One of the most common questions we receive at ECAP is, “Where do I start?” The task of building and sustaining an effective Child Protection Program (CPP) is significant, and achieving ECAP accreditation may be a daunting challenge. If you are reading this article, you understand the need to protect the vulnerable in your ministry context. By now you “get it” and need to know where to start. Or perhaps you and your ministry are working to create a safe environment for your kids to hear the gospel and grow in discipleship, but now what? Here are three first steps for ministry leaders…
First, assess your ministry CPP using ECAP Child Safety Standards Checklists to determine how your organization measures up to our Standards. These Standards were created by a team of experts in the field of child protection and included ministry practitioners from church, school, and camp contexts. Your initial assessment will show you how well your ministry provides for child safety and how you can improve.
Second, your organization’s leadership and governing board need to commit to keeping the vulnerable safe. Why is this important? Senior, executive, and board leadership need to understand that child safety starts with them and their formal commitment to create and sustain the CPP. This might sound unnecessary, but this procedure is critical to ensure that child safety measures are sustainable as your ministry grows and changes. Furthermore, the governing body needs to approve policies and allocate financial and other resources to developing and sustaining the CPP.
Third, you need to appoint a team starting with a Child Safety Coordinator (CSC) who will be your resident expert on child safety and response. This person has “ownership” of the program to aid the governing board and should work with a team of individuals to take the results of your child safety assessment create a roadmap to develop and implement your CPP.
We are here to support you, and I encourage you to join ECAP as a candidate organization. This will allow you to tap into the resources and benefits of our ministry and Affiliate Members even while you are developing your CPP. We are here to support you and to connect you to a network of organizations committed to you and to protecting children.
Think of child safety as a new ministry of your organization that requires management, approval, and resources. As much as possible, try to avoid delegating this work to someone who is already loaded up with ministry work. It will certainly feel overwhelming to them and your efforts will suffer from a lack of attention and capacity. You can usually assign this responsibility to a key volunteer or operations staff member with capacity to learn and advise you on what is necessary..
Next to proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ and discipling the next generation, I cannot think of another ministry more important than protecting the least of these. Follow these three steps and start tracking your progress until eventually, you will have a fully built CPP and the joy and satisfaction of faithful stewardship.