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Planning the Screening Process

To begin screening, you need to draw up a plan and get organized. Here are a few helpful steps:

  1. Decide who will oversee the screening process. This person may not have to do the actual screening, but they’ll train and support those who do, make sure all the steps are followed and keep track of the paperwork. This person must be well respected in the congregation, able to handle confidential information, be well organized and, if possible, have human resources/management experience. It could be the incumbent, a deputy churchwarden, a qualified parishioner or a committee. (See Screening Coordinator, Appendix C on the Ministry Descriptions page.)
  2. Appoint the screening overseer and recognize this ministry within the life of the parish. For example, place an announcement in the Sunday bulletin and bless the ministry during the Sunday liturgy.
  3. Make sure the screening overseer has read and understood the Responsible Ministry: Screening in Faith policy and had an opportunity to ask any procedural questions.
  4. Work with the screening overseer to create a list of names of those who will do the actual screening. In general, the supervisor of the ministry is responsible for screening those who report to them. To help with this process, the incumbent and churchwardens should establish clear lines of accountability between clergy, staff and parishioners/volunteers. In most cases, parish employees report to the incumbent, a churchwarden or a parish administrator. Contract workers also need to be accountable to someone in the organization.
  5. Decide who needs to be told about this program and how you’ll tell them. For example, churchwardens, advisory board members, ACW, choir members, parishioners and outside groups. Remember, the program’s effectiveness will depend on how you introduce it to the parish.
  6. Set up a filing system. You’ll need a lockable file cabinet and letter-size folders for each parishioner who ministers in high-risk ministries. (See Record Keeping below.)

Responsibilities

The organizational leadership (bishop, churchwardens, director, incumbent, priest-in-charge) is responsible for making sure screening standards are implemented in the parish or organization. If the leadership doesn’t comply with this policy, it could jeopardize insurance coverage. It could also result in disciplinary proceedings. The area bishop serves as the supervisor of the clergy. For the purposes of this policy, the churchwardens are mutually accountable regarding all screening issues.

Application

The policy applies to all lay and ordained people under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Toronto who, by virtue of their ministry or work, are in positions of trust.

This policy must be implemented in all parishes, ministries or other organizations that:

  1. are funded, in whole or in part, by the Diocese of Toronto
  2. function on behalf of the church (whether on or off its premises)
  3. operate on church premises

The policy establishes minimum standards for the screening of staff and volunteers. Any parish or organization can develop more comprehensive policies of its own to reflect its circumstances, as long as these policies meet at least the minimum standard of protection for children and vulnerable adults, and the physical, spiritual and financial responsibilities contained in this policy. Screening standards must be consistently applied to all appropriate ministries.

The policy complements and strengthens the commitment of the Diocese of Toronto to “strive to ensure that … [our] places of work … and [our] congregations are free from sexual exploitation, harassment and assault.” (Section 1.4.2, Sexual Misconduct Policy, Diocese of Toronto)

Record keeping

The minimum records that must be sent to the Diocesan Centre are:

  1. A copy of the Screening Checklist for all ministry positions ranked as High Risk. (Appendix E, Screening Checklist)
  2. The police background records check for those ministering in positions ranked at High Risk. (Appendix M, Police Record Check Procedure)

This information must be sent to the Diocesan Centre so it can be permanently stored in the Archives in a manner consistent with the Privacy Standards policy of the Diocesan Centre.

All screening documents (excluding the police record check) should be stored in a locked filing cabinet in the parish for an indefinite period. Access should be limited to the incumbent and the parish administrator or director. Those who have access to the files have a moral obligation to do everything within their power to maintain confidentiality. The locked filing cabinet may or may not be located at the parish. If it’s not at the parish, it must be in a location mutually agreed on by those who have access to the files.

Files must never be left out in the open or in a readily accessible location. People being screened should know who has access to their file. Only documentation that’s necessary to the screening process should be kept on file.

This type of record keeping and storage may be a difficult adjustment for some congregations, but maintaining appropriate documentation is key to a meaningful screening program. It’s also required as proof of implementation of the screening practices.

Your parish may want to develop an electronic way to track the steps of the screening process. You can use the Screening Steps Worksheet to help with that.

Outside groups using church property

The church or organization isn’t directly responsible for screening leaders of other organizations that use the church’s property, but it could be named in a legal action and held vicariously liable if there are charges of negligence or abuse. The church should inquire into the screening procedure of the groups using the facilities.

If the screening procedures of an outside organization don’t meet the standards outlined in this policy, the churchwardens and the outside group should meet to determine an appropriate course of action. If the user group ministers to vulnerable people and is unable or unwilling to undertake proper precautions in terms of risk-reduction and/or screening procedures, the church must consider ending the relationship for safety reasons.

Help & resources

For the full list of resources available to help you implement the Responsible Ministry: Screening in Faith program, see Forms and Resources.