Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Family Friendly vs. Safety and Liability

I always laugh when "Take our Children to Work" day rolls around each year. Any clergy mom--well any clergy parent for that matter--takes their kids to their workplace at least weekly, usually more: more than either they or we really want to, truth be told.

However, we are running into a situation here where some of our staff are bringing their kids to work all the time--like every day before and after school. Personnel brought this up as a safety/liability issue.

They have a point. If any staff child were injured here on site, we'd be in a mess. If any staff child injured someone else or damaged someones car or property--even if accidentally, we'd be in a mess.

So, the thought from Personnel is that we should send out a general memo saying no more kids coming to work--except for the rare emergency or if they are coming to an event that is meant for family members of all ages.

But here's the thing: some of the staff doing this really cannot readily afford the childcare option offered by our school district and scholarship assistance is limited. Also, I don't want us to get into having to judge what is an appropriate "rare emergency situation" and what isnt'. Finally, I have kids myself who show up here from time to time. They do go to afterschool care--but they have been know to appear occassionally when logistics dictate that they hang out here for 20 minutes between say, the end of student council meeting and the beginning of soccer practice. It even happened once that the after school student council meeting was cancelled, so my son showed up at church an hour earlier than scheduled and I was off doing hospital visits, so he sat in the office and "entertained" everyone until I got back. (He's 10 and his school is right across the street from the church). So I'm far from a disinterested party in this discussion.

Has this come up where you are? How have you handled it?


Stushie said...

Usually, people who raise the liability issue about anything, are annoyed at what's going on in the church generally.

Be careful with this one: a church conflict under-current may exist.

cheesehead said...

This is one of those time that I am glad that I:
a)pastor a small church and
2)had kids who were 14 and 17 when I began doing this.

Is there a way to--instead of having a formal policy drawn up--deal with the offending families pastorally, finding out if there is anything that can be done to help them out of a jam? Or are there too many families to do that with?

My former office admin did this a lot right before she unceremoniously quit during a holy season. It was a way of distancing herself from both me and the job, and finally, the church. Could that be going on? (The other clue was that she began running her part-time insurance business out of the church office, but that's another post altogether.)

Songbird said...

My secretary at Main Street Church frequently brought her son in with her, because she had no back-up when school was out and he wasn't in a program. Arguing over whether this was a good idea was an intramural sport among church leaders, including one special team devoted to complaining that he used the elevator. Mostly, some people thought an attractive young thing was a bad church secretary, while others saw a young mom trying to improve her situation and her son's and supported her unqualifiedly. It's no coincidence that the groups disagreed about other things, too...especially the church's outreach to the community, particularly to lower income people.
I wonder if someone could make a discreet inquiry to the church's insurance agent and lay this to rest?

Purechristianithink said...

The fact that we operate a daycare for infants-preK on campus complicates this issue. The issue arose when a daycare parent questioned the presense of minimally supervised elementary and middle school kids on campus--especially since some of them are children of our daycare staff.

cheesehead said...

Maybe it's time for the church to see if there is a way to operate a simple before/after school program in addition to the preschool as a ministry to the comunity?

Just a thought.

Becky Ardell Downs said...

Well, they need supervision-- we do have a "no unsupervised children" policy here, though I don't know if anyone remembers we have it. But it seems like finding a "supervisor"-- part time college student or something like that-- to hang out with the kids after school and on in-service days/holidays might be your best solution. And it sounds like something the daycare needs to address.

Purechristianithink said...

I think we are leaning toward some sort of employee assistance fund to help folks pay for the before/after school care which is available at the school across the street. It's complicated: some employees genuinely would struggle to pay the fees for that program, others are more, "Hey, why pay $$/week if I can have my kids hang out at the church?"