Screening FAQs

As you are implementing and maintaining the Responsible Ministry: Screening in Faith program in your parish, you will likely have questions about some of the processes.  Below you will find some of the frequently asked questions about the screening process.  If you have further questions, please contact the Human Resources Manager at 416-363-6021 (1-800-668-8932) ext. 241.

Why should we screen volunteers, including our own parishioners?
We want our Church to be a clear symbol of the Kingdom of God – a safe and holy place for all.  Therefore it is the policy of the Diocese of Toronto that everyone who comes into contact with vulnerable people be screened in a manner appropriate to the ministry or job being undertaken.  The aim of the policy is to ensure that there is a safe environment in all parishes, all Diocesan ministries, and all activities involving children, seniors, the vulnerable (physically, emotionally, or spiritually), and those who are ministering in our church.

Who is responsible for the ensuring that screening is done?
It is shared responsibility between the Churchwardens and Incumbent, however they may designate a Screening Coordinator, or have the people responsible for supervising the volunteer or staff person look after the implementation and maintenance of the program in their parish.   A parish may choose to set up a screening committee for support and to track progress.

Who has to be screened?
Anyone who volunteers, is involved in a ministry activity, or is an employee must be screened, however it is important to determine if their ministry is low, medium, or high risk.  Each category has different screening standards to be followed.  The standards for low-risk ministry positions are recommended, but the standards for medium and high-risk positions must be followed.

Are there some positions that must be rated as high-risk?
Yes.  A high-risk position is one where there is trust and authority involving ministry to children and vulnerable adults and/or those in visible leadership roles. Also, 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 off-site ministries with children or vulnerable adults. 

What is our responsibility for making judgement calls?
Our obligation is to protect children and vulnerable adults – it is better to be safe than sorry.  If we offer a program, we must fulfill our “Duty to Care”.

What is our “Duty to Care”?
This is a legal concept which identifies the obligation of individuals and organizations to take reasonable measures to care for and protect people in their programs.  Failure to meet the Duty of Care can result in an accusation of negligence.

How often should people be re-screened?
When there is a significant change in position, or the person begins a new ministry they should be re-screened for the new position.  At least once a year, you should review all of your screening files and ensure that the documentation is up-to-date.  The Sexual Misconduct Policy training and Police Record Checks are required to be redone every three years.  Your parish may also want to develop an electronic means of tracking the steps of the screening process.  To assist with this, the Diocese has created a Screening Steps Worksheet.

What if a person holds many positions in the parish?
Screen for the position that is rated at the highest risk level.

Which screening standards are transferable within the Diocese?
If you have completed Sexual Misconduct Policy training and a Police Record Check within the last 3 years for a parish in the Anglican Diocese of Toronto, this can be transferred to any other parish within the Diocese.  Please provide proof of completing these steps to the new parish.  The other screening standards must be completed for the new position. 

How do we screen those who are appointed through an election?
If the position is assessed as high or medium risk, the individual must be screened before the election decision can be ratified.  When possible, screening requirement should be addressed with nominees before the election in order to avoid confusion or embarrassment.

How do I respond to someone who does not want to participate in the screening requirements.
Be upfront with people – before they are elected, hired, or begin the ministry tell them what screening requirements are involved.  For employees, include the screening requirements in the employment agreement.  Assure individuals that the screening risk level is not about them, but about the position they are involved in.  Assure them that every precaution is taken to balance their privacy with the need to protect the vulnerable in our community.

If an individual does not want to participate in the screening requirements, encourage them to offer their gifts in a lower risk ministry position.  You cannot have individuals serve in medium and high risk positions that have not been screened.

Are the clergy and churchwardens of the parish liable if there is an offence in the parish?
The churchwardens form the corporation and can be sued.  The clergy, as supervisor can be sued.  The Diocese, because of vicarious liability, can also be sued.  However, the Diocese and parish carry insurance for such exposures (Directors and Officers Liability Insurance).  It is still morally imperative that we do all we can to prevent such occurrences.

Are we covered when other people or groups use our church buildings?
The church is assumed to be a safe place even when used by others.  Outside groups must have a signed licence agreement and proof of insurance approved by Diocesan Council.

What happens when parishioners become friends?
An important role of the church is to build communities of friendship that reveal Christ’s love.  Unfortunately, sexual offenders attempt to form relationships to serve their own purposes and harm the vulnerable.  It is important to inform the Incumbent and be sensitive to responsible boundaries in any relationship of trust.

Does the person being screened have access to their file?
Yes.  All files are to be kept at the parish with restricted access, but you can share an individual file with the person it pertains to.

How do we screen those under 18 years old?
Only those who are at least 18 years old can serve in high-risk ministry positions, because only adults can obtain a police record check.  For leaders under 18 years old, the parish should implement appropriate procedures to reduce the risk level of the ministry.  A detailed ministry description, references, and an interview will also help screen youth.

Should we screen everyone as high-risk?  Are there ways to reduce the risk level of the position?
No, it is much easier, and ultimately safer to reduce the risks associated with any ministry than to apply a higher level of screening.  Step 4 of the Screening Standards is to reduce the risk for potential harm.  This can be accomplished by changing:

  • the size of a group being ministered to
  • the number of leaders required (work in teams)
  • the location and viability of the ministry (use open, public spaces)
  • the level of supervision
  • the degree of authority associated with the position
  • the physical nature of the space (install windows in doors, security locks, and have adequate lighting for safety inside and out)

What resources are available for our parish to hold a Sexual Misconduct Policy training workshop?
To assist your parish with the training, the Diocese has developed the following resources which can be used separately or together:

Police Record Check Questions

For questions about police record checks, please see the PRC FAQs section of the Screening Process.