Procedures for creating, securing, and removing parish records
We are a community in which love, justice truth, peace, and self-discipline are nurtured and valued.
The overall aim for the Screening in Faith policy is to ensure that there is a safe environment in every parish, ministry, and activity. This includes children, seniors, any who are physically, emotionally, or spiritually vulnerable, and those who are ministering in our Church.
Screening in Faith is designed to exclude any who are unsuitable or likely to offend. It will make our programs safer.
We must morally, legally, and spiritually do all that we can to make sure our church, clergy, paid, and lay workers and the participants in our church-sponsored activities are as safe as possible.
In the Diocese of Ottawa, we have in place many policies and procedures to ensure that we are keeping clear records of how, when, and why a person has been screened.
A separate file should be created for each volunteer and this file should contain, at least:
• position description
• application form
• results of and.or records created during interviews
• authorization to contact references
• results of Police Records Check
• letter of appointment
• notes of a supervisor or evaluative nature
• original, signed written consent of a person who has been screened on the occasion of his/her records are copied and forwarded to another parish or ministry
• and any other pertinent information
Any documents created in connection with a screening activity should be stored in a secure manner. This could be a locked filing cabinet in a locked room. Access to the files should be limited to the parish corporation or, in the case of a larger parish, the corporation and screening team.
Under no circumstances should files be left out in the open, stored on the corner of a desk, or placed where “just anyone” could have access to them.
In the case of a Community Ministry or a non-parochial ministry, the records of any volunteer should be regarded as personnel files and treated in the same manner as the files of salaried staff.
Records may be copied and sent to another parish upon receiving the original signed consent (no fax or email) of the person being screened. The original must be retained in the files of the parish where it was created.
Upon a person’s completion of their term in ministry, the screening records should be sealed in an envelope and kept in their file. This will help to maintain the security of the file while it is held in a parish. Such files must be maintained in the parish until after the death of the individual.
If a parish is concerned about their ability to store any files safely, these files may be deposited in the Diocesan Archives.
Upon the dissolution of a parish or ministry, screening-related files should be sealed, labelled appropriately, and safely transmitted to the Diocesan Archives.
Following the death of the individual or after the person has ceased to be active in a non-parochial ministry, records should be sealed and appropriately labelled with the name if the person, parish, and date of transmission, then safely transmitted o the Diocesan Archives,
“Sealed” mean that the record has been placed in a closed and sealed envelope prior to transmission. “Safely” means that a sealed files has been hand delivered or sent via registered mail to the Archives.
Levels of Risk
In Parish and Ministry Settings
It is important to assess the level of power, authority, and control of those who minister; the level of vulnerability of those being ministered to, and the risk that harm could be committed by some form of abuse. Determining the risk level and assigning a low, medium, or high rating to each ministry is a key step in the process.
Low risk ministries
Ministry duties and responsibilities that do not permit a person to be alone with a child or vulnerable adult, or do not permit access to financial resources or confidential information. Such ministries do not require a significant level or authority or trust.
Examples: arranger of coffee fellowship, audio-visual controller, bulletin folder, flower arranger, greeter, reader, some committee and group members.
Medium risk ministries
Ministry duties and responsibilities that permit few chances for a person to be alone with a child or vulnerable adult, or permit some access to moderate amounts of financial resources or confidential information. People in these ministries are in a position of authority or trust.
Examples: adult Bible study leader, advisory board member, chairperson, lay eucharist administrator, team
collection counter, team nursing home visitor.
High risk ministries
Ministry duties and responsibilities that permit opportunities for a person to be alone with a child or vulnerable adult, or permit access to significant amounts of financial resources or sensitive and confidential information. These ministries are positions of authority or the positions that allows a persons to establish long-term relationships of trust. The following are always ranked high risk: all clergy, including honorary assistants; church wardens; organists and music directors; parish employees; and also those involved in residential or off-site
ministries with children or vulnerable adults.
Examples: camp leaders, Christian education coordinator, church musician, counsellor, home visitor, parish nurse, server instructor, Sunday school teacher, youth leader.
Source: Anglican Diocese of Toronto, Assessing Risk
Police Record Checks
Into the backgrounds of volunteers and job applicants
On request, police will check their records on applications seeking employment and/or volunteer work with vulnerable individuals. The check includes national and local police databases. Information on criminal convictions and outstanding charges, as well as incidents of all negative police contacts for at leave the previous five years will be considered for release.
It is considered a prudent measure, and is widely used by most volunteer agencies serving children and vulnerable adults. The information it generates is listed, however, so other forms of screening should also be used.
Who needs a Police Records Check?
A Police Records Check is required for all ordained ministry and normally for paid employee positions where there is an inherent level of trust and a lack of daily, structured supervision. It is also required for parish offices and other volunteers in high-risk positions. For each person, consider the level of authority, isolation, and the vulnerability of participants. It is required at the beginning of a ministry and every five years thereafter.
The prospective employee or volunteer should go to the local police station with a letter from the church, on letterhead, signed by the incumbent or volunteer coordinator. The letter should state that the person bearing the letter is going to be working with the vulnerable sector (youth, elderly, etc).
Apply early, as Police Records Checks can take 6-8 weeks. Additionally, guidelines from the RCMP require many requests for a Police Records Check to need fingerprinting, with an additional cost.
Creating safe places and situations
We are a community within which love, justice, truth, peace, and self-discipline are nurtured and valued. The overall aim of the Screening in Faith policy is to ensure that there is a safe environment in every parish, ministry, and activity.
When we talk about screening we talk about safe people. We must not forget that it is also very important to create safe environments, that is, safe places and safe situations.
Points to consider
• two adults are required to be present during any activity for young children or youth
• activity rooms should have windows that allow an outside person to see in
• in the case of children, there should be two leaders or an open door
• a leader should not meet alone with a child but should be joined by another leader if the meeting is to be private
• arrange for a bathroom monitor to keep the door slightly open when children are using the bathroom
• during diaper changing, the changing table should be in view of another nursery worker
Safety doesn’t apply just to children; it applies to everybody. Priests, leaders, counsellors and other adults in the church are also vulnerable, and need to be protected. Transparency in all our dealings with others is necessary.
Some rules, that protect everyone involved:
• never be closed up in a room where people cannot see in
• never be in a car alone with a minor
• when a priest or pastoral care worker gets called to visit a single distressed person, they should take another
person along if at all possible. In an emergency, and failing all else, the priest or visitor should tell someone else,
such as a spouse or secretary, where they are going and how they will be.
• if a pastoral care worker encounters a compromising situation or crisis, they should report the incident as soon
as possible to the rector or their pastoral supervisor
• transparency in our dealings with others is always the Diocesan standard
In making our churches safe places we must:
• safeguard preschoolers, children, youth, and vulnerable others in our church
• take steps that will protect the church staff and volunteer workers from potential allegations of abuse
• limit the extent of legal risk and liability due to abuse
We take it for granted that our children and youth are vulnerable. We know that the elderly or the disabled can also be vulnerable. What is less understood is that there are other vulnerabilities that are much less obvious but nonetheless real.
• the bereaved
• both partners in troubled marriages
• the survivors of childhood abuse
• people of any age during illness or other crisis
Procedures for ensuring effective screening of clergy in the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa
We must morally, legally, and spiritually do all we can to make sure that our church, clergy, paid and lay workers, and the participants in our church-sponsored activities are as safe as possible.
The overall aim of this policy is to ensure that there is a safe environment in every parish, ministry, and activity.
In the Diocese of Ottawa, we have many policies and procedures in place to ensure that we are effectively screening our clergy. Because the Diocesan Bishop is the employer of clergy, the Bishop’s Office takes responsibility for the ongoing screening of all clergy in our Diocese.
Ten safe steps for clergy
1. Determine the risk
The work of the clergy clearly involves situations with many vulnerable people. Visiting the sick, counselling, and working with youth; all of these are part of the work of bishops, priests, and deacons in our church.
2. With a clear ministry description
The Church describes ordained ministry in The Ordinal. The parish profiles, used in the appointments process, provide considerable detail from the parish’s perspective on the expectations for parish clergy. The Diocese provides further resources in the Clergy Personnel Policy.
3. Establish a formal recruitment process
For ordained candidates applying for a position in the Diocese, there is a detailed written process to follow. Interviews, reference letters, resumes, and written responses are all part of this process. The process for the election of a Bishop is also clearly defined.
4. Use an application form
Those seeking ordination are requested to complete an application form. Those seeking a new position in the Diocese are asked to apply in writing, with comments on your suitability for the possible new ministry. Individuals applying for positions outside the Diocese must do so in writing, including a formal resume.
5. Conduct interviews
For those seeking ordination, a number of interviews are required through the years of the ordination process. For those clergy seeking a new appointment, there is one formal interview. For those coming from another Diocese, these is at least one interview required with the Bishop.
6. Follow up references
Many written references are routinely required forthose seeking ordination. Those providing references are asked to reply to a standard set of questions for the Diocese and for the wider church discernment process. References are also requested for those seeking new positions in the Diocese and for those seeking to come to Ottawa from another Diocese. These references are all studied and checked.
7. Police Record Check
All those seeking ordination in this Diocese are required to have their records checked by police. In addition, every five years all clergy serving in the Diocese of Ottawa are asked to provide the Bishop with an updated Police Record Check.
8. Conducting orientation and training sessions
A post-ordination program with supervision exists for the newly ordained. Ongoing training is provided through the Episcopal Office. Clergy receives training on issues of sexual misconduct; a form stating this training has taken place must be signed at the end of each session.
9. Supervise and evaluate
Clergy participate in regular evaluation sessions conducted by their Archdeacon.
10. Follow up with program participants
Parishioners give feedback to the clergy on a regular basis through wardens, parish councils, and others. Parishioners with serious complaints who feel they are not being satisfactorily handled in the parish can speak to their Archdeacon or the Bishop.
This policy has been prepared with the help of a coalition of faith partners and reflects a shared commitment
among the Anglican, Roman Catholic, Unitarian Universalist and United Churches, and the Pentecostal Assembly.
It also reflects that church coalition’s cooperation with Volunteers Canada, Scouts Canada, Sports & Recreation
Canada, and other caring partners.
Screening in Faith (FAQs)
How do parishes move forward?
Have parishioner involved in writing job descriptions and deeming risk.
Follow the Ten Safe Steps developed by Volunteer Canada.
Who must be screened?
• parishioner; especially those in obvious leadership roles
• key holders
• leaders of Diocesan ministries involving vulnerable people
• all volunteers working with vulnerable people
For all others, assess each job description, to determine the level of risk.
Do we need to screen everyone, even occasional helpers in the nursery?
Use up to date job descriptions to determine the level of risk. Nursery supervisors should be fully screened, while occasional helpers who are never alone with the children require less.
Who does the screening?
Generally, the people responsible for supervising the volunteer must do the screening. A parish may choose to set up a screening committee for support and to track progress. Some police forces ask a church to apply for record checks on behalf of all their volunteers at once.
How do we deal with someone who has done pastoral work for 30 years and resents being screened?
Involve them in writing their own job description or in developing parish guidelines for other pastoral care workers.
Assure them it is about the position, not the person.
Can you ask if someone has a police record?
What about records from other groups such as Scouts?
We are screening for the position, not the person. As such, the job description would not be the same. Recent Police Record Checks, within six months, are acceptable.
How do we screen those who are under 18?
A detailed job description, references and an interview will help screen youth, even without a Police Records Check.
How are types of abuse other than sexual, ie. abuse of authority, to be checked?
Try to develop clear job descriptions, mentioning attitude and appropriate/inappropriate behaviour. Interview for attitude and make sure that the volunteer’s training and evaluation are ongoing.
What is our responsibility re judgement calls?
Better to be safe than sorry. If we offer a program, we must fulfil our Duty of Care.
What is our Duty of Care?
This is a legal concept, which identifies the obligation of individuals and organizations to take reasonable measures to care for and protect their participants. Failure to meet the Duty of Care can result in an accusation of negligence.
Why should I interview all volunteers when some are people I see each week over the coffee
An interview provides the ministry leaders with the opportunity to review important items about the job description and the volunteer’s application form. Additionally, it gives the interview team a feeling about how well this person may be suited for a particular job or ministry.
How often should people be re-screened?
When a volunteer changes positions significantly or takes on a new ministry, the person should be re-screened. Based in the new job description, try an interview, orientation and perhaps an appropriate records check, for example a credit check for treasurers.
Are the churchwardens and clergy liable if there is an offence in a parish?
Anyone who sues will sue the Diocese, the parish, and the parish corporation (clergy and churchwardens). The Diocese carries insurance for this.
How useful is a Police Records Check?
It is only one tool. It may discourage an inappropriate person from applying for ministry. It is not a substitute for the other steps of screening.
How long is a Police Record Check valid?
The Diocesan standard is that a police check should be renewed, at least, every five years. If a person is taking on a new, more sensitive or higher risk ministry, that that person may require an new police check.
How do parishes reduce the risk?
• have a buddy system (two adults for youth related activities)
• have a third party present in any situation where there is a chance that safety may be compromised or a conflict arise
• One on one? Leave doors and blinds open