Standards should be implemented to ensure safe physical spaces for children, such as clear sight
–lines and visitor procedures. To ensure child safety, it is also important to understand and secure environments outside of your Youth Serving Organization (YSO). Off-site and overnight environments and the behavior of staff and volunteers should be in accordance with your YSO’s Code of Conduct and therefore examined ahead of time to confirm child safety.
To maintain Safe Environments:
Review and incorporate any state and national regulations and accreditation requirements that apply to your YSO. Confirm your Safe Environment policies and standards meet the applicable requirements established by the state and other regulatory agencies.
Confirm drivers meet screening and hiring requirements if transportation to and from the site is provided by your YSO. Drivers should go through the same screening and hiring procedures as other employees, and their driving records should also be examined. In addition, drivers should be familiarized with your YSO Code of Conduct and safety protocols. Written caregiver consent should be obtained when children are being transported.
Define the policies and procedures, including needed changes in staff-to-child ratios when overnight trips, outings, and field trips are conducted. Staff-to-child ratios may need to be smaller for off-site trips, to safely monitor children. Ideally, each child should be assigned to a specific staff member or volunteer and know who to go to for any questions or concerns. Staff and volunteers should work in pairs or groups to oversee children, especially during overnight trips.
Establish how staff and volunteers communicate when they are not in the same physical location. Staff and volunteers may use cell phones or radios to communicate needs when separated. Children may also be provided access to important phone numbers in case of emergency.
Determine what additional policy or oversight modifications may be needed for children with intellectual, developmental, or physical disabilities. Staff-to-child ratios should be determined based on developmental or support needs of each child. Policies for access to private facilities such as the bathroom or shower should also take the needs of children with disabilities into account.
Decide if electronic communication between staff and children is necessary, allowed, or prohibited, and is outlined in your policies. If personal electronic communication is allowed between staff and children, leadership should outline both appropriate and inappropriate behaviors for this communication. Social media usage between staff, volunteers, and children must also be kept up to date and reinforced.
There are many environments requiring oversight inside and outside of your YSO in order to protect children. Carefully examine each of these environments, to ensure they are safe for children. To keep children safe, staff and volunteers should meet all safety requirements and expectations. Visitors who access the YSO and the spaces that children occupy should be subject to the same safety requirements and behavioral expectations as staff and volunteers.
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