VBS Safety Tips
It’s the time of year when children’s ministry teams begin ramping up for planning, coordinating, and overseeing their most significant outreach event of the year – Vacation Bible School (VBS). Whether you’re recruiting volunteers, preparing budgets, or creating a promotional plan; one fact remains the same child safety is a top priority.
VBS is unique in that is brings together, for a short period, new children who aren’t typically involved in a weekly church program. With regards to child safety, this can be both a blessing and a challenge. A good first step is implementing a safety plan that focuses on protecting the children – this will go a long way in reaching their families. By prioritizing child safety, you make an excellent first impression, promote peace-of-mind for new families, and support their belief that they’re placing their children in good hands.
Listed below are six tips to keep child safety a top priority and a crucial part of a successful event.
1. Create Safety Goals:
These don’t have to be complicated or confusing. You may only need 1 or 2 and can utilize ones from an existing child protection policy. Keep in mind, the main point of having safety goals is to set a foundation that defines how your organization intends to protect the children in its care.
Bottom line, having safety goals minimizes the grey area with regards to interacting with children and provides a layer of protection for staff, volunteers and adults as well.
Goal: Create a fun and safe environment for the children attending VBS by decreasing isolation and increasing accountability.
Guideline #1 – Ensure a child is never alone with an adult.
Guideline #2 – Follow the rule of 2’s for every bathroom break.
As you can see from the illustration above, the safety goal lays the foundation for how individuals will interact with the children and clearly defines what is and is not acceptable behavior.
2. Plan Ahead:
The key to prevention is having a plan that is easily understood, actionable, and communicated often. Before getting involved in the copious amounts of event details, make sure your VBS core team understands the ministry’s commitment to child safety and abuse prevention.
Core team members should know how to report an incident, the Rule of 2’s, the location of the First Aid kits, who to call in case of emergency, and which children have allergies and what their respective reactions are to allergens.
3. Choose Volunteers Wisely:
Many VBS programs are in dire need of volunteers so they’re willing to take anyone they can find. Start early in recruiting a set of core volunteers that have been through the entire evaluation process. The process includes a full background check, a completed written application, a face-to-face interview, references that have been contacted, and a social media check.
Once your core team is in place, assign someone to the task of screening volunteers, this includes the same evaluation process they completed; a background check, a written application, interview and reference check. The process should remain consistent for any individual coming into contact with children.
Once the screening process is complete, the volunteer will receive their event assignment. If there’s anyone with a questionable background assigns them to an activity that doesn’t include direct contact with children.
Keep in mind – it’s hard to know if anyone is 100% safe. However, by implementing a consistent volunteer comprehensive screening process, you can minimize the risk of letting those who aren’t safe have easy access to children.
4. Secure Your Facility:
Make sure that VBS activities are in highly visible areas and that you’re maintaining the correct child and volunteer ratio for each age group. During outdoor activities make sure the children understand where they can go and what areas are off limits. If needed, rope off all areas that are out of bounds.
For safety concerns about your facility contact local law enforcement and fire department resources for a site evaluation.
5. Track & Manage Child Information:
Having a secure child check-in and check-out process is equally as important as choosing safe volunteers. Whether you use pen and paper, or an electronic child check-in solution, the point is to ensure that each child is released only to those authorized to pick them up. As this can be extra challenging during VBS, and using an electronic solution is preferable.
Also, with the increase in childhood allergies, having a process in place that tracks the health information of each child is imperative. Ensuring that volunteers have access to the information will go a long way in preventing an incident.
*If you’re currently using KidCheck, you can add a temporary license or change editions to take advantage of extra features to meet the increased needs for VBS. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org
6. Construct a Follow Up Plan:
In the case of an incident or emergency, make sure you have a process outlined to report and follow up with those involved. Keep accurate records and incident photos in a secure location. If a child has been hurt or injured, offer prayer and care to the child and immediately contact the family.
If authorities have to get involved, provide your event group’s full cooperation and do nothing that would in any way obstruct an investigation.
On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse at Church. Deepak Reju