Youth at UW

Model Conduct Code: employee/volunteer brief interactions with minors

(MS Word download here) Draft model policy for brief interactions with Minors – 3 2017

Code of Conduct

GUIDELINES FOR INTERACTIONS WITH MINORS

These guidelines are intended to apply to employees and volunteers who have

short-term interactions with minors

Included:

  1. Guidelines for Appropriate Behavior with Minors
  2. Preventing Harmful Relationships with Minors
  3. How to Report Suspected Abuse or Neglect
  4. Confirmation of Understanding

 

1. GUIDELINES FOR APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR WITH MINORS

 

As someone representing the University of Washington, it is our duty to prevent harm towards minors in our care. The following are behavior guidelines while working with minors in a short-term capacity. The purpose of these guidelines is to provide a safe environment for both the employee or volunteer and minors, and to raise awareness of how to manage risk when minors are present in the program. “Short-term interactions” amounts to less than one day, total, of activities. “Minors” includes any youth under the age of 18 years old. Note that “Staff” includes both employees of the University of Washington and volunteers.  “Designated staff member” refers to an employee or volunteer who has responsibility for the supervision of minors during a program or event. “Parent” is considered both parents and legal guardians.  This policy should be provided to all new staff upon becoming first involved in a program serving minors, and reviewed with returning staff on an annual basis. These guidelines emphasize the responsibility that staff, parents, and minors each have in ensuring a safe and successful program.

 

BEST PRACTICES FOR SAFELY WORKING WITH MINORS

 

  1. Avoid being alone with a single minor where you cannot be observed by staff or other adults. Unless you are a designated staff member, you should not be alone with a group of minors under any circumstance.
  2. Do not discipline minors by use of physical punishment or by failing to provide the necessities of care.
  3. Physical, verbal, emotional, or sexual abuse of minors is unlawful and is prohibited by state law and University of Washington policy.
  4. Avoid physical contact with minors, unless you must restrain or otherwise have contact for safety related reasons.
  5. Do not have contact with minors outside of the program environment.
  6. Understand and respect the boundaries set by minors regarding physical touch or sharing personal information.
  7. In sensitive situations and in case of injury, involve another staff member, adult, or parent.
  8. Allow minors to opt out of distribution of contact information (except to designated staff as needed).
  9. Minors are not allowed on program premises without a designated staff member present.
  10. No Internet social networking with minors for personal reasons or through personal profiles is allowed by staff. Networking through approved program sites/profiles may be used when the contact is related to programming.
  11. Understand the program emergency plan for responding to a crisis situation.
  12. Communicate to your program lead all situations that may be questionable or a possible breach of these guidelines.
  13. If you believe someone has perpetrated abuse or neglect, immediately and confidentially report such violation to Child Protective Services or the police, and follow University guidelines for internal reporting, as applicable.

 

  1. PREVENTING HARMFUL RELATIONSHIPS WITH MINORS

 

The following are specific actions staff can follow in order to avoid harmful relationships with minors.

 

  1. Establish clear boundaries with minors, i.e. stating what are or are not appropriate conversation topics.
  2. Avoid all physical contact with minors.
  3. Treat all minors equitably, i.e. fairly and consistently. Avoid showing favoritism.
  4. Do not discuss your personal life with minors.
  5. Follow appropriate professional attire guidelines and avoid provocative or revealing attire.
  6. Do not swear or tell off-color jokes.
  7. Do not allow minors in your living quarters.
  8. Do not transport minors in a private or UW operated vehicle without explicit program permission, and following proper procedures outlined by UW transportation services.
  9. Do not discuss your own or minor’s sex life or activities.
  10. Do not smoke or drink alcohol in the presence of minors.
  11. Do not share sexually explicit literature, magazines, books, music, or videos except those in the context of a sanctioned, appropriate activity that relates to the educational objective of your program.
  12. Seek support from lead staff for high risk situations, such as discussions of very personal stories.
  13. When in doubt, seek assistance from a program lead.

 

Educating minors

Minors may be informed in a manner that is age appropriate of their right to set their own physical limits for personal safety. They will be encouraged to tell an adult if someone is abusing them. They will also be encouraged to tell an adult if they are in a situation or observe something that makes them uncomfortable.

 

Consequences of behaviors that harm minors

The University of Washington and [program name] take these matters seriously. In the case of suspected abuse or neglect of a minor, the University and [program name] will adhere to existing policies and procedures for corrective action.  Actions taken will first and foremost consider the need to ensure the safety of minors participating in the program.

 

  1. HOW TO REPORT SUSPECTED ABUSE OR NEGLECT

All University of Washington employees and volunteers are required to report suspected child abuse or neglect to the authorities, as outlined below.

 

Abuse can occur:

  1. At home or away from the program; signs of abuse may be observed at the program, or a minor makes a written or oral disclosure.
  2. During the program by an employee, volunteer or other adult or minor:
    1. Staff can break rules or cross boundaries of appropriate interaction with minors.
    2. Minors can act out by themselves or with other minors, including bullying, intimidation or other prohibited acts.

 

If you have reasonable cause to believe a minor has been abused, or if a minor has disclosed abuse to you, you have a duty to report that abuse to the proper authorities. Failure to do so is a violation of University of Washington policy and our program guidelines as outlined in this document, and may result in disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal. Even if you’re not sure whether something constitutes abuse, it’s better to have others help you decide, rather than keep information to yourself.

 

At the first reasonable cause to believe that abuse or neglect occurred (off-site or on-site), or if you witness abusive behaviors, you must:

 

  • If the safety of a minor is of immediate concern, call the police:
    • Call 9-1-1 for immediate intervention.

 

2) For all other cases, call either Child Protective Services (CPS) or local law enforcement within 48 hours:

  • DSHS CPS reporting Hotline – 1-866-ENDHARM (1-866-363-4276), Washington State’s toll-free, 24/7 hotline. Depending on your location you may be connected directly to the appropriate local office to report suspected child abuse or neglect. TTY Callers – 1-800-624-6186.
  • Alternatively, call local police, specifically the jurisdiction where the incident occurred. If the incident occurred on UW-Seattle property, call UWPD at 206-685-UWPD(8973).

 

Questions that will be asked when you call:

  • The name, address and age of the minor.
  • The name and address of the minor’s parent, guardian or other persons having custody of the minor.
  • The nature and extent of the abuse or neglect, including location and description of the incident.
  • Any knowledge of previous incidences.
  • Any other information which may be helpful in establishing the cause of the minor’s abuse or neglect and the identity of the perpetrator.

 

You do not need to have all of the above information when you call to make a report, but the more accurate information you can provide, the better equipped the office will be to assess the child’s risk. Provide the information you are able to obtain, as clearly and objectively as possible.  Describing actions, symptoms, physical observations or telling what is said, is more helpful than giving your opinion.

 

If you are unsure about whether a report is justified, you may use Child Protective Services (CPS) as a sounding board to help determine whether a report should be made and to whom.

 

  1. For cases involving abuse occurring in a UW program or on UW property, contact your program lead immediately after making your report to CPS or law enforcement, and follow University instructions on internal reporting. Describe what occurred and who was involved, and any details regarding your conversation with CPS or law enforcement.

 

[program name] will adhere to existing policies and procedures for corrective action regarding the employee or volunteer, including suspension or termination from [program name] employment or volunteer status.

 

Confidentiality of information related to abuse is crucial and should be limited to the immediate supervisor, any authorities called, and designated UW internal reporting recipient(s).

 

  1. CONFIRMATION OF UNDERSTANDING

 

I have read the [program name] Guidelines for Working with Minors and I agree to abide by the program rules and boundaries for staff relationships with minors as stated.

 

I UNDERSTAND VIOLATIONS OF [program name] GUIDELINES FOR WORKING WITH MINORS MAY RESULT IN DISCIPLINARY ACTION UP TO AND INCLUDING DISMISSAL (SEPARATION OF EMPLOYMENT).  I ACKNOWLEDGE I AM AWARE OF MY RESPONSIBILITIES AND I HAVE RECEIVED A COPY OF THE GUIDELINES FOR WORKING WITH MINORS.

 

 

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