Your Code of Conduct will be unique to your organization, based on your size, purpose, location, staffing, ages served, additional vulnerabilities of children and youth served, and many other variables. You should consider all of these variables as you create or adapt your Code of Conduct.
For instance, a large youth-serving organization that hosts all activities on-site may have as a part of its Code of Conduct:
Personal contact information
(Name of Organization) does not expect that staff will share their personal contact information with members. In the event that cell phone numbers need to be shared to ensure communication during a field trip or other event, cell phones are available from the Executive Director. Note that all communication should be program-related. On the rare occasions where staff members share personal contact information with a member or parent, a supervisor must be notified. Please see the “Cell Phone Policy” in Employee Handbook.
On the other hand, a mentoring organization in which frequent personal communication between mentor and mentee is expected would have a different guideline on sharing personal information. In both cases, the expectation is set that there are appropriate and inappropriate ways to communicate with youth, they are clearly spelled out, and they’re shared widely.
Here are some additional circumstances to consider:
- Risk of inappropriate interactions among children and youth
- You’ll need to monitor any interactions among children and youth in addition to their interactions with employees and volunteers. Many strategies that focus on the interactions between employees/volunteers and youth can also be tailored to address interactions among children and youth.
- You’ll need to address all situations where unsupervised youth are interacting with each other, with attention to situations where children/youth may tease, bully, harass, or sexually or physically abuse other children/youth. For example, if your organization has a policy that prevents adults from being present in locker rooms because of the risk of child sexual abuse, this may result in a situation where unsupervised youth can sexually or physically abuse other youth. A solution could be a policy that requires more than one adult to be present at all times.
- Develop policies that deal with bullying and sexual abuse and allow for positive interactions to be promoted while acknowledging that some interactions are inappropriate or harmful.
- Encourage pro-social activities and integrate them into events and programs, so your children and youth can help to ensure a safer environment for everyone.
- Prohibitions and restriction on certain activities
- Some activities, such as hazing and secret ceremonies, overnight trips, bathing, changing, bathroom interactions, and nighttime activities, pose greater risks for child sexual abuse. Prohibiting or restricting such activities depends largely on the context of your organization. For example, a sleep-away camp would not be able to prohibit overnight trips or bathing.
- Out-of-program contact restrictions
- There are two types of out-of-program contact restrictions. The first involves contact between children/youth and employees/volunteers outside the context of your program. The second is contact between children and youth and people not affiliated with your organization that occurs while youth are under your care.
- Your organization should limit contact between employees/volunteers and children/youth to organization-sanctioned activities and programs and/or to certain locations, such as activities within your building.
- Systems to monitor your facility’s entry points
- You’ll want to develop a system for monitoring the comings and goings of all youth and adults who enter and leave the facility. This system might include procedures for signing in and out. Your system should be clear about when children or youth are no longer the responsibility of your organization and when they are clearly the responsibility of the parent or guardian (e.g., bus drop off for a summer camp).
- Interactions between youth and unaffiliated individuals
- You’ll also need to develop specific policies about interactions between youth and people not affiliated with your organization—particularly if it’s located in a building that houses more than one program, or if your activities take place in public areas such as a sports field (See Safe Environments)
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