Q: How can we reduce liability exposures associated with adult care ministries?

The answer to this question often depends on the type of adult care ministry you operate, as well as the state in which your ministry is located. Regardless of the type adult care ministry you offer, the following specifics can help you reduce the liability risks that your ministry may potentially encounter.

Select Qualified and Trustworthy Staff

Selection of staff and volunteers is critical to the safety and success of your ministry. Adult care can be mentally taxing, so workers with patient and positive dispositions are usually the best ministry workers.

Conduct background screening on all staff and volunteer candidates
Some states require background checks for employees and volunteers of certain types of adult care ministries. Contact a local attorney to determine if your state requires background checks for your ministry. Even if your state does not require it, Brotherhood Mutual strongly recommends that you conduct criminal background checks for all potential ministry staff and volunteers.

Appropriately train and license staff and volunteers

  • Licensing – Some ministry types may require state licensing (i.e. adult day care or the operation of any kind of nursing home). A local attorney can provide additional guidance as to the kind of licensing, if any, that your employees and volunteers should obtain.
  • Training – Employees or volunteers involved in adult care ministry usually need some kind of special training. This may not be true if your ministry simply involves visiting shut-ins or making grocery runs, but if your ministry involves the care of elderly or disabled individuals, then you will need to train your employees or volunteers appropriately. Consider basic CPR and first-aid training as a minimal training standard.
Employees or volunteers involved in adult care ministry usually need some kind of special training. Consider basic CPR and first-aid training as a minimal training standard.

Know who you hire as drivers
If you ask your employees or volunteers to transport passengers on behalf of your ministry, you should first make sure that they have the appropriate drivers’ license for the type of vehicle they will be operating. Attempt to verify that they are safe drivers, as well. Check their motor vehicle records for any indication of safety concerns with a particular driver.

Ensure that all drivers have the appropriate training and experience for the type of vehicle they will operate. If your drivers need to use a wheelchair van or other similar handicap-accessible vehicle, ensure they have the training necessary to safely operate the vehicle, including training in the use of wheelchair lifts, wheelchair restraints, etc.

Address Safety and Security Risks

Check auto insurance coverage
Most personal auto insurance policies specifically exclude any and all coverage if the driver is transporting passenger for a fee. This could include ministry employees who transport passengers for your ministry if they charge for transportation.

If a driver is a volunteer, then a personal auto policy might provide coverage. However, it’s important, for the protection of your employees and volunteers as well as your ministry, that your employees or volunteers contact their personal auto insurance agent and make sure that their personal liability policy will provide the appropriate coverage.

Use the right vehicle to get the job done
Anytime your ministry is involved in the transportation of people, use the correct vehicle. If your ministry provides transportation for elderly or special needs individuals, this may involve a wheelchair-accessible van or other vehicles customized to accommodate those you transport. Before your staff or ministry worker transports anyone, you should ensure that the vehicle is easy to enter and exit and safely accommodates its passengers.
For safety reasons, a small "people mover" bus is a much safer option than a 15-passenger van to transport groups of people for any ministry-related activity. Accident records show that 15-passenger vans pose a higher risk of rollover than smaller vehicles or people movers.

Equip Adult-Care Facilities for Convenient Access and Use

The ministry facilities you use to house adult care should be designed to be as accessible as possible to those who will be using them. Facilities that you make available for elder care, for example, should be equipped with wheelchair ramps, handicap accessible restrooms, wheelchair lifts, and other handicap-related safety features.

Consider supervision exposures to protect participants and workers

If your ministry involves the care or supervision of individuals, choose supervisors who are qualified and competent to handle potentially difficult situations. Your ministry supervisors should be properly trained and mature enough to handle a wide array of difficult or unreasonable situations. This is especially true if your ministry is focused on adult day care or mental health. As a regular practice:

  1. Assign at least two workers per room in any adult day care setting.

  2. Leave any medical diagnosis, treatment, or administration of medication exclusively to medical professionals.

  3. Educate and support your staff, volunteers, and other care givers.

  4. Refer those in your care or family members to a trusted attorney or financial professional for legal or financial assistance.

Miscellaneous Considerations

Facility access
Ministries should ensure that adult care workers have proper access to patients in medical facilities and residents in nursing homes. This may require working with local hospitals and residential nursing facilities to identify and address privacy concerns.

Establish a way to double-check information you receive from elderly or mentally challenged adults with family and other care givers. Complete this communication task in a way that maintains your ministry participants’ feelings of self-worth.

Additional Resources

*Important information: Brotherhood Mutual is pleased to provide Legal Assist as a complimentary resource. The services we offer through Legal Assist are intended to provide general legal information to our current and prospective policyholders.

The information we provide is intended to be helpful, but it does not constitute legal advice and is not a substitute for the advice from a licensed attorney in your area. Accordingly, no attorney/client relationship is created through this process, and no legal advice will be provided. We strongly encourage you to regularly consult with a local attorney as part of your risk management program.