It is important to make sure that individuals and programs suit each other well in order to ensure a positive experience for both program participants and volunteers. As such, we have developed a thorough method for screening, training and supervising volunteers. The various components are described below.
The screening process is aimed at determining which applicants would best serve our volunteer needs and which applicants would be best served by volunteering at OutCenter. Our screening includes an application, an orientation, and a background check. The first step is to complete and return the enclosed application and background check forms. The Volunteer Committee will review your application and background check and conduct an orientation session. Orientation sessions are scheduled monthly.
Individuals will be deemed inappropriate to volunteer at the OutCenter if they:
- Have ever been convicted of a sex-related crime
- Have ever been convicted of a violent crime
- Have been convicted of a drug-related crime within the last three years
The OutCenter also reserves the right to not place volunteers in certain programming areas or with certain tasks based on the information learned through the process of criminal background check.
The training process serves a variety of functions for new volunteers. First, it introduces, explains, and helps volunteers to develop the skills necessary for their volunteer job. Second, it provides socialization to the atmosphere and working environment at the OutCenter. Third, it gives the volunteers an opportunity to meet and get to know their colleagues who volunteer at the OutCenter.
The following guidelines must be adhered to while volunteering with the OutCenter:
These guidelines represent broadly accepted standards of care for youth. Deviations from the recommended policies require clearly documented justification and approval from the program director or department head. Deviations from the required policies will not generally be permitted.
- Individuals who perform functions or duties that regularly require interaction with minors in a private setting or without direct supervision on‐site must receive a criminal history check.
- Employees and volunteers who complete and pass a criminal history check are required to have a new criminal history check every year.
- The recommended supervision for on‐site programs is at least two staff or trained volunteers for every event or program activity until the youth participation exceeds 10, at which point for every additional 10 youth, 1 adult staff or trained volunteer will be present. NOTE: These ratios may change for specific activities.
- Staff and trained volunteers should avoid situations where they are alone with one, unrelated youth. Another staff and/or trained volunteer should be made aware prior to an unavoidable one‐on‐one event.
- Youth should be within visual and/or hearing supervision of volunteers or staff at all times. Exceptions to visual supervision include restroom use. Under these circumstances staff or volunteers should respect youth privacy but remain within hearing supervision by waiting nearby.
- Staff and trained volunteers charged with supervising a group of youth will remain in sight and sound supervision of that group until relieved by another staff or volunteer.
- Youth should not be in situations where they are alone with another unrelated youth for more than a few minutes. For example, avoiding prolonged periods in restrooms reduces the risk of youth‐youth abuse.
- Staff or volunteers who do not follow these stated policies are not allowed to work with youth.
- Staff and trained volunteers serving OutCenter youth programs are required to complete two forms annually.
- The Volunteer Packet
- The Criminal History Background Check
- Volunteer service may be suspended or terminated at any time for any non‐discriminatory reason at the discretion of the program supervisor or their designee. Dismissals shall be made in consultation with the OutCenter Board of Directors.
Social Controls to Protect Youth
Research reports that social norms established to protect youth in a community present a barrier to abuse. Support materials, trainings and supervision should reflect these social norms. Best‐practice barriers to abuse include:
- Safety is everyone’s shared responsibility. Safety is always the guiding principle.
- Meetings and events may occur in open places where others may observe (through windows indoors) and feel welcome to enter easily (not behind closed or locked doors). Create an open, welcoming environment.
- Two or more adults are engaged with youth. There is safety in numbers.
- The physical and emotional state of all youth is observed each time they participate. Signs of injury or suspected child abuse must be reported.
- The need for confidentiality is respected at all times.
- Personal space is respected for all participants. Appropriate touching is always visible, open, and not secretive. Appropriate touching avoids contact with private body parts. Touching should be in response to the need of the youth ‐ not the needs of the adult.
- Bullying, hazing or secret initiations are never allowed.
- Youth are guided by trained staff and volunteers toward healthy and responsible communications which may include sexual orientation, gender identity and social injustice.
Appropriate Boundaries Between Youth and Adults
Below is a list of frequently encountered areas of concern related to appropriate boundaries. None of these areas is always a definite indication of a problem. In fact, when done publicly and with proper supervisor approval, many would be considered well‐intentioned and positive. However, when done without proper consideration and approval, they can be indicative of an adult or youth forming the beginnings of an inappropriate relationship. One goal of training should be to clearly define safe and respectful relationships and discuss potential areas for concern as listed below. Training should also ensure that supervisors are equipped to be on the lookout for these indicators and know when to look more closely at a situation as having potential for inappropriate boundary crossing.
- Social media communication with youth: Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, etc.
- Cell phone communication, including texting.
- Outside‐of‐work interaction including babysitting, providing transportation, taking a youth for a soda/treat as a reward, etc.
- Discussing personal issues and information with youth or within earshot of youth. This includes any subject that one would normally discuss with a same‐age friend: i.e. relationships, finances, family, gossip‐type information, etc.
- Using coarse or foul language around youth. Repeated use around youth can be a signal to youth that the adult is not concerned with social norms. In the extreme case, this is a method which a perpetrator will “cast a wide net” to elicit a response from a vulnerable youth.
- “Holding contracts” with youth. Holding a contract with a youth means agreeing to keep a secret with a youth, however innocuous it may seem. Example: Staff A observes Youth X taking an extra snack despite instructions that it is one snack/camper. Staff A responds by saying “It’s a good thing only I saw you, Staff B would be really mad.” Two things happen as a result. First, Staff A now has leverage with which to manipulate Youth X and Youth X now knows that Staff A is willing to operate outside the authority of the other staff. This is one of the most common precursors to deviant behavior by adults and youth.
- Physical contact. This issue has a great deal of complexity and requires some training. Training points include public/private contact, gender awareness, age awareness, frequency and the “needy” youth, awareness of one’s own needs, the role of horseplay, etc.
- Consistent application of authority among youth. It is human nature to relate more closely to some youth than others. However, it becomes a boundary issue when adults apply their authority inconsistently and some youth receive consideration not available to others.
Advances in technology are enabling new forms of social interaction that may extend beyond the appropriate use of cameras or recording devices. The following policies are meant to ensure the appropriate use of digital media:
- Inappropriate use of cameras, imaging, cell phones or digital devices is prohibited. It is inappropriate to use any device capable of recording or transmitting visual images in restrooms or other areas where privacy is expected by participants.
- Parents or guardians of those people under the age of 18 must sign and select the appropriate box on the last page of this packet (Youth Volunteer Consent and Release Form) regarding media releases before pictures or videos can be used for reports, advertising or promotional materials.
Supervision and ongoing training of volunteers is done through regular contact with the Volunteer Committee and
OutCenter staff, and applicable meetings related to one’s area of volunteering. This will provide an opportunity to get to know each other better, which will help us be more effective as a team. It will also provide an opportunity for feedback, questions, or concerns.
OutCenter Confidentiality Policy
Confidentiality of all information pertaining to members or program participants of the OutCenter must be maintained at all times. Employees, volunteers and providers of contracted services will not disclose any information concerning the participation of or any personal information concerning any member or participant in OutCenter services. This includes but is not limited to:
- Any and all information contained in a membership file or mailing list.
- Any and all information contained in a program participation file.
- Any health information
- Enrollment or participation in any program