Frequently Asked Questions on Screening
1. Why should we screen volunteers, including our own parishioners?
“.... A fundamental obligation, therefore, is to look after the welfare of all members of the community, especially those who are vulnerable through age, infirmity or any other form of dependency. This is a sacred trust, which must be performed in a responsible and safe manner.”
Screening in Faith Policy, Section 1, 1.1 Theological Foundation
It is the policy of the Diocese of New Westminster that everyone who comes into contact with vulnerable persons be screened. The goal is a safe environment in parishes, in diocesan ministries, in activities for children, seniors, the physically, emotionally, and/or spiritually vulnerable persons.
2. Who should be screened? Do all parish volunteers require a Police Record Check?
All ministry positions need to be screened but not all positions require a Police Records Check.
The Policy aims to protect ‘the vulnerable’ (children; youth; physically, mentally, or psychologically vulnerable adults).
Those directly engaged in ministry with the vulnerable need to submit a Police Records Check with Vulnerable Sector Check (PRC/VSC), while those parishioners who serve on committees, parish councils, and similar groups likely do not. Having all members of Parish Council or Synod Delegates submit a PRC/VSC (unless involved directly in ministry with the vulnerable) does not fulfill the intent of the Policy.
Following the steps outlined in Section 2 of the Policy, creating position descriptions, and weighing those descriptions against the Risk Assessment Tool will help clarify who needs to submit a PRC/VSC, within each particular parish context.
High Risk ministries typically include: positions of authority or are positions that allow a person to establish long-term relationships of trust. Examples: all parish employees, youth leader, sunday school teacher, pastoral visitors, organists & music directors, server instructors, wardens (if regularly meeting with parishioners alone)
Position descriptions and risk assessments for all ministry positions will determine whether a position is considered low, medium, or high risk.
3. What is a Vulnerable Sector Check (VSC) and how do I know if my Police Record Check (PRC) has one?
The VSC is an enhanced criminal record check. VSCs are used to verify if an individual has a record suspension (formerly pardon) for sex offences. They also include checks of national data bases maintained by the RCMP and local police records where the applicant lives. A VSC can be obtained by anyone who provides a letter from the organisation requesting the check specifically asking for it to be completed. When you receive your completed PRC, you'll be able to see whether a VSC was completed or not.
All volunteers and staff applying for PRCs for the Screening in Faith process must request the VSC. RCMP detachments and municipal police departments may refuse to complete the VSC if they believe that the applicant does not have direct interactions with vulnerable persons. If this is the case, the diocese accepts this and after following up with you or your parish to confirm your ministry role, will process the PRC.
4. My PRC was obtained for another organization; will it be accepted?
A PRC/VSC completed for another organization will be accepted if:
(a) it was obtained from a police department / RCMP detachment in Canada or through the BC Criminal Records Review Program (b) it is not more than 12 months old, and (c) includes a Vulnerable Sector Check.
The original PRC/VSC must be submitted; we are not able to process scans or copies.
5. Once I have completed my PRC / VSC, who do I give it to?
All PRC/VSC should be sent to the Screening in Faith Facilitator at the Synod Office:
1410 Nanton Avenue, Vancouver, BC, V6H 2E2
They should not be delivered to, or stored, at a Parish Office. This is because all PRC/VSC information must be handled in a confidential manner consistent with the BC Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA).
6. How long is a PRC with Vulnerable Sector Check valid?
PRC/VSC are required to be updated every five years.
7. How do we screen those who are 18 years or younger?
a. For those 14 to 18 years old, the parish needs to implement the same screening procedures as for adults (19+), including but not limited to: a position description, interviews, references (including social media), and risk assessment. Should the position be assessed as high risk, they need to obtain a PRC/VSC. Please see all screening steps outlined in the Screening in Faith Policy, Section 2.
b. The youngest age to obtain a PRC/VSC is 14 years old.
c. Should there be 12 and 13 year olds serving as assistants to an adult in a position that involves children or other vulnerable person, they need to be screened, using all steps outlined in Section 2 of the Policy, though they will not be required to obtain a PRC/VSC. Care and diligence is required by following all screening steps, including interviews and references (teachers, work supervisors, social media).
Regarding children and youth ministry, the following age standard should be applied to the leadership position held by someone 19 years old or younger: the leader should be at least two years older than the oldest group member.
8. Does the parish have to keep screening documents after a volunteer leaves?
Under the BC Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA), records must be kept for one year after any decision has been made using those records. In a parish that decision may involve whether or not the person may, indeed, volunteer. Once that period is over, the information must be destroyed. So, the parish would destroy the screening records one year after that person ceases to be a volunteer.
9. Why is our parish required to establish a filing system and keep confidential records?
Appropriate record keeping is a critical step in the implementation of the screening policy. Keeping confidential records on ministry positions of volunteer and paid staff, and on 3rd party users of parish premises, is one facet of how we express our Christian values to be consistent with the legal concept of “duty of care”.
10. What training is required of our volunteers and employees?
All those serving in medium or high risk ministries are required to complete the diocesan online Safe Church training, Armatus: Learn to Protect. Clergy, lay volunteers and parish employees are registered into the system by the diocesan Screening in Faith Facilitator. Courses are taken online using a personal electronic device, and once complete a certificate is obtained which should be filed at the parish or in a clergy's personnel file in the Archbishop's Office. Training is renewed every five (5) years.
11. Can our parish still host the sexual misconduct policy workshop?
The links below are the archived resources for the previous sexual misconduct policy workshop and its associated video. Parishes are welcome to use it as an additional resource for equipping parishioners for ministry. However, completion of Armatus is required for all individuals in medium or high-risk ministries.
Sexual Misconduct Policy Workshop Kit (last revised: May 2018)
"Sexual Misconduct: Learn to Spot it, Learn to Stop it" video resource for workshop
12. I have obtained training in preventing sexual misconduct through my workplace or another volunteer organization, do I need to undertake the diocesan Safe Church training?
Yes. An important part of the diocesan Safe Church training is its emphasis on the particular requirements for preventing and reporting sexual misconduct in the Diocese of New Westminster. This includes the opportunity to receive the diocesan sexual misconduct policy and to affirm understanding and agreement with it.
13. Our parish has screened all of our volunteers! What maintenance is required of us?
There are several necessary steps to ensure your parish remains up to date:
- As parishioners transition in and out of volunteer roles, ensure that the screening process is completed for new volunteers and that personal information from former volunteers is destroyed after one year. (If volunteers involved in high risk ministry leave the parish, get in touch with the Screening in Faith Facilitator so records at Synod Office can be kept up to date)
- Ensure that new PRC/VSC records are requested every five (5) years for volunteers. Each parish will have copies of dated confirmation letters sent from the Synod Office which you can use to track this information. Rectors, wardens and Screening in Faith Coordinators also check in with the Screening in Faith Facilitator to determine which records need updating.
- Ensure that volunteers in medium or high risk ministries undertake the online Safe Church training every five years.
- Complete the annual Screening in Faith Compliance Report and return it with the rest of your Parochial Reports. This tool assists the parish to see what parts of the screening process currently require attention.
14. What happens with 3rd party organizations using parish premises, such as Boy Scouts or Day Cares?
(a) Occasional use of parish premises by outside groups: The parish does not have to put any special Screening steps into place for occasional use of parish premises. This applies to outside community organizations/groups using/renting the premises for an occasional meeting, a birthday party, or any other occasional gathering.
The Diocesan Group User Insurance program should be used to offer liability insurance to these groups.
(b) Continuous/long-term use of parish premises by outside groups: The parish determines whether vulnerable persons are included in, or offered ministries by, the outside organizations using parish premises. If no, please document that in a brief paragraph, establish a file, and review once a year to ensure that the circumstances have not changed. If yes, the parish implements appropriate steps. A template is provided in the Screening in Faith Policy, Appendix P: ‘Screening Policy for Long-Term Users and Lessees of St.----------Anglican Church’. Thanks to the Rev. Neil Fernyhough for developing this long-term user/lessees policy for St. Barnabas and making it available to all parishes in the Diocese.
The Diocesan Group User Insurance program should be used to offer liability insurance to these groups.
(c) AA and/or other Twelve Step Groups using parish premises:
The following are AA and/or other twelve step groups’ criteria:
◦ peer counseling groups,
◦ with adult membership,
◦ do not have a leader in power or authority,
◦ leadership typically rotates at every meeting,
◦ there is little if any one-on-one contact.
When the above criteria are in place, it is agreed that AA and/or other Twelve Step Groups fall into the low-risk category. As it is doubtful that these groups have group liability insurance, and as they do not have an organization structure as such, we will not require them to acquire liability insurance at this time. It is recommended that the parish review the above criteria in its own context, and document this in a file, to be reviewed once a year.
Any other questions?
If you have questions about the Screening in Faith or Sexual Misconduct Policy that you can't find the answer to on these pages, just fill out the form below!