Record Keeping

The overall aim for the Screening in Faith policy is to ensure that there is a safe environment in every parish, ministry, and activity.
Screening in Faith is designed to exclude any who are unsuitable for a particular ministry or likely to offend.
In the Diocese of Ottawa, we have policies and procedures to ensure that we are keeping clear records of how, when, and why a person has been screened.

Creating Records
A separate file should be created for each volunteer in a high risk ministry, and this file should contain, at least:
• position description
• application form
• results of Police Records Check
• 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

Storing Records
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 incumbent and churchwardens 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.

Receiving Records
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 kept in their file. 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.

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.

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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, 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, congregational or parish council member, chairperson, lay eucharist
administrator, team collection counter

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; churchwardens; organists and music directors; parish employees; and also those involved in residential or offsite ministries with children or vulnerable adults.

Examples: Christian education coordinator, church musician, counsellor, pastoral care visitor, server instructor, Sunday school teacher, youth leader, treasurer, envelope secretary


Police Record Checks

On request, police will check their records on applications seeking employment and/or volunteer work. The check includes national and local police databases. Information on criminal convictions and outstanding charges, as well as incidents of all negative police contacts will be considered for release.
The information it generates is limited, 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 for paid employee positions where there is an inherent level of trust and a lack of daily, structured supervision. For each person, consider the level of authority, isolation, and the vulnerability of participants. It is required at the beginning of a ministry, employment or volunteer position, and every three years thereafter.
Examples of persons requiring a background check: churchwardens, treasurers, parish administrator, director of financial ministry, kitchen staff
Examples of persons requiring a Vulnerable Sector Check: All clergy, pastoral care visitors, Sunday School teachers, music directors and organists, social workers, program managers at our Community Ministries

How to apply for a Criminal Background Check
In most cases a criminal background check can be obtained online from the local police service.

How to apply for a Vulnerable Sector Check
The Vulnerable Sector Check is restricted to applicants seeking employment and/or volunteering in a position of authority or trust relative to vulnerable persons.
The prospective employee or volunteer should go to the local police station with a letter from human resources or 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).


Safe People

The overall aim for the Screening in Faith policy is to ensure that there is a safe environment in every parish, ministry, and activity.

Safe Environments
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
● offices & activity rooms must have windows that allow an outside person to see in
● in the case of vulnerable persons, there should be two leaders or an open door
● a leader should not meet alone with a vulnerable person but should be joined by another leader if the meeting is to be private
● keep the door slightly open whenaccompanying a vulnerable person on the bathroom
● during diaper changing, the changing table should be in view of another nursery worker

Safe situations
Safety doesn’t apply just to children; it applies to everybody. Clergy, 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:
● if a pastoral care visitor encounters a compromising situation or crisis, they should report the incident as soon as possible to the parish priest or their pastoral supervisor
● never be alone with a minor
● never be in a closed room where people cannot see in

Vulnerable people
We take it for granted that our children, youth, and elderly are vulnerable. What is less understood is that there are other vulnerabilities that are much less obvious but nonetheless real. These might include:
● the bereaved
● both partners in troubled relationships
● the survivors of trauma
● people of any age during illness or other crisis
● members of LGBTQ+ community
● new Canadians and refugees


Screening Clergy

In the Diocese of Ottawa, we have many policies and procedures in place to ensure that we are effectively screening our 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, 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 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 their 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 discernment process. For those clergy seeking a new appointment there is one formal interview.
For those coming from another Diocese, there is at least one interview required with the Bishop.

6. Follow up references
Many written references are routinely required for those 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 3 years all clergy serving in the Diocese of Ottawa are asked to provide the Bishop with an updated Vulnerable Sector Check.

8. Conducting orientation and training sessions
Ongoing training is provided through the Bishop’s Office. Clergy receive training on issues of sexual misconduct and workplace violence & harassment prevention.

9. Supervise and evaluate
Clergy participate in regular professional development 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, the Executive Archdeacon, or the Bishop.

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Screening in Faith (FAQs)

Who must be screened?
• churchwardens, treasurers, envelope secretaries, youth leaders, Sunday School teachers, pastoral care members
• 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?
Nursery supervisors should be fully screened, while occasional helpers who are never alone with the children require less.

Are there special requirement for pastoral care visitors?
All pastoral care visitors must be carefully trained before engaging in pastoral ministry within the parish or community and receive ongoing supervision from the incumbent or someone delegated by the incumbent. Online training is available from the Pastoral Care
Training Course at

Who does the screening?
The Incumbent and churchwardens are responsible for screening. A parish may choose to set up a screening committee for support and to track progress.

Can you ask if someone has a police record?

What about records from other groups such as Scouts?
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, e.g. abuse of authority, to be checked?
Do not consider a parishioner for a high-risk ministry until they are well known to the community. Interview for attitude, appropriate and inappropriate behavior, 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.

What should we do if there is a ‘Safe Church’ concern involving something or someone in our parish?
The appropriate response depends on the seriousness of the situation as well as the particulars of the concern. In most cases it is best to first consult the incumbent and churchwardens so that the situation is dealt with on the parish level. They have the authority to adjust the procedures of the ministry in question as well as discipline and/or remove a person who is creating an unsafe environment.
If necessary, the Executive Archdeacon can be consulted in addition to or instead of the incumbent and churchwardens. They might recommend that a parishioner or employee submit a complaint via the Workplace Violence and Harassment policy. Of course, in
some cases the best response is to call the police or the Children’s Aid Society.

What is the benefit of interviewing volunteers?
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.

Are the churchwardens and clergy liable if there is an offence in a parish?
Anyone who sues will sue the Diocese or the parish. 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 every 3 years. If a person is taking on a new, more sensitive, or higher risk ministry, then that person may require a new police check.

Can I submit a Nexus card instead of a Police Record Check?
No, a Nexus card does not meet our standard of screening.

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.


Workplace Violence and Harassment Policy

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