How does a nonprofit best protect children from harm? A new organization called the Evangelical Council for Abuse Prevention (ECAP) is answering this question through newly minted accreditation standards, now in the public comment phase and soon to be tested among ministries nationwide. ECAP has also scheduled its first national conference for June 17, 2021, to provide hands-on guidance for organizations particularly as they reopen in-person programs this summer and fall.
ECAP’s Development: Responding to the Call
ECAP was formed in June 2019 under the leadership of founder Jeff Dalrymple, who felt compelled to address the growing awareness of abuse issues within ministries and far beyond. He identified a void within child safety protocols – namely, the absence of proactive, comprehensive, and uniform abuse prevention standards. Over the following year, an incredibly equipped and diverse group of child safety experts developed accreditation standards and accompanying resources, through the leadership of attorney Theresa Sidebotham. The draft standards and resources were then thoroughly reviewed and further developed through ECAP’s Legal Review Panel, led by W&O attorney Sally Wagenmaker.
Through its website ECAP is now sharing the accreditation standards for public review and comment until April 30, 2021. ECAP welcomes input from anyone, but especially from frontline ministry workers and leaders who will take time to review this material and help refine the standards as necessary. ECAP’s accreditation standards will also become the basis for an accreditation program, through further testing with several eligible ministry organizations. Thereafter, ECAP’s Council will manage and monitor the accreditation standards and accreditation, through board leadership, abuse survivors, subject matter experts, and eventually accredited members.
ECAP Accreditation Standards and Accompanying Resources
ECAP’s accreditation standards are intended to help ministries not only to “measure up” but also to engage in important diagnostic evaluation. What is good enough? What should be improved? Where are key areas for education and further safety protocol development? In response to these questions, the accreditation standards focus on five key areas:
- Governance - Effective structure, operations, and beliefs that are consistent with child safety;
- Operations - Clear policies to guide staff and volunteers for regular onsite programs, offsite activities, and for specific care considerations;
- Screening - Detailed processes for all childcare workers including a written application, waiting period, personal interaction, reference checks, background checks, and potential disqualification;
- Training – For all childcare workers with children, as well as bystanders in the general ministry setting, legally compliant training and otherwise helpful protocols including reporting abuse, responding to child safety violations, and appropriate controls; and
- Responding to allegations – Appropriate response planning, including proper methods, timing, reporting, investigating, and following up on abuse allegations.
Within this five-part framework, the accreditation standards contain itemized indicators and accompany “best practice” suggestions, all to help ministries thrive through optimal child safety measures.
ECAP anticipates rolling out its full accreditation program to interested ministries after public comment on the accreditation standards and initial ministry testing. As part of its ministry goals to help promote child safety through the accreditation process and beyond, ECAP anticipates providing supplementary educational resources including best practices for handling investigations, risk assessment screening tools, abuse-related care protocols, victim assistance ministry guidance, and sex offender assimilation precautions.
June 17th National Conference
As part of ECAP’s dedication to providing child safety resources, ECAP is also holding its inaugural national conference on June 17, 2021, in Nashville, Tennessee, with the option for virtual attendance. Attendance is open to employees or volunteers of churches and other ministries. As a courtesy to readers of this article, a 20% discount is available to interested persons off the applicable registration fee. Just use the code “Wagenmaker21,” when registering. Registration is available here.
The abuse prevention’s conference theme is titled “Redemption and Prevention.” As stated on ECAP’s conference’s webpage, “We cannot seek to advance the Gospel without also protecting the vulnerable created in the image of God.” The one-day conference includes session topics on investigations, background screening, board leadership, sexual predation, victim care, mandated reporting, spiritual abuse, prevention tools, and more!
Onward to Ministry Accreditation
As founder Jeff Dalrymple posits, “Our aim is to honor the name of Christ by equipping and educating ministry leaders to protect the vulnerable in their care.” ECAP thus squarely seeks to help ministries of all kinds address issues of child abuse, with its unique and new accreditation standard program. Per his God-given vision, “This is a matter of biblical stewardship and we want to see Christian schools, churches, and ministries become safe places for our little ones to hear the Gospel, grow as disciples of Christ, and be kept from harm.”