Layers of Protection when Hiring Staff & Volunteers

Remaining vigilant in your hiring practices is essential to protect the kids in your care from potential abusers. The more layers of protection that you can put into place, the greater chance you will have at deterring a potential abuser from your organization. Below are multiple layers of protection your organization can implement when hiring staff or volunteers:

Job Application
It’s important to demonstrate your commitment to keeping children safe at every step of your hiring process—especially the outset. On your job or volunteer applications, include a Zero Tolerance Statement that clearly states that you will aggressively investigate all potential employees or volunteers in order to eliminate potential child abuse. Sending this message early on may deter an applicant from applying if they have malicious intentions. An example Zero Tolerance Statement is: Our organization views protecting children and youth as an integral part of our mission. We have a zero-tolerance policy for child abuse and mistreatment of any kind in our organization and consistently employ many policies and practices to ensure the safety of children in our care.

Your organization may also choose to utilize a longer, more in depth Zero Tolerance Statement. You can download a sample statement here.

Reference Checks
Employment and personal references should be checked for all program volunteers and employees. It’s important to reach out to every reference, and to document the interaction in a personnel file. Additionally, requiring a family member or close personal contact as a reference opens up the opportunity to learn more about an applicant—as family members or close personal contacts will usually have a broader picture of an applicant’s personality and behavior over the span of their entire life, not just within a specific job or position.

Background Checks 
At a minimum, we recommend that organizations are running nationwide checks and including any state the potential employee or program volunteer has lived or worked in.

The HR Research Institute recently released a report on the trends and uses of background checks. This report was based off of an annual survey that was sent across all industries. While this report is not exclusively focused on youth-serving organizations’ practices, the results are still important as they show what society’s expectations are and what standard organizations will be held to.

Below are a few highlights from the report:

  • 83% of employers now conduct checks on part-time employees compared to 68% in 2018.
  • 59% of employers now conduct checks on contractors compared to 28% in 2018.
  • 44% of employers now conduct checks on volunteers compared to 22% in 2017.
  • 85% of employers are performing statewide/county level searches.

As you can see from this data, background checks are becoming more robust, and organizations must continue to adapt in order to meet what’s required of this standard. This will include running more comprehensive checks, on more individuals, at a higher frequency.

Interview Techniques
Job interviews are a critical part of the hiring process. How those interviews are structured, however, can make a huge difference in their effectiveness. Paige Bagwell—Chief Operating Officer—wrote an article on critical job interview techniques for creating safe organizations.

Personnel Files
All personnel files should have at least a signed, written application and verification of all reference checks. It’s also important to make sure that systems are in place for maintaining personnel files for all program volunteers, employees, and any applicants who are rejected for non-technical (i.e., history of abuse, potential for abuse, etc.) reasons. We have created a video that discusses employee files in greater detail.

Thank you so much for all you are doing during this time to keep kids safe.