It is essential to assess and mitigate the risks inherent in your program or activity as part of creating a safe environment for youth. It is also important to inform parents/guardians of risks and solicit their consent for participation from a minors parent/guardian through an Acknowledgement of Risk form. 

Each section below contains example activities placed on a continuum of risk from lowest to highest. Start by taking this self-assessment to identify specific risk categories associated with your program. The results will direct you to review relevant sections more closely. 

Keep in mind the following:

  • No youth activities are 100% free of risk: working with human beings and youth in particular always comes with some risk.
  • “Highest risk” does not always equal a prohibition of the activity unless such an activity is prohibited by APS 10.13. That said, for high risk activities consider whether the activity is absolutely necessary in order to achieve your intended outcome. 
  • Most examples in the continuum refer to typically developing children or youth, unless otherwise specified. If you primarily work with children or youth with special needs, see  additional references that may better address risks for this population.

Youth Program Risk Continuum

Risk Legend with colored circles indicating lowest risk, lower risk, moderate risk, higher risk, and highest risk

Interaction with minors

The interactions that adults have with youth can promote safety, or can create risk for abuse, injury or other negative outcomes.

Lowest risk category - green circle

One-time interaction less than 8 hours in length; adults with small groups of youth; no virtual communication
Examples: “Rule of three” i.e., one adult two children, two adults one child.

Lower risk category - light green circle

Recurring interactions during weekday business hours.
Examples: weekly after school tutoring program; summer day camp.

Moderate risk category - yellow circle

Recurring interactions during evenings or weekends; any physical contact between adults and minors above and beyond minimal touch (e.g., handshake, high five).

Examples: Regular evening or weekend social, academic or sports activities; using games or activities that require physical contact.

Higher risk category - orange circle

1:1 adult/youth in-person interaction in a public setting where other adults are present; virtual contact between adults and youth using email or social media accounts that can be monitored.

Examples: Individual tutoring or mentoring in a classroom or other public area in a school; an official Facebook account only used by program staff and participants.

Highest risk category - red circle

Overnight stays; 1:1 adult/youth private in-person or virtual interaction that cannot be monitored. Note: 1:1 adult/youth private in-person or virtual interactions that cannot be monitored are only allowable by youth program authorized personnel per APS 10.13.

Examples: Overnight retreats or camps; 1:1 mentoring or tutoring in settings where monitoring is not possible; communication using a staff or volunteer’s personal email or social media account; contact with youth under the age of 13 using a child’s personal cell number or email account.

Tips on how to reduce risk in interactions with minors

Physical activity

This continuum portrays safe and potentially unsafe levels of physical contact and activity in youth programs. Level of contact and potential for injury are key factors in a safe vs. a riskier activity.

Lowest risk category - green circle
Minimal physical contact or activity with little risk of injury.
Examples: sitting; standing; walking on well-groomed pathways

Lower risk category - light green circle

Moderate age- and skill-appropriate physical activity with limited touching and low risk of injury.
Examples: games involving a limited amount of running, physical touch or using soft sports equipment 

Moderate risk category - yellow circle
Moderate physical activity, moderate touch involved between youth; use of equipment that can cause injury.
Examples: base/soft-ball; soccer; gymnastics; lacrosse; racket sports; ropes course (operated by external company)

Higher risk category - orange circle
Strenuous physical activity with moderate risk of injury; Activities that require physical touch between adults and minors.
Examples: cardio intensive sports such as track and field; variable skill levels among participants.

Highest risk category - red circle
Strenuous physical activity with high risk of injury or extensive physical contact; other risk of illness or injury due to inclement weather.
Examples: ‘extreme’ sports; high contact sports; water sports; rock climbing

Tips on how to reduce risk in physical activity

Physical Environment

This continuum looks at the surroundings that youth are in, whether they are developmentally appropriate and safe, or pose inherent risks that need to be addressed.

Lowest risk category - green circle
Age-appropriate indoor space containing minimal hazards and contagions
Examples: Appropriately sized chairs & equipment; areas free of fall zones

Lower risk category - light green circle

Outdoor spaces containing minimal inherent hazards
Examples: Archery field and HUB lawn; IMA fields

Moderate risk category - yellow circle
Younger children in otherwise secure spaces designed for adults
Example: most UW classrooms, if left unmodified.

Higher risk category - orange circle
Proximity to rugged terrain, bodies of water, or moving vehicles; spaces with equipment that requires supervision.
Examples: mountain trails, lakes, rivers, waterfront, busy roads, loading docks; art studios, kitchens.

Highest risk category - red circle

Spaces with hazardous materials or equipment; environments where serious injury, abuse or illness can occur.

Note: Per APS 10.13, programs must adhere to state and federal workplace and environmental safety regulations and University guidance when hosting youth in labs, shops, makerspaces or other facilities with certain hazards present.

Examples: Labs, shops; animal handling; water features, sheer drop offs (>4-6 ft.) with no guard rails; extreme weather; locker rooms, bedrooms, unsupervised bathrooms.

Tips on how to reduce risk in physical environments 

Screening & training

Screening to assess the suitability of a person to work with minors is essential. Background checks per UW standards must be included as part of the screening process. Preparatory training on safety, youth development and program-specific topics ensures that those selected are equipped for success.

Lowest risk category - green circle
UW employees or volunteers are screened for suitability, background checked and receive more than 8 hours of training.
Lower risk category - light green circle

UW employees or volunteers are screened, background checked but receive only 2-8 hours of training.
Moderate risk category - yellow circle
UW employees or volunteers are not screened but are background checked and receive only 2-8 hours of training.
Higher risk category - orange circle
UW employees or volunteers are not screened, but are background checked; receive less than 2 hours of training.
Highest risk category - red circle

UW employees or volunteers have not been screened, background checked or trained.

Note: APS 10.13 requires all Authorized Personnel serving in youth programs to be trained and background checked.

Tips on how to reduce risk in screening and reduce risk in training.

Supervision

Some level of supervision when engaging with youth is always recommended. Factors such as youth age and type of activity will impact the levels of supervision needed.

Lowest risk category - green circle
Supervision by Parent/Guardian or custodial caregiver who is providing active supervision throughout.
Examples: School visits where parents or guardians and/or teachers accompany and actively supervise.
Lower risk category - light green circle

Supervision by UW Staff with adequate adult-youth ratios, based on youth age.
Examples: increased number of adults with younger ages; see ACA group supervision ratio recommendations.
Moderate risk category - yellow circle
Supervision by volunteers or short-term staff.
Examples: Leaving a group with a guest presenter; campus visits where parents or guardians and/or teachers accompany but do not actively supervise. 

Note: Leaving a participant(s) with any non-Authorized Personnel is prohibited by APS 10.13

Higher risk category - orange circle
Older youth allowed to independently come and go to/from program. Note that younger youth should be accompanied by an adult.

Examples: Youth sign themselves in/out, or allowed to go off campus at lunchtime.
Highest risk category - red circle
No supervision provided during part or all of a program.
Examples: Youth left unsupervised during lunch or “free time”; adults leave a classroom unattended; community event with no supervision.

Note: Leaving a participant(s) with any non-Authorized Personnel is prohibited by APS 10.13

Tips on how to reduce risk in supervision.

Transporting youth

The more often youth are moved from one location to another, and the further from a secure environment, the greater the risk.

Lowest risk category - green circle
Youth spend the program in one secure location.
Examples: Use of a room or rooms solely dedicated to your program; dedicated, secure outdoor space only accessible to a youth program.
Lower risk category - light green circle
Youth are moved around campus during the program to relatively secure locations.
Examples: On-campus “field trips” to the Burke museum; moving from classroom to an outdoor meeting space; moving residence halls to a classroom in the HUB.
Moderate risk category - yellow circle
Youth are moved around campus to relatively unsecured locations.
Examples: HUB common areas, Red Square, athletic facilities or fields that are not dedicated to a specific youth program.
Higher risk category - orange circle
Youth are transported off-campus to a relatively secure youth-appropriate  location.
Examples: Field trip to a museum, the zoo, Science Center.
Highest risk category - red circle
Youth are transported to an unfamiliar, crowded, or non-youth oriented location.
Examples: Pike Place Market, waterfront, out of state or country.

Tips on how to reduce risk when transporting youth.

Youth age

This continuum portrays risk according to the ability of a youth to operate independently; other variables may pose different age-based risks.

Lowest risk category - green circle
Age 18+, e.g. legal adults
Lower risk category - light green circle
Age 16 – Age 17, e.g. older youth

Moderate risk category - yellow circle
Age 12 – Age 15, e.g. middle school, early high school

Higher risk category - orange circle
Age 6 – Age 11, e.g. younger youth

Highest risk category - red circle
Birth – Age 5, e.g. infants, toddlers, pre-schoolers.

Tips on how to reduce risk in youth age

 

A pdf of the above content may be downloaded here.