adults you might need? What would you do if a child was sick? How would you contact a parent in an emergency? How are you all going to get there?... The diference between yesterday and today is that we ask you to consider these same questions and write the answers down to show that you have considered the areas of risk.
Q What would I do if a child was upset, can I comfort them?
A Yes, you may comfort since comforting a child who is in distress would be considered good practice. How you comfort a child depends on how old the child is and the context. Within the Church we operate a 'culture of limited touch'. When we are caring for someone else's child we have to be aware of our own behaviour (touch, language etc) is it appropriate to the child's age, is the context of our behaviour appropriate - allowing a young person to link arms as they walk around Alton Towers may be appropriate - but would we allow them to do it during Mass?
Is our behaviour towards a child or young person non-discriminatory ...are we happy to 'link arms' with any young person in the same situation.
Q What about taking photographs?
A The rule of thumb is - taking photographs with the permission of the parent and child, with a child suitably dressed within the context of a specific event is okay. Displaying the results is also okay if the above conditions have been met and no child is named or other details given which can identify them.
Q Is it okay for my 9 year old boy to go to confession in the 'box'?
A A parent has responsibility for their own children. If you are accompanying your child to the Sacrament of Reconciliation outside the arranged children's sessions then this is your responsibility. However, the general practice and the code of conduct would put the responsibility on the Priest or volunteer not to seek to be alone with a child. Therefore, if the Sacrament of Reconciliation has been at the initiation of the Priest he would hear the children's confessions in public view, for example, on the sanctuary.
Q How many adults do I need if I am running a children's group?
A A general guide for minimum ratios provided by the Care Commission - National Care Standards is:
• 1 adult for every 3 children (under 2 years)
• 1 adult for every 5 children (age 2 to under 3 years)
• 1 adult to 8 children (3 years and above)
• 1 adult to 10 children (if all children are over 8 years)
However, our directive is no volunteer should plan to work alone! The guidance on the ratios is given in Section 4 of the Awareness and safety in our Catholic Communities policy manual,
Q Will all of this stop children from being abused?
A Sadly no, but it will minimise opportunities for abuse and will prevent some children from being victims. Developing communities where vulnerable people, children and adults are valued and listened to, create a safer community where all adults, not just the Parish Co-ordinators and volunteers, take responsibility for keeping the vulernable safe.