Once your Code of Conduct is in place, it’s important to implement it through training and by disseminating the information widely, in a variety of ways. All of your current staff and volunteers should receive in-person training and sign an acknowledgement that they received the Code of Conduct, which should be stored in their personnel file. Similarly, you should integrate the reading and signing of your Code of Conduct into your hiring process for new employees and volunteers. Training and acknowledgement forms should be renewed annually.
You might also consider sharing some of the main points from your Code of Conduct with parents and participants in appropriate language and detail. For example, if you prohibit children and youth from being alone with staff, any employee or volunteer who observes a staff member alone with a child or youth participant should know to intervene, and either talk to the staff member, or talk to a supervisor to have the behavior corrected. Sharing that rule with children and youth could also increase their safety by making them aware that a staff member who tries to get them alone is breaking the rules, and that they should tell someone. Likewise, if a parent heard a child report that they were alone with a staff member, they would know to notify the organization.
If your organization is on the smaller side, you can create abbreviated Codes of Conduct for adults, children, and youth (for example, as part of a studio handbook) that include such things as behaving appropriately; speaking respectfully to staff, instructors, parents, and other children (even competitors); and respecting the rights of others.
You should draw attention to the existence—and provide a copy—of your Code of Conduct in your policies and procedures, on your website(s), and as part of your marketing, recruitment, and advertising activities. You can include a statement about your commitment to maintaining a safe environment for all children and youth in your care. Providing copies to parents and other caregivers also demonstrates your commitment to monitoring the behavior of all individuals who come into contact with your children as part of your safety protocol.
Build Your Code into Screening
To support its implementation, your Code of Conduct should be integrated into your screening and hiring process, and included in your performance appraisal process. Copies should be distributed to all personnel, and accompanied by their signature on a statement that indicates their agreement with its contents and a pledge to abide by its requirements. You should also draft strategies for monitoring behaviors and providing feedback to your organization.
Schedule Reviews and Revisions
Codes of Conduct should be considered “living” dynamic documents that you evaluate and revise periodically. For example, you can make the Code of Conduct a regular agenda item at staff meetings or professional development days, ask for feedback on how it’s being applied in practice, and get feedback on what’s working well and where improvements can be made. This way, if some parts of the Code aren’t working as anticipated, you can revise them, and/or add any missing or unanticipated behaviors and circumstances. In both cases, the revisions and modifications will be informed by the experiences of your staff and volunteers, who are responsible for implementing the Code and its requirements. This helps with staff “buy-in” and a sense of ownership.
Since your Code of Conduct cannot contain all possible behaviors and circumstances that staff and volunteers may experience, it’s important to provide additional guidance that can help to support your staff’s decision-making in a wide range of situations. You can do this as you develop your Mission Statement and Code of Ethics.
Institutionalizing Your Organization’s Code of Conduct, at a Glance
- Gain buy-in from leadership and staff
- Train all staff, leadership, volunteers, etc.
- Training should be in-person (ideal), interactive, and annual
- Webinar or online training is acceptable as long as there are opportunities for interaction/questions/follow-up
- Signatures on statements of receipt and agreement should be required for each staff member/volunteer and kept in employee files
- Share your Code of Conduct with youth (in an age- appropriate way) and with parents/caregivers to increase bystander/participant support
- Post major points in clear view, in all relevant languages
- Set clear protocols for responding to and investigating allegations
- Ensure that the protocol is followed in every instance, by every staff member, and by every young person. Any exceptions to the protocol require authorization.
- Ensure transparency in the process of supporting/investigating involved parties
- Use observed or reported issues not covered in the Code of Conduct to improve, and ensure your Code of Conduct is periodically updated
- Monitoring and Organizational Practice
- Staff and volunteers are regularly reminded of Code of Conduct policies relevant to their roles or as programming changes by season/focus
- Staff and volunteers are regularly reminded of their obligation to report breaches to the Code of Conduct and Code of Ethics
- Supervisors guide and support staff and volunteer understanding of monitoring, improving, and disciplining staff around boundary issues.
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