For your Youth-Serving Organization (YSO) to ensure the safety of the children it serves, there must be a set of principles to guide the environment of the site and the behaviors of staff and volunteers. Your YSO should develop a Code of Conduct laying out the standards for ethical behavior centering on child safety.
When developing a Code of Conduct:
Include a Mission Statement and Code of Ethics describing the vision and guiding principles of the YSO and commitment to keeping kids safe. Your Code of Ethics should clearly define the core beliefs of your organization, related to ethical standards and child safety. The Code of Conduct is used as a resource to guide staff and volunteers when facing situations that are not specifically outlined in your Code of Conduct but are essential to maintaining your organization’s standard of safety.
Gather input from leadership, staff, volunteers, parents, and children on the day-to-day behaviors important to them. The stakeholders in your community are familiar with the needs of children and families and are essential resources to improve your Code of Conduct. They may also provide valuable insight into your specific organization and the needs of children in your community.
Provide guidance on behaviors that are appropriate, inappropriate, and harmful as well as the consequences for breaking the Code of Conduct. Describing each type of behavior provides a guide for staff to understand which types of behaviors are acceptable and unacceptable at your organization. Your list should provide physical and verbal behaviors as well as situation-specific behaviors such as being alone with a child and social media communication. The Code of Conduct should state that all breaches of the Code should be reported to leadership at your organization and clearly define the lines of communication to do so.
Check parent and partner organizations for suggested models and integrate licensing, certification, and regulatory requirements. In some cases, staff and volunteer behavior standards may need to be in compliance with licensing, certification, and regulatory requirements. Check which standards apply to your organization.
Include child abuse reporting laws and the consequences for failing to report. You should clearly lay out your state’s legal standards and process for reporting child abuse. This should encompass what types of behavior, including suspicions and allegations, to report. Additionally, it should lay out the negative consequences for not reporting.
Creating a Code of Conduct should include participation from all stakeholders and outline your YSO’s mission to uphold child safety. Your Code of Conduct outlines all staff and volunteer behaviors, provides step-by-step guidance on reporting, and the legal standards of safety. The Code of Conduct provides a reference point for staff and volunteers on your organization’s standard for appropriate and responsible behavior.
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