Our children’s safety and well-being hold paramount significance, mirroring both societal expectations and scriptural mandates. As underscored in 1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:5-7, leaders are called to be “above reproach,” creating a safe and nurturing haven for our children and youth.
In sync with this, California’s AB-506 legislation, effective from January 1, 2022, lays down a structured framework for bolstering child safety in youth-serving organizations, including our churches. It lays out new standards in three important areas: Screening, Training, and Policies, all targeted at curbing child abuse and neglect. Abiding by AB-506 isn’t merely about legal compliance, but about living out the scriptural essence of protection and responsible stewardship.
One of the primary steps towards ensuring the safety of children in your church is through thorough screening of individuals who interact with them. AB-506 mandates that all administrators, employees, and volunteers undergo a background check to identify and exclude any individuals with a history of child abuse. The minimum requirement is conducting a fingerprinted background check through the California Department of Justice.
However, it’s crucial to understand that this check is limited to criminal convictions within California. To extend the scope of the screening, it’s advisable to continue with your regular background checks, which could include multi-state criminal records search, national sex offender registry check, and county level searches in all the regions the applicant has lived, worked, or studied over the last seven years. This way, you’re not only complying with AB-506 but going a step further to ensure a safer environment for children.
Training is a cornerstone of AB-506, aimed at empowering those involved with children with the right knowledge and skills to prevent and report child abuse and neglect. All administrators, employees, and “regular” volunteers (defined as anyone 18 years or older volunteering more than 16 hours a month or 32 hours a year) are required to undergo child abuse and neglect reporting training. This training, often referred to as “AB506 Training“, can be fulfilled through any abuse prevention course that encompasses California’s reporting requirements and process.
Moreover, it’s beneficial to extend training topics to cover ministry child protection policies, maintaining appropriate boundaries with youth, effective monitoring, supervision practices, and responding to boundary violations and incidents of abuse.
Your church is required to develop and implement child abuse prevention policies and procedures as stipulated by AB-506. These policies should, at a minimum, ensure the reporting of suspected child abuse incidents to the appropriate entities as per Section 11165.9 of the California Penal Code.
Additionally, it’s mandatory to have at least two mandated reporters present whenever employees and volunteers are in contact with or supervising children. This dual supervision is a practical measure to deter potential misconduct and provide a safer environment for our youth.
The law also allows insurance carriers to verify compliance with AB-506 before providing liability insurance. This aspect is to ensure that organizations have robust measures in place to minimize the risks associated with child abuse and neglect, hence potentially impacting your church’s access to liability insurance.
- Initiate comprehensive background checks for all individuals interacting with children, ensuring they have no history of child abuse.
- Organize regular AB-506 compliant training sessions for administrators, employees, and regular volunteers, enriching them with the knowledge to identify, prevent, and report child abuse and neglect.
- Develop and implement child abuse prevention policies, ensuring they are accessible and understood by all stakeholders.
- Ensure at least two mandated reporters are present during all activities involving children.
- Document your compliance with AB-506 to provide to your insurance carrier when necessary.
By adhering to the stipulations of AB-506, you are not only aligning with the legal framework but significantly contributing towards creating a safe, nurturing environment for the children in your church, embodying the scriptural principle of being “above reproach”.