Friends Meeting of Austin

Practices and Policy for the Protection of Children and Youth

Adopted February 6, 2011

Introduction

In the advice on Equality in our Faith and Practice, we are reminded that "people everywhere are children of God and members of one family. We value the worth of each person. We cannot be easy in our own lives when others suffer indignity, injustice, or want. In the Spirit of Christ, we are ready to put ourselves at one another's side and share each other's burdens. As we are true to the Divine within ourselves, we respond to the Divine in others."[1]

In our discernment of our duties to assure the safety of children, we have learned that a prevalent form of injustice and inequality in our world is abuse of children, which is made possible by the imbalance of power between child and others. Child abuse can take several forms: physical, sexual, psychological, and neglect. It is disturbingly widespread: we note for example that one in four women and one in six men report having experienced sexual abuse before reaching the age of eighteen. [2] And surprisingly, 59 percent of sexual abusers of children are not strangers, but friends or family members of the child who have exploited a trusting relationship. In recent years we have learned of many cases of abuse of children while in the care of religious communities, and are mindful that no human community can assume that it is immune to this problem.[3]

A query posed in our Faith and Practice following the Equality advice asks of us: "In all our relations with others, are we sensitive to the issues of equality, autonomy, and power? How do we challenge destructive patterns in these relationships when they arise?" Following consideration of this advice and query, and in light of the prevalence of abuse of children in our society and in religious organizations, we have adopted these Practices for Safe Engagement with Children and Youth to model behavior to ensure the safety of children and youth which apply to everyone while on Meeting property or at Meeting sponsored events, and this Policy for Safeguarding Children and Youth which applies to individuals caring for children and youth in Meeting sponsored activities.

We adopt these with a prayer that they will prevent abuse of children while in the care of Friends Meeting of Austin, that by raising awareness of the issue it will make it less likely that children will suffer abuse, and that it will serve as a testimony to all faith communities of the need to take action to bring an end to the abuse of children in our society.


[1] North Pacific Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends. Faith and Practice, p. 46.

[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2006). Adverse Childhood Experiences Study: Major Findings. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available from: http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/ace/findings.htm.

[3] Snyder, H. N. (2000). Sexual assault of young children as reported to law enforcement: Victim, incident, and offender characteristics. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Available from: http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/saycrle.pdf.


The complete practices and policy document is available here.