After-school activities serve a multitude of purposes, including childcare, enrichment, tutoring, and sports engagement. Parents and caregivers rely on these programs not only to occupy their children but to keep them safe. While some parents ask tough questions, such as inquiring about staff training in child sexual abuse prevention, code of conduct, and abuse reporting procedures, others may shy away from such inquiries.
An exceptional after-school organization or program should proactively address these questions, both internally and externally.
Staff & Training
Every staff member, including principals, teachers, nurses, bus drivers, custodians, and administrative staff, should function as mandated reporters, regardless of legal requirements. A mandated reporter is obligated by law to report any suspicions of child abuse or neglect to designated authorities. This responsibility carries significant weight, and after-school programs should ensure that their staff is well-trained as mandated reporters. An outstanding program might go the extra mile by mandating additional training, such as Project Harmony’s Darkness to Light training, to enhance their team’s capabilities.
Code of Conduct
After-school programs must furnish parents and caregivers with a copy of their Code of Conduct, a document that clearly outlines how staff, volunteers, and older youths should interact with the children in the program. A top-tier program not only displays this code prominently, including for the children, but also regularly reviews and updates it to align with the evolving needs of both the children and the organization. A well-crafted code of conduct should emphasize encouraged interactions while delineating clear boundaries for prohibited interactions. Programs seeking assistance in developing a code of conduct can turn Project Harmony for guidance.
The physical environment where children spend their afternoons is a critical aspect of any after-school program. Whether it’s a classroom, playground, multipurpose room, or another space, the best programs conduct ongoing assessments to ensure children are not placed in one-on-one adult-child situations whenever possible. In cases where one-on-one interactions are unavoidable, top-notch programs take measures such as installing windows, cameras, or ensuring these situations can be readily interrupted.
Establishing a culture of safety and protection for children should be a paramount goal for after-school programs. Strive to become the kind of program with a waiting list and a reputation where others seek your advice on safeguarding the children under your care.