A Code of Conduct establishes acceptable and prohibited types of behaviors and interactions between staff, volunteers, and children. Your Youth-Serving Organization (YSO) should create a Code of Conduct to outline safety standards and identify clear lines of communication to be followed if the Code of Conduct is violated.
At minimum, your Code of Conduct should include:
Your organization’s mission statement outlining your commitment to safety and guiding ethical principles and standards (Code of Ethics). The Code of Ethics are your organization’s core standards and principles and should focus on values guiding behavior and policies at your organization. This aspect of your Code of Conduct acts as the foundation for behavioral expectations at your organization and can be referred to in situations that are uncommon, unexpected, or not specifically defined in the Code of Conduct.
Guidance on and definitions of specific behavior and interaction, including appropriate, inappropriate, and harmful and prohibited. Defining categories of behavior, including appropriate, inappropriate, and harmful, helps staff and volunteers understand what is expected of them. Be sure to include behaviors and situations specific to your organization to provide clarity for all staff and volunteers.
Reporting obligations, procedures, and process, investigation, and monitoring procedures. Clear explanations of reporting standards and processes should be outlined, including the expected timeframe and how to report concerns. Your reporting standards should follow your state’s child abuse reporting requirements as well as your organization’s procedures for reporting any concerns.
Statement of Receipt and Agreement as well as a Signature Block to ensure the Code of Conduct is included and addressed within the organization. The Code of Conduct should be part of your organization’s screening and hiring process. New staff and volunteers should have a chance to read and discuss safety and reporting standards and sign an agreement to abide by the Code of Conduct at hire.
The creation, implementation, and reinforcement of the Code of Conduct are critical in your YSO’s mission to keep children safe. In order to outline your YSO’s commitment to safety, the Code of Conduct should provide staff and volunteers guidance for behavior, lines of communication should violations of the Code be observed, and reporting standards.
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