Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Safety - How Do We Have Parents Sign the Children In and Pick them Up?

Years ago when I served in a church in Northern California another church in town had a child abducted from their nursery by the child's grandparents. The grandparents showed up, the child identified them as their grandparents, so the nursery workers released the child. This church needed a policy and system for signing in children and picking them up.

At my church we had some grandparents who visited with their grandchild. These grandparents had custody of their grandchildren and were afraid the parents would come and try to take the children from our children's ministry. I explained our policy and showed them how we required adults to drop off and sign in their children. The adult received a copy of the form they filled out and we only released the child to the person who returned with the form and was listed as the person who was supposed to pick the child up. When they learned of our sign in/pick up policy they were relieved and began to regularly attend. 

A pastor I know of a church in a city near me told about a Sunday when they almost had a child abducted. The child's father showed up to pick up the child. The teachers let the child go - after all, he was the child's dad. Two minutes later the mother showed up - she was distraught to learn the father had the child - she was the parent with custody and the father was not. This children's pastor ran into the parking lot and had to physically take the child from the father's arms. After this incident, they implemented a security system for signing in and picking up children. 

Sadly, many of the children who attend church come from broken homes where custody could be an issue. We have to have a layer of security in our churches which begins when a child is signed in to our classrooms and carries through until they are picked up at the end of the service. There are many options available to churches today - some are quite technical and potentially expensive while others are simpler, but regardless of which system you choose to use, be sure you have something in place to provide this layer of security at your church.

A large church I know of - Kentwood Community Church in Kentwood, MI utilizes a computer system from Shelby inc. for signing in and picking up children. When parents arrive for any service with their children, they take their bar coded id badge and swipe it in any one of several computers around the building. When they arrive at their child’s classroom, a name tag is waiting for their child along with a “call tag” for the parent. The parent must show this tag and the number on the tag must match the one on the child’s name tag for the child to be released to the adult who is there to pick up the child. It is a really awesome security/attendance system, but not one a small church will likely be able to afford.  KidCheck is another computer system which you might find is an affordable option for your church.

My church, Calvary Church in Grand Rapids, has a system where parents/grandparents sign their child in on a computer and receive three name tag/labels. One goes on the child, one is given to the child's teacher and one is kept by the parent/grandparent who picks the child up after class. Children are not released without the third label being presented. This system works well for my church.

However, just because a church is smaller it doesn't mean they can’t provide a truly effective security/attendance system for the families in their church. You could use something as simple as duplicate slips printed with your children’s logo on it along with space for the date, child’s name, name of adult dropping off the child as well as the name of adults who may pick up the child. Each service parents have to bring their children - Nursery through fifth grade - to class and fill in a form. The parents keep the yellow copy and your attendance people keep the white copy when the child is checked in. When parents are ready to pick up their child they turn in their yellow form, it is matched to the white form and the child is released to the parent. It isn’t as high tech as the computer system, but it is effective and affordable. 

Some churches use a wristband sign in/pick up system. This system utilizes different colored Tyvek Security Wristbands for children nursery through 5th grade. When a child is dropped off a wrist band is put on the child and another with a matching number is given to the parent. When they pick up their child, the numbers are checked to be sure they match before the child is released. 

These are just a few ideas for signing in and picking up children from our churches. Do some research - check with churches in your area to see what systems they use. Find one which works for you, but remember, it is essential for every church to develop a security sign in/pick up system for their children’s ministry.

What does your church do to provide this layer of security for children?

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