Circles of Safety Virtual Classroom Series
Circles of Safety® is designed to support and strengthen youth-serving organizations’ ability…
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(Name of Organization) Code of Conduct Involving Interactions with Children and Youth
(Name of Organization) is committed to the safety and protection of children and youth. This Code of Conduct, along with the (Name of Organization) child safety policies and procedures applies to all staff, employees, and volunteers who represent the (Name of Organization) and who interact with children or youth in both a direct and/or unsupervised capacity.
The public and private conduct of staff, employees, and volunteers acting on behalf of (Name of Organization) can inspire and motivate those with whom they interact, or can cause great harm if inappropriate. We must, at all times, be aware of the responsibilities that accompany our work.
We should be aware of our own and other persons’ vulnerability, especially when working alone with children and youth, and be particularly aware that we are responsible for maintaining physical, emotional, and sexual boundaries in such interactions. We must avoid any covert or overt sexual behaviors with those for whom we have responsibility. This includes seductive speech, jokes or gestures as well as physical contact that exploits, abuses, or harasses. We are to provide safe environments for children and youth at all times.
We must show prudent discretion before touching another person, especially children and youth, and be aware of how physical touch will be perceived or received, and whether it would be an appropriate expression of greeting, care, concern, or celebration. (Name of Organization) personnel and volunteers are prohibited at all times from physically disciplining a child.
Physical contact with children can be misconstrued both by the recipient and by those who observe it, and should occur only when completely nonsexual and otherwise appropriate, and never in private. One-on-one meetings with a child or young person are best held in a public area; in a room where the interaction can be (or is being) observed; or in a room with the door left open, and another staff member or supervisor is notified about the meeting.
We must intervene when there is evidence of, or there is reasonable cause to suspect, that children and youth are being maltreated in any way. Suspected abuse or neglect must be reported to the appropriate organizational and civil authorities as described in the (Name of Organization) child safety policies and procedures.
Staff and volunteers should refrain from the illegal possession and/or illegal use of drugs and/or alcohol at all times, and from the use of tobacco products, alcohol and/or drugs when working with children. Adults should never buy alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, videos, or reading material that is inappropriate and give it to young people. Staff members and volunteers should not accept or give gifts to children without the knowledge of their parents or guardians.
Communication with children by staff and volunteers is only allowed for (Name of Organization) business. For the protection of all concerned, the key safety concept that will be applied to these interactions is transparency. The following steps will reduce the risk of private or otherwise inappropriate communication between staff, volunteers, and minors:
The organizational contact for questions about or reports of breaches of this Code of Conduct is (enter name of the staff member’s/volunteer’s immediate supervisor). If the supervisor is not available, or if the behavior involves a direct supervisor, (Name of designated alternate or Human Resources) should be contacted.
In the event that a child or youth is in immediate danger, and a supervisor (or designated alternate or human resources) is not available, call the Department of Children and Families (Day and evening/weekend phone numbers) or the local Police Department (number) and notify your supervisor as soon as possible.
The (Name of Organization) will not discharge or in any manner retaliate or discriminate against any person who, in good faith, submits a report to DCF, expresses a concern, or reports a breach of any of the behaviors contained in this Code.
All incidents will be investigated within (a stated timeframe) by (name of designated individual, supervisor or manager), and the employee/volunteer reporting the incident will be informed of the outcomes.
I promise to strictly follow the rules and guidelines in this Code of Conduct as a condition of my employment or volunteer service to the children and youth of (Name of YSO).
I will not:
I understand that as a person working with and/or providing services to children and youth under the auspices of (Name of YSO) I am subject to a criminal history background check. My signature confirms that I have read this Code of Conduct and agree to follow the standards it contains. I understand that any action inconsistent with this Code of Conduct, or failure to act as mandated by this Code of Conduct may result in disciplinary action up to and including removal from my position.
It is important to have a set of guidelines, rules, or code of ethics that your dancers can refer to as a way to hold them to a level of professionalism as young dancers representing your dance studio. There is no right way to do this – it’s up to you as a studio owner and what you value. Here is one example that you could use or adapt for your students.
A handbook can help your students and parents better understand your policies while also orienting them to the studio. This is where you can write a welcome message; share your studio mission, vision, and your expectations around general conduct. If you do testing or evaluations make this known as well as your teaching philosophy, methodology and criteria for classroom etiquette.
Section outline on dress code, class attire, student/parent conduct, studio rules & regulations:
Smaller, more locally affiliated organizations can also develop mission statements. An example of the mission statement of a small, privately owned business (a dance studio) reads:
Goals in Support of Mission Statements:
Immediately following its Mission Statement, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America (above) provides a set of statements about what it intends to provide to the children it serves in order to attain the goal its Mission Statement outlines:
The dance academy also combines its Mission Statement with a set of similar goals:
Ethical Principles that organizations may wish to reflect within a Code of Conduct:
Code of Ethics: Explanation and Background
A Code of Ethics provides general principles to guide the behavior and decision making of staff, volunteers, and participants. It represents the standards to which the organization and the individuals working within it pledge to hold themselves. It can be as simple or as complicated as an organization chooses to make it.
It does not provide specific dos and don’ts but rather a philosophy by which decisions can be made. So, if an organization is “committed to providing children and youth with a safe and welcoming opportunity to gain soccer skills, participate on a team, and experience healthy competition” then staff can use those guidelines to make decisions about things like entering a highly competitive tournament, playing in unsafe weather, or dealing with a bullying situation.
In writing a Code of Ethics:
Jorge was hired as a basketball coach in September. He was trained on both the Code of Ethics and the Code of Conduct for the organization. One month into the season, a parent approached him asking if her child could join the team. She told him that the child had autism and loved basketball. However, he was not good at following rules. Jorge did not know what the leagues policy was on inclusion. However, the Code of Ethics for the organization that he had laminated to the clipboard he used at each practice stated, “The goal of the **** Basketball League is to teach young people the value of teamwork, of supporting one another, and of hard work.” From this, Jorge construed that the League would support him in taking this youth onto his team.
For example, sports leagues can have the statement, “We seek above all else to produce teams that win championships at every level” or one that says, “We seek to provide a fun, low-stress, and inclusive environment”. Coaches would get a great deal of guidance on their decision making about team formation, practice scheduling, etc., from either one of those statements. However, neither of these includes a commitment to keeping participants safe from sexual abuse.
The statement “We seek to produce teams that win championships at every level while ensuring that participants are safe from abuse, bullying, and other harm” provides coaches, parents, and youth with a standard far more important than winning games.
Consider what your organization stands for, what it values, and how the organization supports its values through its staff, volunteers, and participants.
When Joe arrived at BGCB, he was trained on the organization’s Code of Conduct. It led him through situations he may encounter and provided appropriate actions he could take. On his first day on the job, one of the girls asked if she could “friend” him on Facebook. The Code of Conduct he signed gave him specific language to use when refusing to interact with a youth on social media. “If I had not been trained, I might have said no anyway because it felt wrong, but I also would have wondered if I was wrong to hurt her feelings.”
Organizations will have Codes of Conduct that differ significantly based on size, purpose, location, staffing, age served, additional vulnerabilities of youth served, and many other variables. All organizations should consider all of these variables in creating or adapting a Code of Conduct for their organization.
What are the activities the organization engages in that provide opportunities for inappropriate interactions and sexual abuse?
These might include:
What are the boundaries that we can set that will provide staff with clear guidelines for interactions and provide others with ways to evaluate their actions? These may include:
Again, each organization must evaluate its own operations and goals and decide what to include based upon the risks and benefits of each interaction. Organizations will also benefit from reviewing the documents created by other organizations.
A large youth serving organization in which all activities take place on site may have as a part of their Code of Conduct:
Personal contact information
(Organization) does not expect that staff will share their personal contact information with members. In the event that cell phone numbers need to be shared to ensure communication during a field trip or other event, cell phones are available from the Executive Director. Note that all communication should be program related. On the rare occasions staff members share personal contact information with a member or parent, a supervisor must be notified. Please see “Cell Phone Policy” in Employee Handbook “
However, a mentoring organization in which frequent personal communication between mentor and mentee is expected would have a different guideline on sharing personal information. In both cases, the expectation is set that there are appropriate and inappropriate ways to communicate with youth, they are clearly spelled out, and are shared widely.
Some additional circumstances to be aware of include, but are not limited to:
Mike is a second-year camp counselor at your camp. He is sensitive and connects easily with those campers who are unsure of themselves and hold back from the rest of the crowd. You are a first-year counselor, but are very sensitive to the code of conduct and the importance of maintaining appropriate boundaries between adults and children. Mike’s presence, personality and help with the marginal children help the camp to be a fun and formative time for all those who attend. You also learned that Mike has stayed in touch with one of the more troubled girls from last year’s camp. However, you have also observed that Mike seems to be unable to hear directions about proper boundaries between camp staff and campers. On two or three occasions Mike has been reminded by his supervisor that it is inappropriate for girls to sit on his lap. Yet Mike continues with these activities, saying to you and to his supervisor, “I just can’t say no to a kid who wants to play, besides, it’s just harmless fun anyway.” As a camp counselor, you should:
“1” is not the best answer. Although Mike has been exhibiting inappropriate behavior with the girls, and his supervisor has reminded him that it is inappropriate, he has not yet told him to stop, or discussed any clear, specific consequences that will result if his behavior continues.
“2” is not the best answer. No one wants to believe the worst about anybody, but a healthy suspicion is warranted when the safety of children is at risk. Ignoring your initial “gut” instincts and rationalizing Mike’s behavior is dangerous. Mike may also be grooming you.
“3” is the correct answer. Mike has already exhibited some of the warning signs of an offender who is grooming children. He has repeatedly ignored his supervisor’s directions about appropriate behavior and the Code of Conduct. It’s obvious that he sees himself as “above the rules”. He blames the girls who “want to play” and minimizes his own role by saying that it’s just “harmless fun.” His supervisor’s ultimatum and follow-through are appropriate. Mike’s outside relationship with the troubled girl from last year should also be explored.
“4” is not the best answer by itself since, if Mike is actively grooming the children, they may not exhibit those behaviors until they are actually abused. You are trying to prevent sexual abuse, not wait until it happens. Certainly, being aware of the children’s behavior is important, but it is Mike’s behavior, not the children’s, that should be your main concern.
Mr. Roberts is very popular with the students. He is sensitive and connects easily with students who are unsure of themselves, hold back from the rest of the crowd, or are marginalized. He often converses and jokes with the students in the halls between classes, and they respond in kind. It is common for him to greet students and staff with a hug and sometimes with a pat on the back. A male student has recently complained to the administration that Mr. Roberts’ hugs and physical contact make him uncomfortable. Mr. Roberts seems to be unable to hear directions about proper boundaries between faculty and students. He has been told by the principal to stop all physical contact with students and staff. He agrees to try, but says he can’t promise anything because that’s just the way he is and he isn’t doing anything wrong.
This scenario raises some interesting questions, red flags, and possible concerns. Is Mr. Roberts a gregarious and enthusiastic teacher who uses his “big” personality to form relationships with students, gain their trust and then try to help them “come out of their shell” or is there something more sinister going on that may warrant a call to the Department of Children and Families? Is this situation (or could this situation become) a violation of the law, the school’s “code of conduct” or other district policies? Is the principal overreacting or might the situation contain potential negative consequences for the teacher, the student who complained, and for the school community? What responses and actions might result in a more positive outcome and/or what proactive measures might be considered?
Most schools and youth-serving organizations have created codes of conduct that provide written guidance to employees and volunteers about maintaining appropriate, respectful and professional physical, emotional, and sexual boundaries with minors in their care. In doing so, adults are reminded of their own vulnerability as well as the vulnerability of children to harm by means of an adult’s inappropriate speech, gestures, attitudes and – in particular – physical contact that exploits, abuses or harasses. Clearly, their intent is not to prohibit all forms of appropriate physical contact with children – and appropriateness can look different in pre-school contexts as opposed to middle and high school contexts – but to enjoin teachers and others to use “common sense” with any physical contact or touching to eliminate possible misunderstandings.
Before touching another person, especially a minor, we must be aware of how the physical touch will be perceived or received, and whether it would be an appropriate expression of greeting, care, concern or celebration. Codes of conduct should also identify acceptable forms of touching a child (high fives, handshakes, fist bumps, pats on the back or shoulder, or side hugs) and the types of physical contact to be avoided (tickling, rough-housing, wrestling, piggyback rides, any type of massage, and any form of unwanted affection). If observed or reported, these types of behaviors raise the proverbial “red flags” and need to be investigated.
Getting back to Mr. Roberts, as an extension of his popularity and ease of conversation with students, he has used physical touch to convey his friendship towards them and to make them feel at ease with him. However, this kind of touching can be (and has been) construed as inappropriate by some students who may feel that their personal space has been invaded or even worse, that the touching is sexual in nature. If students are uncomfortable with being touched, they do not feel safe and this will impact their learning environment.
Mr. Roberts does not seem to be able to interpret the “signals” given off by students who are (and others who may be) uncomfortable with his physical means of expression. Although all teachers want to maintain positive rapport with students, teachers are not friends; they are professionals and should maintain professional interactions. The student’s complaint was not about an incident of sexual abuse – but misinterpretations of intent by even a single student can lead to a teacher having to defend his or her actions, vulnerability to claims of misconduct, and to serious consequences for both the educator and for the school.
The principal acted appropriately in handling the situation internally, bringing the student’s concerns to Mr. Roberts, and prohibiting similar behavior in the future with both students and staff. The conversation and direction should be documented in writing, with consequences clearly outlined – up to and including dismissal. At this point, there is no need to involve children’s protective services, but the principal needs to be vigilant and continue monitoring Mr. Roberts’ interactions – particularly in light of the fact that Mr. Roberts himself cannot commit to compliance with the direction. In this kind of case, the students’ perception of the nature of the touching must be taken seriously. However, it must also be balanced by the observations of others and the response of the teacher in question. Students must feel that they have been listened to and that efforts will be made to secure their environment. The principal should also talk with Mr. Roberts about alternative ways for him to demonstrate support and acceptance toward his students while respecting their personal space and avoiding physical contact. If the behavior is repeated, and/or if additional complaints are received, it would be a stronger indication that something more serious is going on, and that the authorities may need to be involved.
What is the Positive Youth Development Approach and Why Does it Matter?
When we approach youth work from the perspective that youth are assets to be developed rather than vessels to fill or problems to be managed, youth develop the necessary skills and tools needed to become high functioning adults. In this module, learn more about the positive youth development approach, including supporting research, and the outcomes that can be achieved by integrating a positive youth development approach into youth programming.
Ensure Physical and Psychological Safety
Children and youth often make a decision to participate in a program based upon their sense of physical and psychological safety. Young people who do not feel safe are less likely to engage and learn from their participation. Learn more about fostering safety in your organization.
Build Supportive Relationships
Afterschool and youth development programs offer unique opportunities for youth to develop consistent, committed relationships with caring adults. Frequently, the quality of relationships with the staff are a significant predictor of youths’ participation in the program. Learn how to develop supportive relationships in your program for maximum impact.
Create Opportunities to Belong
Provides an overview of both the processes and factors that support the engagement of youth in programs. Emphasis is placed on the development of identity in adolescents and the role of youth workers in supporting the development of positive identity.
Foster Positive Social Norms
The influence of norms is often more powerful that peer pressure during adolescence. Youth programs have an important role in fostering positive social norms among youth. Learn more about the broad influences of family, institutions, peers and others and how your program can help shape the development and adoption of positive social norms among youth.
Provide Appropriate Structure
Maintaining a healthy balance of structure and autonomy is important in youth development programs. Learn more about how setting and maintaining expectations, offering developmentally appropriate activities and your role as a youth development professional all work to influence the right balance.
Promote Support for Efficacy and Mattering
Youth are the agents of their own development, with support from a myriad of adults. Learn more about what empowering youth means, why it matters, and how to promote youth empowerment to benefit both youth and the communities where they live.
Opportunities for Skill Building
Youth programs may provide an alternative venue, compared to traditional settings, in which youth may learn more effectively. Learn more about how your program can support youth by using a variety of teaching methods and learning styles to develop key skills.
Integration of Family, School and Community Efforts
Youth programs can act as a catalyst for bringing parents, teachers, community members and young people together to address issues relevant to the community as a whole. Learn more about how to integrate all of the positive youth development principles to “create a village”.
Source: Foundations for Youth Development
1 Extracts of suggested elements from DanceStudioOwner.com – used with permission.
2 50 example mission statements: (https://topnonprofits.com/examples/nonprofit-mission-statements/)
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