CHILD SAFETY STANDARDS FOR CONGREGATIONS
Frequently Asked Questions
There are many reasons why the Child Safety Standards (CSS) are important:
- When we care for children and keep them safe, we are following Christ’s mandate. We must always remember that children bring their own unique vulnerabilities and that they rely on safe adults, and protective cultures, to keep them safe. Keeping safe is not something that children can reliably do on their own.
- We have a synodical responsibility to protect and care for our children. Our LCA Synod has acknowledged that children are a precious gift from God, that they are to be nourished and nurtured in their spiritual life within the church, that their needs must be considered by all boards, councils, and committees, and that they are to be cared for and protected by maintaining and promoting a culture of safety in all areas of the church, congregation, and its activities. In addition, the objects of the constitution of the church include a requirement that children are to be protected from all physical, psychological, sexual and spiritual abuse.
- We also have multiple legal responsibilities relating to child safety. We have a duty of care to keep children safe and this duty of care sits with our church councils and leadership teams. We are also required to abide by various laws in each jurisdiction that relate to mandatory reporting, failure to report, failure to protect, reportable conduct, and working with children type checks.
- And finally, we have important regulatory responsibilities in relation to compliance with the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations across each of our Australian jurisdictions.
Yes, all congregations of the LCA in Australia that have children participating in regular worship, prayer, children’s ministry, or any other activities involving children, are expected to complete a CSS self-assessment and submit a Child Safety Plan once every two years. If you do not have children in regular attendance, you may be eligible to fill out a Congregation Without Children Assurance. Please check with your District Professional Standards Officer (PSO) or the CSS Implementation Support Officer on 0491 911 643 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
No, congregations who do not have children in regular attendance are not required to do a self-assessment or prepare a Child Safety Plan at this time. Instead, congregations without children are asked to provide an assurance that they appreciate the special vulnerabilities of children, that they understand the importance of the LCA Child Safety Standards and their responsibilities to keep children safe and, should their circumstances change, that they will commit to implementing the standards in their congregation.
If you are unsure whether your congregation fits this category, and you need clarification, please contact your District Professional Standards Officer or the CSS Implementation Support Officer to discuss this (0491 911 643 or email@example.com).
The assurance document can be found here on the CSS webpage.
You need to complete a Child Safety Self-Assessment and prepare a Child Safety Plan for your congregation once every two years.
This means that once you have completed your self-assessment and plan in 2022, you do not have to complete another self-assessment or Child Safety Plan until mid-2024.
You may come across in some documents that a self-assessment and plan are to be done each year. This was changed to two yearly reporting after feedback from congregations. It provides a better balance between regulatory requirements and congregational needs and gives more time for congregations to implement their Child Safety Plans. We are in the process of changing all documentation to reflect this change.
The council or leadership team plays a very important role in the successful implementation of the Child Safety Standards in your congregation or parish.
To fulfil the requirements of Standard 1, you should be striving to establish a child-safe culture within your governance and leadership teams, as well as across your congregation or parish. One way you can demonstrate this is by positively embracing the CSS and viewing this work as an important part of your mission and ministry with children and families.
This means that our councils and leadership teams should be doing everything possible to model a child-safe culture by communicating child-safe messages and implementing child-safe practices.
This is up to you, and it very much depends on what will work best for your parish and its congregations.
You may decide to undertake a combined self-assessment of all congregations and prepare one Child Safety Plan for the parish as a whole. If you choose this approach, your assessor would report to your parish council or leadership team who would then, in turn, take responsibility for developing and approving the Child Safety Plan. The parish council would also take primary responsibility for overseeing the implementation of the plan and for its regular review.
However, you may decide that your congregations are quite distinct, with diverse needs and differing demographics. In this situation, you would probably be best placed to conduct separate self-assessments and prepare separate Child Safety Plans for each of your congregations.
Or you may decide to do a combination of the above.
You may also decide to appoint separate assessors for each of the congregations or, alternatively, appoint the same assessor across all congregations.
It really is up to you to tailor the process to best suit the needs of your parish and congregations.
We suggest you discuss it at your parish council and congregational council meetings before you make the decision.
Also, don’t forget, you can always give us a call or contact your Professional Standards Officer to talk it through (0491 911 643 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
This is a learning process for your congregation designed to help you do two things:
- identify how well you are going
- develop a plan to help you progress.
So, with this in mind, we have a two-step process:
- a Child Safety Self-Assessment to help you understand your strengths and identify where there might be gaps
- a Child Safety Plan to help you identify actions to fill those gaps.
Then, there is, of course, also stage three, where you put your plan into action!
This may happen from time to time – we apologise and will try to fix it quickly.
Please give us a call or send us an email to let us know so that we can get on top of this.
Contact 0491 011 643 or email@example.com.
Safe Church Training and the Child Safety Standards are complementary to each other. Completing the requirements for both of these will help your congregation to be a safe and welcoming place for all the children in your congregation as well as for any other vulnerable members.
Safe Church Training is a very important part of Standard 7 of the Child Safety Standards. Completing the training for all of your church workers will mean that you are well on the way to giving your congregation a good rating for Standard 7 and improving the safety of your congregation
It is important to undergo the assessment task every two years.
This is because things will have changed since your last assessment – such as changes to staffing, volunteers, members and attendance. In addition, your child safety priorities may now be quite different, particularly if you have completed many of the actions from your previous Child Safety Plan.
Also, a new assessor may bring fresh eyes to your congregation’s work.
We hope so. Just like your Self-Assessment has highlighted areas where your congregation has gaps and priorities, we are learning more about how this process might be improved to better support each congregation. Once we have completed the first cycle from local congregation to district and General Church Board, we will be spending some time refining the process.
We hope not – this would be very sad. After all, Matthew 19:14 encourages us to not hinder our children coming to Jesus – he really wants to be accessible to all. Children bring a unique energy to the church, which can be such a blessing.
It is important to remember that the self-assessment will not be a lot of work if your congregation is small and/or if you don’t have many children attending or any children’s programs.
No, not at the moment – we are waiting for further news from the NZ Royal Commission, so you do not need to do a Self-Assessment or Child Safety Plan for now. However, if you would like to complete a Child Safety Self-Assessment to see how your congregation is going, and then prepare a Child Safety Plan, you are most welcome to use these resources. Please do give us a ring or email us if you have any queries along the way (0491 911 643 or firstname.lastname@example.org) or contact the LCNZ PSO, Denise Muschamp, at email@example.com
Yes, you are correct, the LCA Child Safety Standards for Congregations are different in their wording and style from the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations and from the Victorian Child Safety Standards. This is because we have tried to tailor the LCA Standards to the faith-based and volunteer-based context. We have also tried to keep their implementation simple and user-friendly by adopting a self-assessment, learning-based approach and by not seeking a rigorous evidence base at the congregational level.
For now, we would encourage you and your congregation to focus on the LCA Standards – the Self-Assessment, Child Safety Plan and its implementation. We believe that this will cover the ground required for fulfilling the National Principles and the Victorian Standards despite the differences in order and wording.
Standard 1 of the Victorian Standards requires that organisations pay special and important attention to the specific needs and vulnerabilities of Aboriginal and Torres Strait children and families. This standard is much more rigorous in its requirements than the equivalent Principle 4 in the National Principles relating to diversity and to Standard 4 of the LCA Standards.
Remember this is not an audit. It is a learning process for you to self-assess your progress towards becoming a child-safe congregation. Having an external person do this is less likely to be helpful to the congregation and less likely to create ownership of the things you find and the actions you agree to.
Also remember, that because this is a learning exercise and not an audit, it is not a test. Your self-assessment findings will not be scrutinised by the district or churchwide teams. In addition, the data from your Child Safety Plans is information for you to embrace and implement. At the district and churchwide level, this information will only be used to identify trends, changes and progress at the district and churchwide levels.
We could try to find someone for you but because this is a learning exercise for your congregation, it is much better if you are able to find someone from within your congregation to do the assessment.
If you are lucky enough to have people in your congregation with professional skills, who may have worked or work in areas like teaching, law, health and safety, social work or business management, for example, perhaps approach them to see if they might be interested in 'donating' their skills for the self-assessment. They may be people who don’t often volunteer but are attracted to a short and defined task.
It is preferable that your assessor is not someone from your council or leadership team or someone who is already working in your children’s or youth ministry. However, we understand this may be unavoidable if your congregation is very small and if you only have a small pool of volunteers to draw from.
So, don’t worry If you use someone who is already involved in either of these areas – they will have a lot of knowledge about the congregation, which is good. Just make sure that as a leadership team, you emphasise the importance of being as objective as possible.
Some congregations are already doing this and so did some congregations in the trial.
Having more than one assessor or even a group of assessors allows you to discuss things, share ideas, and share the load. It is also supportive and collaborative.
We have lots of tips for you. Please refer to the Self-Assessment Guidelines, which can be found on the Child Safety Standards webpage.
Our most important tip is to remember that you are just gathering information and making suggestions. You don’t have to get everything right, be the expert, or have all the answers. It is a learning exercise for you, your leadership team, and your congregation as a whole.
So keep it simple!
Our second most important tip is to contact us if you have any queries at all (0491 911 643 or firstname.lastname@example.org)!
If you are serving the church as an assessor and doing your best to fulfil the role properly, it is difficult to see how this could get you into any kind of legal trouble. As you gather and collate information about your congregation for the assessment, you may become aware that the congregation has a long way to go to meet the requirements of the CSS. Please remember that you are not personally responsible for what you find or for how the leadership responds to the assessment. However, it is important that your assessment is as accurate as you can possibly make it, So, if you find anything that worries or concerns you, don’t be afraid to provide a low rating. It is also recommended that you add your own comments to inform the leadership of exactly what you think needs to be addressed.
Your congregation’s leadership is already responsible for all aspects of safety in the congregation. The Self-Assessment is a good tool to highlight areas that may need improving and for the leadership team to prioritise actions that need to be taken immediately, for example putting ministry activity on hold where the leaders require working with children type checks but do not yet have them. In any future legal action involving your congregation, the self-assessment should be seen as a positive step towards improving safety.
Ask your council and pastor to help you by promoting the Self-Assessment throughout the congregation. It is important that everyone knows that the Self-Assessment is happening and what to expect. They also need to know about you – who you are and what you will be doing.
The leadership team has an important role in keeping the congregation informed about the Child Safety Standards – about why a Self-Assessment is helpful, what is involved and what to expect.
As a member of the leadership team, there are many ways that you can let your congregation know – via your bulletins or newsletters, your webpage if you have one, or your social media pages, during worship, or on the noticeboards.
You may wish to support the assessor by asking the congregation to pray for the assessor as they go about this important task.
You could also ask Sunday school teachers and youth leaders to communicate this process to their ministry groups and to provide assistance to the assessor by facilitating the conversations that need to happen.
The council or leadership team should take responsibility for appointing an assessor, supporting the assessor, and informing the congregation.
Please refer to the Child Safety Assessment Guidelines located here on the CSS webpage for more information and tips for chairpersons and leadership team members.
We have tried to make the online tools as simple and user-friendly as possible.
Once you have gathered all your assessment information, do give the online assessment tool a go – hopefully you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to fill in.
To help you as you prepare your Self-Assessment, we have developed the Notetaker. This is a Word version of the Self-Assessment Tool, which you can print out and scribble on while you do your interviews. You can also use it on your laptop if you wish. You will find the Notetaker here on the CSS webpage dedicated to the Self-Assessment.
Once you have finished all your conversations with key people, and have all the information you need, you can enter the information into the on-line tool.
Similarly, the on-line Child Safety Plan is also very easy to use.
Once the assessor has completed the Self-Assessment online and pressed 'submit', all of your Self-Assessment information will be emailed as a PDF to your chairperson and the assessor.
The Self-Assessment information is not received at the district or churchwide offices. It only goes to the chairperson of your congregation and the assessor.
Also remember, as the assessor, you don’t have to complete the Self-Assessment online form in one sitting. You can enter your information in stages as you gather it and save your information for later using the 'save and continue later' function. This will email you a link to access your partially completed form.
You should receive an email with a copy of the Self-Assessment immediately after you press 'submit'. If this doesn’t happen, contact the CSS Implementation Support Officer, and we will try to retrieve your information for you (0491 011 643 or email@example.com).
We are working on creating this resource; it is coming soon. In the meantime, you will find some ideas in the LCANZ Learning Hub and on the videos on the CSS webpage.
Our CSS Implementation Support Officer, Nicole Hall, may be able to help you by updating your link. Please email Nicole at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her on 0491 011 643, and we will see if it can be restored. Don’t forget to include your old link and the name of your congregation
The Child Safety Plan and implementation
It is the council or leadership team’s responsibility to develop the Child Safety Plan using information gathered in the Self-Assessment.
It is important that the council or leadership team scrutinise the Self-Assessment information carefully giving close consideration to the ratings that the assessor has recommended and the 'next steps' that the assessor has suggested.
For more detailed information and tips for the leadership team in the development of the Child Safety Plan, please refer to the Child Safety Plan Guidelines, which can be found here on the CSS webpage.
Remember, this is a learning process. The rating is only designed to help your congregation identify your strengths and weaknesses, know your child-safety gaps, and where you need to improve.
That is why it is important to be as honest as possible in allocating your rating – in the Self-Assessment phase and the Child Safety Planning phase. Giving yourself high ratings in all areas and all elements will not be helpful to you in the long run if they are not accurate.
We would really prefer you to use the online Child Safety Plan tool. It is very simple to use, and it has been designed to allow you to enter your information quickly and seamlessly while also allowing us to collate and analyse all the data across each of the districts. This, in turn, means that we will be able to prepare district-level and churchwide-level child safety reports for our district church councils/board and General Church Board.
Importantly, it also means we will have readily available information for our regulators in the event that we are asked to provide it.
Yes, absolutely! The leadership council or board of the congregation has the final say over the rating given on the Child Safety Plan. Your assessor may have wanted to be encouraging or not be too harsh in their marking. Remember, that when creating your Child Safety Plan, it is very important the leadership team or council scrutinise the Self-Assessment information thoroughly.
Similarly, your leadership team might decide that the assessor has been too harsh in their rating – again, it is important that your leadership members scrutinise the assessment information carefully and make good decisions regarding its validity.
Remember, it is also important to provide a rationale if changes are made and document these in the council minutes.
Not at all. A very low rating is a sign that your congregation has a little bit of work to do. Please remember a lot of this will be very new to some congregations.
Low ratings will also guide both the district and LCA about what resourcing and help congregations might be needing. This will shape how we can best support your congregation.
We are in the process of creating an LCA resource for this and other great ideas that congregations are thinking of. It may take us a little time – so if this is something important for your congregation, you will find a few examples of resources you can use here on the CSS webpage and also at the LCANZ Learning Hub resources tab.
It’s important to make sure your Child Safety Plan is manageable and achievable for your congregation. You have all of next year and part of 2024 to implement the actions you have agreed to. So no, you don’t have to get everything done straight away or all at once.
We suggest you prioritise the elements you rated low in and then stagger the rest over 2023 and the beginning of 2024.
For example, if you discover that some of your volunteers are out of date with their Safe Church Training or that they haven’t got current working with children type checks, these are very important and should be prioritised. You would want to get these issues fixed first and as a priority before you work on anything else.
If you have also identified that you want to make your congregation more child-friendly and talk to your children and young people about how they feel about coming to worship, then you might want to focus on these issues next.
Remember as you create your plan that this is not supposed to overwhelm you or your congregation. If you are feeling overwhelmed, perhaps you have overreached with your next steps.
Try to make the actions achievable and remember to prioritise them.
You don’t have to have 50 actions in your Child Safety Plan. You may only have a few. This is okay.
When the time comes to do your next Self-Assessment, this will be the time when you can celebrate the changes you have made even if you have only moved halfway to where you thought you could be. It will also be a time to revisit your next steps – if some are outstanding, it is okay to move them forward on to your next Child Safety Plan.
It’s okay to be stuck. Just ring or message us, and we will help you sort it out (email@example.com or 0491 011 643)!
Or contact your District Professional Standards Officer.
New Child Safety resources for congregations
The LCANZ’s Child Protection Project Team this month has released two new congregational resources supporting the church’s Child Safety Standards (CSS). The new resources back up Child Safety Standard 2 – ‘We value, respect and listen to children’.Read more ...
Lutheran Church of Australia
197 Archer Street North Adelaide SA 5006
08 8267 7300 or 0491 011 643