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As Baha’i communities become more complex, the protection of children and junior youth becomes increasingly more important, especially in a world where sexual and physical abuse still prevails.  The following guidelines have been developed by the Canadian NSA – they may not be applicable in your country.

The protection of the youngest members of our communities depends upon the sustained capacity in individuals, communities, and institutions to cultivate safe environments where young people can grow and flourish:

As the negative forces affecting children, junior youth and youth accelerate, and while new, previously-unimagined threats target the most vulnerable members of society, the protection of youth and children depends upon the sustained capacity in individuals, communities, and institutions to cultivate safe environments within which young people can grow and flourish.  (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

 Risk Management

Different conditions and concerns are taken into account:

The programs for children, junior youth and youth offered by the Bahá’í community in Canada range as to their degree of formality, size and scope, their relationships with other organizations and institutions, etc. Each degree along this spectrum gives rise to different conditions and concerns that are taken into account in this assessment.   (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

Large programs:

A large program, engaging hundreds of children and youth in its activities presents higher degrees of risk in the complexity inherent in overseeing a larger program. Thus, over time, structures emerge as needed to coordinate and oversee these activities.   (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

The elements of accompanying and supervising volunteers become necessary in large programs, as befits the assessment of risk such larger numbers bring to the safe provision of the programs.  (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

Small programs:

A smaller program, composed primarily of individual initiatives with children, junior youth and youth already known to the volunteer through a network of family, friends and acquaintances, presents considerably less risk.  A coordinator for these programs is generally not deemed necessary at such a stage, while numbers of activities remain small.  (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

Who is Responsible?

The Institute Boards in each region are responsible to ensure the implementation and supervision of the National Assembly’s child protection policies:

The National Assembly has given the training institutes the task of implementing programs of children’s classes and junior youth groups operating under its aegis across Canada. It is thus the responsibility of the Institute Boards in each region to ensure the implementation and supervision of the National Assembly’s child protection policies in all formal training programs operating under that Institute Board’s supervision. (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

In clusters with the capacity to oversee the training, screening, and accompanying of volunteers, the Institute Board may appoint a coordinator:

The appointment of a coordinator for a program overseen by an Institute Board has been deemed an appropriate indicator of both the presence of capacity in a cluster to oversee the training, screening, and accompanying of the volunteers, as well as the degree of complexity and scale exhibited by the stage of growth of the programs. It will be the responsibility of the Institute Board or relevant overseeing agency to monitor the needs for structure and support of activities on an ongoing basis.  (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

The National Assembly will oversee or assign the tasks where any children’s class or junior youth group takes place in a locality that falls outside the jurisdiction of an Institute Board:

Should any children’s class or junior youth group take place in a locality that falls outside the jurisdiction of an Institute Board, the National Assembly will directly oversee the implementation of the relevant provisions of these policies, or assign this task to  a proximate institution or agency (such as a Local Spiritual Assembly).  (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

For programs and activities for children and junior youth at events that are not organized by an Institute Board (seasonal schools or conferences), the agency or institution under whose aegis the event is organized is responsible for overseeing the implementation of these child protection policies with all of its volunteers:

For programs and activities for children and junior youth at events that are not organized by an Institute Board, such as seasonal schools or conferences, the agency or institution under whose aegis the event is organized is responsible for overseeing the implementation of these child protection policies with all of its volunteers.  (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

Local Spiritual Assemblies or other agencies should not impose alternate or additional screening policies and/or requirements on children’s class teachers or animators beyond the National Assembly’s policies:

As the programs for the spiritual education of children and the junior youth empowerment program are national programs, Local Spiritual Assemblies or other agencies should not impose alternate or additional screening policies and/or requirements on children’s class teachers or animators beyond the National Assembly’s policies. (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

Who is covered?

Child protection policies established by the National Assembly should cover all volunteers:

The child protection policies established by the National Assembly cover all volunteers working with children in programs under the supervision of any agency or institution of the National Assembly, including children’s classes, junior youth groups, and programs for children and junior youth at events such as seasonal schools and conferences. Volunteers serving these activities may be of any age. (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

Members of the local population (i.e. parent helpers, local youth assistants, etc.) who wish to serve:

  • will be welcomed as participants in the community-building activities of the Bahá’í community
  • will not be authorized to serve in a position of responsibility for children and junior youth without screening

While members of the local population (i.e. parent helpers, local youth assistants, etc.) who wish to serve will be welcomed as participants in the community-building activities of the Bahá’í community, they will not be authorized to serve in a position of responsibility for children and junior youth without screening. Should individuals express interest in serving as children’s class teachers or junior youth animators, they will be required to begin the training process and undergo screening before they will be considered for such specific service as volunteers of the National Assembly.  (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

What is required? 

Steps for approval

  • Volunteers study the volunteer agreement and Spirit of Excellence document in the company of an individual designated and approved by the overseeing agency.
  • This person should be well known to the candidate and able to provide an informed recommendation.
  • The volunteer signs the agreement, giving consent to:
  • participate in the screening process
  • Their information being retained in the agency’s confidential files.
  • The coordinator recommends the candidate to work with children and junior youth, by signing the Volunteer Agreement Form.

Volunteers are required to study the volunteer agreement and Spirit of Excellence document in the company of an individual designated and approved by the overseeing agency. Such an individual could be a tutor or another volunteer, but should be well known to the candidate and able to provide an informed recommendation. Upon completion of the study, the volunteer is required to sign the agreement and accompanying consent form for participation in the screening process and retention of information in the agency’s confidential files. The coordinator or designated accompanying individual should subsequently indicate his or her recommendation for the candidate to work with children and junior youth, by signing in the space provided on the Volunteer Agreement Form.  (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

Regardless of the scale and complexity of the program, two checks are required for volunteers working with children and youth within the programs of the National Assembly:

  • A vulnerable sector check is required for all volunteers working with children and youth

Vulnerable sector checks will be required for all volunteers working with children and junior youth, regardless of cluster or locality. If the results of the background checks reveal any prior allegation of offense involving children and/or offenses involving violence, illegal substances, indecency and any conduct contrary to the mission of the Bahá’í Community of Canada, the volunteer’s application will be reviewed on a case by case basis to determine if the results of the VSC indicate present patterns that would impact the service with children, junior youth and youth. All background checks must be performed in accordance the vulnerable sector screening requirements. Additional mental health screening is not required.  (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

All volunteers are required to annually renew their information regarding the VSC by either providing a updated VSC or providing a signed statement that their criminal records history has not changed, nor have they been the subject of any allegations or investigations since the previous VSC.  (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

  • A Bahá’í administrative background check is required for all Bahá’ís

For those volunteers who are registered as members of the Bahá’í community, background checks will be conducted through the National Spiritual Assembly to ensure that the applicant is a Bahá’í in good standing and that there are no restrictions precluding his or her service with children and youth for any reason. This background check must be carried out for all volunteers registered as members of the Bahá’í community, regardless of cluster or locality. Following this initial check, the National Assembly will keep Institute Boards informed of any changes in individuals’ administrative status or suitability to continue working with children and junior youth.  (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

The role of the training institute

The process of human resource development in place by the training institutes, when executed with excellence and diligence, is highly conducive to the effective screening of its volunteers, beyond what can be generally achieved through isolated interviews and written applications:

The National Assembly has noted from experience that the process of human resource development in place by the training institutes across the country, when executed with excellence and diligence, is highly conducive to the effective screening of its volunteers, beyond what can be generally achieved through isolated interviews and written applications. Screening is thus an ongoing process, reviewed continually as new information emerges, and has been interwoven into the process of human resource development set in motion by the institute, brought forward more explicitly in the measures described in greater detail in the forthcoming sections.  (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

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