Helping You Protect Those Who Matter Most

This article was originally featured in the September/October 2023 issue of Church Executive, Child Sexual Abuse Prevention: Insurance Carriers as Change Agents.

In the last few years, verdicts and settlements from sexual abuse have increased, reviver statutes have opened up the opportunity for claims related to decades-old alleged activity, and abuse issues are making headlines on a regular basis. While insurance carriers can’t do much to reduce claims from historical activity, some are making a concerted effort to minimize the chance of future claims and to help position their insureds to defend those claims. One of the biggest challenges in defending historic claims is the lack of documented abuse prevention activities. As a result, some insurance carriers now require more robust documented abuse prevention programs in order to qualify for expanded sexual abuse and molestation limits. Organizations looking for more than minimum limits need to provide clear documentation to explain how they comply with both legal requirements like the Texas Youth Camp Act and California AB 506 and accepted best practices such as the CDC’s Preventing Child Sexual Abuse in Youth-Serving Organizations.

As one of the largest insurers of religious organizations, GuideOne Insurance (“GuideOne”) requires its insureds have policies and procedures in place that include: screening measures, awareness training, operational safeguards and clear reporting requirements. In many situations where higher limits are requested, underwriters will request additional information regarding documented abuse procedures — either as part of the quote process or in follow-up risk control surveys. Risk Control representatives will review the practices of the organization, taking into account the exposures and complexity of the insured’s operations. GuideOne provides online materials including sample policies and procedures, forms and webinars regarding documentation of abuse prevention programs and an alliance with MinistrySafe that allows policyholders to manage abuse prevention training at a discount.

GuideOne offers its insureds a checklist of practice prevention measures that includes skillful screening of employees and volunteers, waiting periods and operational procedures. We also believe that understanding grooming behavior is important and that early identification is a key to addressing preferential offenders who are responsible for the majority of abuse claims. We know it’s important to train employees and volunteers to create an environment where offenders don’t feel comfortable. Our Risk Control Team works with organizations to develop robust procedures and to document their efforts. Our ultimate goal is to preserve a record of what they do; not what they say they do. We aim to help insureds prevent abuse before it happens and to create a defensible set of standards in the event the insured ends up with a future claim.

Given our 75-year history as an insurer of religious organizations, GuideOne understands the unique programs of churches and other houses of worship. While we also underwrite a large number of nonprofit organizations, we have been writing insurance coverage for thousands of churches for decades. Our team appreciates the distinct nature of church programming, staffing and facilities, and we use this knowledge to help churches refine abuse prevention programs that address these unique issues.

At GuideOne, we understand that risk and insurance issues can be a distraction from the mission of religious organizations; but we also know that protecting both the organization and the individuals it serves are essential to the mission of every house of worship. Our goal is to provide tools and resources to help organizations keep their resources focused on their mission.

Filed under Religious Organizations
Brian Gleason

Brian Gleason

Senior Risk Manager

Brian Gleason, MBA has spent most of the past 30 years working with and for churches, schools and nonprofits as an employee, consultant and board member. His experience includes insurance, occupational health and safety, human resources issues and emergency management. Prior to his career at GuideOne, Gleason spent 20 years as the risk manager of a university in southern California. He earned his MBA, is a Certified School Risk Manager, and speaks and writes regularly on a variety of topics related to risk management.

© 2024 GuideOne Insurance. GuideOne® is the registered trademark of the GuideOne Insurance Company. All rights reserved. This material is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to give specific legal or risk management advice, nor are any suggested checklists or action plans intended to include or address all possible risk management exposures or solutions. You are encouraged to retain your own expert consultants and legal advisors in order to develop a risk management plan specific to your own activities.