One-on-One Mentoring Programs at Clubs
For many years, experts in abuse prevention have recommended that youth-serving community organizations limit or eliminate alone time between staff/volunteers and children or youth. For most programming, this recommendation remains best practice. However, one-on-one mentoring presents a unique and specific challenge.
One-on-one mentoring programs provide excellent opportunities for youth to have a positive role model in their life. These relationships provide emotional support, encouragement and positive reinforcement for youth. However, these benefits must be balanced against the very real possibility that one-to-one contact can increase the risk of abuse. Therefore, it is extremely important that Clubs have both strong and clear policies and procedures.
Below are some recommendations on how to make these programs as safe as possible.
General Safety Recommendations
- Work with your Board of Directors to approve all policies and procedures for the program, including handbooks for staff, volunteers and parents/guardians.
- Add in additional screening layers to further vet staff & volunteers. Some examples may be:
- Extra screening questions
- Additional reference checks
- Mandatory child sexual abuse prevention training
- Reviewing/signing the code of conduct
- In-depth orientation process
- Create frequent check-ins for all mentors and mentees with a supervisor. These will provide extra support, communication and documentation.
- Educate all parents/guardians on the policies and procedures of the program.
- Educate all parents/guardians on the signs of abuse, how to talk to their child about abuse and how they can report any red flag behaviors.
- Require all volunteers/program participants to sign a general liability waiver.
- Install camera/video streaming options so that you can monitor all interactions.
- If programming is happening virtually, make sure that all sessions are recorded.
- Communicate frequently with all supervisors and parents/guardians.
- Conduct random audits of the program where leadership can check in to make sure things are going well.
- Schedule meetings during operating hours and at a facility location.
- Hold mentor and coaching sessions in areas where other staff and/or members are present and can see you. For example, have pairs break up in a large room so that each meeting can be seen, but not heard.
- If meeting outside of the Club, always attempt to meet outdoors, or in public places. If this is not possible, require approval from a supervisor and/or parents/guardians before changing locations.
- Provide internal/external feedback systems to report red flag behaviors.
- Document check-ins with youth participants with someone other than their direct mentor.
- Have mentors copy parents, staff, or other members (when appropriate) on written and/or electronic communications.
- Before allowing anyone to drive for your Club, follow all transportation policies, training requirements and driver selection and controls your Club has in place.
- One staff member should not transport one single child at any time in a vehicle. Make accommodations to ensure at least three people (2 staff and one member or one staff and 2 members) are together when traveling.
- If a program requires staff to provide transportation to one single child, implement the following:
- Require the child to sit in the backseat regardless of age
- Call a supervisor to be on speakerphone while in the car
- Document & communicate departure and arrival times to parents/guardians
- In each instance a member travels to any off-site event/location, have a parent/guardian provide written consent.
- Avoid transporting participants in employee’s personal vehicle at all times.
If your programming is through another community organization, consider the following:
- Work with local counsel to ensure appropriate written agreements are fair to both parties, and have a clear transfer of risk.
- Request/provide a certificate of insurance.
- Depending on the nature of your programming, include a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to outline responsibilities between both parties.