The codes of behaviour for adult-to-child interactions should not be breached.  Those ministering with children must be aware of the boundaries, parameters and limits of these relationships, where a child – and their parents or guardians- entrust their welfare and safety to a member of Church personnel.  Behaviour which is inappropriate, but which does not meet the threshold of abuse must always be taken seriously and addressed.

All concerns relating to the abuse of a child which reach the threshold must be reported to the statutory authorities. The following list describes behaviours under a number of headings where children’s boundaries are considered to be violated by an adult.

Area :  Communication                       

Boundary violating behaviour by an adult involving children

Uses inappropriate language around children

Comments on a child’s appearance (positively or negatively)

Has sexual conversations with children

Uses discriminatory language about a child

Has ‘pet names’ for children

Humiliates a child

Shares sexual jokes with children

Uses obscene gestures or language when addressing children

Sends  messages of a personal nature using digital media

Shares inappropriate images with children

Sharing inappropriate personal details with children

Unauthorised photographing, videoing or audio recording a child

Using personal electronic equipment to communicate with child

Sharing personal internet sites with children

Creating or using personal chat-rooms with children

Area: Physical Contact 

Boundary violating behaviour by an adult involving children

Touching a child inappropriately

Physically punishing a child

Physical restraint of a child , unless in rare  circumstance where  an adult has to restrain a child to stop them running into traffic, diving into shallow water, hurting themselves or in a medical emergency

Meeting a child in secret location

Meeting a child on their own

Inviting a child to Church personnel member`s home or other location where the child will be on their own

Entering toilet, changing room or shower which are occupied by children and where supervision is not appropriate

Tutoring a child in a location which is inappropriate and where there is a lack of transparency and lack of consent from parents or guardians

Area: Gifts/Favours

Boundary violating behaviour by an adult involving children

Targeting an individual child for special attention

Giving gifts or money to a child

Singling a child out for special duties or responsibilities


Concerning behaviours are those that are considered ‘pre-offending behaviours’. Depending on a detectable pattern, these behaviours might also be considered to constitute ‘grooming’. Abuse may not have occurred yet, so a conversation with the offending adult may be a good and safe option, and in many cases can help to prevent behaviour becoming abusive.  Prevention efforts are greatly improved when adults can recognise suspicious attitudes and patterns of behaviour and  take action. When adults know when and how to safely confront someone who is engaged in pre-offending behaviours, they can help prevent abuse. It may be that this behaviour is detected via a complaints process or through whistleblowing.

If the behaviour is abusive, report it. If you are unsure whether the behaviour constitutes abuse, consult the DLP or the statutory authorities.

Action steps to address Boundary Violations

  • Think about what is making you uncomfortable, then write it down
  • Discuss your concerns with the DLP or Bishop
  • Consider whether it is appropriate to confront the behaviour yourself
  • Choose a private time and place where you can talk to the subject without interruption
  • Do not accuse or jump to conclusions, but do ask direct questions
  • Describe what you saw or heard, and how it made you feel
  • Express concern for all involved
  • Separate the behaviour from the person
  • Encourage behaviour change in the subject
  • Encourage the subject to seek help
  • If the behaviour continues, formally report it to the DLP.

Action by DLP or Bishop

  • If a boundary violation has been reported, there must be a written record of the behaviour.
  • A meeting should be arranged to advise the subject to discuss the violations (this meeting should be between the subject and the Bishop)
  • A record of the meeting and its outcome should be maintained
  • A written reminder should be issued by the Bishop to the subject to follow the Code of Behaviour of the Diocese
  • If required, appropriate training should be provided to the subject to ensure that the violation is not repeated.
  • If the behaviour reoccurs, disciplinary action involving the subject should be considered.

Rights of person accused of boundary violation (the subject)

An individual accused of a boundary violation has a right to know the detail of what boundary is alleged to have been breached by them If they accept that the breach occurred, they have a right to be given the opportunity to correct the behaviour through support from the Bishop. At any meetings with the Bishop the subject should be given the opportunity to be accompanied and supported by a colleague or friend of their choice. If training, therapy or counselling for the subject is considered helpful, this should be provided by the Bishop. If the boundary violation leads to disciplinary action, the subject should be advised of their rights to access canon and civil law advice.

(See 2.17 – Disciplinary and grievance procedure)