What are Safe Environments?
Ensuring a safe environment for children includes targeting the five major areas of safety: visibility, access, supervision and communication, transportation, and safe technology use.
At minimum, Safe Environments include:
- Adapting the physical space to create clear sightlines, where all areas are observable, unused areas are secured, and safety rules are posted publicly.
- Procedures are in place to control and monitor access, and all individuals entering the site are identified and verified.
- A clear understanding by all staff and volunteers about who is responsible for each child at all times, and child entry and release procedures are followed.
- Continuous enforcement of Your Code of Conduct and all 1-on-1 interactions between staff and children are observable and interruptible.
- Procedures to ensure safe use of bathroom, changing, and showering facilities (if applicable) are adopted and followed.
How-To in 3 Steps
Learn more about creating Safe Environments at your organization. Download a free copy to keep and share with your team.
Establish Physical and Procedural Standards
- Adopt physical safety standards, including clear sightlines, well-lit spaces, posting safety rules, and marking or securing off-limit areas.
- Establish procedural standards, including visitor entry and expectations, and protocols to confirm children are released to trusted adults.
- Adhere to adequate staff to youth ratios and verify all staff and volunteers understand who is responsible for each child.
- Verify visitors are aware of and follow entry policies and expectations.
- Ensure procedures for use of bathroom, changing, or shower facilities (if applicable) are understood by all staff and volunteers.
- Analyze the physical spaces, the services you provide, and the children you serve and determine additional policies and procedures needed.
Determine Additional Risks
- Review and incorporate any state and national regulations and accreditation requirements that apply to your YSO.
- Confirm drivers meet screening and hiring requirements if transportation to and from the site is provided by your YSO.
- Define the policies and procedures, including needed changes in staff-to-child ratios when overnight trips, outings and field trips are conducted.
- Establish how staff and volunteers communicate when they are not in the same physical location.
- Determine what additional policy or oversight modifications may be needed for children with intellectual, developmental, or physical disabilities.
- Decide if electronic communication between staff and youth is necessary, allowed, or prohibited, and is outlined in your policies.
Implement Additional Considerations
- Install cameras and mirrors to adequately monitor the physical space or designate a single-entry point to minimize unauthorized entry or exit.
- Implement additional signage to guide children away from off-limits areas and conduct periodic security checks at locations with public access.
- Monitor all social media and electronic communication between staff and children.
- Ensure staff and volunteers participating in off-site activities adhere to policies on transportation and overnight activities.
- Verify outside vendors are identified, follow entry procedures, and are monitored at all times.
- Review your safe environment protocols and update regularly to remain effective.