Society more than ever expects increased compliance and robust risk mitigation strategies within all child-related organisations, to ensure that our environments are as safe as can be. One such risk mitigation strategy is Fellowship Agreements (formerly known as Safety Agreements). Adsafe has conducted a comprehensive review of the processes for implementing Fellowship Agreements within our Church in response to reflecting on discussions with stakeholders, victims, perpetrators and the recommendations emanating from the work of the Australian Royal Commission. This review has also included consultation with Forensic Psychologists, law enforcement agencies and other faith-based organisations who have extensive experience in working with persons who sexually offend against children and adults.
The outcome of this review is a suite of Fellowship Agreements that will be tailored to address the risks identified, as they correlate to the offending behaviour and circumstances presented and are designed to provide ministry to all types of past offenders. A robust decision making tool will also be adhered to, to determine which individuals will be appropriate for referral for a more comprehensive Forensic Risk Assessment. This new process will provide the person of concern (POC) or person subject of allegation (PSOA) with a clearer pathway, enabling them to demonstrate that they want to be safe in our community and in partnership, our Church will afford them with boundaries of support to keep them safe. This process designs tailored individual plans, taking into consideration the static and dynamic risk factors in a participant’s life, as well as the capacity of the local church to implement the plan.
From time to time you may face the situation where a POC or PSOA has been worshipping and been involved, or wishes to worship and be involved, in your church or affiliated entities. You may even experience tension between the notions of redemption, forgiveness and compliance as you navigate these processes and implement risk mitigation strategies. However, while demonstrating genuine compassion and justice, you must take steps to protect the whole church community.
A Christian congregation can be one of the few places where sexual abusers, as the recipients of God's forgiveness, can mix with a Christian community. However, that forgiveness does not mean immunity from temptation to re-offend. The forgiveness and grace of God, mediated with supervision and clear guidelines through a local church, can be a vital part of that journey. This demonstrates the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s mission and commitment to provide a safe place for both children and vulnerable persons to attend and experience the love of God. To ensure a safe community for all of our entities and all or those that attend, we must work together to manage potential risks.
Categories for a Person of Concern (POC) are:
- Has pleaded guilty to, been convicted of, or has admitted to a sexual criminal offence.
- Has been found to have sexually offended, arising through due diligence checks related to recruitment by a Seventh-day Adventist Organisation (screening).
- Has sustained findings of sexual misconduct which may not have been appropriately investigated. Eg. an investigation which may not have afforded the respondent procedural fairness, such as investigations prior to the Hedges case (prior to 2004).
- Has been found to have received an adverse risk assessment arising from sustained findings of serious sexual misconduct (an independent investigation).
- Exhibits constant wandering across other people’s sexual boundaries. E.g. continual breaches of the code of conduct.
A Person Subject of Allegation (PSOA) is:
- Is currently charged with a sexual offence.
- Where the police provide authorisation for Adsafe to put in place risk management strategies for a person under investigation for a sexual offence.
- Deemed to be a risk to the safety of children and/or vulnerable adults because of an adverse risk assessment relating to alleged sexual misconduct. E.g. An individual who was found not guilty through the criminal process or the police did not proceed with the matter to court however, the alleged victim provided a statement to either the police or Adsafe.