Petition 80219

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Childcare and the Church (80219-DI-R63)

Retain Resolution No. 63, amended as follows:
Today's Families
Families today need the church to provide quality, loving care in a safe, stimulating learning environment. More parents of both genders and all socioeconomic classes are entering the labor force, returning to school, and returning to job training programs. More parents are choosing to remain single. Although the number of divorces in the United States shows recent indications of decreasing, the number of children living in a single-parent headed household continues to increase. With men and women waiting until later in life to become parents, their work patterns are already established and they often continue in those patterns after having children. With increasing awareness of the benefits of early childhood education, parents are seeking programs that enhance their children's physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual growth. The strain of parenting is recognized in cases of child neglect and abuse, as we see through daily reports of the media. There is a need for respite care outside the home to allow parents to resolve issues of neglect and abuse. Parents of a single child or of children with a wide age range recognize the need for their child or children to participate in regular socialization opportunities. Children with special needs, long-term health care needs, and minor illnesses also need childcare while parents must work.
Our Call
Our Call                
As people of faith, we are called to teach children through scripture, our tradition as Methodists, the Social Principles, the ritual of baptism, and our concern for families. In responding to the call set before us, we will provide environments for children to be nurtured in the faith and to grow as children of God.
  
Scripture tells us to teach children the words of God (Deut. 4:10; 6:7) and not to prevent them from discovering Jesus (Matt. 19:14; Mark 10:14; Luke 18:16). We can also help children to grow as Jesus grew “strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God” (Luke 2:40b)  
  
John Wesley set the example for us as Methodists as he began health clinics and schools for the children to learn to read and encouraged the pastors to meet with the children regularly. His call to meet the needs of people where they were stands as a marker for us today. Using our buildings that otherwise might sit empty six days a week to meet the physical, mental, and emotional needs of children and their families clearly meets Mr. Wesley’s expectations.  
  
Our Social Principles (162:C) state, “Once considered the property of their parents, children are now acknowledged to be full human beings in their own right, but beings to whom adults and society in general have special obligations....” This Social Principle calls us to take responsibility for meeting the needs of children, including education and protection. Additionally, it calls us to meet the needs of not just our children but all children.

Our service of infant baptism....  
  
We promise “...We will surround these persons with a community of love and forgiveness, that they may grow in their service to others...” (The United Methodist Hymnal, page 40). In recognition of this promise and in response to the sacredness of all children as set forth in scripture, through the teachings of John Wesley, and in our Social Principles, our vision for childcare must include a vision of services available to all families on an equitable basis. "The Christian faith mandates us to recognize and respond to the value of each human person. Our task as the church is to minister to the needs of all persons and to ensure for them a caring community where all may be nurtured in a dignified and loving manner. This mandate is to be seen not as a burden, but rather as an opportunity." (Adopted 1984. From The Book of Resolutions of the United Methodist Church—1996. Copyright © 1996 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission; page 224.) Through the particular ministry of childcare, we extend the nurturing ministry of the church and proclaim justice to children, families, and communities. Childcare is not only a nurturing concern but also a pastoral and prophetic concern for the church. The church has important responsibilities in initiating, encouraging, and participating in the highest quality of childcare for children and families, not only in the local community but also nationwide.  
  
Therefore Therefore, we recommend the following:
  
1. See childcare as planned ministry.
1. See childcare as planned ministry. Each congregation of The United Methodist Church that houses or supports any childcare program must intentionally assess its understanding of discipleship as it relates to this program weekday ministry. Childcare is a valid expression of the Christian faith. However, programs in local churches too often exist without much thought to intentional ministry. Concerns often focus on budgeting and facility use instead of the ministry of the programs. When this happens, misunderstandings arise between the childcare program and the congregation, and missed opportunities occur for witnessing and mirroring the Christian faith.   Each childcare program may encompass one or all of the following expressions of ministry: nurture, outreach and/or witness. A particular congregation may choose any avenue of ministry, but it is important that each congregation be intentional, involving thought and prayer. What are the congregation's gifts for ministry with children? What is the mission of childcare? How is the intentional ministry a part of the daily operation of the program?...  
  
Congregations must determine how the childcare program embraces the church's mission.
  
a. Nurture includes Christian education, stewardship, and worship. In a program that focuses on nurture, spiritual development through Christian education is central. An intentional part of the curriculum should be the selection of stories (biblical and secular) and methods, and the integration of "God talk" and Christian values into daily conversations and interactions. When celebrations follow the church year, and when themes are based on Christian concepts, our faith traditions are an intentional part of the curriculum.  
  
Also included in nurture is stewardship. In our childcare programs, we reflect our commitment to being God's stewards in the ways we use and allocate our physical resources. We also reflect an understanding of the precarious balance of the world in an ecological sense. When children are cared for, they learn to care for others and for their world....
b. Outreach includes the areas of advocacy, safety, health, welfare, and equity, and how well they are addressed in our communities. Embracing outreach as a part of a weekday ministry program follows our traditional roots of caring for the needs of the community. As a congregation responds to the needs of people in the community through weekday ministry, the community and the congregation discover many blessings. Such a program addresses safety issues, social justice issues, equity issues, and health issues. Specialty childcare that addresses community issues might include care for infants, ill children, children of families at risk, children with special needs, children who are survivors of abuse, children with language barriers, migrant or refugee children, school age children, and young adolescents. Each congregation should determine the unmet needs of their surrounding community. When possible, congregations should work collaboratively with other community agencies and groups to assure that needs are being met without duplication of efforts and in support of each other. When unable to meet the needs of a community, congregations must be outspoken advocates for needs of children in their community.
c. Witness includes the areas of evangelism, membership care, and spiritual formation. In embracing witness as our particular expression of ministry, we proclaim God active in our lives. As Jesus told us to proclaim the good news, so we must through our childcare ministries. Through these ministries, we can minister to the spiritual needs of children and their families. Not to do so is to turn our backs on our call to go into the world proclaiming the message of Jesus Christ. A witness to our faith speaks clearly through the actions of weekday ministry boards, through the caring love of the staff, through the use of developmentally appropriate practices, through gentle and caring words, through the curriculum, through the environment of the facilities, and through the attitude of the congregation....  
  
2. Uphold the quality of childcare in the Church.
2. Uphold the quality of childcare in the Church. Any time a child enters a childcare program housed in a church, expectations are raised regarding quality of the program, behavior of the childcare staff and church staff, and adherence to the Christian doctrines of love and justice. Whether a congregation sees itself as actually sponsoring the program or as merely a landlord, since the program is in the church, families have different expectations than if they were  are taking their child to a commercial childcare facility. A church cannot divorce itself, either morally or legally, from what takes place in its building through childcare programs....  
  
c. Self-Study: Through a self-study process, every childcare facility can look for ways to evaluate the care provided. Churches should follow some process of self-study for their childcare programs on a regular basis. Such studies involve both the childcare providers and the congregation and allow them to continuously assess the effectiveness of the
ministry they are providing. These self-studies are available through some annual conferences, Ecumenical Childcare Network, and the National Association of Early Childhood Programs (a division of the National Association for the Education of Young Children )  and the United Methodist Association of Preschools–Florida.  
  
d. Personnel: As congregations seek to support childcare programs, salary, benefits, and support of the staff of these programs should be of concern and subject to review and discussion to insure the best for the children and families involved. Congregations must assure that children are served through the best caregivers. Congregations have a responsibility to advocate for higher pay and benefits for childcare workers. These
professional caregivers should maintain excellence and integrity in the important job they do, and they should be appropriately compensated for it. With increased concern around issues of child abuse, congregations need to assure that all childcare providers have been adequately screened for child abuse and neglect in accordance with the laws of local jurisdiction, especially in the area of sexual misconduct. Appropriate screening protects
the children, the childcare providers, and the congregation. It is important to meet any government regulations and the Safe Sanctuaries policies of your local church regarding the screening of childcare workers as appropriate. The personnel issue also includes a concern for the education and training of childcare workers. A yearly plan for continuing education should be part of the congregation's support for childcare providers. Many childcare providers have extensive training and education in the field. They are good sources for training of those who work with children in other areas of the church, including childcare workers for Sunday services, Sunday school teachers, and vacation Bible school teachers. For those who are hired without proper training and education, the congregations should sponsor and encourage attendance at continuing education events.

3. Be advocates for quality childcare.
3. Be advocates for quality childcare. Going beyond the congregation, United Methodists should be diligent advocates for childcare nationwide. The following suggestions are for individuals and groups within congregations who seek to better the place of children in American society:...

c. Become involved not only in church conferences and meetings but in the larger arena
of childcare through such organizations as the Children's Defense Fund, and the National Association For the Education of Young Children , and the Ecumenical Childcare Network....
Adopted 2000

Rationale

Childcare is the number-one concern of working parents, and the quality of childcare offered by congregations is a concern as well. This petition updates the needs and options for childcare and gives churches incentives to offer programs that are the best they can be for children and families.