Are we overdoing child protection?

Sharon - posted on 11/13/2011 ( 26 moms have responded )

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I am interested in hearing from anyone who may be able to help with a legal child-protection matter. At my church, parents have just been asked to sign a permission note if their children are going out to Sunday school activities. We have always had permission notes for leaving church property, or if the children are at church property without their parents, but this is a step further. These activities are on the same property as the church, and the younger groups (primary and below) in the room next to the main church hall (you can hear them during church). Each is supervised by two adults who have been screened and done an industry specific working with children course. I feel that the permission note is superfluous. I want to know if anyone who has experience with a similar issue has some real knowledge about whether such a permission note will actually make any difference should the church, or an individual within the church, have litigation brought against them?

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Elizabeth - posted on 11/13/2011

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we live in a society were it's cool to sue... and your church should protect its self

Sharon - posted on 11/14/2011

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Well, I was curious, so I googled it - it was a 81 year old woman in Albuquerque (these American names are as harder to spell than Aussie ones!) she suffered third degree burns over 17% of her body, including genitalia, and was disabled for two years. To cover her medical expenses she asked MacDonalds for $20,000 (wouldn't have needed that in Aussie) but they said they would pay her $800 so it went to trial. It was found that MacDonalds had had some 700 similar claims made against them and regularly served their coffee at a temp that was well over what is considered reasonable, because of taste, and possibly so that people drink it more slowly and won't go back for the free refill. The lady was awarded $160,000 in compensation, but then awarded a further $480,000 in punitive damages (to punish maccas so they would do something about it, which they did). This amount was held to be reasonable given that it represented only two days’ worth of McDonalds’ revenue from coffee sales alone. Also, the amounts above are reduced amounts from the original amounts awarded, because it was found that MacDonalds was 80% at fault and the lady 20%. There you go - you learn something every day!

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Sharon - posted on 11/16/2011

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Interesting, Traci - Australia recently changed some of its child-protection mandatory reporting laws. Formerly, circumstances in which children suspected of being 'at risk of harm' had to be reported, but that has been changed to 'at risk of significant harm' ('significant' then being defined), so long as those in the 'at risk of harm' category receive some other form of intervention (other than the statutory intervention provided by Community Services) . This is because it was recognised that often the solution to getting the child out of harms way often had a more detirmental effect on the child than the original problem did. The other (but less pressing ) reason for this change was to reduce the amount of cases that go through Community Services, thereby reducing the burden on the state and encouraging a culture of change at grass-roots level.

Sharon - posted on 11/16/2011

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It seems to me Barb, that your comments above contradict one another (perhaps purposely - devil's advocate and all that): your Sandusky comment implies there cannot be too much protection, but your second comment implies that no amount of protection is necessarily going to stop something from happening. For those that argue at either extreme your comments illustrate my point exactly: That there needs to be some sort of REASONABLE compromise. I have just read a story in the paper about the need to make a bushfire plan for summer. I will not be making such a plan because I live in a low-risk area, so I will spend the time making other types of plans (house-fire escape plan for instance) because you can't REASONABLY plan for every contingency (flood, earthquake, plane crash - we have a lot of small planes going over our town). I'm well, aware however, that not making plans for all of these possible disasters leaves my family open to a certain level of risk (as does letting them walk to the school bus stop!) but there is always SOME element of risk even when one DOES plan. Where do you draw the line? is my question.

Barb - posted on 11/16/2011

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I have to wonder if the now 18 victims of Sandusky worry about over protection.

The only problem i see with it is creating a false sense of security for parents and authority figures. Oh, they have procedures in place, it must be safe.

Traci - posted on 11/16/2011

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Sharon, I'm in Albuquerque, N.M. Though I have never seen that much protections for a church maybe it's a blessing. In this country a child can be taken into custody by the state for simply complaining to a school they are being abused. Currently, at my children's high school in order to help with student activities you must sign a form to be ok'd by both the person leading the activity and the principal. Then a background check and this happens even if you are only going to be involved with them at onsite activities. It seems more sad that places such as school or church would feel they have to take these measures. Sadly, even our children are aware that one word can get rid of a person or parent they dislike. It's shameful but, I can see why your church is taking such extreme measures.

Tabitha - posted on 11/15/2011

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i'm of the same mind as Amanda, some parents over do the protection thing even when their child is a full grown adult. But with your church it seems that with all the issues that we have been having here in Aus recently with people suing their church for all manner of things, that they are just trying to cover every possible angle that someone might just atempt to sue them from. hope that made sense.

Far North NSW, Australia

Amanda - posted on 11/15/2011

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I know this is a little off topic but today I read a persons facebook status, and thought of this thread.



He ranted on and on about how he keeps his facebook status clean, and how he keeps his son away from facebook due to others cussing, and rudiness.



Seems understandable right? Sure would be if his son was a child, but he is a 20 year old man LOL. Btw he doesnt allow people to smoke near him, or drink near him still.



So yes in general we protect our children way to much now adays.



As for permission forms, its about being sued or not. Fully understand a school,church or any other group would have a ton of permission forms to prevent some parent from sueing them.

[deleted account]

At the school they only need permission if leaving school grounds. If they stay on school property
np permison required. Do not understand why church would be different

[deleted account]

At the school they only need permission if leaving school grounds. If they stay on school property
np permison required. Do not understand why church would be different

[deleted account]

At the school they only need permission if leaving school grounds. If they stay on school property
np permison required. Do not understand why church would be different

Sharon - posted on 11/14/2011

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Gaters: actually they are crocodiles which are more aggressive than gaters. They are only in the tropics and anyone who goes anywhere near them is warned about them so unless you get caught in a flood or your boat capsizes or something, if you get chomped it's probably your own fault. The only fatality I've heard from a dingo is Azaria Chamberlain, although they are known to be aggressive if they are treated as domestic animals. The one that took Azaria was known to have been fed by tourists etc otherwise it would not have come near humans. Koala - the worst thing that I've heard is that they might wee on you and they really stink. Possibly someone got injured as described but that could happen with any animal. Bugs: the spiders are pretty yuk - funnel webs VERY deadly but despite living in funnel web territory for years I've never seen one except in a galss case (one was a Southern Tree Funnelweb female called 'Tiny' - she was about as long as a man's hand and her abdomen was the size of a 10 years old's fist - eek!). I know a couple of kids who have been bitten by a red-back spider and been sick for about a week, but no one who's died. Sharks are everywhere - it's just that being (mostly) a hot country we spend a lot of time in the water.

Sharon - posted on 11/14/2011

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I'm not getting far with the child protection issue here so may as well talk about something else. The lady who sued wasn't driving the car. (perhpas she had a car like mine - no cup holders, no flat spaces to put cups - I always ask for a cardboard tray). The fact that she was not completely fault free was admitted as well, but I think the point that the jury wanted to make with the punitive damages is that Maccas already had a bad record and they felt it was time something was done - this lady was just lucky that it happened for her!

[deleted account]

A flight attendant accidently poured hot coffee on my lap as a child. It hurt. I was wet, stained, and smelled like coffee for the rest of the day, but the extent of damage done was some mild redness on my legs that went away w/in an hour or so. To sustain THIRD DEGREE burns... yeah, McDonald's definitely screwed up.

Sorry. I know this isn't what the op is about, but the whole 'lady sued McDonald's for hot coffee' thing is a story that I used to laugh at too.... until I heard the extent of the damage done and compared it to my experience as a child!

Elizabeth - posted on 11/14/2011

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I think you have to be a special person to put a cup of coffee between your legs then take off from the drive threw. When they hand you the cup you can feel how hot the coffee is. I know I like my coffee hot mate.



it seems like everything is deadly there in Australia! Gaters to sharks, from bugs to dings, and I've hears about cute little kola bear tearing off someones face!



I think Iheard something about Aussies not as likely to get cancer and i think i know why now...

[deleted account]

USA... Hawaii.

The coffee thing (I heard, at least) wasn't just about hot coffee, but it did some serious damage to her leg tissue... it was THAT hot.

Sharon - posted on 11/13/2011

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You didn't mention brown snakes - 2nd most venomous snake in the world and by far the most aggressive. The most venomous snake - the Fierce snake - also lives here but I've never seen one and don't know anyone who has - apparently they are not very fierce! Plenty of brownies around here on the farms though - it's been a good season for mice! Don't know anyone that's been bitten though.

Elizabeth - posted on 11/13/2011

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Australia mate? I live in CA USA and there was a lady here that sued a fast food chain for giving her coffee that was too hot and not marked as hot. She got a million for it.

So yeah I've heard nothing about Australians being sue happy, just tough ppl you know to be around all the man eating spiders and box jelly fish ect... what a scary place to live.

Sharon - posted on 11/13/2011

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It would be good to know what happens in other churches too - please add your country and State, if you don't mind!

[deleted account]

We had liability forms for our skatepark (broke down now) and we have them for kid camps. Otherwise...we don't do them. The bigger kid class (4th and 5th grade) even leaves in the church van for ice cream occasionally....

We've never had any problems, but I don't know how it goes in most places.

Sharon - posted on 11/13/2011

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I should add that I live in NSW, Australia (apparently the country that has the dubious distinction of suing each other more than any other - per capita, that is)

Sharon - posted on 11/13/2011

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I see what you're saying there Elizabeth, and it's a simple matter for me to sign the slip. That is not the point, however. Significant resources in terms of both time and money have already been spent on child protection in my church, and this church (like many) is running woefully underbudget, as well as consuming so much administrative time (as opposed to time that could be spent on mission projects). For me, this permission slip is not the problem in itself - it costs nothing in terms of time or money for me to sign it - it is just the last drop in an already full cup. How far do we have to place burdens on ourselves by duplicating safeguards that are ALREADY IN PLACE? This is my problem, and that is why I am requesting a legal angle to the question.

Wendy - posted on 11/13/2011

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Elizabeth i agree we do, however parents need to protect there children and not sign all away without knowing all the facts....

Wendy - posted on 11/13/2011

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I think they have enough permission slips by the sound of it...wow! Legally i have no idea but sounds off to me...i would further invistagate this....

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