Q&A: When A Volunteer Has A Disease

Is there a risk to using a volunteer with Hepatitis B?

We have a trained nursery worker who has been diagnosed with Hepatitis B. Under normal circumstances, she poses no health threat to the children, plus she works with two other adult volunteers in the room. What is our risk in using her in this ministry?
Here’s how I handled these situations in my work in children’s ministry. First, consider what’s best for the children. Second, think through what’s right for the individual. Third, keep consistent with church leadership. Let’s expand on all three.
What’s best for the children always remains top priority for anyone in children’s ministry. You describe the individual as “no threat” under normal circumstances. Look further into what’s needed to maintain normal, and what could happen to change circumstances into a more serious situation. If you still feel comfortable with the risk, do you have a response plan for when the unexpected happens?
You seem to already address what’s right for the individual. Specifically, open dialogue about the situation is a practice that will keep assumptions and fears low or non-existent. Plus, you have an excellent opportunity to surround this person with a loving, accepting community. However, keep in mind that child safety trumps community in children’s ministry.
Third, don’t make decisions like this alone. Involve your pastor and other senior leaders so that whatever decision happens will fall under the overall risk policies of the church. Your church can benchmark other child-centered institutions to craft infectious risk policies, such as schools, daycare centers, even the public library. While these places have very different missions and values, they likely paid for well-researched policies and procedures that are difficult for churches to afford. Open communication with individuals at your church who need involvement will help the right decision become clear to all.
In this or any similar situation, always prioritize what’s best for the children that God, and parents, have entrusted to your care.

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