Preventing Abuse When Hosting Outside Groups & Programs

Recently, an outside group was running programming at a youth-serving organization’s facilities in a major Metro area. During that time, a young participant in the outside programming was allegedly sexually assaulted in the locker room by an employee of the outside group. 

It is not uncommon for youth-serving organizations to allow outside groups to use their facilities for programming or events. Indeed, doing so can be an important way to both deliver on an organization’s mission and diversify revenue. However, unless carefully managed, partnerships with outside groups can also introduce a level of unpredictability that can lead to potential risks for the host organization—especially when it comes to the topic of child sexual abuse prevention.
That’s why it’s important to have policies in place that hold outside groups—including their staff, volunteers and program participants—to the same standards of care and safety as we would our internal teams. The following questions are designed to help ensure that your outside groups are aware of your policies and understand that there is zero-tolerance for abuse at your organization:

Process & Policies 

When allowing an outside group to use your facility, it’s important to establish and communicate a consistent process and comprehensive policies covering all aspects of potential risk. Not only will this help to make sure that you are actively vetting other entities using your facilities, but it also sends a message to potential abusers that your organization is actively on the lookout for rule-breaking and potential red flags:
  • Are criminal background checks and/or sex offender registry checks expected of all employees and volunteers working with outside organizations? Has this been communicated to the guest organization’s leadership?
  • What are the expectations for supervision when running programming in your facilities?
  • If something happens, what is the process for an outside group to report an incident? How have you communicated this process to the guest organization’s leadership?
  • Does the outside group’s policy outline your organization’s child abuse prevention guidelines?

Education & Training

Many youth-serving organizations have fantastic training and education programs around abuse prevention. This may not be the case with other organizations using your facility. That’s why it’s important to make sure that your own staff are trained on what red flags and warning signs to look for, and that all outside groups are aware of your organization’s policies and what’s expected of them:

  • Have your staff been trained on the warning signs and red flag behaviors of abuse? Have they been reminded to apply this vigilance to outside groups too?
  • Do you have a clear understanding of the outside group’s training and education policies? Are there opportunities to encourage them to improve their training?
  • Has the outside group reviewed and signed your organization’s Code of Conduct?
  • Are staff aware how facilities are to be used and not to be used by outside groups?

Signage, Communication and Environment

It’s important that all community members—including outside programming—are aware of your rules when they enter your facility. Consider posting child safety rules on the walls as a constant reminder. For example, a poster listing the four rules to protect children—no alone time, no outside contact, no favoritism and no inappropriate touch—can be an effective way to both remind all staff and community members what red flags to look out for and also communicate to abusers that your organization operates a proactive culture of safety:

  • Are you using signage to communicate child safety rules and supervision protocols?
  • Is there a clear line of sight to where programming is taking place? Are there opportunities to improve it—for example leaving doors open?
  • How are you using social media or other communication channels to raise awareness of abuse prevention in your community? Are you recruiting partner organizations to join you in these efforts?
  • Do your staff regularly walk through potential high-risk areas for abuse—for example locker rooms, bathrooms or other secluded areas—while outside programming is taking place?
  • Have outside organizations been informed that your staff are encouraged to drop in on programming without notice?