As children get older, they spend more time outside the home. By middle-school age, they’re away from home even longer, attending extra-curricular activities such as clubs, sports programs, recreational activities, church youth groups, music practice, theater, and more.
The organizations that operate these programs may or may not be required by state laws to have certain safety measures in place. In fact, except schools and daycare centers, most youth-serving organizations are unregulated. But whether an organization is regulated or not, it is expected to have a “reasonable standard of care” in place, ensuring it does what any prudent organization would do.
There are countless checklists for organizations that serve children, and it is doubtful that one checklist would serve every program for youth. However, what does cut across all organizations are those foundational questions every organization should ask itself. These kinds of questions will help create effective checklists and other tools. If the questions aren’t posed, then when and if a crisis occurs, your critics will certainly find fault and point fingers.
- Do our policies keep current with governing regulations and accepted standards of care?
- Do we define acceptable, unacceptable and prohibited behaviors for adults and children?
- How do we screen our adults to ensure they are safe and trustworthy?
- How do we evaluate our children to ensure they are not a threat to other children?
- How do we know the properties we own or utilize are maintained to be safe?
- Do we have control over access and have clear surveillance of the children we supervise?
- How are people in our programs taught about keeping themselves and others safe?
- How does the organization hear and respond to complaints, accidents and policy violations?
- Who leads the safety efforts across our organizations and what qualifies them?
- How does our organization’s safety leader motivate others?
- Who outside our organization helps evaluate the effectiveness of our safety practices?
- How does our organization measure safety success or failure?
These questions are not easily answered, by design. But answering them honestly will put your organization on the path that leads to a true culture of safety.
About the Author
Les Nichols is a child safety and security consultant and also serves as an expert witness in cases involving injury to children under the care of organizations. Over the past 25 years, he has worked with organizations to help them reduce the likelihood of child sexual abuse, bullying, violence and abduction, as well as assessing their policies, emergency procedures, premises, transportation and technology. To learn more about how he can help your organization, contact: Info@LesNichols.com.