More than 370 people participated in the first LCA Child Safety Standards for Congregations webinar, held on Saturday 26 March.
Conducted jointly by the LCA Child Protection Project Officer Mary-Ann Carver and members of the Professional Standards Department, the webinar outlined the new child safety standards developed especially for LCA congregations.
Ms Carver explained that churches, along with all other entities that work with children, are obligated to implement the ten National Principles for Child Safe Organisations, an outcome of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. In addition, the child safety landscape in Australia is changing, with an increasing shift towards government child safety regulation, which is another recommendation from the Royal Commission. Robust regulatory systems are already in place in New South Wales and Victoria, Ms Carver said.
‘As they stand, the National Principles are not well-tailored to faith-based organisations and those with a heavy reliance on volunteers’, she said. ‘This is why we have created the LCA Standards, which have been developed to suit our context while also complying with the National Principles.’
She pointed out that while the LCA Child Safety Standards are new, the LCA has a longstanding commitment to child safety, and much good work in the area is already being done within our congregations. She commended congregations that are taking child safety seriously and already making much progress.
‘But while much is already being done, we acknowledge that our congregations are all at different stages in their child safety journey’, she said. ‘Some congregations have no way of recording what they are doing in child safety. Others are doing many things well but have no measures for assessing what else needs to be done. Others don’t have a mechanism for recording child-safe training for their staff and volunteers.
‘This is where the Self-Assessment Tool and Child Safety Plan will assist congregations. They will serve as guideposts along the way to making child safety a priority in every place in our church.’
The LCA Child Safety Standards for Congregations were approved for implementation by the General Church Board in October 2021. Every LCA congregation or parish is required to undertake a self-assessment of their child safety progress and prepare a child safety plan to guide their child safety activities. The self-assessment process is to be completed by the end of July and the plan by the end of September.
Ms Carver stressed that the oversight and implementation of the LCA Standards, as well as the completion of the self-assessment and plan, should not be the sole responsibility of the congregation’s Safe Church coordinator. ‘This important leadership responsibility lies firmly with the church council, which is consistent with the duty of care that councils carry’, she said. ‘This is an important development for the LCA and a fine example of its longstanding child safety leadership and commitment.
‘We acknowledge that hard work you are already doing. We appreciate that most people in our congregations are volunteers. We also know these volunteers are being asked to do more and more’, Ms Carver said. ‘This is why we’ve worked hard to make these standards as easy for you to implement as we possibly can.
‘Implementation of the standards is part of God’s work. They reflect God’s abounding love for children and his expectation that we will dearly and lovingly do our very best to keep them safe as they grow in their faith.
‘We have to do this. We all know we have to do this. So let’s help each other do it – and as we do, we’ll be building culture and practices in our congregations so that every child feels safe and is safe.
‘What a wonderful goal we have before us – and I can imagine Jesus cheering us along!’
The webinar was recorded. It is strongly recommended that congregation and parish church council members watch it. It is available for viewing or download at www.lca.org.au/css Two more webinars will be presented – in June and September – to coincide with the completion dates for the Self-Assessment and Child Safety Plan tools.