Along with site safety, visibility issues, physical access, and security procedures, supervision is a critical aspect of creating and maintaining safe environments for children and youth. Adequate supervision of children and youth depends on vigilance: No child or youth in your organization’s care should be anywhere—at any time—without the knowledge of, or direct supervision by, a staff member or adult volunteer. Effective supervision always includes adult awareness of the child’s/youth’s whereabouts, having the child/youth within sight, and monitoring and/or participating in the child’s/youth’s activities and interactions. An efficient means for staff to communicate with one another is particularly important when your organization’s facilities are spread out in large spaces, are dispersed into separate rooms or multiple buildings, and/or when traveling off-site or during overnight trips.
- Create written policies and procedures for supervision of youth during on-site activities, which are reviewed with all staff, volunteers, and children/youth when appropriate.
- Set adult supervisor/child/youth ratios appropriate to the age, developmental levels, and behavioral traits of the youth, the activities, and setting.
- Clearly identify adult supervisors so they can be recognized by other adults, the children and youth, and those outside your organization.
- Inform each adult supervisor about children and youth they are responsible for at any given time, and inform youth about which adults are responsible for their supervision at any given time.
- Clarify that older youth who are given responsibility for assisting with the supervision of younger children always work in tandem with a screened adult over the age of 18.
Written policies and procedures for the supervision of children/youth during off-site activities may need to change with each off-site location. They should be reviewed with all staff, volunteers, parents, and children/youth when appropriate, with a special emphasis on anything that is unique to a particular setting.
- Set adult supervisor/youth ratios appropriate to the age, developmental level, and behavioral traits of the youth, the activities, and the setting. Note that ratios likely need to be adjusted (fewer youths per adult) for off-site activities.
- Clearly identify adult supervisors, so they’re recognized by other adults, youth, and children, and those outside of the organization. For off-site activities, visible cues can be important, including badges, specific caps, or t-shirts.
- Ensure that each adult supervisor knows which children/youth they are responsible for at any given time. Inform children and youth about which adults are responsible for their supervision. For off-site activities, inform adult supervisors that they are responsible for knowing where the children/youth are at all times and that children/youth should be in their line of sight whenever possible.
- Train staff to be even more vigilant during the times where children have been shown to be more vulnerable to abuse, including non-structured program time (time between programs, meals, etc.), shower time, trips to the restroom, and changing for the pool.
- Instruct children and youth on what to do if people outside of their organization approach them during an off-site activity.
- Provide additional supervision and observation when children or youth have one-on-one contact with adults, such as in a mentoring or similar program.
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