Faith Formation Children and Youth Accommodation Policy Statement
Policy Purpose: To define the vision and relationships that are the foundation of the Faith Formation Program
It is the vision of the Faith Formation program that as a learning community, with humility and acceptance of one another, we will:
Focus inward to educate and meet the spiritual needs of our whole congregational community while encouraging people of all ages to listen deeply and find and exercise their voice and
Look outward to learn about, foster acceptance for and serve justice and the larger community outside our congregation.
In its Faith Formation program, SUUS seeks to include people with unique needs through inclusion and reasonable accommodation, recognizing that we want everyone to have a positive and rewarding experience, feel welcomed and feel respected. The Faith Formation program for children strives to create thoughtful communication and connections in a climate that promotes and affirms the values of our seven UU Principles and our SUUS mission.
Faith Formation Accommodation Procedure
According to the Faith Formation Policy, SUUS seeks to include people with unique needs through inclusion and reasonable accommodation, recognizing that we want everyone to have a positive and rewarding experience, feel welcomed and feel respected. Children, youth and families are an essential element of the SUUS congregation. In order to achieve SUUS’s vision, during Faith Formation and congregational activities, children and youth are encouraged to take on their role as members of the congregation and be considerate of others, share, participate in activities, comply as best they are able with their class covenant, respect SUUS property and personal belongings, and clean up after their activities.
In some cases, some children and youth may need assistance and support to fully participate in and benefit from SUUS Faith Formation and congregational activities. This procedure outlines the strategies and actions to take in those cases.
Children’s Faith Formation Classes/Activities
1. Setting us up for success
In general, children experience success in Faith Formation and congregational activities when there is open and prompt communication between children/youth, parents, volunteer teacher(s), and staff regarding the child’s needs, emotional, behavioral and learning style. As an example, when reasonable accommodation is needed to adjust the curriculum to meet a particular child’s learning style, deliberate collaboration is required. This applies regardless of the channel to deliver the Faith Formation Program content (i.e. digital vs. in person). It is necessary for parents to:
- Fill out a FF registration form ahead of participation in programs, share information about any accommodations that need to be made for their child. (A rule of thumb is that if the child requires accommodation at school (if they attend), then an overview of those accommodations should be shared on the registration form.);
- Meet with the DFF (Director of Faith Formation) to share information about their child’s learning styles and suggested strategies, including any pre-existing 504/IEP plans, in order to facilitate understanding and coordination;
- Meet with the DFF and the child’s teacher(s) and address specific agreed upon accommodations, prior to the start of the child’s participation in FF programs.
- Advise the DFF/teacher when registration information changes, preferably in writing.
2. Problem Solving
In the case that current curricula, classroom or activities do not seem to be meeting the needs of the child, SUUS volunteer teacher(s), Director of Faith Formation and parents shall initially explore and implement appropriate reasonable accommodations, such as:
- finding out from the child (if appropriate) what measures help them learn;
- adapting the curricula, classroom, and activities, as feasible;
- providing teacher training in classroom and/or behavior management, as feasible; or
- providing a 3rd volunteer teacher if one is available (in special circumstances, a parentmay be asked to be the volunteer)If, after taking the above measures, the question continues as to whether a particular class or activity is suitable for a child, a face-to-face meeting will be scheduled as soon as possible by the DFF, between the parent(s), volunteer teacher(s), DFF, and the Minister if needed or requested. (The child may or may not be included in the meeting depending on the child’s capacity to participate, but they will be encouraged to do so if appropriate.) Other alternative activities/classes will be explored according to resources available to SUUS. The Minister, in consultation with the Board President, will ultimately decide whether the congregation has the necessary resources to meet the needs of a child in specific classes/programs. Appeal may be made to the Board of Trustees, whose decision will be final.3. Behavioral Challenges
If a child’s behavior interferes with their success or the success of other students during FaithFormation activities, then:
- Teacher(s) will attempt to first redirect the child’s or youth’s attention.
- If redirection by the teacher(s) does not have the desired behavioral impact, a teacherwill ask the DFF to attend the class or activity to observe, support and offer additional management techniques to teachers if applicable.
- If after redirection and management techniques are not successful, then the teacher may remove the child or youth from the classroom or activity and bring the child or youth to the DFF, an FF Committee member, or other adult overseeing the activity.
- The DFF or Committee member will review with the child or youth their concerns and will work to develop reasonable strategies for the child or youth to return to the class or activity and continue learning alongside others in a positive manner.
- If the above strategies are also unsuccessful, the DFF or another FF leader will intervene and bring the child or youth to their parent or guardian.
- The parent or guardian has the option of keeping their child or youth with them for the remainder of the activity, or, the parent and child or youth may return to the activity together for the remainder of the program time as appropriate. The next time the child or youth is in an FF class/activity the parent will be asked to be accessible in case he or she is needed.
- In the case the behavior continues, the strategies under “problem solving” above should be followed
- If there is potential harm to anyone participating in the activity, the DFF will remove the child from the activity at the DFF’s discretionAccommodations must be reasonable and appropriate for the child and the rest of the group, while also taking into consideration available SUUS resources.4. CommunicationThroughout the child’s enrollment in SUUS programs, when concerns arise, communication between teacher(s)/DFF, child/youth, and parent, about a child’s behavior and/or needs will be addressed promptly (urgent safety matters should be addressed immediately).While all parties will seek to maintain confidentiality, it must be understood that in a largely volunteer organization full and complete confidentiality cannot be guaranteed. This is particularly difficult when unique accommodations are implemented in a group of children.Parent(s) and teacher(s)/DFF will regularly assess whether the current learning plan is effective and necessary. At least twice during the church Faith Formation year, parents and the DFF must consult regarding the child’s or youth’s Faith Formation experience.