The short answer is ‘yes’ – just as so many other areas of our life are going online, there is no reason why we can’t streamline Safe Ministry processes.
There is an article already written about this here, but here are the key points to be aware of:
- Choose HOW you put forms online carefully.
Putting a Word or PDF form up on your website for downloading and completing is easy and low risk, but that option is not a true online form, as the document still has to be printed and manually signed. For a true online form you should avoid most ‘free’ options such as Google Docs. This is because nothing online is genuinely free. In Google’s case, they retain all rights to your data (even if you delete it!) and this has serious privacy implications for sensitive information that we are likely to collect. Look at a low-cost tool such as Wufoo as a much better option, and create/display your online form in a secure environment that can then export that data in a number of formats for you use as you need.
- What about signatures?
This is managed in online forms with a well designed notice before a box is ticked to indicate agreement to a set of conditions. What we are after when we seek a signature on a paper form is a clear indication of consent to a set of conditions. So long as we clearly seek the same type of agreement, the method of agreeing can be a tick box or something similar.
So wording of such a notice might run something like:
“I declare that by ticking the box below that I am a parent or legal guardian of [field for entry of childs full name], and that I agree to my child attending and participating in the [name of event or activity] as described above, and that I have already completed the [Name of church] enduring permission form.
[tick box] [Field for full name of parent/guardian]
I understand my IP address will be recorded and retained with this form.”Note: that is just some suggested wording, you may need to adapt it to your own use.
- Storing the results.
Storing the results from online forms should be handled in a similar way to paper documents that contain sensitive information:
- The file(s) should only be accessible to people with a genuine ‘need to know’
- Multiple backups should be made and securely stored in different locations. Strong passwords must be used.
- Create a standardised approach to storing and backing up all electronic Safe Ministry data