Considerations & Best Practices for Open-Door/Safe Passage Policies at Clubs

Drop-off and pick-up times can be very hectic for a Boys & Girls Club. Whether you are managing multiple bus trips to/from different schools, or overseeing parent/guardians who are signing their child out, each Club has their own unique challenges. A common policy Clubs use to help manage how members come and go is an “open-door” or “safe passage” policy. This policy will typically communicate to members and their parents/guardians that it is solely their responsibility to monitor and provide transportation for their child to and from the Club, and it will define the specific procedures for ensuring this is done in a safe manner.

Sample Open-Door-Safe Passage Policy

Having a strong open-door/safe passage policy is important as it not only keeps Club members safe, but also contributes to high-quality programs and a great overall Club experience. Below are a few reasons as to why this policy is so important:

  • Club members who can come and go at will are less likely to be involved with Club programs.
  • The Club may still be liable if a member leaves without permission or parental consent, and is injured outside of the facility.
  • If an open-door policy is too broad and poorly implemented, it can increase gaps in the Club’s safety policies.
  • If there is an increased opportunity for Club members to leave the Club without staff or guardians knowing, this could then contribute to a negative perception of the Club from parent/guardians who were unaware of, or not in agreement with, the policy.

Questions to Consider When Drafting a Policy
Not every Club is the same, so it is important that you develop this policy to fit your organization and community. When creating the policy, consider the following:


  • What is the Clubs physical safety score on the NYOI survey?
  • What is the physical environment around your Club?
  • Do Club members feel safe coming to and from the Club?
  • Will your policy be consistent across each Club location?
  • How will you visually display who is on the open-door/safe passage policy and who is not?
    • Will their membership card be a different color?
  • What does zero-tolerance enforcement of this policy look like?
  • Do all staff know what the Club’s open-door/safe passage policy is?
  • Can all staff describe when to reference the policy?
New Members
  • What will your process or system be to meet with guardians when they sign-up their member and how will you get this policy signed?
  • Will staff communicate the information to parents/guardians during an orientation, or provide it to them in a handbook?
  • If a member leaves without permission, can they return to the Club the same day?
  • If a member receives an out-of-school suspension, can they continue attending the Club during that time?
  • Are members allowed to leave the Club to walk and get food?
  • How does the Club’s open-door policy apply to members who need to walk to/from the Club?

Best Practices 
Having a strong open-door/safe passage policy is important. Below are some best practices:
  • No Club member should have permission to leave the Club without one of the following:  
    • An authorized parent/guardian inside the facility signing them out.
    • The Club member meets minimum age requirements to leave the Club, and a parent/guardian has signed the policy.
    • The Club member has received administrative approval to walk to and from the Club, and the parent/guardians have provided a signed consent form.
  • Set high expectations and requirements for parent/guardians enrolling their children: 
    • Do not allow Club members under a minimum age to sign-up for the Club without parental permission.
    • Do not allow Club members to attend the Club before a parent/guardian attends orientation.
    • Require every parent-guardian at to enter the facility and sign their child out.
    • In order for members to walk home from the Club, require a separate form for parent/guardians to sign.
  • Establish flexible options for families to complete the orientation process in order to accommodate the different needs in your community. 
    • Offer a weekly re-occurring time for parents/new members to be able to attend an orientation.
    • Consider ways for Club leadership to complete parent orientations over the phone if necessary and with administrative approval.
    • Communicate well in advance to inform current/new members of seasonal program registration, and offer multiple dates to sign-up and attend orientation.
  • Train staff to communicate and uphold the Club’s open-door/safe passage policy.  
    • Make sure staff know who and when to report violations of the policy.
    • Have a clear plan of action to address Club members and their guardians if they do not meet the Clubs expectations.
    • Ensure staff uphold the policy consistently and fairly for each Club member.
    • Train staff to quickly reference member records and determine the status of each Club member.
  • Review your policy with your safety committee and board of directors.  
    • Train members of your safety committee and board of directors to audit open-door policies, and complete drop-in assessments at each Club site.
      • For example, have them ask front-desk staff, how do you enforce or implement your open-door/safe passage policy?
    • Review near misses or incidents where youth, or their guardians, did not meet expectations of the Clubs policy.
    • Highlight how this program is working, track and present the number of youth using the Safe Passage policy without any incidents.
    • Continually assess how the Safe Passage policy is being used by each Club location, and consider how the Clubs expectations may need to adapt depending on each unique environment.

Discussion Questions
If you already have an open-door/safe passage policy in place, reviewing and discussing the following questions with your staff may help them to understand exactly how to operationalize it effectively:

  • What are some of our biggest gaps with our current open-door/safe passage policy?
  • Do all of our guardians understand what they are signing?
    • Give examples of how you’ve communicated this successfully and unsuccessfully
  • What are some of our challenges in getting guardians to attend orientation, or come into the Club to sign their Club member out?
  • Have you ever had to reference the Clubs current policy with an upset parent/guardian? If so, how did it go?
  • Would you feel confident referencing your current policy in the event of an injury or claim?
  • How long will it take for your staff, Club members and parent/guardians to buy-in to a new policy with higher expectations? What will some of the benefits be?
  • If a child can leave the Club at any time without permission—how will the Club know if a child leaves with a person unauthorized to pick them up?
  • Does the open-door policy protect the Club if a child leaves with a parent unauthorized to pick-up due to a court ordered custody issue that has been documented with the Club?