Incorporating Volunteers Into Your Abuse Prevention Strategy

Volunteers play a valuable role and support you in delivering on your organization’s mission. Given their interaction with youth, it is important they are a part of your child abuse prevention strategy.

Below we have compiled a list of best practices to follow to keep the youth in your care safe when working with volunteers.

Screening Volunteers
Just like you would when hiring staff, it is important that you are taking the necessary steps to screen volunteers to eliminate potential abusers. This includes things like a full application, reference checks, and background checks. This sets the stage that your organization takes abuse prevention seriously and has zero tolerance for inappropriate behavior.

Review our guidance for screening staff and volunteers as well as our guidance for camp-specific circumstances.

As you do with staff members, it is important that volunteers are trained so that they know what is expected of them and what behaviors are unacceptable at your organization. Communicate all policies and procedures, and make it clear what differences there are in roles and responsibilities in terms of volunteers and staff.

On The Redwoods Institute, we have a child sexual abuse prevention online training designed specifically for volunteers. We encourage you to have your volunteers create an account and take this training. 

Just as with a staff member, it is important to drop in unannounced on volunteers—and to create an expectation that this could happen at any time. This sends a message that you have a culture of safety at your organization that is taken seriously by leadership.

Ongoing Education
It is extremely important that volunteers know how to recognize and report abuse. Continuously review how to identify and report red flag behaviors and the five rules of no inappropriate touch, no inappropriate language, no alone time, no favoritism, and no outside contact between staff or volunteers and children. 

Distribute our micro-learning on the five rules of abuse prevention as a quick refresher for volunteers or staff.

By implementing these best practices, you are adding to your organization’s layers of protection in keeping all youth safe in your programs.