Youth at UW

Acknowledgment of risk forms

Using Acknowledgment of risk forms with minors

Acknowledgment of Risk (AOR) Forms- what are they?

The Acknowledgment of Risk (AOR) form is an effective tool for 1) informing participants in University programs about potential risks, and 2) documenting their decisions to assume those risks. An AOR form for minors must be completed by a parent or guardian for each participant.

Releases and waivers – Why UW doesn’t use them

Many waivers and releases have been struck down by the Washington courts and can be ineffective tools to prevent negligence claims. The UW AOR form, however, is based on language the courts have found acceptable, and if used correctly and consistently, provides the University with reliable protection, while informing parents and guardians of risks.

Risk mitigation – Completing the protective circle

Minors cannot legally waive their own rights or assume liability. Although a minor’s parents or guardians can agree to assume some responsibility on their behalf, the scope is more limited than in agreements with adults. The University is, therefore, automatically exposed to greater risk of liability in all activities involving minors.

In addition, a higher standard of care is imposed by the courts when minors are involved in any activity. In general, the younger the person, the greater the expected standard of care. This can be problematic in a university setting, because the premises, activities and level of supervision are designed for adults, not minors. A thorough risk assessment of all activities involving minors is therefore crucial to minimize the impact of increased liability exposure and safeguard minors in University programs and activities.

Assessing risks

A diligent planning process for any new youth program or activity should include thoughtful assessment of the risks involved that may result in injury or other negative impacts to minors.

In order to identify risks associated with your program, review the Youth Program Risk Continuum and take the self-assessment to see where there may be a need for further review and mitigation.

The following Acknowledgment of Risk Forms are available:

(download) AOR Template  This may be used for single purpose events with few activities over a short duration.

(download) Rich_AOR Template  We recommend this form to be used for events or programs with multiple activities over a longer period of time.

NOTE: You may also choose to incorporate AOR language from these templates into a more extensive consent or permission form. If you do this, allow the parent/guardian to consent to each element separately.

Using AOR forms- steps to take

Prior to the event

  1. Complete section 1 of the AOR with relevant details of your program or activity. Describe both the program activities and the risks associated with them. The more involved your program is, the “richer” in details this section should be.
  2. Gather signed copies from parents or guardians prior to participation in a program. These signed forms should be required as a prerequisite for participation. Electronic signatures are OK if they meet the guidelines below (FAQ’s).

During the event

  1. Keep original copies available during the duration of the program or activity.

After the event

  1. After the activity is over, keep the signed forms on file in your department for six years per records management protocols. Depending on the circumstances, another state may have jurisdiction, or in the case of minors, the statute of limitations may be longer.

 

Important elements included in AOR forms:

Consent for treatment

It is critical to include a statement about consenting for treatment in the case that the participant needs medical attention.  Many hospitals will not provide emergency treatment to a minor without this consent.

Information on requesting special accommodations

Many programs find that it is important to learn about any needs for special accommodation well ahead of the start of the activity or program. Including such a statement ensures that the parent or guardian has been notified of the option to make such a request.

 

Acknowledgment of Risk Form (AOR)- Frequently asked questions

Does my activity warrant using an AOR?

The answer is yes if:

  • You are hosting an activity where the primary audience is minors; and
  • The activity involves any elements that could pose a safety or security risk to the minor.

How do I know what constitutes a potential risk related to my activity?

Use the Youth Program Risk Assessment tool to determine what risks you should disclose. If you are unsure about certain activities, contact the Office for Youth Programs Development for further support in assessing risks associated with your activities.

Can I do this AOR process electronically with a parent or guardian?

Yes, electronic signatures used as acknowledgement are valid if the user has a unique id associated with the form. This means that your web interface must include a separate username and password for each user. Signatures must also be stamped with a date.

If you use an electronic signing process, we would recommend having the signer initial sections within the document as well as sign at the end, to increase the chances that they are actually reading the document thoroughly.

What is the difference between an AOR and a permission slip?

Permission slips generally ask for parent/guardian consent to participate in a program or activity, while an AOR specifically focuses on the risk of an activity. A permission slip may include statements typically included in an AOR. Regardless of where the risks are addressed, it is important to be explicit about them and give parents/guardians an opportunity to acknowledge that they understand them and consent to their minor’s participation.

What if an outside organization is assuming responsibility of the minors coming for a visit to UW and offers to provide a permission slip?

It is beneficial if a visiting group assumes responsibility for the minors they are bringing, especially in the case of schools and other organizations who have a regular process for gathering permission slips. In any case, have an agreement in writing about who is responsible for what, and ask them to include details of the event or activity, and highlight any areas of risk.

How can I be sure that the parent or guardian really read and signed the AOR as opposed to their child forging their signature?

The only way to ensure this would be to have the parent or guardian sign the document in front of you. Most times this is not feasible. It is important to find ways to have direct communication with the parent or guardian, rather than passing information through their child, so that you can be sure it gets into their hands. Always ensure that you have the contact information for the parent or guardian so you can communicate directly with them as needed.

Questions? e-mail uwminors@uw.edu or call 206-616-5153.